How to make your first hour at work the most productive

Many of us have a tough time getting started on work in the mornings, but it isn't uncommon for individuals with ADHD to have a particularly tough time being productive at the start of the day. There are many reasons for this...

The obvious one is not getting enough sleep; sleep challenges are closely associated with ADHD. But beyond feeling tired/foggy in the am, individuals with ADHD struggle to "shift gears" and transition into responsibilities that require focus.  Symptoms of distractibility tend to impact morning routines - and so it can be tough to block out distractions (e.g. coworkers, the latest news online, etc...), particularly when our self-control conductor is still not fully awake. You may find yourself persuaded into less-than-urgent emails, or take awhile figuring out even where to start.

 Whatever the reason for this lost time in the morning, it doesn't have to be your reality. With a little self-exploration, fine-tuning of your routine, and willingness to try something new, you too can be one of those elusive "productive" workers in the morning.

It all starts before you leave at the end of the day:

todolistPrioritize time at the end of the day to set yourself up for the morning. Take a few minutes to jot down the key priorities for the morning - it doesn't necessarily have to be a plan for the whole day, but enough structure that you'll know exactly what to focus on when you sit down at your desk. This helps manage potential distractions that you might typically react to in the mornings, such as emails that came in overnight that you don't necessarily have to respond to right away.

Before you get to work:

Get your blood flowing. Ideally, this means getting some exercise in the morning. In reality, we know that this is not everybody's...reality. That being said, knowing that physical activity can help prime our brains to be more focused and productive, any extra movement you can pack into your morning can be beneficial - so get off the subway one stop earlier, or take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Give yourself transition time. Knowing it might take someone with ADHD a little bit longer to shift into "work mode," it isn't enough to just sit down at 9AM and expect your brain to be ready. Giving yourself transition time could mean making your "official" start of your work day 15-20 minutes early, so you have that space to adjust. Or, if this is not possible (knowing time management is an issue for many ADHD adults!), be intentional with your commute - use that time in the car or on the subway to mentally prepare yourself for the day instead of zoning out and playing candycrush on your iphone.

During that first hour:

Review your plan for the day.

Do not check your emails. If you absolutely must, glance at your emails, but don't take it beyond that. It's far too easy to be reactive in the mornings and jump into responding to your emails, but more often than not, they are not the priority. When in doubt, refer back to your priority list - you made that plan for a reason, so stick to it as much as possible.

frogtwoEat a frog. What this means is, taking the hardest task on your to-do list (e.g. the frog) and getting that over with first thing. After that, the other tasks won't be so bad. Getting that one dreaded task over with is a huge motivator, and can spark some energy for the rest of your day. Apparently, this idea was inspired by Mark Twain, who was allegedly quoted as saying: "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first.

If possible, block off the first hour of your day. Communicate with colleagues that this is the time that you need with no interruptions. If your job involves constant interruptions and phone calls, it might also be worth looking into alternative hours so you have a small chunk of time in the morning free of other colleagues!

These are just a few potential ideas to try out to help make that first hour of the day productive. Whatever it is you decide to try out, consider it an experiment - give something new a shot, and if it helps, keep at it! 

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