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The Most Critical Hour of Your Day: How to Set Yourself Up for Success

Every hour lasts sixty minutes. But not all hours are really equal.

Sometimes, those sixty minutes will pass almost unnoticed while you’re racing through work, “in flow”.

Sometimes, those sixty minutes will drift away while you surf the internet, flick from channel to channel on the TV, and struggle to get started.

The really critical hour, though, is the first one of your day.

Why Hour One Matters So Much

Bad days tend to start off poorly. Perhaps you oversleep, or skip breakfast, or decide not to work out (again). Or you’re doing fine until you reach the office  – and then you spend the first hour of your workday catching up with emails or sorting out lots of little administrative tasks.

Hour One matters because it sets the tone for what’s to come. If you start off well, it’s relatively easy to keep going: you feel motivated by what you’ve achieved, so you carry on doing great work.

Conversely, if you spend the first hour of your day bogged down in trivia or rushing to catch up, you may well find that you get more and more behind. The day rushes on – or drags – and, at the end of it, you don’t feel much sense of satisfaction.

Getting the first hour right will set you up for success – and keep you on track towards your goals. Here’s how to make your first hour a great one:

The First Hour: Life

Your day starts when you wake up. The first hour is a good time to make sure you’ve got the energy to cope with the rest of the day. That might mean:

  • Doing some exercise
  • Spending a few minutes sitting quietly, perhaps meditating
  • Eating a healthy breakfast, ideally involving protein (e.g. egg or milk) and wholegrain

If you’re constantly rushed in the morning, go to bed 15 minutes earlier and get up 15 minutes earlier. It’s a tiny change that can make a real difference by reducing stress and giving you time to get your day off to a good start.

You’ll probably find that when you’re working on a big goal, the best time to do it is first thing in the morning. For instance, if you’re trying to get in the habit of reading more, you could get up early and spend the first hour of your day reading.

If you leave your goal until the evening, when you’re home from work, you’re probably going to find excuses not to do it.

The First Hour: Work

As well as thinking about the first hour of your whole day, focus on the first hour of your work day. What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office? For many people, it’s “get coffee, open emails”.

I know that some jobs do require close attention to an inbox, but do you really need to check your emails the very second you get to work? Is there really going to be anything which couldn’t wait an hour?

For a week, try spending the first hour of your workday on a high-impact project. Instead of ticking off little admin tasks, get on with that big report or presentation. An hour a day, when you’re feeling fresh, will be much less stressful and result in a better end result than rushing something together in three hours on a Friday afternoon.

If you’re really worried about missing an urgent email, you can use a service like AwayFind to notify you by text, phone, etc.

What’re your goals in life and work? Could you find time for them by using the first hour of the day?

Related Articles:

Finding Bliss: How to Reverse Engineer Happiness

The 6 Components of a Happy Life

  • dar

    I needed the tip on what to do on the first hour in the office.

    Thanks!

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  • http://alexshalman.com/ Alex Shalman

    I agree with you that it’s important to get protein in during the first hour. However, the milk and grain is going to pack on the fat. If you want to stay lean, meat, veggies, eggs, beans, or even a protein shake is the way to go in my opinion.

  • http://livingthebalancedlife.com Living the Balanced Life

    So the first hour goes, is how the rest of the day goes!
    Very good words!
    Bernice
    Are you too busy to be yourself?

  • http://www.balancedworklife.com/blog Bryce Christiansen

    Thanks Ali, the first hour of the day is one of my favorites because it really sets up the rest of my day. In life I like having a relaxing morning with all the things I need; a shower, breakfast, saying I love you to the family, and having enough time to get to work stress free.

  • http://www.bjarteedvardsen.com Bjarte Edvardsen

    Things that demands self-discipline are very good to do when starting a day, because like you said; then it’s easy to continue in that mode during the rest of the day and it results in a great deal of satisfaction when looking back at what’s been accomplished. It gives a feeling of being in control!

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  • http://www.planetnaveen.com Winning Ideas

    First hour is indeed most important hour especially at office. It decides the goal for rest of the day. I agree to the point that most critical tasks should be tackled in the first hour.
    Great advice.

    Naveen Kulkarni – Winning Ideas
    An Idea Can Transform Your Life

  • http://www.thereflectiveself.com Dandy

    Hi Ali,
    I appreciate these tips. Giving ourselves positivity first thing really helps with having a good day! It is a gift we give to ourselves. It’s also important to know that if things turn negative in any way, we have the opportunity to turn it around at anytime. Positivity is always a choice! Thanks Ali.

  • http://www.selfoptimizing.com Debbie B.

    This is going to sound weird but, for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been getting up a half hour earlier, bringing my laptop into bed with me, and writing my first article of the day. I usually write about 6 or 7 articles per day and, having one finished before I even “officially” start my day is a great feeling!

  • http://www.anthonybasich.com/ Anthony Basich

    Great post Ali!

    The first hour of the day is all about setting yourself up for success. For me that means writing out my goals and brainstorming on projects for the day. It’s also a great time for meditation and getting yourself into a positive mindset that will carry you through the day.

    On a health note, it’s the absolute best time to burn fat so a morning cardio session on an empty stomach is another prime way to start your day ;)

    Thanks for the great tips,
    Anthony

  • http://www.theprosperedsoul.com/ Lana

    Thanks Ali, I like your tip about waking 15 minutes early instead of rushing right into the day. The moments after you wake are one of the most powerful and influential. It is the ideal time to work on programming your subconscious mind for success, health, happiness you name it.

