8 Things Productivity Experts Would Never, Ever Do Before Work

Don't make these mistakes unless you want to tank your to-do list.
How you start your morning can create productive (or unproductive) momentum for the day.
JGI/Jamie Grill via Getty Images
How you start your morning can create productive (or unproductive) momentum for the day.

There are few things more frustrating than spending hours and hours on a task that should have been quick. But that’s the reality of an unproductive day at work, which is an all-too-common occurrence for many people.

With phones, social media and at-home distractions for those who work from a home office, it can be hard to stay focused on your job, especially when you’re working on a boring task or big project.

But experts say a morning of fulfillment and helpful routines can set you up for a day of focus. Below, productivity experts share with HuffPost what they don’t do before a workday and offer some swaps to make instead.

They don’t immediately start working.

One behavior that you probably don’t want to do? “Jump right into work immediately. I wouldn’t,” said Deb Lee, a digital productivity coach based in Washington, D.C.

A morning set-up routine can be a good way to set the tone for your day, Lee said. Figure out what that routine looks like for you and make sure “you’re not off and running the moment your feet hit the floor.”

Some suggestions include starting your day with yoga or a walk, doing a morning skincare ritual, making an at-home latte, cooking a hearty breakfast or cleaning up the house before you dive into your day.

Morning routines are different for everyone, so you may have some trial and error before you figure out what fits.

They don’t work off of a long to-do list.

Jessica Massey, a productivity coach in Florida and founder of Hustle Sanely, a brand focused on productivity tools, said she would never start her day with a long to-do list that isn’t prioritized.

“I know people in the morning like to make their to-do list, and it can be really tempting to have a daily to-do list that is 50 line items long,” she said.

This can be a surefire way to start the day overwhelmed — which is clearly not good for productivity. Additionally, when you see a really long to-do list, you’re probably tempted to do the easy things first but are potentially not so crucial to your day, she said.

To keep herself from having a long to-do list, Massey said she uses the final minutes of her workday to plan the following business day.

“My last task of each workday is spending five minutes planning out my next day,” she said. “Part of that is deciding what I call my ‘focus three’ tasks are.”

To figure out her “focus three” tasks, she asks herself what three assignments are most important to get done tomorrow. This allows her to give those tasks her best time and energy from the beginning of the day instead of pushing them off to the end of the day when she’s tired and ready to call it a night.

They don’t look at their phone right away.

“I would say something that I wouldn’t recommend that I know is really hard is to not wake up and immediately check your phone or check your emails or get on a screen,” said Lucinda Nixon, a productivity creator in Florida.

She added that what we do at the beginning of the day sets the tone for the rest of the day. So, waking up and scrolling social media or immediately diving into your work emails before breakfast won’t have you prepared for the day.

A good way to resist the temptation of checking your phone first thing is by getting a physical alarm clock instead of using your phone for an alarm, Nixon said.

It's important to create a routine for yourself in the mornings, so you aren't jumping straight into work after you get out of bed.
Luis Alvarez via Getty Images
It's important to create a routine for yourself in the mornings, so you aren't jumping straight into work after you get out of bed.

They don’t have tough conversations before work.

One way to drain your energy before your workday begins? By partaking in a tough conversation as soon as you get up.

According to Amy Tokos, the president of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals, she avoids hard conversations in the morning because they can be a productivity suck.

Whether it’s a tough conversation with a child, spouse or coworker, you may want to wait until later in the day to have the chat if you think it may not be a smooth one.

“Having it early in the day could set the tone for your whole day,” she said. And if you feel bad after, you’ll likely feel bad (and distracted) all throughout your workday.

They don’t have an unstructured day.

“One thing that has also helped me get ready for the day and be more productive and intentional with my time is dedicating blocks of time to tasks,” said Nixon.

Specifically, Nixon said she creates blocks of time meant for answering emails or replying to Slack messages. This way, she can allot time to those necessary tasks without losing focus on other work assignments throughout the day.

To try this, you could give yourself dedicated time for some necessary work to-dos like checking your email or creating meeting agendas. Outside of that time, you can focus on your other assignments. This can be particularly helpful if you have a large work project you need to get done, along with those smaller daily duties.

