The First Hour

I enjoyed Kevin Purdy’s Fast Company piece on “What Successful People Do With the First Hour of Their Work Day“. Purdy had me from the first paragraph:

“Remember when you used to have a period at the beginning of every day to think about your schedule, catch up with friends, maybe knock out a few tasks? It was called home room, and it went away after high school. But many successful people schedule themselves a kind of grown-up home room every day. You should too.”

Although homeroom was never a highlight of my day when I was in school, my last in-person boss and I had an unspoken homeroom date basically every morning. We’d have coffee in her office and catch up on last night’s TV, whatever the hot gossip around the office was, and yes, actual work-related things too, like what projects were on the go for that day, or whether either of us needed help from the other with anything. Often, a lawyer or student would wander in and join us, but lots of times it was just the two of us. On days when one or the other of us had to forego coffee and get straight to work, I often felt kind of out of sorts, ungrounded, and like I needed to touch base. I really believe this ritual made a huge and positive impact on our working relationship, through building trust, maintaining communitcation, and just plain having fun!

Purdy’s article outlines what some of the world’s most successful people choose to do first thing in the morning (sometimes even before the workday has begun), such as:

  • NOT checking email before arriving at the office
  • A trio of mindful activities: light exercise, motivational incantations, and brainstorming things you’re grateful for
  • Eating the frog (getting the thing you least want to do done first)
  • Ask yourself if you’re doing what you really want to be doing
  • Paying close attention to customer service, in whatever way that anchors you

Side note: as with many articles that profile wealthy, self-made tech giants, there are more than a few comments of the “these people don’t live in the real world” variety, where the commenter says there’s no way he could fit those things into his life because he’s not a millionaire and actually has to be at work at 8am. Frankly, I’m tired of seeing this sort of remark. Every tech giant was a mere mortal at one point, and it’s likely that some of these habits, especially the ones that are seemingly unrelated to actual work, have contributed greatly to that person’s success. I personally find that kind of discipline and drive pretty interesting!

  1. Before hitting the computer, I brew the coffee. While it’s brewing I run through my inbox on my smartphone; deleting the garbage and isolating fires. After I’m at my desk, I make a point of responding to the most urgent message, or “eating the frog”. (never heard the expression before, but I like it!)

    3/5 days per week, that combination creates an hour of flexible time, or a lull. If the fires are dire, you have to deal with them. No lull today. But otherwise, that next hour is probably the most creative one of the day.

    While I agree that ‘good routines are good routines’, regardless of how successful or wealthy one is; many roles or positions make it difficult not to jump straight into one’s daily tasks. When the pace is frantic, it becomes extremely difficult to step back.

    But for me, that’s the trick: step outside of yourself, your role; even for an hour, and do it when you’re fresh enough to bring something to the table. Doing it at 5:00 pm each day is almost useless for me. YMMV. 🙂

    @ 10:47 am

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