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  • http://astreil.com/press/ Astreil

    I’ve been recently trying to pay more attention to my first hour. Since I homeschool my kids, there is quite a blur between “home” and “work”. I really need to try to get that meditation/exercise & breakfast in before I have to switch to Mom gear. Also, I am trying to move e-mail to the after lunch hour so that I can jump right into our school day.

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  • Kathi Peters

    Great advice. Something I really needed to hear.

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  • Kingfish

    The best part of MY day is over when the alarm rings !!!

  • http://eldineroporinternet.com Dinero por Internet

    Awesome article, there is nothing like starting the day on the right foot! Waking up early works for me, If I have the power…

  • http://www.downtownprintwear.com “Downtown” Dan Leavitt

    May have to adopt the “start a high impact project” idea for the beginning of the day. Emails can wait an hour. Can’t say the same for coffee!

  • http://www.arinanikitina.com arina nikitina

    True. True. All true. The first hour matters a lot. It’s actually the time when our mind’s really clear. Be it waking up or the moment we step at work, the first hour is when we’re most productive.

  • michael

    good start

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  • http://www.bococreative.com/ BOCO Creative

    So true Ali! Whether it’s the first hour of your day as a whole, of your workday or of your afternoon with family, these short blocks of time set the tone for the rest of the day. Distractions in the beginning usually ruin a day that never had a chance to become productive & positive.

  • Mehra

    Great post!

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    I also tried signing up for the free ecourse but got the same error as Mila. Please advise!

  • Norma

    Me too!

  • http://facebook.com/increasingworkplaceproductivity Bojan Djordjevic

    There’s is nothing more distracting than trying to work while hungry. I personally can’t do it. Leisurely breakfasts are my must.

  • http://www.bangkoksightseeing.org Mike @ Bangkok Sightseeing

    Yes – I think that first hour is really crucial! You can use it to empower yourself for the rest of your day – or make everything else more difficult. Brian Tracy used to say “eat that frog” – and honestly, I sometimes don’t feel like doing all the things it takes to make a great day after I got up. But once done, I feel so much better!

  • http://yahoo Ronal Carl Holmes

    i believe one should get up as early as possible for instinct i always get up at around 3:30 in the morning and plan out my agenda jot it down in my notebook and start working on proceeding in carrying it out and check off each thing i consider top priority.my motto is to make the main thing the main thing and everything else will take care of its self.

  • http://www.noblehands.org Chucx I Chucx

    This is a good piece, i got the idea long before now, particularly from spending the first hour of my day in prayers, and focused devotion. It is during and after this time that i get inspired for the day ahead.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chucx Chucx I Chucx

    Nice job keep it up!!!

  • http://shoppedagain.com Teresa

    Great advice! It sounds so simple, makes such sense, so why don’t we automatically do it? Thanks for the reminder to start the day right, without bogging myself down.
    Kudos!

  • Catherine

    Good Stuff.

  • sudip sarkar

    all thee above points are very useful and valuable…………..thanks…..

  • http://dreambigplaybig.blogspot.com Teresa

    Thanks for the reminder to start my day off on a good note! :-) I definitely notice a big difference in how happy and productive I am over the course of the day based on if I start off distracted and scattered, or if I start off focused and energized.

    -Teresa :-)
    The MultiPassionate Coach

  • http://allcalgarylistings.com Calgary Listings

    The best thing to do when you wake up in the morning is to :-). So that you can set-up your goals in life and achieve it.

  • http://Coolcash4femz@yahoo.co.uk Ijeoma

    The things we do for improvement and self-discipline seems difficult bt it’s jst the best way 2 achieve what we want. Thanks 4 d tips

  • http://www.socialnatural.com Social Skills

    This is sound productivity advice. First thing you do always sets the stage for things to follow.

  • http://compatibilityandlove.com Rosemary Breen|CompatibilityAndLove

    Im a morning person and so I find the best part of the day is the first part. The most critical hour falls in the first hour after the children are off on their day.

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  • Asevenlv

    Great article!  I especially like the part about working on a high impact project for the first hour while your energy is greatest.  A big part of being effective is tackling high priority (usually more difficult) tasks early on and the tasks of lesser importance can follow.  

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  • http://www.tourismdentalindia.com Dental Tourism

    Successful people use the first hour to meditate and plan while most of us waste it in traffic jams and fights with the spouse. An understanding partner and conjugal bliss is a must to motivate a person to succeed . 

  • Priacta

    Hi Ali,

    I too feel that if the most important and the most difficult tasks are scheduled for early mornings, it relieves a lot of stress for the day. 

    If we can go to bed in time and get up feeling fresh the next morning, we can be more productive and concentrate better. There are no phone calls, door bells and outside noise to interrupt us. In my experience, I’ve never had to postpone any of my jobs that I scheduled for early morning hours.  

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  • http://www.tourismdentalindia.com Dental Tourism

    It is rare for people to get up early nowadays with so much of social obligations and TV. 

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  • http://www.paramedictrainingcenter.net/ Peter

    I can’t agree more.

    For me, the worst thing that can happen to my day is if I wake up late or sleep over. That usually happens because I stay up too late, been partying or anything that prevents me from sleeping before 1am.

    I simply do not function properly when I haven’t had a good night sleep and waking up around 8-9am.

    I feel waking up at noon or 2pm – I kind of feel like I wasted the day. Yup, my sleep cycle is quite messed up. I do work when most people sleep. Now with winter coming around, the days are even shorter.

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