How to Start Your Workday


Could a better morning routine lead to a better workday? Here are seven tips to try in your practice.

Fam Pract Manag. 2016 Mar-Apr;23(2):26-30.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.

If you have ever had your morning hijacked by an alarm clock that failed to wake you, an “urgent” matter that greeted you at the office, or a morning meeting that went too long, leaving you hopelessly behind schedule for the day, you know how important those early hours can be. How we start the day can set the tone for how we function the rest of the day.

Research suggests that our mental energy and willpower are limited each day and can quickly become drained by too many choices and decisions.1,2 A morning routine that varies as little as possible may help prevent decision fatigue, setting you up to be more focused and productive the rest of the day.

You probably have a personal morning routine that you have settled into over the years (for example, make the bed, go for a run, and grab a cup of coffee – black). But do you have a professional morning routine? Could you be more deliberate about how you start your workday, with the goal of making each day more productive, efficient, and even enjoyable?

Although there isn't an evidence base pointing to the perfect morning routine in a medical practice, this article presents seven best practices that have helped other physicians. They might just inspire you to examine and refine how you start your workday.

1. Start “on time”

We all know that starting on time is vital to a successful day, but it's often easier said than done. How do you get yourself and everyone you work with to arrive on time and ready to see the first patient?

First, it helps to be clear about what “on time” means for the various positions in your group. For physicians, does it mean one hour before the first patient visit, 30 minutes before, or five minutes before? The answer depends on the particulars of your practice.

Dale Block, MD, CPE, a family physician in Mason, Ohio, follows the same office routine every morning, and his critical first step is, “I get to the office early, well before my first patient at 8 a.m.”

This gives him ample time to prepare for the day ahead. (More about that later.)

For Lynn Ho, MD, a family physician in North Kingstown, R.I., “It helps to arrive 15 to 30 minutes before the first patient.”

She uses the time primarily to “relieve the pressure buildup of overnight faxes, prescription requests, and emails,” she says, so she has a clean slate when the first patient arrives.

Arriving to work a few minutes early is sufficient for Christine A. Sinsky, MD, FACP, an internist in Dubuque, Iowa, and vice president of professional satisfaction for the American Medical Association. “It gives you time to center yourself and connect with your team,&

About the Author

Brandi White is senior editor of Family Practice Management.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.



show all references

1. Vohs KD, Baumeister RF, Schmeichel BJ, et al. Making choices impairs subsequent self-control: a limited-resource account of decision making, self-regulation, and active initiative. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2008;94(5):883–898....

2. Tierney J. Do you suffer from decision fatigue? New York Times. Aug. 17, 2011.

3. Whitmore J. Seven steps for getting the chronically late employee to be punctual. Entrepreneur. June 9, 2015.

4. Fried J. Why work doesn't happen at work. TED. October 2010. Accessed Jan. 26, 2016.

5. Friedman R. How to spend the first 10 minutes of your day. Harvard Bus Rev. June 19, 2014. Accessed Jan. 26, 2016.

6. Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day. Quote Investigator blog. April 3, 2013. Accessed Jan. 26, 2016.

7. Miller D. The Storyline Productivity Schedule. Nashville: Donald Miller Words, LLC; 2013. Accessed Jan. 26, 2016.

8. Pinsker J. Inbox zero vs. inbox 5,000: a unified theory. The Atlantic. May 27, 2015. Accessed Jan. 26, 2016.


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