What's the first thing you do when you get into the office in the morning? Some of us (hand in the air here) may make a beeline to the coffee pot. Others shoot the breeze with colleagues, re-living the weekend and generally having a chit-chat. Still more will make a head start on the mountain of emails that clutter their inbox, like spreading mold, each and every day.
Unsurprisingly, none of these are brilliant ways to help those first few hours at work go with a zing. Instead, says management consultant Laura Vanderkam, author of I Know How She Does It, we should divide our divide our workload into normal, everyday stuff and "real work".
It's very easy for us to weigh into our days by tackling small and inconsequential tasks — such as emails and admin. These things are technically necessary, but they don't contribute to our professional success in any meaningful way.
"Recognize that certain aspects of work will expand to fill all available space," Vanderkam tells Thrive Global, who reported on her approach.
"We have to consciously choose to spend less time on email and carve out time for the important work that matters to us."
And we're better off zoning in on this big-picture element first thing in the day, since we tend to be most productive then, says behavioral scientist Dan Ariely.
"One of the saddest mistakes in time management is the propensity of people to spend the two most productive hours of their day on things that don't require high cognitive capacity," he says.
"If we could salvage those precious hours, most of us would be much more successful in accomplishing what we truly want."
If you want to supersize this approach, devote the whole of your Monday mornings every week to projects that require more in-depth thinking.
That way, you end up doing what you really want to do straight away — rather than frittering away precious hours on monotonous tasks.
"The week can get away from you — and it will," says Vanderkam. "Stuff is going to come up. But at least you will have devoted that time to stuff that matters to you."
This post was written by Anna Brech. For more, check out our sister site Grazia.