The first hour of the workday is critical, since it can impact your productivity level and mindset for the rest of the day.
"Successful people understand the importance of having control over their mornings, and know how to use that time wisely," says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job. "These people are able to weed out the noise in their first hour and focus on what matters."
Everyone has their unique method of prioritizing, she says. "But all successful people stay focused when they start their day, and with years of practice, they realize that many things can wait, and others cannot."
Here are 12 things successful people do in the first hour of the workday:
They step back and reflect. Taylor says it's important to take a moment to look at the big picture. "It's easy to jump in and 'just do it' when you get to work, but successful people look at their larger goals in order to better prioritize."
They strategize. Successful people take a few minutes at the start of their workday to think about where their career or business should be going, says Laura Vanderkam, author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. "Few people spend much time on these questions to begin with, let alone when their brains are fresh. But pursuing strategic clarity is a worthy objective. It's hard to get somewhere if you don't know where you're going."
They check their to-do lists and calendars. You don't want to overwhelm yourself first thing in the morning, but it's important that you take a quick look at your to-do list and calendar to know what's ahead. Missing any early meetings or deadlines would likely cause stress and could ruin your entire day.
They update their to-do lists and calendars. "Without a plan, you can't spend your time wisely. But plans must be adaptable," Taylor explains. Early in the day is the best time to update your schedule.
They acknowledge and plan for the tough projects. There are always difficult projects looming that get put aside. "Address how you're going to attack them first thing, so they don't hang over your head all day," Taylor says.
They don't address "people conflict." Successful people know that timing is everything. If you need to resolve conflict with your peers or boss, don't engage first thing, Taylor says. "Your colleagues are likely overwhelmed when they arrive to work, so you'll want to wait a few hours until everyone is more relaxed, which is usually after lunch," she suggests.
They write something that requires thought. Writing requires discipline, and research finds that willpower is at its peak early in the day, after a good breakfast, Vanderkam says. "Like a muscle, willpower gets fatigued from overuse in the course of the day, as you respond to distractions and difficult people." The first hour of the day can be a great time to write a well-crafted email introducing yourself to a new client, a proposal or report, marketing materials, or even an op-ed or article.
They greet the team. Good, successful bosses and employees are aware of their team, and they take the time to greet them first thing. "It shows compassion and naturally builds rapport and camaraderie," Taylor says. "This is the first hour of their day, too, and your actions have a significant impact on their attitude and productivity."
They glance at emails. "There's the famous instruction from Julie Morgenstern that we should never check email in the morning," Vanderkam says. "It makes sense. You want to start the day in a proactive fashion, not a reactive fashion. However, I'm pretty sure 99 percent of us do check email pretty near the start of the day." The trick is to glance at it and not get bogged down in stuff that doesn't matter, she explains.
They avoid distraction. The latest headline or office drama can cause anyone to be distracted, no matter how high up the chain you are. "While the curiosity can be overwhelming, focused professionals inherently know when they're taking themselves off-track," Taylor says.
They don't hold meetings. "I'd say the most important thing to not do during that first hour is hold a meeting, unless it requires every ounce of focus and concentration you have," Vanderkam explains. "It's better to put meetings at low energy times (mid-afternoon for many people), and do projects that require focus at high-energy times when you feel most motivated to tackle them. Most people feel more energized and motivated in the morning."
They relax. This one is difficult for most people, but successful individuals understand the importance of creating a few minutes of peace before jumping in. "It helps you better approach the issues at hand," Taylor says. Taking a moment to stretch and breathe will help you make better decisions during this chaotic time of day.
"Success is a mindset," Taylor concludes. "If you're mindful of what it takes to succeed first thing in the morning, you'll likely revisit these priorities throughout the day and stay on task."
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