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Everyone wants to have a great day . No one wakes up and consciously thinks "I want to have a terrible day today!” But having worked with thousands of staff and managers over the last 20 years, it is obvious that very few people decide they are going to have a great day. In fact most people don’t even know how it starts.

Most people set up their day poorly. In my productivity workshops, when I ask people when they are most effective, the vast majority will say in the morning. But people rarely capitalise on this. Mornings are unproductive affairs - and here’s what the average morning looks like:


The Average Morning

Arrive at the office, put your stuff down at your desk and then go and make a coffee (if you haven’t bought one on the way in). Then check email.

Answer emails that are easy to answer and read over the others, thinking that you need to have a closer look later in the day.

Get distracted by some funny email or link to an online article. Whoops - time for the morning meeting already.

Go to the meeting, come back to your desk with stuff to do from the meeting. Maybe make another coffee.

Decide to get started on the stuff from the meeting. Get interrupted three times. Then actually do the stuff from the meeting. Morning over.

And what about those emails that needed some attention later in the day? Well, those will get done a bit later - most likely in the afternoon.

What happened to that productive morning? You spent it on emails, meetings, stuff from said meeting, a little bit of distraction by you (online articles) and others (interruptions), and a couple of cups of coffee.

Ok…….the coffee is important.

Having a great day for most people means changing your morning routine. If you are most productive in the morning, then use it to your advantage - don’t waste it. Here’s where to start:

1) Coffee second. Important stuff first.

Don’t get that coffee as soon as you get to the office. Most people believe that coffee gives them an immediate pick me up, but having that cup on your desk also makes you feel comfortable and puts you in a routine. Spend 30 minutes working on something important as soon as you sit at your desk. Not something that’s just urgent, but work on one of those longer term projects that never seem to get done. After you’ve spent 30 minutes then go get coffee. Coffee is the reward.

2) Step Away From the Email

Do not, I repeat DO NOT check your email as soon as you sit at your desk. Do something important (see above) or sort out your calendar at the very least. You could spend the whole day answering email, but that wouldn’t make you very productive. Instead, chunk some times throughout the day where you do an email check and respond. Maybe an hour mid-morning, another 30 minutes at lunchtime and another 30 minutes in the afternoon. This will stop you from being distracted during the day by constant email pings and when you ‘batch’ tasks like this, you are more efficient.

3) Planning is Everything

At the start of the day, make a list of the things that need to get done and then make times to do everything. If there are a bunch of small tasks that also need to get done, then give these a time as well and make this your time to get all the ‘2 Minute Tasks’ done. When you have a plan and deadlines for tasks and pieces of projects, you work far more effectively than if you have no plan at all.

These are three simple things you can start right now. Being more productive starts with how you set up your day. Do you want to have a great day, or do you want to spin your wheels and feel like you’ve achieved nothing? Quite often we make this choice in the first 30 minutes of the morning.

**Tony Wilson is a Workplace Performance Expert focussed on helping leaders build the environment for high performance. His insights into performance science and it's application in the workplace will make you re-think the way that you approach leadership, culture change, high performance and productivity. Tony has an MBA and a BSc majoring in physiology and combines the two for a different perspective. He is also the author of Jack and the Team that Couldn't See and delivers workshops and keynote presentations around the globe.

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