There’s an old piece of writing advice that seems to make it into just about every book on creative writing I’ve ever read, and it’s this: Write in the morning.

I’ve always thought it odd that this advice seems to be so consistent, coming from authors with very different writing styles and perspectives. But the reason is it simply works. Even if you’re not a morning person, there’s something incredibly powerful about sitting down with your cup of coffee and opening up your word processing software before you do anything else. You haven’t become distracted by emails or text messages yet, the world is a little quieter, and most importantly, you set a focus and rhythm for yourself that puts you in a writing mindset for the remainder of the day.

But this valuable advice can be applied to more than just writing. The first five minutes—or ten or fifteen minutes—of your working day are the most valuable minutes you’ll spend. Why is that? Because they determine your mindset and your focus for the remainder of the day. 

If you sit down at your desk and immediately open your email, you’re probably not going to have your most productive day. Your mind will be scattered and you’ll be in response mode, focused on taking care of things other people put on your plate. But if you start your day with a little bit more intention and spend at least five minutes—or more if you can manage it—setting an intention for what you want to achieve and then taking action toward that goal, you’ll create a focused mindset that will allow you to get much more done and remain focused on what’s most important to you.

You don’t have to spend your first five minutes writing. You could spend them just thinking about or jotting down your most important priorities for the day. But taking the time to set your intention and center your mind around your most important tasks will put you in a goal-oriented mindset and help you maintain focus throughout the day, so when you do open your inbox, that list of unreads won’t send you down an hours-long rabbit hole of responses or less important tasks. You’ll have the mindset and perspective to determine which tasks are truly urgent and important and which can be set aside while you stay focused on your goals.

Megan Terry has worked with Aloha Publishing since 2018 as an editor and ghostwriter and writes creativity, writing, and productivity tips for the Aloha blog. She has a BA in creative writing from Whitworth University and a graduate certificate from the Denver Publishing institute. Her writing has been published in Forbes and Entrepreneur magazines. Megan currently lives in the forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with her geologist husband and spends her free time riding horses, writing fiction, and sewing fabulous costumes for conventions and historical events.