First 60 min­utes can make your work­day

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - CAREERS - COLLEEN COATES

MARK Twain once said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morn­ing and noth­ing worse will hap­pen to you the rest of the day.”

For­tu­nately, this wasn’t meant to be taken lit­er­ally, but is a colour­ful metaphor for smart time man­age­ment: get the most un­de­sir­able task out of the way first thing, and the bal­ance of your day will go much smoother. Tack­ling the least de­sir­able job first may come as a bit of a sur­prise strat­egy, es­pe­cially to slow starters who pre­fer wad­ing into the work­day one toe at a time, but it’s one way to en­sure you make the most of your first 60 min­utes of your day.

Here’s an­other quote from econ­o­mist Richard What­ley that’s not only a lit­tle more palat­able, but un­der­scores the im­por­tance of hit­ting the ground run­ning: “Lose an hour in the morn­ing and you will be all day hunt­ing for it.”

Some of the most suc­cess­ful peo­ple in the busi­ness world use their first hour in sur­pris­ing but ef­fec­tive ways. For in­stance, Tum­blr founder David Karp says he does not check his emails from home first thing in the morn­ing be­cause it doesn’t feel good or pro­duc­tive. Plus, he says, if the mat­ter is truly ur­gent, he knows that some­one will un­doubt­edly call or text.

For most of us, check­ing our overnight emails as soon as our bleary eyes can fo­cus is like a re­flex. But Karp might be on to some­thing here.

Re­sist­ing the temp­ta­tion to scroll through mes­sages elim­i­nates un­nec­es­sary dis­trac­tion that keeps us from con­cen­trat­ing on those “frogs” that need to be han­dled first thing. By check­ing your email first, you risk do­ing what some­one else wants you to do in­stead — and why give some­one else the power to change your top pri­or­i­ties?

Here are some other strate­gies for get­ting your day off to a great start:

Ar­rive on time. Show­ing up late for work can de­rail your en­tire day, not to men­tion that it makes an un­favourable im­pres­sion on your co-work­ers and boss. But get­ting in on time helps get your mind in the game and pro­motes a feel­ing of ac­com­plish­ment.

Take ad­van­tage of the peace and quiet. If pos­si­ble, get­ting to work be­fore any­one else lets you set your own pace and stay on track. With­out the in­ter­rup­tion of the phone ring­ing and no one to look over your shoul­der or stop by to gab, you should be able to power through the work that needs to get done.

Fuel up men­tally and phys­i­cally. If you’re not a morn­ing per­son, do what­ever it takes to come in to the of­fice with a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude even if that means tak­ing time to stop for break­fast and a sec­ond cup of cof­fee. Your mood af­fects oth­ers, so be aware of the im­pact your at­ti­tude has on their day.

Start with a clean slate. While you may have to work on un­fin­ished projects, treat each day as a new one with fresh eyes and a clear per­spec­tive. This re­newed ap­proach may help you come up with in­no­va­tive ideas and tap into pre­vi­ous­ly­over­looked so­lu­tions to prob­lems.

Take a deep breath. Do some­thing to fo­cus on the here and now, rather than bring­ing any bag­gage from home or a stress­ful com­mute to your work­place. Slow down and take few pre­cious mo­ments to calm and cen­tre your thoughts be­fore slip­ping into work mode.

Re­ward your­self at the 60-minute mark. When you suc­cess­fully com­plete the tasks you needed to fin­ish, mark the end of the hour by giv­ing your­self a minire­ward: a cof­fee break, a breath of fresh air, a brief stretch and walk around the of­fice, a chat with a co-worker or even a lit­tle treat. You’ve earned it.

Leave a to-do list at the end of the day. De­ter­mine to­mor­row morn­ing’s pri­or­i­ties and cre­ate a list of what needs to be ac­com­plished in the first hour of the day. You’ll ap­pre­ci­ate the re­minder of what’s what while clear­ing away those morn­ing cob­webs. At the same time, or­ga­nize any needed ma­te­ri­als so that no time is wasted once the clock starts tick­ing.

The first hour of the work­day sets the tone for the fol­low­ing seven hours, so make sure you use it wisely by chart­ing a course for a suc­cess­ful day. By re­main­ing com­mit­ted to pos­i­tive habits ev­ery morn­ing, you should be able to end your day on a pro­duc­tive note.

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