We hardly think much of the first few minutes of our workdays, even though science says those first 10 minutes boost productivity for the next 8 hours.
For most of us, those first 10 minutes are ones of indolence, idle chatter, catching up with colleagues, going out to grab a cup of joe, setting up our workstations, or perhaps trying to shrug off the fatigue from last night. We don’t even realize when we get thrown off and as a result, have a hard time focusing for the remainder of the day.
The truth is that if you show up late for work, bump into an overly chatty colleague, or get sucked into an overflowing inbox, getting back onto your productivity tract is a hard nut to crack. In fact, we have put two and two together and identified 10 common traps that can befall you within the first 10 minutes of your workday and leave you unable to concentrate for the rest of the day. Steering clear of these pitfalls can set you up for success in the long run and boost productivity.
1. Showing Up Late To Work
Do you know that turning up to work late can sabotage your day before it has even begun. Not only will you have wasted the most productive minutes of your day, you will also be viewed by your boss as a less conscientious employee. No matter how hard-working you are, this one habit can wreak havoc on your performance ratings, even if you put in extra hours. It’s hardly fair but it’s the hard fact. So, if you want to boost productivity, try to set up multiple alarms, keep your ensemble and lunch ready the night before, don’t stay up late, and organize everything in advance so you won’t struggle groggily in the morning.
2. Forgetting To Exchange Words With Your Coworkers
You can give yourself the much-needed energy boost and set a pleasant tone for the entire workplace by spending the first 10 minutes of your day catching up with your colleagues and exchanging a few words. This goes without saying for leaders especially. According to Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of ‘Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job’, if you walk past your team without exchanging peasantries, your lack of people skills could overshadow your technical competence. Even if you are not a leader, making your way straight to your workstation can make you appear curt and less approachable. You don’t want your team to keep you at arm’s length for the rest of the day, do you?
3. You Drink Coffee Between 8 And 10 AM
If you are a “don’t talk to me until I have had my coffee” person, you probably down a cup as soon as you pop out of bed or grab one the second you enter your workplace. However, research says that the best time to drink coffee is between 10 am and 12 pm, not before. This is due to the fact that the stress hormone cortisol peaks sometime between 8 and 9 am. This hormone regulates energy but drinking coffee at this time makes the body produce less cortisol, and instead depend more on caffeine for its energy boost. This is why once the caffeine rush subsides, you suddenly start feeling drained and down in the dump. Once your cortisol levels start to plummet after 9:30 am, perhaps you can think about that caffeine boost. As for those of us who can’t imagine staying productive without coffee, trust me it’s not that hard.
4. You Check Your Email First Thing In The Morning
Once you have fired up your laptop and settled into your chair, you can hardly resist plunging nose-deep into the slew of messages that arrived over the night. However, Michael Kerr, the author of “You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work” says otherwise. The international business speaker is of the opinion that the first 10 minutes of the workday are not for answering every email in detail. Rather you should be quickly scanning and prioritizing emails within the first 10 minutes of settling down at your station to boost productivity. That way you won’t inadvertently delay something urgent while caught up in the throes of answering redundant emails. Quickly peruse through your inbox, mark anything that looks important and create a plan for answering all of them later.
“Checking email can become one of those tasks that make it feel like you are accomplishing things, wherein the danger is you are not attending to priority-action items, and you’re letting others set your agenda,” Kerr told Business Insider.
5. You Don’t Prepare a Tentative Schedule Before Launching Into Your Work
Before you launch head-first into the pile of work waiting for you, sit down to determine where the day is headed and what you need to do by day end. This includes reviewing your calendar and organizing your to-do list in order of priority. Check to see if you have any conferences or calls lined up, or if you have planned any events. You don’t want to be caught off-guard when a sudden 10-minute reminder for a meeting reaches you right in the middle of lunch.
6. You Tackle The Easiest Tasks First
Getting small tasks out of the way fast gives us a sense of accomplishment, a feeling that we are being productive. However, research has suggested that your willpower and energy are at their peaks in the morning, but plummet as the day wears on. This is why it is important to sort through the most important tasks first to boost productivity, no matter how time-consuming or difficult they are. Putting off high priority tasks till the end of the day can get you sitting up late at work.
This strategy is akin to “eating the frog,” since Mark Twain once said that, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
7. You Multitask to Boost Productivity
We come to work brimming over with energy, ready to take on any challenges. All this energy makes you feel like you can do a million different things at once, while you still can. However, research say that multitasking takes your focus off the primary task, so it is more prudent to do one thing at a time. If you try to juggle multiple priorities so early in the morning, you could set yourself back for the rest of the day. Instead, set a positive tone by focusing on a single task for the first 10 minutes.
8. Dwelling Too Much On Negative Thoughts
Perhaps your car broke down just as you were leaving for work. Perhaps a pushy passenger on your commute knocked you over. Perhaps you spilled coffee over your exorbitantly expensive blouse. Perhaps you are dreading a meeting with an overly nagging client. Don’t let these negative thoughts distract you from following a productivity path. This is where you need to compartmentalize by putting those negative thoughts “in a separate ‘box’ in your mind and locking it up. You can revisit these gloomy thoughts later when you have the time. Or better yet, chuck the box out over a cliff to boost productivity.
9. You’re Scheduling Early Morning Meetings
Since we are already spending an average of 23 hours in meeting weekly, try not to throw away your cognitive resources over morning meetings. According to Laura Vanderkam, author of ‘What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast,’ unless a meeting requires a ton of mental energy, better schedule it for low-energy times like mid-afternoon. Unless something important comes up, schedule all meetings for later parts of the day.
10. You Take Your Schedule Too Seriously
We all arrive at work aspiring to achieve big. We start our day with promises of achieving big, thinking that setting such big goals can keep us motivated for the day and boost productivity, but science is of the opinion that setting yourself up for achieving so much can only lead to procrastination. Procrastination stems from fear. When you have a huge task ahead of you, you experience a sense of impending doom; you get scared and start doubting your ability to complete the work.
You overthink, and over-plan and in turn, do nothing more than waste time. Its better to break up your tasks and focus on what you know you can realistically accomplish within an allotted time frame. Instead of setting self-imposed deadlines for your supposed tasks, focus on whether you can deliver quality in that time.