A lot has been written about how a morning routine sets you up for more productive and focused days. There are certain habits such as journaling, meditation, and goal-setting that, if done at the start of your day, help you get better results.
However, there are also habits and activities that you should avoid in the morning, as they derail your focus and negatively impact your productivity.
That’s why, in this article, I’ll go over the 5 things that highly productive people avoid in the morning. Most people do at least one of these things every single morning.
#1: Using A Smartphone Within One Hour of Waking
Smartphones are great tools to enhance our productivity. However, for most people, the smartphone is the biggest source of distraction that actually destroys their productivity.
You can say that most people aren’t using their smartphones — but their smartphones are using them. Instead of proactively deciding when they want to use it, they reactively and instinctively grab it at the slightest hint of boredom.
Unfortunately, this fuels the attention-deficit problem that the majority of our society suffers from.
With smartphones being such a major source of distraction for most people, it’s essential to counter this by carving out smartphone-free time.
The best time to do this is in the first hour after waking up, as there are few strong reasons why you need to check your smartphone at that time.
The problem is, your smartphone makes getting distracted easy.
Way too easy.
Within less than one second, we can enter entirely new worlds in the form of Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and even Medium. These new worlds are only one finger click away and contain anything from mindless entertainment to useful information. All in all, it’s too much too resits.
Personally, I notice that whenever I start my day by checking my smartphone, I get lost in Instagram or Youtube instead of being focused on my own goals.
I start my day out of control — reactively responding to what other people or companies put in front of me. Sometimes, this costs me more than half an hour and leaves me with a subtle feeling of busyness and stress.
That’s why I decided that the first hour of my day is free from using a smartphone. This way, I prevent myself from reactively getting distracted, and I can proactively dedicate my time and attention to my priorities.
Instead of getting lost in social media, I journal, meditate, set my daily priorities and review my long-term goals. Days that start like this are almost always a lot more productive than the days I began by mindlessly checking my phone.
Ps. I use my smartphone as my alarm clock, so I always put it on flight mode the night before so I won’t immediately be tempted to check messages, emails or social media.
#2: Watching TV or Netflix
When you start your day by watching TV or Netflix, you start your day by distracting yourself instead of being focused on your goals.
Instead of being able to direct your thoughts towards picking your priorities, scheduling your day, and getting a step closer to your long-term goals, your mind is put on pause by watching mind-numbing series.
Don’t get me wrong, I love watching movies and series, but they have their time and place in the day. For me, the morning certainly isn’t the right place if I want to be highly productive.
Furthermore, by watching TV in the morning, you prime your brain to seek distractions throughout the rest of the day. When watching TV, your brain releases a lot of dopamine — a neurochemical that makes you feel rewarded.
Our work, however, hardly ever provides us with the same level of stimulation as Netflix does, so less dopamine is produced. Therefore, you’ll get bored and frustrated much quicker while trying to do your work.
Eventually, you’ll procrastinate or lose focus as your brain craves the same level of stimulation it received at the start of the day.
For these reasons, highly productive people avoid watching TV or Netflix in the morning. Instead, they read for 15–30 minutes in a business or self-development book, or listen to audiobooks or podcasts.
Alternatively, you could use the saved time to review your goals, set your priorities, and create a schedule for the day. This will lead to much more productive days compared to starting it by watching Netflix.
Ps. I use Audible to transform ‘dead’ time (commuting, showering, waiting in line, etc.) into self-improvement time. Right now, you can get 2 audiobooks completely for FREE when you try out their free trial!
#3: Checking Email
If there’s one thing many knowledge workers get distracted by, it’s email. And checking your email within the first hour of your day is a terrible habit that immediately puts you in a reactive mode.
There’s always that one email that makes you feel anxious, stressed or puts you in a negative mood.
Remember, by checking your email at the start of your day, you allow other people to put their agenda on your plate even before you had the time and space to focus on your own goals.
As soon as an email has hijacked your attention, it’s much harder to direct your thoughts to your own goals and priorities.
And let’s be honest, email can wait until later in the day. Personally, I only check email after my morning routine and after at least two hours of highly focused work on an important task.
Remember, only after you proactively worked on your own goals does email deserve your time and attention.
#4: Immediately Drinking Coffee
Don’t worry; there’s nothing wrong with your morning coffee. However, most people grab a cup of coffee first thing after waking up, which interferes with the natural ‘wake up process’ of the body.
After waking up, our body naturally produces cortisol to make us feel more awake. However, most people consume a cup of coffee right at the same time when our body is busy producing cortisol.
Therefore, according to research, drinking a cup of coffee first thing in the morning blunts the energy-boosting effects of caffeine and may lead to increased tolerance of the stimulant. That’s why Dr. Steve Miller, who researched the effects of coffee, said:
“You don’t need caffeine immediately upon waking. And for most people, late morning and early afternoons are good times for a caffeine-pick me up. Later times will be effective as well but it will disrupt your sleep.”
Instead of immediately grabbing a cup of coffee, highly productive people wake up in more natural ways by drinking two glasses of water immediately after waking up, exposing themselves to natural sunlight (which starts the circadian clock), taking a cold shower or doing a few rounds of Wim Hof breathing.
As a fellow coffee lover, I know that this requires some getting used to. However, it’s for the sake of your health and productivity!
When you start your day by snoozing, the first action of your day lacks discipline. I clearly notice the days I begin by snoozing are less productive. On the contrary, the days in which I get out of bed immediately are much more productive.
This is because (1) I don’t feel rushed because of time-constraints that snoozing causes, (2) I have more time to calmy follow my morning routine, and (3) I start it in a disciplined way, which tends to carry with me during the rest of my day.
I have to admit, I’m a sucker for snoozing. I used to snooze every single day, leaving me feeling rushed as I had to hurry to make it on time to work or university.
That’s why, nowadays, I use systems instead of relying only on my own willpower to make sure I get out of bed without snoozing.
Every night, I place my alarm clock (my phone) in the bathroom. This way, when the alarm goes off, I can’t simply turn it off by smacking it while still being half asleep.
Instead, I have to get out of bed and walk towards the bathroom. There, I immediately drink a glass of water and splash some cold water on my face in order to wake up. This system has a near 100% success rate for keeping me out of bed.
All in all, avoid snoozing so that you start your day disciplined, feel less rushed, and have more time to follow your morning routine calmly.
Now Do It
Change only comes from taking action, not just by knowing about it. Therefore, I encourage you to pick at least one of these habits and aim to avoid them in the morning at all cost.
To Your Personal Growth,
Founder Personal Growth Lab