How productive you will be on any given is most at risk during the most dangerous hour of the day, the first hour after you wake up. It sets the standard for the rest of the day, ensuring your success, or limiting the quality and the quantity of your work.
The second most dangerous hour of the day is the first hour of your work, another hour that either fuels your productivity or squashes it.
The Wrong Side of the Bed
What you do during your first hour is going to set the stage for the rest of your day. It’s going to produce momentum, powering you into your day, or seeing you procrastinating and falling behind.
Hitting the snooze button three times before getting out of bed means you are already breaking the commitments you made to yourself. You are already procrastinating, putting off what you need to do before the day even starts, even if you haven’t thought of it in these terms. You have already changed the trajectory of your day before you have even started.
Because your phone is your alarm clock, picking it up to turn off the beeping that is the first sound you hear each day means opening up the possibility of spending the first twenty minutes catching up on Instagram, Facebook, email, or yesterday’s news. None of these is going to provide you with any motivation to move forward. There is nothing that you can see, hear, or read from any of these sources that will benefit you in any way, let alone help you have a productive day.
The Importance of a Morning Routine
What you do with your first hour of the day can propel you forward. It can provide you with momentum, but only if you do something worthwhile, something beneficial to your overall results. What you do to start your day isn’t as important as the fact that you choose to do something to set you up for success.
You might exercise first thing in the morning, preparing yourself for your day by moving your body through space or moving heavy objects, which will increase your capacity for work and improve your focus. You might choose to do yoga, stretching your body, and breathing deeply, another way to improve your health, vitality, and energy.
There are other choices available to you. You might decide to meditate for twenty minutes as a way to center yourself for the day or write in your journal, another form of introspection that can set your direction and your intentions for the day. Repeating or writing down a set of affirmations will also start you in a strong direction for the day, helping you to live in line with your goals, values, and purpose.
Don’t miss the starting line. Whatever you do to start your day, make sure it is positive and starts you off in the right direction, and that it is something that fuels you.
The Second Most Dangerous Hour
The second most dangerous hour of the day is your first hour of work. The risks to your overall productivity is greatest when you first turn on your computer and open your email inbox, a place where you will find none of your goals, none of your most important initiatives, and nothing that you might describe as meaningful or purposeful work.
Stephen Covey would describe this as “majoring in minor things,” the surest way to ensure that you do nothing of real importance but feel as though you are working. Unless you are paid for answering email, the nature of your work isn’t answering email. You are, no doubt, responsible for some greater outcome than inbox zero.
Your life is short, and you don’t have to worry about dying with unanswered emails. If you can die without having answered all your emails, you can learn to live with an inbox full of unread emails. Let some go long enough, and those who need to speak to you will call you, preventing you from having to reply to their email at all.
Make Your First Work Hour Work
You should never start a day without knowing exactly how you are going to spend that first hour. By having already decided what you are going to do with your first hour, you ensure that you start the day without sitting passively by, waiting for something to cause you to react.
Were you to desire to be super productive, your task list for the first hour, or better, your first ninety-minutes, you would do the most important task first, no matter what it is, and no matter the day of the week.
Doing whatever task is necessary to produce the most important outcome for which you are responsible ensures that that work gets done first, crowding out the possibility of wasting the day. With the most important outcomes completed, you can move on to the second most important outcome, followed by the third, and so on.
By always doing what is most important first, you ensure you are productive. Productivity has little to do with the number of tasks you complete. It has everything to do with the value of the outcomes your work generates.
Elimination of Danger
By planning your days and weeks ahead of time, you eliminate the risk of wasting time, waiting to react to what others need from you, and losing your first hour, your momentum, and your overall productivity.
Making these first two hours count will improve your productivity and your results.
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Filed under: Productivity