How successful people start their day…

by Jeff Hilimire on September 26, 2012

Oddly this image came up when I googled, "First thing you do when you wake up in the morning"

I almost blindposted this but was too curious and had to read the article ~ Fast Company: What Successful People Do With The First Hour Of Their Day.

Although they pull from a very small, yet very successful sample group, its funny how absolutely off I was with my initial reaction. When I get up in the mornings I try hard to knock out as much email as I can in an effort to move on to important things when I actually “start” working. This usually occurs at home, between the early hours of 5:30-6:30 as the rest of my household begins to awaken.

The reality is, by the time I get to work between 8:00 and 9:00, email responses have already started to come in and I have to once again knock out email to start my work day. And then all throughout the day, they keep coming. And then at night when I’m home. #sigh

The Fast Company article suggests the exact opposite of my current approach to starting the day. For example:

Tumblr founder David Karp will “try hard” not to check his email until 9:30 or 10 a.m., according to an Inc. profile of him. “Reading e-mails at home never feels good or productive,” Karp said. “If something urgently needs my attention, someone will call or text me.”

While I’m not going to go that far – mainly because I don’t want people calling or texting me :) – I think there is something to that. Apple has a feature in Mail that allows you to create VIP contacts. I hadn’t really seen the benefits of that, however if I wanted to do less email when I got up I probably could quickly scan the emails that had come in from “VIP’s” and then close Mail back down. That would take some will power, but its probably possible.

Other suggestions in the article focus on prioritization, with one suggestion being to “eat your frog”, a reference to Mark Twain with the implication being if you eat a frog the moment you get up, the rest of the day won’t seem so bad. By that rationale, you’d start your day by knocking out the hardest or most unpleasant of your tasks. I don’t find myself having many frogs that need to be eaten so this is less interesting to me personally. Plus, in my opinion this is a negative approach to the day which doesn’t jive with my general approach to life.

Yeah this would probably be the worst part of my day

And some of the recommendations get pretty Zen, which isn’t really my thing. Jobs is quoted as having said:

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

I completely agree with the philosophy that you should only do what you love, but I don’t think I could start every day with a “mirror moment”. It’s just not me.

The big takeaway:

I’m going to try to start my mornings over the next week by doing the following:

– Looking over my calendar and to-do items for the day and deciding what really needs to get accomplished.

– NOT going through email. Or maybe quickly skimming for anything critical, then closing email back down.

– BLOGGING! I’ve been really bad over the past few months with blogging regularly. Blogging does a lot for me personally and I want to make sure it continues to be an important part of who I am. By doing less email first thing in the morning, I should have more time to write.

So…we’ll see how that goes.

  • Ryan P. Tuttle

    I was thinking about using the VIP email thing as well to check less email in the morning.

  • Jeff Hilimire

    Just make sure I’m a VIP ;)

  • Teresa

    When I started at Engauge my plan was to clean out the inbox at night and blog in the morning. By the end of the day though, my brain is too cluttered to give good thinking to the emails that come in. Makes me wonder if I need to block off another part of my day to get through the emails so I can start blogging in the morning.

    BTW, a president of an organization I used to work with once said to me, “I only pay attention to an email if they reach out three times. If they choose to follow up three times, it must be important.” Annoying for all of us, yet I’m thinking now that he was brilliant.

  • Jeff Hilimire

    I’m sure that past president you mentioned is a great guy, but that strategy seems to say, “I’m more important than everyone else.” I intend to get back to everyone and not make them have to reach out multiple times, but it might be a few extra days as I try to prioritize.

  • Rob Dolin

    An alternate approach to the organization President I’ve heard (from comedian Aaron Karo) is to treat every email as if it’s the “golden email” from the person who will one day provide you with some significant benefit.

    -In the ‘90s, FedEx ran a commercial touting the “golden package” – an invaluable package that had to be delivered no matter what – but since no one knows which package is the golden one, each package must be treated as if it were. I adapted that concept into something I call the “golden email.” I never know when an email from a reader will result in something great – a friend, a job, a date – so for the past fifteen years I have replied to every single one.

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