Monday morning, 8 a.m. You stroll into the office, coffee in hand. Maybe you make chit chat with a couple of early bird employees on your way to your desk, but you're in your chair minutes later, ready to rock the week. You fire up your email, sign into your company chat engine, check the papers on your desk and try to remember where you left off from last Friday at 5 p.m.

If this describes your morning routine, you've already lost.

Every great craftsman lays out their tools the night before, making sure they're sharpened and prepared for the day's work ahead. The artists mind carefully traversing the bends and curves of future tasks -- visualizing success -- not in some abstract ethereal manner but literally the steps that lie ahead. 

Success is simple. Success is about approaching work with intentionality, or the idea of setting yourself up to succeed through preparedness that simply eliminates wasted time and inefficiencies.

How you end your day is the most important detail about tomorrow

If you're intentional, you understand that 6 o'clock today is the most important hour of tomorrow, and that Sunday evening is the most important day of your coming week. If you're waiting until the morning of every day to set the tone, then you are behind before you begin. 

It's why we make lists before going to the grocery store. Yes, we may end up getting all our items eventually without one, but unless you're a memory champion you're likely to waste energy backtracking across the aisles. My lists for work always include the answers to questions like what jobs am I doing tomorrow? or Do I have the necessary items lined up and ready to go? or What should I work on first? And they're always made ahead of time, the night before.

Intention must be part of your company culture

Everyone wants to get into the "flow" or "zone" so they can reach that pinnacle of production. Being intentional however, isn't just about checking off to-dos. Intentionality is a crucial element to any productive and team-oriented company culture. Take for example things like priorities -- pre-committing to tackling the day's most daunting task first frees you up to spend more time on tasks that are perhaps more "fun" or natural for you. The mere act of connecting today's intention with tomorrow's workload can give you a boost of accomplishment in itself.

Think of intentionality through a consulting lens where you are the product. Are you optimizing yourself for success? Or do you find yourself suddenly on Friday afternoon not recalling anything substantive you did all week because you were hopping from meeting to aimless meeting and email to email? Make it a point to knock a big tree down first, everyday, and the rest of your todo's will feel like a breeze. 

It's a lead by example mentality--and it takes time 

You can't plan for every eventuality. Surprises happen that may undo your best-laid plans for the day. But I've found that living with intention helps you be less concerned with immediate outcomes and more invested in the process. Part of what I challenge my team to do is meet someone new every week. Meetings made with intentionality don't have a preconceived idea of what either party is going to gain from the interaction and can be more open exchanges of ideas.

Creating a culture of intentionality starts, as cultures tend to do, with the behavior of leadership. For the most part, I'm a door is always open kind of boss. If you're like me, you know that you could potentially be playing with fire there. There's a fine line between showing your employees that you're personable and falling victim to the trappings of idle water cooler talk, and intentionality helps you walk it and establish boundaries.

Not only is my door open, but my calendar is too -- literally. Anyone on my team can go into my calendar and schedule a lunch with me at any time, so long as it's a productive (read: intentional) conversation--meetings that matter.

If you don't create a culture that attaches purpose to each day, it's not likely your team will pick it up on their own. Intentionality isn't difficult, but it takes discipline.

Fun can be created with purpose

And there's nothing wrong with some intentional excitement, either. There are times and places for staff outings, happy hours and parties, and those should be just as well-considered as a morning company meeting. With intention, time is treated with respect no matter what you choose to fill it with.

Intentionality is like a meditative mantra for your schedule. It's something repeatable and controllable that puts you in the right head space to do just about anything, whether you look forward to it or not. In fact, especially if you're not looking forward to it. As a leader, you can't afford to be unfocused, which means you can't give away time each day ordering what should have been planned the night prior. So, what are you waiting for, tomorrow starts today.

Published on: Dec 15, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.