What we do in the first hour sets the tone for the working day.
I heard this suggested so I put it to the test. When delivering training or speaking at an event the time is allocated, whereas on “office” days I can freely plan..
I’m not a morning person so “office” days start slowly with cup of tea and a choice between:
a) Randomly responding to emails and interacting on (work) social media; or
b) Completing a planned task before breakfast from my list of 3 key tasks for the day (my list of vital, satisfying actions). I naturally eat breakfast mid-morning so it’s an easy reward to “earn,” but any reward will do.
If I choose (a) then I’m letting distractions disturb me before I’ve achieved anything planned and I’m a lot less focused.
With (b) I get a hefty, rewarding, planned job done sooner and then I’m on a roll. Even if a minor distraction (such as checking work Twitter or sending a quick email) slips in then I still hunger for more satisfaction and regain momentum quickly.
Option (a) leads to a slow achieving day and dipped job satisfaction compared to (b).
So, what are the rules to help create a slick schedule to gain power from our first work hour?
Personal preference and job type determine some of our scheduling. But we need to manage interruptions, not they us. 3 things that are important to schedule are meetings, phone calls and emails.
1. “Mash” Meetings
In-person meetings are time-consuming, with travel and follow-up actions. Bunched alongside these are the in-depth phone calls with close colleagues when we’ll chew the fat, have some gems of ideas and follow-up actions. These activities, if strewn in the middle of tackling a significant task, crucify concentration.
I call these “Mash” meetings because they mash up my day if I let them. Scheduling for tasks first and meetings later helps me rocket through my day to finish tasks before someone slices my time.
2. “Pick Up” Phone calls
Phone calls are a conundrum. On one hand, they’re akin to meetings, as mentioned above. On the other hand they’re great momentum-builders because they fill the void that’s caused by our gadgets and screens.
It’s easy to put off calling or maybe shoot off an email instead. But calling reaps benefits:
- We speak faster than we type so we save time
- Real conversation cultivates greater understanding
- Using more of our senses elicits better brain activity
All that as well as the reward of ticking off an easily procrastinated task. Picking up the phone can pick us up!
Quite simply, emails need their own time. Even if we access email as part of a task, we should avoid checking incoming mail to alleviate distraction.
It’s reported that 50% of our working week is occupied by email. It’s the equivalent of empty calories – neither satisfying nor energising. Scheduled bouts of email time beats being a slave to email.
So, what are the steps to Power the First Hour?
1. Plan the night before to firm up the first hour.
2. Learn our energy levels and set our tasks accordingly.
3. If it’s hard to get on-track after meetings or appointments, set them for after lunch.
(For those who work better knowing meetings and interruptions are behind them, the order can be reversed with tasks set for after lunch.)
Things to avoid in the first hour:
- Checking email
- Tasks that move something along but only for someone else
- Conversations that are unrewarding and drain time
- Dropping the discipline (once we’ve had a taste, it’s hard to put down a bar of chocolate; straying off course has the same effect!)
What to do in the first hour:
- Something tough or more easily avoided
- Rewarding tasks
- Whatever “should” be done
First hour power gets us ahead. If we don’t accomplish in that first hour, we can spend the rest of the day chasing the start. But the 60-minute momentum breeds more!
Why not test it out to notice how an effective first hour of the day can influence the working week?
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