- Arrive on time.
This may be obvious to most people—but some don’t realise that showing up late can not only leave a bad impression, but also throw off your entire day. Getting in on time or a little early helps your mindset for the day and helps promote a feeling of accomplishment.
- Take a deep breath.
Literally, and do something to focus in on the here and now. Many people come into work harried because they don’t leave enough time at home to deal with “home stuff,” and then they’ve barely survived another horrendously stressful commute, and then they dive into the madness. Slowing down, taking a moment to pause, and creating a routine around centring yourself can work wonders.
- Take five.
After the deep breath, giving yourself five minutes to get settled in, is a good way to set the tone of the day. Don’t allow yourself to be bum rushed by frantic co-workers lost in their own confusion. It’s not unusual to wake up to a long backlog of e-mails just screaming for your attention. The challenge is taking a moment for yourself before diving head first into your day.
- Start each day with a clean slate.
You may have to attend to projects or discussions that rolled over from the previous afternoon—but try to treat each day as a fresh one. Leave any crap from yesterday behind, tap into what’s happening at the outset of the day, get organised and ready or hit the ground running, if that’s what is needed.
- Don’t be moody.
You’ll want to pay attention to your mood and be aware of its effect on others. First and last thing in the day is when emotional intelligence can have the greatest impact. So if you’re not a “morning person,” try to suck it up and have a positive attitude when you arrive at the office. Grab a second or third cup of coffee, if that’s what it takes.
Your first hour at work can set your ‘attitude barometer’ for the rest of the day, so from a purely emotional point of view, it’s an important part of the day. One morning grump can infect an entire team and put everyone on the wrong footing.
- Organise your day.
The first hour of the work day is the best time to assess priorities and to focus on what you absolutely need to accomplish. Too many people get distracted first thing in the morning with unimportant activities such as diving right into their morass of e-mail, when there may be a whole host of more important issues that need dealing with. Make a to-do list, or update the one you made the previous day, and try to stick to it. However, if your boss has an urgent need, then it’s OK re-shuffle your priorities within reason. When you prepare your morning to-do list, determine what must be done today and what can be completed tomorrow, and prioritize accordingly. Also determine your peak working time and plan your schedule accordingly. Use your peak time each morning to do the most important tasks.
- Check in with your colleagues.
A quick 5 to 10 minute team huddle can also be an effective way for many people to start their day. Make it a short meeting, with no chairs, have everyone share their top goal for the day, and share any critical information the rest of the team absolutely needs to know. Doing the huddles helps people focus and more importantly, connects everyone with the team. And by sharing your goals for the day publicly, the odds of achieving them rise substantially.
- Ensure that your workspace is organized.
Clearing off the desk and creating a neat workspace sets a tone for the rest of the day. It can also help avoid confusion. It’s difficult to think clearly, easy to forget important reminders, and just plain stressful if you feel you’re fighting the battle and the tornado of mail or paper is winning. Ideally, you’d clear whatever you can out the night before so you can have a fresh start before you even turn on your computer in the morning. But if not, make sure clearing your desk takes precedence over things like checking e-mails and chatting with co-workers in the morning.
- Don’t be distracted by your inbox.
This one is difficult for most people—but the experts agree that you shouldn’t check your e-mail first thing in the morning. If you do, only read and respond to messages that are urgent. Priority-scan your inbox, not all e-mails were created equal. Hone your ability to quickly sift the wheat from the chaff and address what must be answered on an urgent basis.
Only respond immediately to the urgent messages so that you control your morning activities. There will be time during the day to respond to the less urgent e-mails.
Why must you put off checking e-mails? For far too many people, e-mail and the web can serve as huge time-wasters and distracters, particularly in the morning. Once you start checking e-mails, it’s a click away from watching the funny video someone forwarded you, which then sucks you into the abyss: checking the sports scores on line, the news headlines, the stocks, and before you know it you’ve been watching a cat play the drums for twenty minutes and your entire schedule is thrown off before you’ve even begun your day.
- Listen to your voice mail.
Most people jump on the computer and ignore their phone. While office voice mail is indeed becoming antiquated as people rely more on personal cell phones, Blackberrys and e-mail, some people do leave voice messages, and if you ignore them, you could miss something important.
- Place important calls and send urgent e-mails.
If you know you need to get in touch with someone that day, place the call or send the e-mail first thing in the morning. If you wait until midday, there’s a greater chance you won’t hear back before you leave the office. There’s nothing more frustrating that trying to complete something and not having access or answers from people you need because your day time hours were lost on other matters. If you have your questions ready and your e-mails fired off during early peak hours, by the end of the day you should have what you need.
- Take advantage of your cleared head.
Many people feel that their brains function best in the morning, and that morning is when they are most creative and productive. Consider whether you are making the best use of your brainpower and plan ‘high brain’ activities in the morning.
- Plan a mid-morning break.
This is the time to assess where you and take time to revitalise yourself so that you can keep your momentum going.
If you’re stuck in a routine that doesn’t include these must-dos, it may be worthwhile to re-examine your habits and make some changes for enhanced career development.
Habits are created out of having regular cues that prompt a routine, which then eventually become our habits. The morning is the perfect time to create some critical habits that will, over time, become routine and help you be more focused and productive.
Source: Jacquelyn Smith – Forbes Staff