Picture this: you show up at the office and think, “now what?”
Unless you have a meeting, are working towards a deadline, or have something on your mind that morning, your first inclination may be to peek into your email inbox and see what wonders (work!) the day might hold.
This is perfectly normal.
As humans, we actually get an emotional buzz from completing tasks.
Opening, reading, responding, and archiving email feels like we are completing a lot of tasks… it’s like a less fun Christmas.
No toys, but you still have the excitement of not knowing what you are going to get next.
Starting your morning with email however, is not how we start our workdays the right way.
You have about 10,000 mornings in your working life.
That’s 5 days a week X 50 weeks X 40 years.
If you want to make the most out of each morning’s peak brain power, you need to create and set a routine that will allow you to get your most important work done first.
Here are five powerful ideas for starting your workday right.
1. Start With a Clean Slate
Have a bad day yesterday?
Did you get unfairly called out by your boss? Did a co-worker undermine you in some way? Did everyone forget your birthday?
Don’t let thoughts of past wrongs seep into today.
Rumination has no positive benefits – it will just put you in a bad mood and it gives the offender(s) power over your thoughts.
“Between stimulus and response, you have the power to choose.”
– Victor Frankl
Most importantly, it takes energy to be angry. Energy you could be using to bring value to the world.
Change, “She makes me so mad” to, “I get to decide how I feel. And I feel like getting things done!”.
You have the ability to choose your response. You have a ‘response-ability’ to make things happen and not let external situations affect your mood or energy levels.
2. Capture Your Ideas
Did an epiphany suddenly hit you like a ton of bricks on your way to work?
Write that awesome idea down!
You can use technology like Evernote or just a pen and paper. Just make sure the note is in a trusted place you know you will review at some point in the future… a fast food napkin is just not going to cut it.
You will often come up with your best solutions in the morning because last night’s REM sleep has processed the problems of day before.
You’ll also start to notice something funny.
The more ideas you capture, the more you’ll get… it’s almost like your brain knows that all those great ideas are being written down and actioned, so it wants to give you more.
3. Set The Stage / Clear to Neutral
Clear all non-work tools off your desk, water the plants, and go over the day by looking at your agenda, most important tasks, and to-do list.
Clearing your work space to neutral and seeing an outline of what the day has in hold will give you a sense of control. Additionally, knowing what you need to do AND that you have the tools to do it will allow you to jump right into action.
Having a well supplied, organized work environment will help you avoid those nagging little steps, find the report, get more staples, etc., required to get started on your real work.
Removing barriers, clutter, and lack of appropriate resources will streamline your work flow and dramatically reduce your tendency to procrastinate.
4. Have a Set Routine
My girlfriend is a 6th grade math and science teacher at Denver Public Schools. With the number of plates she has to keep spinning all day, it’s critical for her to start the morning off right with a set of solid routines, so she doesn’t overlook any part of her challenging job.
Here is her routine:
- Turn on computer.
- Go fill up her water bottle.
- Grab a cup of coffee in the office and drop off any forms that need to be turned in.
- Return to room and open needed programs.
- She has preset many of the programs to open up automatically.
- Make copies.
- Test the smart board and student clickers.
- Set a timer to go off 5 minutes before the first bell rings.
Can you see how this type of routine might apply in your job? Maybe instead of testing the smart board you can test if your computer will link to the projector or set a strategic reminder for when to leave for your lunch appointment.
Tip: Part of your routine should be Setting the Stage / Clearing to Neutral.
5. Plan A Break
“When I get X done, I will go for a walk.”
“If I work on X project for 25 minutes, I will go grab a cup of coffee.”
Planning breaks helps prevent procrastination because it is less daunting to think, “I’ve got 8 more hours of this stuff” than, “I get a break in 45 minutes”.
In fact, my reward for writing the first draft of this article was to go outside and read a chapter out of “Ender’s Game”.
Starting your day with a clean slate, capturing your ideas, setting the stage, creating a routine, and planning your first break will all allow you to take advantage one of the most productive parts of your day… so start now!
Getting in these five habits will plant the seeds of change that will positively impact the course of your career for years to come.
What rituals or routines do you use to start your day off fresh? Share your insights in the comments.
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