The 5 Best Ways to Spend the First 10 Minutes of Your Workday

As Plato wrote in 380 B.C., "The beginning is the most important part of the work." It's a truth that still stands today: How you begin your work day sets the tone for the rest of it. If you do your morning right, you're apt to have an overall day where you accomplish more, stress less, and earn more recognition for your productivity. (See also: 13 Things Successful People Do Every Morning)

Read on for our roundup of the top tips and tricks on starting the work day off right.

1. Don't Check Your Email

Julie Morganstern's Never Check E-Mail In the Morning: And Other Unexpected Strategies for Making Your Work Life Work preaches the near-unfathomable: Don't start the day by checking your inbox.

Email is often a black hole and our number one time suck. Checking it never feels like much of an accomplishment because while you're reading, deleting, and responding, more and more messages are piling up. Instead, Morganstern suggests we begin the work day by crossing off a task with a single focus — something we can truly feel accomplished about.

If you fear a vitally important email might slip through the cracks if you delay checking your inbox, we recommend AwayFind, a program that cuts through the clutter, notifying you on your cell phone about only the most urgent messages.

2. Clear Your Desk of Clutter

Throw out yesterday's empty disposable coffee cup and that stack of memos from last week. Studies show that a cluttered workspace actually hinders our ability to process information and concentrate. We aren't aware of it, but clutter competes for our attention in much the same way as a whining child or a barking dog does.

3. Organize Your Day

Just like school children who attend a homeroom period at the start of the day, adults in the workplace should carve out a few minutes in the morning to review schedules, assess priorities, and set goals. A little organization can go along way to getting your day on track.

4. Make Big Decisions

Research shows that morning time is when we're best equipped to make clear-headed decisions relating to ethics and tough situations. So it's best to pull the trigger on any hiring, firing, financial, or otherwise important quandaries at the very start of the day, before your mind gets strained or overwhelmed.

5. Take Advantage of a Clear Mind

Decision-making isn't the only task a clear mind is good for. A focused mind helps us complete tasks of all sorts more quickly and accurately. "In considering the limitations of attention imagine the following scenario," writes Jamie Hale for PsychCentral. "You find a parking spot that is tight and requires parallel parking. One of the first things you will probably do is turn the radio down. You turn the radio down so you can focus on getting the car in the parking space." So while when your brain is at its sharpest, begin working on the most important assignments of your day.

How do you start your day for maximum productivity? Please share in comments!

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Guest's picture

I like how you compare #3 to "homeroom." It makes sense to take just a few minutes at the beginning of the day and decide what needs to be done for the day and what I would like to accomplish. Otherwise, I can start one thing, get distracted by another, and then sometimes don't make it back to the first task. Sometimes by the end of the day I feel exhausted from working so much, but feel like not a lot has gotten done because I didn't have a plan and was not organized about my tasks.

Guest's picture

There should be a matching article "The 5 Best Ways to Spend the LAST 10 Minutes of Your Workday." Clear your desk of clutter at the end of the workday so you're met with a clean desk at the start of the next day. Coming into a tidy desk helps start the day off on the right foot. Put away things that are completed, organize neat piles of things to take care of tomorrow, get rid of the trash, and do a quick wipe-down of the major surfaces. I start my day by organizing my day with a fresh set of eyes, checking my things-to-do piles and lists and setting my goals for the day.

Guest's picture

Oh my! I'm starting my day by checking my inbox; I really need to work on that. Thanks for sharing this post! It's very helpful and informative.