How to Optimize the Start of Your Day

by Kristina Rudic | October 26, 2016

  • My Vault

The first thing many of us do in the morning is reach for our phones—hit snooze, catch up on social media, or start tackling the ever-multiplying emails in our inbox. But what if there was another way to start the morning in order to optimize the natural energy we awake with but often ignore (thanks to coffee)? 

Thankfully, according to science, there is.

Since the first waking hours of your day are the most productive, maximizing the use of these at work can benefit your career and personal happiness. Scientists suggest getting up immediately after you wake up and moving around, even taking a 10-minute walk if possible. People who hop out of bed and get their blood flowing have been shown to have an energy boost lasting two hours. And these two hours are crucial to the rest of the day, especially if you keep behavioral scientist Dan Ariely’s advice in mind. Ariely writes:

One of the saddest mistakes in time management is the propensity of people to spend the two most productive hours of their day on things that don’t require high cognitive capacity (like social media). If we could salvage those precious hours, most of us would be much more successful in accomplishing what we truly want.  

So instead of waking up and scrolling through Instagram, Ariely suggests setting goals for the day by compartmentalizing what is most important and needs to be tackled first. We can do this by determining what qualifies as real work and what is actually busy work in disguise. Tasks such as checking emails, responding to texts, and getting updates on projects can be busy (but still important) work, while real work includes grander projects, things that take concentration and, in many cases, are time sensitive.

By breaking up tasks in this way, we can focus deeply on those tasks that matter most, as psychologist Dr. Jonathan Fader explains in this video:

 

In addition, Laura Vanderkam, the author of numerous book on time-management and productivity, claims that if we plan a “power hour” for ourselves, we can get a lot more done. Her advice is to schedule this early in the morning, when we are fresh-faced and not burdened by the day. She advises to:

"Recognize that certain aspects of work will expand to fill all available space; we have to consciously choose to spend less time on email and carve out time for the important work that matters to us."

Vanderkam urges us to prioritize what will benefit us not only immediately but also in the long run. By taking her advice, we can work on projects or assignments that truly matter and ensure work is prioritized at our peak time of concentration. If we do that, most likely our work product will be much better than if it were chipped away at in smaller spurts throughout the day. 

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Tags: morning | productivity | starting your day | video | work advice

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