They avoid distractions.

“The thing I really, really have to do is take care of distractions,” Lee said. “I cannot work or begin working if the things that distract me are visible.”

For Lee, distractions include dirty dishes in the sink and her cellphone. “My phone has to be upside down; do not disturb has to be turned on,” Lee explained.

For you, it may not be possible to ignore your phone — like if you work at a job where you receive a lot of phone calls — or you may find that your phone isn’t a distraction. Lee said it’s important to figure out what your distractions are (they’ll vary for everyone) and to take care of them before your workday begins.

They don’t ignore their mental health.

“I would never skip my 20-minute morning mental health hygiene practice,” Massey said.

She added that she’s a big believer in the notion that “our thoughts create our words, our words direct our actions, and our actions impact how we experience our life.”

Spending some time doing a morning mental health ritual can help you show up as your healthiest version of yourself for not only yourself but for your family and your coworkers, too, Massey added.

Some examples of mental health hygiene practices include journaling, prayer and meditation, Massey said. For you, it could also mean getting in your workout or spending some time listening to your favorite podcast.

“I’m so adamant about making sure people know your morning practice does not need to be two hours long to support you, it doesn’t need to be aesthetically pleasing to support you … it doesn’t have to look the exact same every day to support you,” she said.

In other words, as your life changes, this practice can change, too.

They wouldn’t follow a one-size-fits-all formula.

“There is no earth-shattering thing that you should do or [shouldn’t] do to be more productive,” Tokos said. “It’s all about creating habits that support your day ... and knowing that everybody is different.”

What’s helpful for one person’s productivity could be completely different for their colleague. So, if one of the tips above doesn’t fit, it does not mean you’re an unproductive person, Tokos added. Instead, you have to figure out what kind of tools and routines help you personally.

Lee added that you may find you need to adjust your routine or mindset to find your productivity stride, and that’s OK. Like anything in life, it takes time to figure out what works best for you.

If your mornings are insanely busy, try one of these 20 time-saving goods below.

HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently selected by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.

Arguably the most beloved pet hair remover and lint roller on the internet
If you didn't think lint rollers could make people excited, you've never heard of the ChomChom. With a 4.6 Amazon rating out of 133,575 reviews, it will take all the pet hair, lint and other random bits off your outfit when you're heading out the door.

Promising review: “Very similar to my lint brush but easier to clean! I was amazed at the ease of use and the amount of fur and lint it picks up. I own a lot of black clothing and used it on all my clothes too. For clothes just use short strokes going in a downward motion. I didn’t pull my clothes taught. Just went over them in a quick short downward motion. It removed almost all the lint! Having 2 cats one that is a very heavy shedder with thick fur. My closet does tend to pick up lint and a little fur on my clothing. This tool did a much better job than my old reliable lint brush. Very pleased with this purchase but think they could reduce the price a little. Maybe like $23 is more reasonable. Go for it. It saves time for sure and does what it says it does!” — Kbarone
The ever-popular Revlon brush that dries and styles your hair at the same time
HuffPost readers love the Revlon One-Step Volumizer brush and for good reason: It seamlessly dries, styles and volumizes your hair in minutes. On a busy morning, this thing will be your best friend.

Promising review: “This thing is amazing! I stand by it day in and day out. Makes life so much easier than before when I use to have to blow dry then pull out my straightener. This saves me so much time. Blows my thick curly hair out in about 25-30 mins. If you have a lot of hair it is best to part it in small sections for the best results. Kind of tedious to clean but worth every dollar $. I've seen other brands at ULTA for double the price of this one and trust me this one does not disappoint.” — Victoria
A mug warmer to keep your coffee hot even when you're running around
If you've been running around all morning, you likely forgot about your hot drink, which is now sad and cold. This desktop mug warmer has three temperatures and an automatic shut off to keep your drink hot and your stress level low.

Promising review: “So far so good! I use with ceramic mugs and it it keeps my coffee warm for as long as needed. With 4 kids at home and busy mornings this is a huge plus. Would totally buy again.” — Busymomof4
A high-performing, eye-opening mascara
If you only have a few minutes to freshen up in the morning, you need to make it count — and mascara can be one of the most effective products in your toolkit. Ilia’s clean 4.6-star formulation is made with a blend of organic bee and carnauba waxes, shea butter, and keratin to individually hydrate each lash and offer weightless lengthening.

