Infographic: Early-morning productivity drains to avoid

How you spend the first 10 minutes in the office can mean the difference between an efficient or deficient workday. Don’t let YouTube, a comfy chair or email derail your schedule.

What’s your first move to start each workday?

Most of us, I suspect, pour coffee, plop down in a creaky swivel chair, check email and sift through social media. There might be a doughnut involved or a quick peek at the news. Sound about right?

Unfortunately, we’re all doing it wrong. has an infographic that presents nine productivity mistakes to avoid in the first 10 minutes of your workday. (Let’s just say up front that you’re not going to like some of these.)

Hold off on the coffee. Don’t shoot the messenger, pal. Direct all caffeine complaints toward researchers from Dartmouth, who found that “drinking a coffee to kickstart your day is a bad idea because it interferes with the time when the stress hormone, cortisol, is peaking in your body, which raises your stress levels.” The infographic recommends drinking coffee between 10 a.m. and noon, or between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., when “cortisol levels are lowest.”

Now, you might be thinking, “Come pry this hot goodness from my cold, dead hands, Dartmouth researchers.” However, there are psychological benefits of delayed gratification. “No, just no,” you say? Fair enough.

Wait to check emails. It’s tempting to start the day by clearing your inbox. The infographic cites NYU prof Adam Alter, who says it takes “25 minutes to get into the zone of maximum productivity after checking your emails,” which immediately puts you behind schedule.

Instead of letting Outlook maintenance dominate that crucial workday segment, spend that early time “organizing your day” and planning what tasks you’d like to accomplish. Emails can wait —unless they can’t. If you must, scan the inbox for anything urgent, and leave the APB about Miriam’s baby shower for later.

Don’t go straight into a meeting. No doubt, there are deeply disturbed managers out there who delight in making their team start off each day with a bit of forced time together. The infographic says to “block out ‘meeting-free’ time at the start of every day in your calendar, accepting only the most unavoidable meetings.”

If your boss persists with this nefarious practice, politely remind him of the multitudes of ways in which meetings can squish morale and kill a business.

Go toward the light. The graphic cites a study by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, which found that, “Exposure to light early in the morning is particularly beneficial for your mood, alertness and metabolism.”

If you lack access to a window—or if you live in Chicago or a similar place near the Arctic Circle—you might consider getting a mood-boosting SAD lamp.

What other productivity busters are lurking in your morning routine? Read the rest of the infographic to find out.


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