They say the most important meal is breakfast. Likewise, the first ten minutes of your work day is crucial in determining how productive and efficient your day will be.
You get into your office, turn on your computer, open up your favorite web browser, and check your email. Right? Wrong. That is the worst possible way to begin your work day. You want to start by being proactive, not reactive. Checking your email will simply initiate a domino effect of responding to others’ requests that may or may not align with what’s most important and urgent to you.
So how exactly should we start our work day? By taking a page from world renowned chefs. Every accomplished chefs engage in a concept known as mise-en-place, which means “everything in its place”. Chefs spend more time planning than cooking. They study recipes, think through the tools and equipment they will need, assemble all the ingredients in the right proportion, and evaluate their action plan for the entire meal. All this takes place before cooking begins.
How do we adapt this concept with our own work space that may or may not involve a kitchen? We begin our day by envisioning its end. Visualize your most perfect work day. What tasks would you have accomplished in order to feel a great sense of achievement and satisfaction? This will help us determine what’s most important and urgent. Next, create a plan of attack. Break down all the complex tasks into specific actions. For example, “put together presentation” could be broken down into, “gather data, review the market/literature, draft slides, incorporate images into presentation”, etc. With these specific actions planned out, we won’t be stuck at a lost for what to do next. Much like well planned chefs won’t be interrupting their cooking to find key ingredients.
Once your specific tasks are planned, start with the tasks that require the most mental energy. Research has shown that we have less willpower as the day progresses. This concept is known as ego depletion. So when our resources are at maximum capacity, engage in difficult tasks. When our willpower starts depleting, engage in simple tasks that don’t require a lot of mental capacity.
Start your morning with a simple routine to ensure your best foot is out the door. Once you get to your office, engage in a brief planning session to ensure your day is the most productive it can be. Before you leave the office, reflect back on what you have achieved and give yourself a pat on the back. Often times, we get lost in our mountain of to-do’s that we forget to reward ourselves for the tasks we managed to cross off.