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Beef Up Productivity in the First Hour of Every Day

Some people like to say, “It’s not how you start, but how you finish.”

Humbug! How you start matters, too. Imagine if you started a marathon running 6-minute miles. Most of us would be screwed!

When it comes to personal productivity, the quality of your day hinges on how you begin. While we like to think of ourselves as productivity experts (“Of course I’m awesome at multitasking!), we’re not always as savvy as we think.

Once the post-lunch drag rolls around, you’ll want to have the toughest work behind you, not ahead of you. That’s why the first hour of your work day is so important.

It’s time to beef up your productivity!

The To-Do List: Always a Classic

Putting your day’s production down on paper is one of the simplest and most important things you can do.

In Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, he shares his daily to-do list, crediting it as a catalyst for his productivity. There’s nothing magical about it—it includes a standard 8-hour workday, for example—but it was the fact that he put it to paper, shared it and actually stuck to it that made him so effective.

Your to-do list can be more flexible than Franklin’s daily routine. For Michael Hyatt, a productive day starts the night before. How? He works on his to-do list using Nozbe, an application for time management that lets you set schedules, change Evernote clippings into tasks, and sync all of your projects to one source.

Avoid Distractions: Make a Plan

Michael Hyatt sets his to-do list the night before, clears his computer of distractions, and then plans on not taking any meetings for the first few hours of his day.

What’re some ways to avoid distractions during the first part of your day?

No matter what your task is, it’s important to first define what will not be happening in the first hour of your day. Keep the distractions out so you can be as focused as possible.

Do the Hard Stuff First: You’ll Thank Yourself Later

Tim Ferriss of “4-Hour Workweek” recommends that you tackle your most challenging and critical tasks first. By tackling the hard stuff, you’re not procrastinating and putting it off. As soon as the day starts, you’re working on the most important task.

But how do you define the best use of your time to start the day? Start by asking yourself this question: “If I only had this one hour of work today to maximize my production, what task would I choose?”

Benjamin Franklin had a similar habit, asking himself each and every day before setting down to work, “what good shall I do this day?”

In other words, it’s not enough to start working early in the morning. You also have to accomplish something of value.

When 3 p.m. rolls around, what will you wish you had done this morning? Chances are, you’ll know exactly what that is. Now the trick is to schedule it in your to-do list, avoid distractions, and get right to it.

What do you think?

Do you believe the first hour of the work day is the most important? How do you get stuff done in a world of Facebook, email, and constant connection? Please share!