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


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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