Many of us like to ease into our work day. Read e-mails, check schedules, wander down the hall and chat a bit; anything to delay getting into a higher mental gear for more important work.

Some of the more successful people I’ve been associated with have a different start. Deliberately they begin with their toughest task for the day.

One quite successful senior V.P. of Sales did all of his most difficult customer call-backs at the top of his day. Or started with an hour’s worth of senior client management cold calling and business development. He claimed it was the most productive part of his day. He was fresh, the client was fresh, and often conversations became creative in ways that wouldn’t be likely four hours later.

I had a salesman who knew that I liked to be at my desk early. Invariably Al would call well before the normal start of work, usually to plead for a special deal or a favour to placate a key account. It must have worked because he kept doing it for years.

At the top of the day, we have our highest level of optimism and mental energy. Our minds aren’t yet cluttered with minutia or the remnants of other people’s rants and problems. We look at issues with a sense that they are resolvable with a bit of thought and goodwill. Our belief in our own capabilities is at its highest. Our intent to “carpe diem” – seize the day – is still intact. We can constructively engage those who later in their day will be turned off and tuned out.

An early win generates more mental energy and optimism to drive creative risk-taking and stronger expressions of vision or direction. We have clarity of thought and confidence of expression. Our “game” has been upped exponentially.

So, how can we make this a re-occurring experience? What habit should we start? What amount of daily time planning is necessary?

  • One strategy is to start early before others arrive and intrude on your planned task.
  • Another, is to leave your computer turned off for an hour – no nagging unread e-mails glaring out at you, or new ones pinging away.
  • Clear your desk at night so there’s no visual distraction as soon as you sit down the next morning. For most of us, it’s impossible not to pick up a pile of reports or schedules and thumb through them. After all, they must be important if they’re on top of your desk.

But really, having a clear desktop electronically and physically allows you to start by saying: what’s the most important issue in front of me that cannot be delegated and which only I can resolve? What will require my best coping skills and significant patience and have the greatest positive impact on the business today?

If you can follow this approach 2-3 times per week, you’ll be surprised how many thorny issues are resolved or creative business opportunities initiated. Key downstream people will be acting in a more focused, productive manner because you were more focused on your use of the best time of the day. Simply put, you will be a more effective and successful enterprise manager.

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By John Bielby

Manufacturing & Executive Management


Visit Osborne-group.com for other Principals’ ideas and opinions on a range of topics. The Osborne Group provides interim executive management, consulting and project support across all sectors and over a broad scope of service areas.

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