Promising review: “After realizing my old mascara had a petroleum by-product in it, I needed a new one I felt good about putting on my beautiful lashes. I needed one that had a clean formula, produced by a company making more environmentally sustainable efforts. I was so excited to receive this mascara after ordering it, and it did not disappoint. I love natural, clean beauty products. I love the wand on this mascara, and it lengthens my lashes very well. I like using mascara because I love my lashes, and I don't want to use falsies or extensions. This mascara takes me from girlboss to goddess in less than 2 minutes. It's so easy to use, non-messy, and dries fast. Even if you do or don't feel like doing a full-face of makeup, this mascara will upgrade your look. It is a must-have and worth every cent.” — Adriana G.
Or an electric heated mug, in case you forget you made yourself tea, then go looking for it 20 minutes later
While it's not a budget item, this temperature control "smart mug" from Ember is called a "game changer" by many reviewers. You can control the temperature with your phone and ensure that you have a piping hot cup of coffee or tea regardless of how long you spent chasing kids, pets or the bus that morning.

Promising review: “Keeps my coffee warm or hot to my temp setting for 60-90 minutes while I move around the house in the morning. Great gift for people who have busy mornings and don’t have time to get thru a cup within a couple minutes or for those that are slow sippers.” — Anthony Purviance
A portable phone charger that doesn't need any wires, if you're running on 1%
On a busy morning, your phone may be at 2% before you're even out the door. This portable charger is about the size of a tube of lip balm and has a built-in lightning jack so you don't need any cords or wires to power your device.

Promising review: “Since I frequently forget to charge my device before I go out, I bought this portable charger for a convenient, wireless charging experience. The battery life seems to be sufficient for one charge or so, which is not surprising given its light, easy-to-carry nature.“ — Yue
A sectioned skillet to cook your eggs and bacon at the same time
Fry some bacon, scramble some eggs and toast your bread all at once with this sectioned skillet. It's compatible with all stovetops and has a heat-resistant handle.

Promising review: “Family’s new favorite pan. Perfect for cooking two eggs (one in each circle compartment), and one or two porkroll in the larger section. Less pans used and the eggs and porkroll finish about the same time = quicker breakfast sandwich. Definitely would recommend. I love how the handle feels - like a rubbery costing. Doesn’t get too hot to handle. And it’s not a rough splintery wood handle like another one I bought but then returned.” — Mom Shops Till She Drops
Instant coffee packets to make your cup wherever you are
Created by influencer and coffee lover Emma Chamberlain, these coffee sticks are a modern take on instant coffee. Pour them into hot water and have a creamy cup of medium roast wherever you are.

Promising review: "To me this classifies as a medium/dark roast coffee. Smooth flavor and dissolves very nicely in hot water. Tastes great. I added a small amount of sugar and milk to round it out. Comes in small 4" paper packets. Very easy to to take to work and store at home. Easy to tear open and use." — SadRobot
A HyperChiller iced coffee maker that turns hot coffee cold in one minute
Turn hot coffee into iced coffee straight from the pot with this patented ice coffee maker. Simply keep it in your freezer overnight and be ready to transform a boiling cup of joe into a cafe-worthy cup of iced coffee.

Promising review: "Received this as a gift. I LOVE IT! Easy to set up, use, and clean. Looks great - even better than the picture. Works amazing! Great for cooling my coffee when I'm in a rush (always), and chills hot coffee quickly without watering it down." — Amazon customer
A universal face tint you can use as blush or lip gloss
On a busy morning, universal products are the key to success. This cream blush from Merit beauty comes in eight tones and works all over the face as a lip gloss, eye shadow and blush.

Promising review: "Perfect lightweight dewy blush for everyday use! This is perfect for a quick no makeup look but also makes your face look youthful and glowy." — ZBeauti
Downy Wrinkle Releaser if you forgot to iron your shirt
When you don't have time to iron, you'll love this Downy fabric spray that straightens out out clothes without heat. This set comes with two larger bottles and a small bottle to take on the go.

