“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Now like Abraham Lincoln, although you cannot afford to spend the 66% of your time in office preparing for the remainder, you can choose to spend the first few minutes wisely. Lifestyle and wellness gurus have a plethora of advice on how you should begin your day; but not many will talk about how you should begin your day in office. Worry not; we have broken down the first thirty minutes of your office in three parts, to help you be more focussed and productive for the rest of the day:
First 10 minutes
As preachy as it may sound, do nothing. Give your mind and senses a rest. You have probably endured a morning traffic jam, or an overly long metro commute, or swallowed your breakfast in hurry. Let the frenzy settle down, and give yourself a chance to exit the frantic mode of emergency you were in. To maintain better focus, try to meditate. Even if there is no quiet room or place available; sit with your eyes closed at your desk. You might find it awfully hard to focus at first (especially if you have never done it before); but with time you will be surprised at the wonders it will do to your productivity and focus. Finally, get up; walk around – stretch if you can – and have a glass of water to hydrate yourself.
Next 15 minutes
Before jumping right in, make sure you catch up. Catch up with people, news, updates, and progress. If you are checking your email – don’t fall into the trap of immediately replying to each and every of 62 emails you have received over the night, but scan through all the messages to gather the most important and urgent ones. Similarly, going through news or progress reports from colleagues doesn’t mean reading the entire 2,000 word text, but skimming through it, to get an understanding of what all will take your attention today. So don’t reply or react, just absorb. Lastly, make note that catching up with colleagues, teammates and friends shouldn’t mean just a gloomy ‘Good morning’.
Last 5 minutes
Now that you know how much work is done, what all needs to be undertaken on a priority basis, and how your day will be spent, make a note. Do what suits you the best – if you like to write it on a board, a post-it, on your laptop, or make a list in your mind. Very importantly, reflect on all the information you have collated in the last fifteen minutes, and use that to make a do-able, prioritized and balanced list of tasks you are supposed to undertake. Now you are all equipped to take on the next eight gruelling hours of your day, take a plunge into the chaos, and be your productive best.
While you are at it, remember NOT to multi-task during the first few minutes of your office day. You will get plenty of opportunities to answer a call while juggling a bunch of knives during the rest of the day, so refrain from doing it now. Furthermore, if you need to make any adjustments to your working space to get comfortable – do it in the middle fifteen minutes. This might involve tidying up your desk, adjusting your chair, adjusting the lights or the control of the AC; do chores like these before you are settled in and while you still can. Don’t make it a habit to be late, or gulp caffeine or tea the moment you reach office. Ideally, you should eat something healthy along with your choice your beverage, after undertaking the three steps mentioned above.
Well begun is half done, goes a popular saying, and you have a real chance to implement it in your job to improve your work, productivity and focus. All it needs is discipline and consistency, and once you get into the habit of using the first few minutes effectively, it will come naturally to you. In the next article in the series, we will discuss how you should utilise the last few minutes of your working day.