How not to spend the first ten minutes of your day

OK, confession time. I started my working day today with a long session on Facebook.

There, said it.

I know I’m not alone. One of my one-to-one coaching clients recently fessed up that she often kicked off a day at work with half an hour looking at cute cat videos.

There’s something about connecting with the world first thing in the morning that makes you feel part of it. As if you exist somehow.

But, it it’s not a great way to start your working day.

Do you start your working day with a cat video?
Cute cats can improve your productivity


Watching cat videos wasn’t in my client’s job description and I’m fairly confident it isn’t in yours. (But check out this intriguing post about how those furry distractions can fit into the perfect working day.)

Self-management gurus say you can shape the happiness and productivity of your whole day with those first precious ten minutes. So, what are the other big no-nos?



1. Automatically checking your voicemail and emails

Oh boy, is this hard not to do. I’ve sometimes logged in from my bed to get an early fix of the on-line world out there. It might feel like you’re making progress, but when you start your working day with emails, you give away control. You get caught up in other people’s priorities and go into reactive mode rather than proactively focusing on what you need to do. I teach people in my Taming Time workshops (time management training for the charity sector) to check emails just three times a day – and never first thing.

2. Easing yourself into the day with coffee and a croissant while scrolling through the news

Get breakfast over before you start work. And anything else that you need to do. Being in a state of readiness for the working day is key to how it will play out.

Start your working day with a long catch up?
Chatting with colleagues is a great reward for a job well done

3. Chatting with colleagues

Of course, saying ‘hi’ and being friendly keeps work relationships sweet. But make it quickish. First thing in the morning is probably when your mind is at its most alert and you’ve got the most energy and focus. Have a chat as a  once you’ve put in time on a job that needs creative brain-power.

4. Moaning

The list of things that could get you down in the morning can go on and on if you let it – your computer not booting up, your journey into work, how tired you are, how much work you’ve got to do, other people’s failings etc etc. When you get into a negative state of mind you seriously impact how you feel, and the poor colleague who’s forced to listen. To have a fabulous, productive and amazing day you need an attitude to match.

5. Starting off with the easiest jobs first

It’s so tempting to start your working day by mindlessly going through your ‘to-do list’ of easy little tasks.  It feels goods. It feels productive. But how often does the the end of the day come along and you find you’ve not achieved anything important? That’s not such a great feeling.

don't start your working day with the tadpoles
Get the toughest, most valuable task done first

As Brian Tracy says in his great book Eat That Frogwhy eat tadpoles when there’s a great, big, ugly frog sitting there? Tackle a frog – a really high value task – first, and serotonin, the feel good drug, flows through your body increasing your happiness and your productivity. Interruptions and unexpected things will happen. But whatever disaster strikes later, you know you’ve achieved something worthwhile.

Keep the tadpoles for later in the day.

Over to you?

So, how do you start your working day? What habits work best for you and what are your time wasters? Do join in the conversation by hitting ‘Reply’ in the comments section.

What next?

If you or your team isn’t making the most of the working day, email me here to book a no-cost, initial Discovery session to see how one-to-one coaching or Taming Time training can help.



10 responses to “How not to spend the first ten minutes of your day”

  1. Shari avatar

    What a great list of things NOT to do. The start of the day sets the tone for me and knowing what to avoid in that super-productive time-frame is really useful. I know I sometimes slip into some of them without thinking!

    A refreshing change from a list of things we should do.

  2. Linda Anderson avatar

    Great post, Katie. And I have to confess I’ve been guilty of all of the above at various times.

    My favourite way to start the day is with a nice slow cup of tea looking out at the garden and enjoying the freedom to just do that, knowing I can set my own agenda for the day. I love the feeling of space that gives me – in stark contrast to the other days where I get sucked in by busy-ness and overwhelmed by the dreaded ‘To Do’ list.

    Eating a frog first before checking emails or social media is also top of my list.

  3. Rosemarie avatar

    Great tips Katie. I am terrible at no. 1 – checking email first thing. It soooo feels like you are getting ahead but, as you say, you are giving away your power. I hadn’t thought of it like that and will remember that.

    I try to do a brief morning meditation (4 minutes works for me) to set up how I would like my day to go, working through in my mind what I need to do and imagining the best outcome. It sounds a bit ‘woo woo’ but it’s surprising how well it works!

  4. Katie Duckworth avatar
    Katie Duckworth

    So glad it was helpful, Shari

  5. Katie Duckworth avatar
    Katie Duckworth

    What a lovely ritual to start the day with. It’s all about choosing consciously rather than just getting caught up.

  6. Katie Duckworth avatar
    Katie Duckworth

    A morning mini-mediation is such a great idea, Rosemarie. Thanks for sharing that.

  7. Ellie avatar

    Hi Katie – this is very timely! Just as I’m getting really busy working things on in my business and things feel exciting, the urge to check everything straightaway, first thing, has become overwhelming. I will make a point of listening to the news properly before I begin anything and take some time with my breakfast before logging on to any screens.

  8. Meredith avatar

    I also start with a morning meditation, afterwards writing down any guidance I receive for the day. Sometimes doing a positive visualization can also help me get off on a good foot. Thanks for the post!

  9. Kate Bacon avatar

    Great article Katie.

    I always start my day with breakfast in bed listening to Radio 4. Once I’m up, I do 15-30 minutes of yoga before turning on my Mac.

    Sometimes however, I get right out of bed and check FB and my email on my phone. The WORST way to start the day.

  10. Katie Duckworth avatar
    Katie Duckworth

    Another radio 4 fan. Can’t beat it!