Just like breakfast is the most important meal of the day, how we start each day at work can have a powerful effect on how productive we are.
It can be easy to get sucked in by emails, queries from colleagues and the morning coffee run, all of which will put you behind before your day has even started.
But it doesn’t need to be this way, productivity experts and business coaches alike both say just a few minutes of planning before you do anything else can transform your whole day.
“The clearer you are of what you’ve got to do, then the more likely it is that it’s going to happen,” Melbourne Business Coach Maureen Pound says.
According to a Harvard Business Review report, doing things like checking your email as soon as you get to work hijacks your attention and puts you in reactive, rather than proactive, mode.
So how can you transform your working day with 10 minutes of planning each morning?
Sit down and plan
Ignore everything else, and follow Ms Pound. She begins every working day with a list of things she wants to get done.
“Planning is really good, but not just planning for the day, but planning for the week and the bigger goals for the week,” says Ms Pound.
“I jot down the few things that I want to do, then I block out the time that I want to do things as appointments.”
And the worst things you can do?
“Not having any sort of plan, getting distracted and not doing those things that they know they’d feel really good if they got done,” says Ms Pound.
In your plan, make sure to block out time for certain tasks during the day to reduce distraction and make it easier to finish things off.
“Say you’re working on something that’s interrupted by a telephone call, then you have to switch back to what you were working on. It takes time for our brains to recalibrate,” Ms Pound says.
The same goes for constantly checking emails.
Creative business coach Jo Gilbert suggests checking non-urgent emails in blocks throughout the day, increasing your productivity.
“Review all other emails later, in 15-20 minute blocks mid-morning, before/after lunch, mid afternoon and last thing,” says Ms Gilbert.
“In between, concentration can be applied with as few interruptions as possible to strategic proposals and project management.”
Do the difficult things first
Both Ms Pound and Ms Gilbert say that it’s important to tackle difficult tasks in the morning when your mind is most agile.
“Address the projects that require clear strategic thinking or intense concentration first, when you are fresh,” says Ms Gilbert.
Ms Pound agrees: “Even if you just get one or two things out of the way, you’ll feel psychologically better and you’ll be more productive for the rest of the day.”
Ms Pound says that its also good to nominate a time when you will complete difficult tasks.
“If you say that you’re going to do it at Wednesday at one o’clock, the likelihood of you doing it is higher.”
It’s also important to allow yourself time for things like a decent lunch break, or a trip to a cafe with colleagues, to keep you mentally fresh during the day.
“Set little rewards for yourself. They can be as simple as ‘I’m going to go for a walk at lunchtime if I’ve got this done’,” says Ms Pound.
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