Morning Habits That Are Killing Your Daily Productivity

We start the day with the best intentions — try to focus, stay positive and meet challenges with fortitude. But at the hand of ineffective habits, we inadvertently leave our productivity behind, slowly sinking into the maelstrom of demands that keep our goals at bay.

Daily routines mold our intentions into successes or failures more than we realize. Between our first yawns and lunchtime, we make hundreds of automatic decisions that push us along a path of productivity or lead us down a dead end. Our morning habits are the most powerful opportunities to jumpstart a change.

Let’s take a look at the worst productivity offenders and go from there:

You Snooze, You Lose

Do you press snooze again and again? You fall back asleep too many times, launching one of those “Oh, crap!” moments that send your adrenaline sky high?

When you go back to sleep after snoozing your alarm, you’re sending your body mixed messages about your wake-up time. Dr. Rachel Pelayo, a sleep specialist at Stanford University says those extra minutes dozing off do more harm than good. Your body thinks it can go back to sleep, causing additional shock when you have to start you day. Once you finally get moving, you probably feel clouded and irritable — that’s the sleep inertia setting in.

Instead of trying to get some extra shuteye, build consistency. Once your body recognizes your early morning alarm as a wake-up call, it will start lulling you to sleep earlier than usual.

Skipping Breakfast

Your Mom was right about breakfast: it is the most important meal of the day. Imagine running a commercial jet on low fuel — it would be a disaster. When you wake up in the morning, you’re running really low on fuel. Somehow, we expect ourselves to work anyway.

A review conducted at Florida State University linked low blood glucose (sugar) levels to a lack of self-control. Those of us who don’t eat breakfast and experience lower blood sugar levels are more likely to make impulsive decisions, succumb to stress and lack focus in our work. Productivity hinges on the ability to self-monitor. Why not give yourself what you need to be calm, cool and collected? This one is an easy fix.

Checking Email and Social Media

After hitting the snooze button twice, you finally open your eyes, roll over and groggily check your email and Twitter. Even if it feels productive, it’s not. The extra stimulus from messages and tweets scatters your energy rather than bringing it into focus.

Constant email can have a detrimental effect on our daily intellectual capacity. Dr. Glenn Wilson, a research psychiatrist, found that workers who consistently juggled their work responsibilities with incoming emails experienced decreased IQs and reduced mental sharpness. By limiting your dependence email and social media at home, you give yourself the opportunity to start your day with a sense of clarity.

Too Busy for a Game Plan

Many of us feel like we have too much to do and no time to do it. We start anyway, scatter-brained and anxious. Yes, we may be making progress, but it doesn’t feel like it. You’re scrambling on too many tasks with not enough structure. This kind of panic will leave you treading water rather than moving forward.

Leo Babutua of Zen Habits has the perfect antidote to ground your anxiety and get you started. He suggests whittling down your work to three most important tasks (MITs) upon starting your day. Of course, you will get more done than just these three tasks, but the process of refining your focus will bring your attention to what is most important. You are much more likely to meet a goal if you specify when and where you are going to complete the task. Add that information to your MIT list!

Starting Easy, Finishing Hard

Our most important tasks are often the most challenging — and we avoid them like the plague. No matter how good we are at knocking tasks off our to-do lists, human nature means we start with the easy stuff. This approach feels good at the moment, but it could hurt you in the future. As the day goes on, work emergencies will pop up and you may have an extra meeting or two. Your MIT’s will slip through the cracks, and before you know it, you’re on your way home without having moved an inch toward your goals.

Switch it up and start your day with the hardest tasks. Here’s why:

1. Your ability to focus is strongest at the beginning of the day.

2. Tackling your biggest challenges first thing leaves you with a sense of empowerment.

3. You can spend the rest of the day addressing the needs of others, knowing that you already achieved your MITs.

Sitting Still

Sitting down all day is killing your productivity. Nilofer Merchant, an entrepreneur and author, says of sitting, “It is so prevalent and so pervasive that we don’t even question how much we’re doing it.” Not only does sitting negatively affect our health in tremendous ways, but it means that we don’t capitalize on the work-related benefits of physical movement.

Stuck on a conundrum that you just can’t seem to solve? Instead of idling at your desk, go for a walk. Walking stimulates the creative aspect of your mind, firing up your problem-solving engines. Chances are, a walk is one of the most productive thing you do all day.

A Productive Destination

Habits are always tough to shake. Recognizing what works and what doesn’t is the first step in reinventing your morning routine and catapulting yourself into an uber-productive existence.

With that in mind, play around. Your quirks and qualities mean that your optimal habits will look different than others’. Try waking up at new times, managing your schedule in fresh ways and delving into self-awareness. If you see your habits as an opportunity for transformation, you will always be moving in a positive (and productive) direction.