Complete serenity. Early morning is my favorite time of the day. The coffee is brewing while the sun has yet to rise. There’s not a sound in the house (besides the slow drip of the coffee) and I’m basking in solitude. I suppose it’s “me time.” The first sip of coffee gets me started and I’m off to the races. I don’t try to solve the world’s problems in the first hour of my day, but I do just enough to set up the day for success.
Here are the five things I do in the first hour of every day.
1) Check on things that require an immediate response.
Sometimes, I’ll wake up (fully rested) before my alarm goes off. That’s usually a sign of a very productive day to come. More often, I’ll waken to the sound of my iPhone alarm. Then, without turning on the light, I’ll spend the next 5 minutes checking work and personal email.
It’s mostly a quick scan through the emails that arrived overnight, to see if there are any matters requiring immediate attention or response. Once I’ve completed the email check, I’ll get out of bed and fire up the coffee maker.
While the coffee is brewing, I’ll check Twitter. I don’t check on tweets, but I go specifically to “Interactions” to look at mentions, retweets, new follows, etc. Based on that, I suppose you could call me vain (and I’d admit it). I usually don’t check Facebook this early in the morning – that will come in the second or third hour of my day.
2) One word: COFFEE
The morning serenity is great, but nothing is more enjoyable to me than the morning cup of coffee. And I don’t do just a cup, mind you. I fill up a Thermos with about 14 ounces of fresh brewed Joe. My daily grind is two third’s Starbucks French Roast and one third Peet’s Major Dickason’s blend.
Call it a French Major, if you want – it tastes great. I like to savor the coffee, too – I’ll find myself taking the last sip more than an hour later. So coffee, if you will, completely comprises the first hour of my day.
3) Determine what to read, but I don’t actually read it.
Next step: grab the newspaper off the front stoop. Whoops! All of my newspapers are online. I have a set of 5 core web sites that I check every morning. If I’m ambitious, I’ll also peek at my RSS subscriptions in Google Reader.
The goal is to cobble together the interesting articles that I should be reading. At the same time, I’m identifying whether there are time-sensitive articles that I need to read right away. For the most part, though, I spend the first hour of my day curating, rather than consuming.
For each article I find interesting, I paste the content into a text document using Notepad on my Windows laptop. After I’ve completed my curation, I’ll paste the entire text document into Google Docs. From there, I can read all of the articles when my schedule permits – on laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc. – without all the banner ads, site navigation, pop-ups and web site overlays.
4) Create a short list of things that must get done (today).
There are more things to get done than the day is long. So I try to be realistic. I’ll prioritize my task list and figure out the handful of the most important things (that must get done today).
Of course, as time permits, I’ll get to other items on the list, but I find that narrowing the list is quite effective. It ensures that I’m focusing on what matters most (that day) – and, I find that I do a better job on the smaller bites that I’m chewing.
5) Set up the rest of the day for success.
Like my approach to curating the morning headlines (rather than reading the articles entirely), I don’t try to accomplish everything in the first hour of my day. Instead, my goal is to get the framework in place to make the rest of the day productive.
I’ll scan my Outlook Calendar for scheduled meetings and mentally prepare for them. I’ll do some research to get me prepared for an upcoming meeting. I’ll also do some mental preparation around the short list that I’ve compiled. If I need to write a blog post or a product sheet, I’ll start thinking about headlines and outlines.
Right about now, I’m finishing up the last few sips of my coffee. I’m an hour into my day – and while I haven’t taken the world by storm, I’ve gotten the pieces in place for a good one. And with that, it’s time for … breakfast!
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