I sat down at my desk this morning, like many other days. Next I opened up my email, just to make sure there wasn’t anything urgent. A colleague popped into my office with an issue. After nearly an hour of triage, I finally started getting to the priorities on my to-do list. I sipped my coffee and stared at the clock for a moment. Then, the light bulb came on in my head. I’ve slipped back into old habits.
Maybe your days start like mine did. Or, maybe you’re better trained in the art of productivity practices espoused by the likes of David Allen, Stephen Covey or the latest from Lifehacker.com. Sometimes, we unintentionally let things slip and don’t even realize it. For example, have you been working out as regularly as you’ve intended? Frightening isn’t it.
This morning was a wake up call for me. I need to rededicate myself to some basic tenets of my workday. Then, I can focus my time and energy on the things I do best, those that add the most value to my team and those we serve. That’s what really matters.
Here are 4 rudimentary strategies for getting both your and my days off to a more productive start.
#1: Set today’s priorities yesterday.
The days that I’ve accomplished the most, of the things that matter most, I set myself up for success. Before you close up shop today, survey your to-do list and tomorrow’s calendar.
Use whatever system you utilize to select 1-3 top priorities for tomorrow. Consider how long each item may take (then add 30%). Now that you know where you’re going, you can begin tomorrow with greater focus and intensity.
#2: Prepare your battle station.
Regardless of what your physical work space is (desk, car, gym or heavy machinery), prepare it for battle. Working with Soldiers, I’ve learned to run through pre-combat checks to make sure I have what I need to do business.
On the days I’m in the office, that means booting up the computer, ensuring coffee is on hand, clearing my desk of distractions, and laying out a pen and notebook. I am now ready, except for these next 2 strategies.
#3: Open email AFTER your to-do list.
This is the mistake I made this morning. It is better to begin exactly where I finished off yesterday, with my to-do list. What were those 1-3 priorities I set for today? Once I am clear on where my focus needs to be, I can make informed decisions about incoming information.
Now that I know what needs to be done, I know if I have time to catch up with a colleague who pops in. I can make the decision to defer that phone call until after my top 2 priorities are checked off. No more getting smothered by other people’s priorities before I even know my own.
#4: Do work.
At this point, you’ve set your priorities, prepped your battle station and avoided those early morning detours. It is time to go to work. No excuses, no distractions. Just you and the top of your to-do list.
What I love about this is that at the end of the day, I will feel as though I actually accomplished something. That’s satisfaction. That builds momentum and spurs me to dive in again tomorrow, building better habits, getting more (of what matters most) done.
When I follow these 4 strategies is when I get into my flow. It is when I often do my best work, efficiently and with excellence. Today, I’m recommitting to these 4 strategies. Join me.
Question: What other strategies help you get your morning off to strong start? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.