Do These 5 Things Every A.M. for a Great Day

You’ve been there. It’s a Monday morning and you’re ready for the work week — or as ready as you can be after the relaxation of the weekend. You know your most important projects that need to get done at the office, and you know as soon as you can just grab a cup of coffee, you’ll be able to sit down, focus, and knock everything out.

But then stuff happens. Your favorite coffee shop is closed due to a water leak. The bus never shows up. You received 27 new emails overnight. And before you know it, what was looking like a pretty darn good day at work has suddenly turned into the real-life version of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Take a gander at our five recommendations below for simple tasks you can do in the morning to ensure a way better day at the office.

#1: Don’t check your email

That’s right, I said DON’T check your email. You know why? No doubt you have your priorities for the day. Your mind is focused on the first most important thing you want to do in the morning. But then every time you check your email, especially first thing in the day, you risk feeling like you need to do what somebody else wants you to do. Plus, it disrupts your morning, starts your mind churning about the million requests you’ll have to deal with when you get to the office, and throws your formerly #1 priority out the window.

So that’s right. Don’t check your email. Don’t check it in bed when you wake up. Don’t check it on the subway or over that cup of coffee or while blindly walking against the light into a crosswalk. I oftentimes don’t check my email until a full hour after I’ve gotten to the office. This allows me peace of mind in the morning, a stress-free commute (well, when Metro isn’t running late), and time at the office to tackle more important things first. And guess what? When I’m ready, the email will be there. (That said: At 9:30 or so, when I have spent about an hour at the office getting other tasks done, I take about another 30 minutes dedicated solely to email — hopefully clearing most of it from my plate for the rest of the day.)

#2: DO review your to-do list

At the end of every work day, I try to type out a draft of the things I need to get done the next day. Instead of reviewing email in the morning, I’ll take five minutes to look at the to-do list to remind myself where my energy needs to be going that day.

#3: Try meditating

You don’t have to be a monk to experience the mind-clearing benefits of meditation. Take a few minutes to gain some respite from looming office distractions with calming thoughts and deep breaths. Do this for five or ten minutes before you go to the office instead of the five or ten minutes you’d spend watching the Today Show or surfing gossip sites online (not that those activities aren’t important as well, of course. But you can do that on your boss’s dime! [Just kidding, boss!]).

#4: Drink eight ounces of water as soon as you wake up 

Can you imagine going throughout the day for eight hours without drinking a single sip of water? That’s what your body has just done the night before. Kick your brain into gear and forestall any dehydration (which can make you sluggish) by downing a glass of water right after you wake up. You can have it sitting on your nightstand from the night before — and if you do that, this whole exercise takes about 10 seconds total. So no excuses.

#5: Use your commute wisely

Unless you’re some sort of weird office troll who sleeps on the breakroom couch every night, or (at the other end of the spectrum) a millionaire who runs her own business, chances are that if you work in an office, you’ve got some sort of commute to contend with. And whether it’s a 15 minute walk, a 20 minute bike ride, or an hour-long drive, that commute is likely to set the tone for the rest of your day. So when possible, try to use that commute time for something productive. Drivers can listen to audio books or language lessons on tape. Usually take a 20 minute bus ride to get to work? Try waking up early to get in a 40 minute walk instead, and cross your daily exercise off your list with that one decision. Riding the subway every day? Do the crossword on your way in to wake up your brain a bit more. Knowing you’re using time that’s out of your control a bit more thoughtfully will improve your mood.

Those are just my tips for a good start to the day. I’d love to hear more. What ways do you start your day? Leave them for us in the comments!

Flickr photo by user Lars Plougmann

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Deborah Button

Very interesting and sensible ideas. I need to take note of #4 more often. Water is so essential but easy to forget. Thanks for the reminder.

Catherine Andrews

It is super super hard. I can’t lie – I still check email a couple times of week when I wake up. But the days I do stick to it, I have a much calmer morning!

Ronda S.

Even though I work very early, I still get up early enough to have an unhurried, healthy breakfast and enjoy a cup of coffee before I start the day. I never miss breakfast. I also love the water idea, and it’s just as important to provide some fuel for that brain, too.

Angela Hooker

I like these tips, Catherine! I’m going to try doing my to-do list the night before instead of waiting until the morning when I’m really not “all there” and I’m likely to forget something.