Skye Gould/Business Insider
If your daily routine were a college assignment and you submitted it to your professor the scientist, chances are it would come back with a whole lot of red ink.
That is to say, you’re probably making a ton of mistakes every single day that can sabotage your productivity and happiness. Think drinking coffee too early and listening to music while doing focused work.
The good news is, you can’t get an “F” in life.
In fact, once you read the list below, you’ll have every opportunity to revamp your daily schedule and make — at least some of — the changes we recommend. We’re not talking major life overhauls — more like tweaks and adjustments with potentially huge effects on your well-being.
Here’s to a new you in 2017.
6:30 a.m. Hitting the snooze button
There’s nothing quite so delightful as a few more minutes of sleep in between alarms.
But as sleep expert Timothy Morgenthaler told Business Insider’s Jessica Orwig, “Most sleep specialists think that snooze alarms are not a good idea.”
That’s partly because, if you fall back into a deep sleep after you hit the snooze button, you’re entering a sleep cycle you definitely won’t be able to finish. So you’ll likely wake up groggy instead of refreshed.
A better bet? Figure out how much sleep you need on a nightly basis and make sure to get that amount. Easier said than done — but you’ll be glad you did.
7:00 a.m. Checking email as soon as you wake up
If you sleep near your phone (and most Americans do), it’s easy to roll over and start mindlessly scrolling through your inbox.
Don’t do it.
“Those requests and those interruptions and those unexpected surprises and those reminders and problems are endless,” she said. In fact, she advises waiting a full hour before wading into your inbox: “There is very little that cannot wait a minimum of 59 minutes.”
7:45 a.m. Drinking coffee while getting ready for work
If you think you can’t function until you’ve downed a cup of joe, think again.
Your body naturally produces higher amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, which regulates energy, between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. So for most people, the best time to drink coffee is after 9:30 a.m.
If you consume caffeine before then, your body will start adjusting by producing less cortisol in the early morning — meaning you’ll be creating the problem you fear.
8:00 a.m. Not eating breakfast
Business Insider’s Rachel Gillett spoke with registered dietitian Lisa DeFazio, who told her that your first meal of the day jump-starts your metabolism and replenishes blood-sugar levels so you can focus and be productive for the rest of the day. Otherwise, you could feel irritable and have a hard time concentrating.
DeFazio recommended some easy breakfasts that are perfect for the workday, including fiber-filled oatmeal and protein-packed smoothies.
9:45 a.m. Showing up to work late
A study cited by The Huffington Post found that bosses tend to see employees who come in later as less conscientious and give them lower performance ratings — even if those employees leave later, too.
It’s not exactly fair, but it appears to be the current reality. So try to get to the office as early as possible.
9:50 a.m. Doing your easiest tasks first
Research is mixed on whether willpower and self-control decrease as the day goes on.
But even if you believe that you can summon your mental energy at will, it makes sense to tackle your most difficult tasks first thing, since you never know what demands will pop up later on.
Some people call this strategy “eating the frog,” based on a quote from Mark Twain: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
11:00 a.m. Trying to empty your inbox
Everyone’s got a different email personality. If you’re the kind that needs a completely empty inbox in order to feel calm and organized, we get it.
But consider only answering what’s important and absolutely urgent. Time-management expert and author Laura Vanderkam advises against trying to process every email in your inbox, since it’ll take a lot of time and energy that might be better spent on other tasks.
As Vanderkam writes in “I Know How She Does It“:
“[Y]ou will never reach the bottom of your inbox. Better to realize that anything you haven’t gotten to after a week or so will have either gone away or been thrust back upon you by follow-up messages or calls. You can probably stop thinking about it. Earth will not crash into the sun.”
12:30 p.m. Eating lunch at your desk
First of all, it can be gross.
Second of all, research suggests that taking time to prepare and eat meals with your coworkers can facilitate team bonding and even improve performance.
And third of all, taking any kind of break can be highly restorative and boost your productivity later on.
1:30 p.m. Listening to music while working
While you might feel more productive when you listen to music while doing focused work, you’re probably not really.
Business Insider previously spoke with neuroscientist and musician Daniel Levitin, who cited a growing body of research suggesting that, in almost every case, your performance on intellectual tasks (think reading or writing) suffers considerably when you listen to music.
The exception is when you’re performing tasks that are repetitive or monotonous, such as when you’re working on an assembly line or driving for long periods of time. In that case, listening to music can perk you up.
Levitin said that a better bet is to listen to music for about 10 to 15 minutes before you start doing focused work, which can put you in a better mood and relax you.
5:30 p.m. Skipping the gym
We know: You’ve had a harrowing day at work, and all you want to do is change into pajamas, order takeout, and maybe watch some Netflix before nodding off.
But if you can sneak in a workout beforehand, your body and mind will thank you. The many (many) potential benefits of physical activity include fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, stronger bones, a lower risk of heart disease, and an easier time losing weight.
At the same time, lecturing yourself about these health effects won’t do you much good. Instead, as behavioral economist Dan Ariely told Business Insider, put a time on your calendar and trust that you’ll enjoy the experience.
Once you actually get started working out, Ariely said, thoughts of getting stronger and looking better kind of melt away as you take in the sensation of your breath, the music coming through your headphones, and the sound of your feet hitting the ground.
8:30 p.m. Eating dinner too late
As Rebecca Harrington reported for Tech Insider, eating too late can affect your sleep quality and your ability to maintain a healthy weight.
It’s generally best to stop eating (including snacking) about three hours before bedtime. Meaning if you go to sleep at 11 p.m., your cutoff is 8.
Harrington reports that, if you’re still feeling hungry late at night, one strategy is to try eating more of your calories earlier in the day — which is linked to weight loss.
9:00 p.m. Spending hours on social media every night
Scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feed might seem relaxing after a long day at work. It’s not.
Research suggests that “passive” Facebook use — a.k.a. perusing other people’s updates without posting anything or messaging anyone — can put us in a sour mood. That’s likely because we’re envious of the fab vacations and adorable puppies our friends are touting.
11:00 p.m. Checking your email before bed
Using any kind of digital technology in the hours right before bed can hurt your sleep quality. The blue light emitted from digital devices can interfere with the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, which makes it harder to fall and stay asleep.
If you’re having trouble breaking this habit, take a tip from Vanderkam and set one priority for every weekday evening, whether it’s a gym class, a phone call with a friend, or reading a few chapters of a novel.