How To Start Your Workday: Five Things To Avoid

Have you ever felt your workday didn’t start on the right note? What do you do during the first 10 minutes at the office? If you feel stressed out coming into work or decide to make the coffee first thing, you’re setting your day up for disaster. Understanding how to start your workday is vital in setting yourself up for success.

How to start your workday: How to organize your day at work

Productively starting your workday will not only make you feel better but helps you get more done if you make it a good practice. If you’re looking to avoid bad habits working at the office, you don’t want to fall back into them quickly.

In this post, I will discuss several things you need to avoid when kicking off your workday. Some things you should avoid during your first hour of the day include:

1.) Chatting With Colleagues & Making Coffee

2.) Going Straight Into Meetings

3.) Checking Email & Opened Web Browsers

4.) Doing Multiple Tasks At Once (AKA Multitasking)

5.) Not Clearing Your Mind 

How To Start Your Workday

Avoid Coffee & Chatting With Coworkers

Many workers fall in a bad habit of making coffee the very first thing. They’ll go to their break area to make a pot, and that quickly wastes five minutes.

Five minutes may be no big deal, but you might regret it at the end of the day. Not to mention you may go back for the second round of coffee later on. Especially between the middle to end of a day, you might be rushing yourself to get work done.

Another common problem is chatting with coworkers, particularly about topics outside of work. Small talk at work is ok, but if you make a regular habit, that can be a huge time waster.

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Solution

It might be a challenge for coffee-lovers, but hold off on coffee until your first hour or two at work. If you decide to conduct deep work for your first 90 minutes, then you can grab some coffee after that period has passed.

In regards to socializing with coworkers, put off non-related work conversations until lunchtime or the middle of the day. If you have lunch with coworkers, that’s the best time to discuss whatever you want besides work.

Avoid Meetings When Possible

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One of the worst ways to start your workday is walking into a meeting. Although inevitable, sitting in on a meeting can take up a lot of time, especially if they last an hour or longer.

Workers, on average, spend about 23 hours a week in meetings. It may not be the case for every workplace, but that amount of time is astonishing. That’s close to a day’s worth of work lost to workers.

Solution

To manage your time around your schedule, block out time in your work calendar when you’re open. For example, use terms such as “meeting time” or “open” on your schedule for periods you’re free for meetings. This strategy may not work for mandatory meetings. However, for meetings you’re not required to attend, using time blockers can be useful in managing your time at the office.

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No Email Or Opened Web Browsers

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One mistake that workers make once settled in the office is checking their email.

According to Adam Alter, a New York University professor, it takes an average of 25 minutes to achieve maximum productivity after checking email.

Email may be an essential tool at work. Still, it’s also a huge distraction and time-waster. You could be scrolling through and responding to emails for a good half-hour to 45 minutes.

More so, those emails may not be essential to get back to immediately. If they can wait, hold off on checking email at a more convenient time.

Solution

Hold off checking email until the last two hours of your workday. Around this time, you may have finished the priorities that you needed to check off that day. For some workers, the end of the day may not be that busy.

So if you have some downtime during your final hours of work, going through your email at that time would be better. If you’re not able to wait until the end of the day, do it around the middle of the day before lunchtime.

Regarding web browsers, limit your time through screen-limit tools or apps on your computer. There are plenty of software tools and adds-one you can install on your desktop. Some are free while some cost money.

But if it’s going to save you time in the long-run, it’s worth it. Apps such as Freedom, Nanny, Leechblock, and FocalFilter are good installs. Most of them work on standard web browsers, including Safari, Firefox, Google Chrome, and Microsoft Explorer.

Avoid Multitasking

Doing many things at once may sound like we’re productive. But as I’ve written before, multitasking makes us less productive. Even for people who try doing it with much effort, it may slow them down and can build on their workload. There are many things the human brain can take in a limited period. The human mind can’t tackle a bunch of tasks at once, so multitasking limits our abilities to get more done in less time.

Not Clearing Your Mind Before Starting Work

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Sometimes, you may not be in control when your mind is preoccupied. Especially when there are days you have a giant to-do list in front of you, your mind is less focused then. When our minds are preoccupied with other things we need to tackle, we’re less likely to stay focused and perform at our best.

Solution

Simple things such as meditating before starting your workday can be helpful. Those who take advantage of it (in the morning or evening) can make a difference in how they go out about their daily routines. Whether that’s being less stressful and more mindful, meditation brings excellent health benefits.

Also, keeping a notebook to write down your thoughts is a great way to get any worries or concerns out of your mind. For myself, I find writing down my interests is a great way to provide relief. It helps keep myself calm and relaxed on a given day.

Wrap-Up

Overall, doing things such as holding off on coffee or your email can be beneficial in jumpstarting your workday. How people kickstart their day at work can determine whether they have a productive day or not.

It amazes me that a lot of people don’t keep these simple points in mind. They’re easy to implement, but it’s probably having discipline and patience over time. If they are willing to be disciplined and make an effort, they may see some positive changes down the road.

How do you utilize your time during your first hour at work?

Leave a comment below, and please share the post with others.

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Professional

Eric is a time management consultant and owner of the blog, quitkillingtime.com. He takes great pride in helping people manage their time, personally and professionally. Eric is a firm believer in time freedom, as he believes in taking ownership of time. “Time is your most important asset. It can be your best friend or worst enemy. How you use your time can shape the future you desire to have.” In his leisure time, Eric loves to write and read whenever possible. He likes to go for long walks out in nature and been taking Zumba classes every week at his local gym. You can follow Eric via Facebook and LinkedIn.

