What's the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning — jump in the shower? Make coffee? Let the dog out? If you want to be productive, any of those tasks is a good start, as long as you don't do one thing: check your email.
Though it sounds contrary to what we believe productivity to be, checking email in the morning sets a damaging tone for the rest of the day. You're agitated, you're anxious, and while you might feel like you're getting more done by multitasking, scattering your efforts everywhere only becomes a hindrance. Rather than focusing on a few tasks that truly need to be done, you end up letting your inbox set your agenda for the day. After all, emails are full of distractions and demands, things that could stand to wait until you get to the office (or at least an hour after you wake up).
If you start your morning on a proactive task — even if it's just fetching the paper in your PJs — you're more likely to maintain that level of focus and productivity throughout the day, rather than being bogged down by reactive minutiae like replying to emails.
Call it one of the secrets of highly successful people: ignoring your email first thing in the morning is one of the first steps to success. In fact, there's even an entire book written about the subject by author Julie Morgenstern, aptly called, Never Check Email In the Morning. For over two decades, Morgenstern has consulted with businesses like American Express, Hearst, Deloitte, and Microsoft on organization and time management.
As she told The Huffington Post, "It's hard to go from your transactional, shallow part of your brain, the frontal cortex, to the other parts of your brain where strategy happens and relationships happen. It's easier to start in the deep recesses of your brain and go to the shallow parts."
Thus, actually doing something first thing in the morning helps you get more done the rest of the day. According to Morgenstern, this is how super successful people always start their day, and there might be some truth to it.
Tumblr founder David Karp, who recently sold his company to Yahoo for $1.1 billion, told Inc. in an interview: "I try hard not to check e-mails until I get to the office, which is usually between 9:30 and 10 a.m. Reading e-mails at home never feels good or productive. If something urgently needs my attention, someone will call or text me."
Self-help guru Tony Robbins preaches what he calls the "Hour of Power" (or "30 Minutes to Thrive" or "15 Minutes to Fulfillment," if you're prone to sleeping in), a mindful morning ritual that helps you start the day on a clean, clear slate. His suggestions for rituals include breathing, stretching, thinking about everything you're grateful for, and visualizing what you want in your life if you could have it all today.
While Robbins' approach may sound a bit new-agey to some folks, the purpose of his exercise is to center your brain and answer only to yourself — a luxury you don't often have when it feels like your inbox fills up faster than you can empty it.