I got my first email account, when I was 22. It was my third semester at university and for the course in learning C, I needed this account. Nobody else of my friends outside of maths had an email account and receiving an email was an unusual event to happen. It was something exciting. When I started work, email was already established but used very differently than today. During this time, I formed the habit of starting the workday by reading my emails. It was exciting and didn’t take long. Unfortunately, over the years, it developed into something distracting and time-consuming.
I realized that starting my day with reading emails robs me of time, where I could perform tasks which require a lot of concentration. When you’re full of energy and focus, leverage this time to work on the most important projects, which really turn the needle and need this level of power.
At the time, I was learning a lot about habits and how they drive our life much more than most other things. Daily habits work like a series of many steps into a specific direction, which compound over time. The longer they last, the deeper ingrained and the more automatic they become. I realized that there is a huge potential in shaping these habits consciously. The way I’m starting my workday was not something minor, it had a profound effect on each day and thus on my overall career and beyond. Going home after a day of productive work felt so much better than a day of meetings and emails, even if the meetings were great.
So I started to design my workday start-up routine consciously. What are the triggers that I already had? Getting some coffee was one of these. I connected this with also getting water to my desk to make sure I stay hydrated over the day. Another simple way to keep attention and productivity high throughout the day. From my running experiences I knew that thirst only kicks in, when it is already too late. Having water at my desk and continuously consuming it made me less sleepy and more focused.
To make sure I work continuously toward the right direction, I also included reviewing my yearly goals into the morning routine. It’s amazing how this helped me to get clarity on what is truly important and what can wait. Whenever there was some shiny object (like something interesting to follow up on, but not really related to what I want to achieve) or something distracting (like some office chat via email), having the goals in mind helped me to stay on track.
After reviewing my goals, I have a look into my calendar to prepare me for the day and to see if I need to prepare some meetings. It also gives me information on how much time I have for other actions, which are on my to-do list.
This is important, as the next step in the routine is to list the 3 most important tasks of the day. Michael Hyatt calls them the “Daily Big 3”. These are the must dos. Everything else is nice to have and great, if accomplished as well. Ticking off these 3 topics during the day makes me feel accomplished in the afternoon or evening when I end my work day.
As a last step in my morning routine, I work on one of these Daily Big 3. These usually require some longer focused time and my morning is perfect. It feels like a brilliant start of the day as I get something meaningful done early on. Even if the rest of the day develops into complete chaos and distraction, there’s at least one significant action performed, which brings me closer to my goals.
So in summary my work day starts with
- Get coffee and water
- Start laptop
- Review goals
- Review calendar
- Determine Daily Big 3
- Start work on one of these
Many people ask me how I can be so productive with a podcast, involvement in PSI, the leadership program, my usual day job and a young family. My morning routine for starting work contributes significantly to all these achievements.
Start your day consciously! Design your habits by using an existing trigger. Write them down to make sure you get clarity and you can follow up on them. Tweak them, if you need and keep improving.
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