starting the day off with a productive task

Published on March 19, 2020

I have been a remote worker for months but being forced to spend more time at home threw me off base a little bit. Whereas, in the past, I was working from home by choice, now I have to spend most of my personal time at home too. This is a big difference for me.

Over the last few days, I have been trying to figure out ways to make sure that I start my day off on the best note possible. Part of this comes down to having a strong morning routine, but I have also discovered that starting the day off with a few small but meaningful tasks is a good way to make sure you’re in the right mindset for work.

Before I realized the magnitude of COVID, I used to start my day with the biggest task first. However, I now know that this only works if you have a lot of mental energy at the very start of your day. During these times where things are uncertain and where it’s so unclear what will happen next in your life, it can be difficult to muster up that level of energy.

Instead, I have decided to start my day with a few small but meaningful tasks that can help me transition into my work day. These tasks may not be as productive as writing an article, but that can come later in the day when I have adjusted to the work mindset.

Today I started my work day by writing a standup, responding to a message a friend sent in Slack, and by reading over the main messages which relate to my job in my team’s Slack. I also did some SEO research. Usually, I do these tasks later, but doing these tasks make me feel productive and help me get into the mindset of working.

These tasks are not procrastination -- they would need to get done anyway. Rather, they are a way for me to get started with my work without approaching the biggest task first. The first 10 or 20 minutes of my workday are now reserved for these small tasks; things that make me feel productive and help me build up my mental energy.

Doing these small tasks makes me feel like I am already ahead in my day. Indeed, they are small, and they are often simple, but I feel more productive having done them. When it comes to working on my first big task -- like writing an article -- I can now tell myself “I have already started work for today” and I don’t suffer as much from the “beginners mindset” which you get when you start a new day at work and have accomplished nothing.

If you’re struggling to find the mental energy you need to take on a big task in your work day, try a small one. A mini-task. Here are a few things you could do:

Write a standup (even if your team doesn’t have an official policy) Plan out your work for the day (if you haven’t done so already) Respond to a few Slack messages Send a few important emails you didn’t get around to addressing yesterday

The exact task(s) you work on will depend on your job, but it’s usually pretty easy to find these sorts of small, simple tasks to do at the start of your day.

Alternatively, you may want to try out doing a few home-related activities, considering you may be stuck inside for longer than you would usually be. For instance, you may wash the dishes you used to make breakfast so you don’t have to do them all later in the day. This is another way to get your day started on a productive note, and reduces the work you have to do later in the day.

Do whatever works for you, of course, but I think starting the day off with a small, productive task is a great way to set the tone for the rest of the day. The better you feel in the morning -- or whenever you start work -- the more likely you are to reach your goals for the day.

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