Improve Productivity by Avoiding Going Online Before Breakfast


In the old days, it was traditional to get up, get dressed, and read the newspaper — or listen to the news on radio or television — over coffee and breakfast.

These days, though, I’ve been getting up at 5 or 6 a.m. In a lot of ways, the early morning hours are a great time to write and do projects that require uninterrupted effort. But I find that it’s way too easy to get sidetracked. Since I work at home, I’m tempted to sit down at the computer first thing in the morning to “check my email.” Unfortunately, too often, I find that “checking the email” has turned into a marathon session of “checking the email, responding to email, reading online news, and catching up on Facebook and Twitter…” and the next thing I know, it’s already 9:30, and I haven’t yet eaten or gotten dressed.

So I’m going to try a few things to regain my mornings:

  • Turn off my computer at night. Not only will I save energy, it will require an extra effort to turn it back on in the morning.
  • If I must leave my computer on for some reason, I plan to shut down my mail software, web browser, RSS reader, Twitter client and anything else that’s likely to send notifications overnight. I’ll probably leave my IM client on, but will set my status to “away” or “not at desk.”
  • Route my business email accounts through a service like AwayFind. I used this a while ago, but haven’t tried it since Thursday wrote about its new features.
  • Use a VoIP service like onSip to set my business phone lines to take messages, or forward calls to me in an emergency. I’ve found that most clients are quite understanding about what’s really an emergency.
  • If I do turn on the computer in the early morning hours (for instance, if I get an idea that I want to write down), I won’t fire up my email client or my browser, but will instead go directly to my word processor or to Evernote.

It’s going to be a challenge to follow these recommendations, especially since I live on the U.S. West Coast, and most of the rest of the world is already working by the time I get up. We’ll see how I do.

How do you keep your mornings to yourself?

Photo by stock.xchng user swissboy


Chris Edwards

I advise clients to never look at email before 11am and then turn it off again until 4pm.
Part of the reasoning is that you are most creative in the morning, so this is the time to do your creative work – don’t waste it with email and admin tasks.
Give yourself these two time slots and you can deal with pretty much everything without getting side-tracked.

Karen Glover

I too am weaning myself from the aimless surf disease. When I started copy writing from home and day trading, I find myself looking up at 1:30pm and I am just grabbing coffee! Not a good move according to my personal trainer who says to lose weight I must eat 5 small meals a day with breakfast being the most important. @Rob, thanks, I like the idea of checking email from my phone. That will surely reduce the surf time.

Jackie Dishner

I see your point, but I am definitely a morning person; however, my optimal work time doesn’t occur before 9 a.m. So checking my e-mail, posting on the Social Media Networks, and getting the otherwise routine work done before then works best for me; however, it never hurts to experiment. I might try this out and see what happens. I do get my coffee and exercise in before 7:30 a.m., though. So that helps.


I just make it hard for me to access my laptop in the morning.
I alwyas unplug the laptop at 6:30pm, put it in a bag, roll cables, clean the desk, and keep a notebook close to me to write things down until the next morning.

  1. Plugging it in the morning is a pain when I’m not well awaken. It’s better to do it after breakfast.
  2. I put my laptop’s bag behind my sports machine. I can’t turn it on without feeling guilty.

So, I finally turn the pc on after sport&breakfast&shower.
Just what I need to feel and work better.


I am also trying to organize my mornings NOT to immediately check e-mail. What I try is do some quick readings to get myself on the right track, e.g. a byte of Zig Ziglar short short inspiring stories and quotes. I call it anchoring. But honestly its hard to break the e-mail habit.

Thursday Bram

I’m one of those folks who has to check email first thing in morning, because it’s easy for an email to entirely change what I need to do over the course of the day.

But I’ve also found that putting some sort of divider between email and everything else is necessary. I run a timer for the time allotted to my email and when I’m out of time, I get up and leave the computer for long enough to eat breakfast and do a few other things.


Great tips! Thanks. I will definitely implement some of these tips. You are so right that it’s easy to get lost in inbound activity before outbound work gets done.

Pierre Khawand

Charles, that is very refreshing. The routine you described “checking the email, responding to email, reading online news, and catching up on Facebook and Twitter…” and the next thing I know, it’s already 9:30, and I haven’t yet eaten or gotten dressed” is becoming so common. Let me know if you want to chat about the Results Curve, and the research I have been doing in this area. Thanks for your insights!

Harry - GoalsOnTrack

For me, I only check emails, without visiting any other websites. If there is something I need to check or deal with having to visit some web page, I just added a task to my todo list(my goal tracker as well), and deal with them later when the real work time starts after morning.

John Hamer

Fun piece, Charlie. I need you to come in and coach me on this stuff. But in the meantime, I’m doing a “boot camp” from 6-7 am, and don’t even open my computer until I get to the office. That works pretty well….

Rob Maguire

I’ve been adjusting my mornings right along these lines as well. I would wake up at 6am, and although I would have three hours before I needed to be at work, I’d often whittle it away online.

My new rules involve not sitting in front of my mac until I’m at work. Now I’ll get up, exercise, shower, eat and do some productive analogue work. I now feel much better about my mornings.

Tip: If I absolutely need to check my email before work, I’ll do so on my iPhone, where I’m not tempted to surf aimlessly.

Nick Martini

I fall into this trap too often! I find myself not sitting down to eat till noon! I’ll have to adopt some of these ideas.. thanks for the post!

Mark Cancellieri

I don’t worry about being productive when I first wake up. I’m definitely not a morning person, and I’m always pretty brain dead in the morning until the caffeine starts to kick in. I go on the Internet while I’m waking up since it doesn’t take much brainpower.

Aaron Templer

I actually find that a quick check of my email in the morning clears my head to do the “me” things. I can (re) assure myself that there’s nothing terribly pressing, that the work stuff can wait. My $.02.

Simon Mackie

That works for me, too — but I guess it depends on the individual, and certainly, if you need to concentrate on one thing, not opening anything that could provide a source of distraction should be a good idea.

@marun2 on Twitter

I can agree with that. A quick scan of your email inbox even before breakfast can put your mind at rest whether there are or arent any pressing/urgent tasks waiting for your attention so you can mull about it while having breakfast. Just one needs to be careful not to cross the circumference falling into the circle of endless infotainment and browsing when doing this quick scan early-morn.

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