8 Critical things to do, and don’t do, in your first hour at work

I am a morning person, I always aimed to get to work early, before anyone else, and considered the first hour at work precious. It was a time for me to think and plan, to consider and reflect, before the rest of the team came to work and started bombarding me with e-mails, requests, questions, meetings, reports… work.

I believe one of the reasons I was successful was that I took this first hour as my time to step back from the day to day and reflect how I could be most useful for that day or that week..  And so here are 6 things I believe you should focus on in the first hour of the workday to enhance your success and two things NOT to do. Even if you are get to work at 9 or 10am, I believe the first hour should be your time, and maybe you change the order of things, the first hour is precious for you.

First the Do’s…

1. Step back and reflect and Strategize. Take a moment to look at the big picture. It’s easy to jump in and ‘just do it’ when you get to work, but successful people look at their larger goals in order to better prioritize their time. Then take a few minutes to think about where their  business should be going that day, that week, that month, that quarter. Few people spend much time on these questions to begin with, let alone when their brains are fresh, it’s hard to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going.

2. Check and confirm your to-do list and calendar. Don’t overwhelm yourself first thing in the morning, but it’s important to take a quick look at to-do lists and calendars to know what’s ahead. Missing any early meetings or deadlines would likely cause stress and could ruin your entire day.  Then update to-do lists and calendars based on your . Without a plan, you can’t spend your time wisely; but plans must be adaptable. Early in the day is the best time to update your schedule and let your team know, before they plan their day how you may need them to amend their schedules. If you start work later than your team, please consider how changing your schedule mid-morning can affect others. Maybe as a late morning starter you need to do this last thing at night and inform your team early so they don’t need to constantly change their schedules in response to you.

3. Consider and plan for the tough projects that day. There are always difficult projects looming that get put aside. Address how you’re going to attack them first thing, while your brain is fresh, and you’re not under stress, so they don’t hang over your head all day.

4. Write the things that require thought. Writing requires discipline, and research finds that willpower is at its peak early in the day. Willpower gets fatigued from overuse in the course of the day as you respond to distractions and difficult people. The first hour of the day can be a great time to write a well-crafted email, or a proposal or report, marketing materials, or even a blog piece or article.

5. Importantly, greet the team as they settle in. Good, successful bosses and employees are aware of their team, and they take the time to greet them first thing. Display your empathy and build rapport and team spirit. Use the first hour of their day positively and this will have a significant positive impact on their attitude and productivity. Now if you get to work at 9am, then maybe greeting everyone is maybe the first thing you should do.

6. Glance at and prioritize emails, consider but don’t send responses.  You want to start the day in a proactive fashion, not a reactive fashion, so quickly review whats in your inbox and ensure the important e-mails get a considered answer later in the day.  The trick is to glance at the emails, and don’t get bogged down in stuff that doesn’t matter. Where you can send a one word answers to clear e-mail requests do so, but leave challenging e-mails to answer later in the day after you’ve thought about how to address them.

Those are the critical 6 to do’s each morning, what about the Don’t Do’s?

7. Don’t hold meetings. The most important thing to not do during that first hour is hold a meeting, unless it requires every ounce of focus and concentration you have. It’s better to put meetings at low energy times (mid-afternoon for many people), and do projects that require focus at high-energy times when you feel most motivated to tackle them.

8. Don’t DO people issues. You know that timing is everything. If you need to resolve conflict with your peers or boss, don’t engage first thing. Your colleagues are likely overwhelmed when they arrive to work, so you’ll want to wait a few hours until everyone is more relaxed, which is usually after lunch. So schedule any people issues in the afternoon, and think through them in the morning.

So how do you start your day, coffee and paper; deep into actions, on the phone? Share your first hour with us, and why you believe its important.