Promising review: “Not only does it remove wrinkles, it helps prevent them when you wear the treated clothes. What a time saver!” — Linda Chaplin
A portable blender to make your smoothie while you commute
Forgot to make your smoothie? No worries. This rechargeable portable blender lets you crush ice and fruit on the go, without a cord. Best of all, you can drink directly out of it when your beverage is ready.

Promising review: "I absolutely love this blender!!! I keep it at work for quick smoothies. It is powerful, not very loud, and easy to store. The battery life is great too." — Rachel
A waterproof shower notepad if you need to make your to-do list as you're shampooing
When everything's happening at once and you don't even have a second to think, you'll be glad to have this waterproof note pad allowing you to make to-do lists or leave notes for loved ones while in the shower.

Promising review: “This notepad works great. It’s made well and is helpful for busy moms that remember things while in the shower.” — Zavier Garcia
A bag organizer to keep you from fishing for your keys
When you're already in a rush, you don't need to be slowed down by losing things in the black hole of your bag. This fabric insert comes in five sizes and fits in your purse or tote to keep you organized, allowing you to easily grab everything you need in a jiffy.

Promising review: "Love this organizer! I’ve got a Coach handbag that it fits perfectly inside. Quick grab keys, wallet, sunglasses, gum... NO MORE DIGGING AROUND! Keeps everything in place. Highly recommend." — Deb Baldridge
A Yeti insulated Rambler, if you don't have time to pack a water bottle
On an ideal day, you may pack your favorite hot drink in a thermos and some H2O in a reusable water bottle. Yet, when you're too busy to think, you'll be glad you have this insulated hot and cold thermos from Yeti that comes in three sizes and 11 colors. It comes with the sliding top suitable for hot drinks, and you can separately purchase a straw lid that's perfect for cold drinks and water.

Promising Yeti review: “I bought 2 tumblers, one for my busy on the go teenager and one for myself. As a busy nurse, I found that it keeps the perfect amount of coffee hot in the morning and my water cold in the afternoon. I would definitely recommend this to anyone! (I think I have finally bought everyone in my office one).” — Mick34205
A super affordable powerful mascara if you don't have time to put on falsies
Reviewers say this budget-friendly mascara looks like you're wearing false lashes. If you're running late and want to look a little more put together, a few swipes of this will have your eyes dazzling.

Promising review: "I was very satisfied with the product. It was exactly what I was looking for especially when I’m in a rush and don’t have to apply lashes but want that false lash effect. I highly recommend the purchase if your looking for something similar." — Syria Armstead
A pre-sorted pill case to help you take your meds in a jiffy
In the middle of a busy morning, you don't have time to sort out all your daily meds and vitamins. This handy color-coded pill sorter lets you stay on top of your medications for morning and night.

Promising review: "I find it ready easy to take my vitamins and I know when I skipped a day or night. I am very busy and forget to take them in the morning. Every Sunday I load them up with my onnit vitamins and I'm set for the week." — Sandeep Kumar
A rapid egg cooker to give you protein in seconds
Say hello to perfectly cooked eggs with no pots, pans or mess. This instant egg cooker lets you prep up to 6 soft, medium or hard-boiled eggs at once, as well as make omelets and poached eggs with different attachments.

Promising review: "Very easy to use. Quick clean up when in a rush." — Lola
A tropical-scented dry shampoo if you didn't have time to wash your hair
If you don't have time to do a full hair routine but desperately need to shampoo, allow me to introduce you to Batiste hair refresher. It absorbs grease and oil, keeping your hair looking fresh between washes.

Promising review: "Love this for quick, easy and fresh hair. I always make sure I have this product. My hair is bleached so I can’t wash it daily. This comes in so handy that I even keep a mini bottle at work just to freshen up if need be." — Essence of a woman
Aquaphor in a spray bottle for a super quick blast of moisture
Dry skin and no time to moisturize? Sounds like you need a spray-on lotion. This Aquaphor spray is all the goodness of your favorite all-over product in an easy-to-use application.

Promising review: "This is a genius idea. I love that I can just get out of the shower spray myself and I’m done with moisturizing it is easy it is quick and it is not messy." — Rebecca Cohen

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