Productivity Habit: Own the First Hour of Your Day

Jun 4, 2019

I want to share what has become a cornerstone habit of mine for increased productivity and happiness. I call it Owning the First Hour of Your Day.

After waking up, for the first hour of your day, do not:

  • Look at or touch your phone
  • Check email
  • Check Slack
  • Use social media

My motivation for this habit 🔗

I began implementing this routine after I had several crappy days in a row where I felt like I was totally out of control of my day. If you’re like me and work from home, you have to be very intentional about how you spend your time.

Before implementing this habit, I had days where I’d wake up, grab my phone, and immediately start reading Reddit, Twitter, and other social media. Suddenly I’d look up and two hours had gone by. Not a productive or satisfying way to start the day. Other days, I felt like I was being run ragged by my client work. I’d wake up 10 minutes before an early morning call, make coffee, and then begrudgingly jump on the call. My day would spiral from there into email, more meetings, and a general feeling of chaos and anxiety.

Now I always make sure to wake up early enough so that I will have a full hour to myself. The following are some activities that I typically do during my first hour that you may want to consider:

  • Make coffee and breakfast
  • Meditate
  • Make your bed
  • Take a walk outside
  • Read
  • Write
  • Clean your house
  • Work out

Pick and choose what works for you based on the day. Sometimes you may just want to sit and do nothing, and that’s perfectly ok too!

Quick Tip: If you choose to do an activity on the computer, such as writing, make sure you turn off notifications so you don’t see emails or slack messages coming through. On a Mac, this is super simple. Hold down the Option key and click on the 3 lines in the top right corner to turn on Do Not Disturb mode which hides all notifications. Also great for when you’re sharing your screen during a meeting 🙂

No phone for an hour?! Whyyy? 🔗

We’re so used to having our phones always on us. Separating yourself from it for one hour forces you to re-learn how to experience the world without a device constantly seeking your attention. You’d be surprised how different it feels to drink your morning coffee without mindlessly scrolling through social media or browsing the internet. You’re forced to be more present and actually pay attention to the world around you. You’ll notice the smell and taste of the warm coffee. You’ll listen to the sounds of the morning. And you’ll become more aware of how you’re feeling both physically and mentally. It sounds cliché, but I find this makes me so much happier and relaxed. This will massively slow down your morning and put you in control of your day.

How to Own the First Hour of Your Day 🔗

If you think you could benefit from this morning routine, here are some tips for implementing it, based on my experience.

Do not use your phone as your alarm 🔗

Buy an old school alarm clock or do what I do and use an Apple Watch as your alarm. One nice thing about using the Apple Watch as an alarm is that unlike your phone, it doesn’t receive any notifications while in Do Not Disturb mode. So you don’t have to worry about turning off your alarm and then seeing everything you missed during the night.

Have somewhere to be? Wake up an extra hour early 🔗

Perhaps you commute to work and wake up at 8am so that you’re ready and out of the house by 8:30. Or maybe you’re like me and work from home but have 7am calls due to time zone differences. Don’t let this become an excuse for not owning the first hour of your day. If you have a morning call or place to be, wake up an extra hour early so that you have a full hour to yourself before dealing with the demands of the day. In my case, I’m always up by 6am for my 7am calls.

Hide your phone before you go to bed 🔗

Having your phone out of sight makes it so much less tempting to reach for. Before I go to bed at night, I plug my phone in and simply put a piece of paper on top of it. Out of sight, out of mind. This doesn’t sound like much but makes a huge difference.

Turn on Do Not Disturb mode 🔗

The last thing you want to happen while you’re ignoring your phone is for it to suddenly start buzzing like crazy as calls, texts, and other notifications come in. When this happens it’s like your phone is screaming, LOOK AT ME! It’s best to avoid this temptation by making sure your phone is in Do Not Disturb mode during the first hour of your day (if not longer!). Everything can wait at least an hour, no matter how urgent it may seem. Remember your first morning hour is YOUR time.

I schedule Do Not Disturb to automatically enable from 10pm - 9am, so I don’t have to remember to turn it on. I started doing this after I forgot once and had my phone ring several times during the first hour of my day. It pretty much ruined the rest of my hour as I spent it anxiously thinking about who was calling me and why.

How to schedule Do Not Disturb on an iPhone

How to schedule Do Not Disturb on an iPhone

Include weekends 🔗

In today’s world of instant gratification, we could all use a little more peace and quiet. So don’t just do this during the week. Make it an everyday habit to experience the full benefit.

Wrapping up 🔗

If you’re feeling like you’re not in control of your day, I hope you’ll give this routine a try. Owning the first hour of my day has made a huge difference in my life. Send me an email or message on Twitter and let me know how it works out for you, or if you have any additional tips or comments. And if you’re interested in building more positive, productive habits, check out Accountability Pledge.