How to ramp up productivity with a good start to the day

Many CFOs start the day by checking their email inboxes to see if urgent matters have come up since they last logged in.

That can be a barrier to productivity, because many of the messages in a typical inbox do not require immediate attention. Workers who spend too much time reading and returning routine emails at the start of the day can find themselves behind schedule while their morning coffee is still warm.

Just 13% of 2,100 CFOs surveyed by temporary finance and accounting staffing firm Accountemps reported that they start their day by working on a project. Eleven per cent begin their day by creating a to-do list, 8% start by reviewing the daily news and stock market, and another 8% start by making phone calls.

The majority – 58% – said they start their day by reading email.

A blog on the Accountemps website offers the following tips to getting the day off to a productive start:

  • Create a to-do list. A prioritised list of your most critical and time-sensitive tasks can keep you focused and productive all day long.
  • Be disciplined with email. Setting a limit on the time you spend reviewing emails – and resisting the temptation to open and respond to every email the moment it arrives – can keep you on schedule.
  • Resist distractions. The internet and social media have the potential to draw you into material that has nothing to do with your job. Spending more than a few minutes with them can create a serious productivity drain.
  • Devote attention to one task at a time. The ability to attend to multiple tasks is important, but taking on too many projects at one time can decrease work quality. Some high-profile tasks may require full attention.
  • Cut the clutter. Devoting a few minutes each day to tidying up your workspace and computer desktop can reduce time spent searching for material that isn’t properly filed away.

Ken Tysiac ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.