12 thoughts on “How To Start Your Workday: Five Things To Avoid”

  1. Hi, Eric,

    There are definitely things that we can change and vary among people. I for instance, need to start my day off with some coffee. It gives me energy to do what I have to do. I try not to lose time with my co-workers over small talk, but coffee is a must for me.

    Unfortunately, there are things we don’t have control over like meetings. I once was in a position where meetings were first thing in the morning. I dreaded those meetings, but again, it wasn’t my decision.

    Regarding email, I totally agree. Email is such a time waster. But again, not checking it can be impossible at times, especially when it’s an essential part of your duties. 

    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Of course, Enrique. I’m glad to know you found this post useful.

      You’re right about not keeping everything under control. You may not be able to control everything, but there are some things you can control. I’ve dreaded those meetings, but I had to go through it.

      There are some things you can’t avoid so that it will be inevitable. But you make some excellent points!

      Thanks again for sharing your input- much appreciated!

      Reply
  2. You have highlighted 5 things to avoid as we start our workday and as I was reading through each point I took time to reflect on whether or not this was an issue in my case. There were some that did hit home and I realized I could improve the start of my workday if I addressed them.

    I am a multi-tasker, it just is in my nature and I have been doing it for years. It can be easy to dive down a figurative rabbit hole when you do this, and that does happen to me on occasion too. By starting out with my to-do list and addressing each entry one at a time, I think I might end up being more productive. I will try this out.

    The other point that hit home with me was the advice not to have a bunch of open tabs in browsers and checking email. These two tasks can upset the routine of the day faster than anything else for me. I am looking at setting certain time periods of the day when I will open any other tabs other than what I need for the task at hand. Good post, good advice, and thanks!

    Reply
    • Thank you, Dave. Your input is much appreciated.

      Those were some high points you made. You’re not the only one who goes through those struggles, so it’s good to point them out. Some people will appreciate what you have to say.

      Thanks again for sharing your input- much appreciated!

      Reply
  3. You have given some good suggestions.  I think the email one is quite valuable, as I’ve found if I start answering all my email posts first, it takes half the morning, and I still have not started essential tasks for the day. Doing emails in the evening is good for a couple of reasons:  We can use the earlier part of the day to get essential work done, and we can do it while we are still fresh.  If we do emails first, it takes away some of our energy and oomph.  I think that’s what I will start doing, as I’m sure it will free up some time.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Fran.

      Those were some great points you made. Particularly on the email points, many people can relate to what you’ve been through. It’s very accurate, and I wish you the best in starting up new habits.

      Thanks again for sharing your input- much appreciated!

      Reply
  4. Hi Eric,

    You not only discussed the problems but you have provided solutions as well, that’s amazing.

    I am making the mistake of checking my emails often while working and I agree it’s a huge distraction. Thanks for the advice and going forward I am going to reply my emails before lunch or by the end of the day.

    There will be many tabs open on my browser while I am working, going forward I will focus on one thing at a time and I will avoid multi-tasking. The book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity is on my list. Among the five things to avoid I need to work on the last three.

    Nice article. I really enjoyed the content and in the manner that you presented. I have taken some great insights from this post.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Paul. I’m glad you found the article helpful. In some of these posts, I do the best I can to give helpful solutions. Some that I use, while others I research online.

      If you read David Allen’s book, I think you’ll appreciate the information out of it. It’s one of the best books on productivity.

      Thanks again for sharing your input!

      Reply
  5. These five things are definite problems that have plagued many executives at the start and in the productivity of their work days. I know for me personally the one I have the most problem with is the checking of emails and opened web browsers.

    Unfortunately this is something that is a necessary function because the majority of the assigned work for the day that me and my team would have to do, comes into my department via email. Seeing how we develop web-based apps, open web browsers is a must too.

    Where the problem arises comes in the lack of discipline to not stray on to non-business emails, social media and unrelated websites. It is my feeling that in order to avoid any kind of unproductive nature at the start of the day, will power to stay focused is the key.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Robert.

      You make some excellent points earlier. Executives (no doubt) have problems overcoming these issues, so it’s not only employees. But anyone can struggle with these issues starting their day.

      Your problems are no stranger to most people. They’re very common, but can be easily fixed (for sure). But it’s good to keep in mind.

      Thank you for sharing your input- much appreciated!

      Reply
  6. Of the 5 subtopics on your topic of starting the work day, the last three struck home in my profession as a school teacher. I often open up my email and have multiple windows for separate tasks opened, which I get to between classes when I am not walking around the classroom serving my students educational needs. I don’t drink coffee as my body doesn’t respond well to it so I don’t have the jitters while I am working or the intense ups and downs but I do have an issue of multi-tasking because the job requires us to wear multiple hats at once within a classroom. I completely agree that multi-tasking makes us less productive. All the tasks suffer. I have found that my work on WA has to be set aside until the end of the work day at home for a period of a couple hours or briefly during my lunch when I do not have duty. Otherwise, stress builds and productivity continues on a downward slope.

    I start my day or end my evening with conscious breathing (Wim Hof technique), stretching, and prayer. I need to relax my body and get rid of my stresses and these all help. I will employ the use of the benefit of writing negative thoughts down to release them. It has been suggested before but after reading your article, I believe it is worth a try.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Justin. I understand the struggles you’ve gone through as a teacher.

      But I’m glad to hear you use your time at the beginning/end of the day for winding down. That certainly is needed, and that you’re practicing it. Keep it up.

      Thanks again for sharing your input. I greatly appreciate it!

      Reply

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