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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

Are You Wasting the Most Productive Hours of Your Day?

Wake up, smell the coffee, and get right to work. That should be your new mantra to start the day, according to Dan Ariely, a Duke University professor of psychology and behavioral economics.

This week, Ariely conducted an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit where he revealed that people are generally most productive during the first two hours after becoming fully awake.

Unfortunately, most people’s morning routines and work schedules are not designed to maximize this bright-and-early potential. The first things we cross off our list in the mornings are the mindless tasks to prepare for the day ahead.

“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 (like social media),” Ariely writes. “If we could salvage those precious hours, most of us would be much more successful in accomplishing what we truly want.”

Following Ariely’s suggestion means that you shouldn’t waste the first two hours of the day reading the newspaper, checking Twitter, waiting in line for coffee, or driving into the office.

Instead, at the end of the day create a task list for the following morning so you can get to it and tackle it as soon as the coffee kicks in. If you drive to work, see if you can spend the first two hours working from home. You will not only beat the morning rush hour traffic, but you will also get the chance to get the most urgent tasks done before even stepping into the office.

“People are not innately wired to take on and follow through with habits because ‘tomorrow is that magical day when everything can get done,’ and habits are most likely to be pushed off,” Ariely wrote on the Reddit AMA. “If we are suggesting and putting habits in the environment of the person, we can help them keep good habit behaviors.”

It’s no wonder then that Ariely has an app to help people do exactly that. Timeful, his time management app, launched in July.

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Photo of coffee cup and clock courtesy of Shutterstock.