• The First Hour: 5 Ways to Start Your Day for Success

    Dmitry Davydov 1 December 2014
    Mornings are magical, and not because of those little marshmallows in your cereal.

    They're magical because they hold an amazing power over the rest of your day. Use your first hour wisely tp set yourself up for an entire day that is productive and enjoyable.

    Here are 5 ways to make that first hour count.  

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    1. Start with a Plan

    Your day begins better when you know what you want to do with it.

    For this to truly work well, though, you don't start your day by making a plan. You start your day already having a plan.

    Make your plan the night before. You can do this in that last half hour of work, when you're wrapping up for the day.

    Or look at your schedule and task list before bed and spend a few minutes mapping out a plan for the next day.

    Then, in the morning, in that first hour, spend five minutes reviewing your plan.

    2. Feed Your Mind First

    Breakfast is great. But food for the body isn't food for the mind.

    Feed your mind with something insightful, something profound, something challenging.

    Then give yourself a little time to soak it in: meditate for five minutes, or write for five minutes, or just sit and stare out of the window for five minutes.

    Life is more than your task list. Fill your mind with some beautiful and good thoughts to carry with you for the rest of the day.

    3. Quit Wasting Your Energy

    Studies show that, like a muscle, our willpower weakens after much use. It needs time to build energy back up before it is at full strength. Making decision after decision is a quick way to deplete your mental energy.

    So what are you doing, first thing in the morning, using up so much willpower on mundane decisions? You decide what you'll eat for breakfast, and what you will wear, and what you will take for lunch, and which task you will tackle first.

    You need to save yourself from wasting willpower on these decisions.

    Spend a few minutes the night before setting up for your morning routine: lay out your clothes. Prep your breakfast items. Pack your lunch.

    The more automatically you can go through your morning routine, the more energy and willpower you will reserve for the more important tasks that are coming up later.

    4. Keep a Wall Around Yourself

    The first hour of your day is for you: get ready, go through your morning routine, spend some time feeding your body and your mind.

    Reserve your space and your silence in this first hour. Guard your privacy.

    In other words, don't begin with email and social media. Keep your notifications off. Don't open the inbox. It can wait for another hour.

    Use your time to focus and remind yourself of your goals, and get a head start on the important work you want to do. The urgent requests and endless intrusions will flood in later; there's no need to open that door before you have to.

    5. Picture Your Entire Day

    This is an ideal exercise for the last few minutes of that first hour.

    You've gotten physically and mentally ready for the day.
    You have reviewed your plan.
    You have maintained your space and focused yourself on the next actions.

    Now, before you launch into work and face the world, take one minute and write down a sentence. A single sentence, written in past tense, describing your day as you want to live it *as if you already have*.

    "Today I wrote the first two chapters of my next book and got in touch with that editor."
    "Today I focused and wrapped up the last tasks of that huge project."
    "Today I stayed positive even around negative people, kept a great mood going, and had fun doing what I love."
    "Today I helped my team work through some issues and kept the discussion open and honest so we could make progress."

    Now, with that sentence in hand, spend a few minutes visualizing yourself doing those things you've just described.

    Picture the process.

    Picture yourself doing that work, making those choices, responding that way, leading or deciding or focusing or accomplishing as you've just described. Don't picture the end result (you've already described it in your sentence); picture the actions that get you to the end result.

    Research shows that this type of visualization has a powerful effect on helping us to achieve our goals. Wrap up the first hour of the morning with a little power-punch of process visualization, and then go out there and have a great day.

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    See also:

    - Bruce Tulgan - Employees Should Manage Their Bosses (And Here's How)
    - Interview with practical futurist Michael Rogers
    - Handle Your Crowded Calendar the Way the Pros Do
    - 7 Simple Techniques to Keep You On-Track and Organized at Work
    - How to Save Your People from Drowning in Email
    - Team Dynamics: Get the Superstars and Wallflowers to Work Together
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