12 Things Successful People Do in the First Hour of the Workday

It is crucial that you start your day off right. Here are some ways to make sure you begin your workday with the best mindset possible and boost your productivity.

The first hour of the workday is critical, since it can impact your productivity level and mindset for the rest of the day.

“Successful people understand the importance of having control over their mornings and know how to use that time wisely,” says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant; How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job.” “These people are able to weed out the noise in their first hour and focus on what matters.”

Everyone has their unique method of prioritizing, she says. “But all successful people stay focused when they start their day, and with years of practice, they realize that many things can wait, and others cannot.”

Here are 12 things successful people do in the first hour of the workday:

They step back and reflect. Taylor says it’s important to take a moment to look at the big picture. “It’s easy to jump in and ‘just do it’ when you get to work, but successful people look at their larger goals in order to better prioritize.”

They strategize. Successful people take a few minutes at the start of their workday to think about where their career or business should be going, says Laura Vanderkam, author of “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast.” “Few people spend much time on these questions to begin with, let alone when their brains are fresh. But pursuing strategic clarity is a worthy objective. It’s hard to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going.”

They check their to-do lists and calendars. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself first thing in the morning, but it’s important that you take a quick look at your to-do list and calendar to know what’s ahead. Missing any early meetings or deadlines would likely cause stress and could ruin your entire day.

They update their to-do lists and calendars. “Without a plan, you can’t spend your time wisely; but plans must be adaptable,” Taylor explains. Early in the day is the best time to update your schedule.

They acknowledge and plan for the tough projects. There are always difficult projects looming that get put aside. “Address how you’re going to attack them first thing so they don’t hang over your head all day,” Taylor says.

They don’t address “people conflict.” Successful people know that timing is everything. If you need to resolve conflict with your peers or boss, don’t engage first thing, Taylor says. “Your colleagues are likely overwhelmed when they arrive to work, so you’ll want to wait a few hours until everyone is more relaxed, which is usually after lunch,” she suggests.

They write something that requires thought. Writing requires discipline, and research finds that willpower is at its peak early in the day, after a good breakfast, Vanderkam says. “Like a muscle, willpower gets fatigued from overuse in the course of the day as you respond to distractions and difficult people.” The first hour of the day can be a great time to write a well-crafted email introducing yourself to a new client, a proposal or report, marketing materials, or even an op-ed or article.

They greet the team. Good, successful bosses and employees are aware of their team, and they take the time to greet them first thing. “It shows compassion and naturally builds rapport and camaraderie,” Taylor says. “This is the first hour of their day, too, and your actions have a significant impact on their attitude and productivity.”

They glance at emails. “There’s the famous instruction from Julie Morgenstern that we should never check email in the morning,” Vanderkam says. “It makes sense. You want to start the day in a proactive fashion, not a reactive fashion. However, I’m pretty sure 99 percent of us do check email pretty near the start of the day.” The trick is to glance at it, and not get bogged down in stuff that doesn’t matter, she explains.

They avoid distraction. The latest headline or office drama can cause anyone to be distracted, no matter how high up the chain you are. “While the curiosity can be overwhelming, focused professionals inherently know when they’re taking themselves off-track,” Taylor says.

They don’t hold meetings. “I’d say the most important thing to not do during that first hour is hold a meeting, unless it requires every ounce of focus and concentration you have,” Vanderkam explains. “It’s better to put meetings at low energy times (mid-afternoon for many people), and do projects that require focus at high-energy times when you feel most motivated to tackle them. Most people feel more energized and motivated in the morning.” 

They relax. This one is difficult for most people, but successful individuals understand the importance of creating a few minutes of peace before jumping in. “It helps you better approach the issues at hand,” Taylor says. Taking a moment to stretch and breathe will help you make better decisions during this chaotic time of day.

“Success is a mindset,” Taylor concludes. “If you’re mindful of what it takes to succeed first thing in the morning, you’ll likely revisit these priorities throughout the day and stay on task.”



24 things you can do in an extra hour!

How odd that so much of life is dependent upon time. Lives are measured in years. We count down the minutes and seconds in a game and measure our productivity by months and quarters. The clock speeds when you’re enjoying a project and drags when someone is droning on and on in a meeting. Your ability to control time is nonexistent, which can be frustrating when you really need it. And who doesn’t want just a bit more time, an extra hour each day? Well here’s your chance.

When daylight savings time ends this weekend you can actually gain the benefit of an extra hour. We’ll set the clocks back one hour on Sunday and yet our body clocks will still be on Saturday’s rhythm. Instead of waking up at 7 a.m. it will magically be 6 a.m.  As long as you maintain the same wake up pattern you now get to start your day with an extra hour. Its like manna from heaven. For the next 126 days you have been granted an additional 60 glorious minutes for whatever you want. So that you don’t waste this precious time, I have put together a list of 24 ideas on how to make the most of this gift. If these ideas aren’t sufficiently inspiring, by all means share your own hourly activities in the comments.

  1. Catch up on all of your email.
  2. Hand-write and send five thank-you notes to people who support you.
  3. Brainstorm with a couple of colleagues on how to make the office run better.
  4. Plan a romantic evening for your significant other.
  5. Investigate two of your competitors.
  6. Google yourself. If that takes five minutes, Google all your co-workers.
  7. Make a list of pros and cons about yourself as a contributor to the company.
  8. Identify a role model and send them a handwritten invitation to lunch.
  9. Get in that much needed physical work out.
  10. Plan a weekend trip with your family.
  11. Learn a foreign language (This will require all 126 hours).
  12. Have lunch with your boss, partner or colleague.
  13. Call an old friend or relative you have neglected.
  14. Update your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter profiles and your resume.
  15. Sharpen your powers of observation by watching people in a crowded area.
  16. Volunteer for a charity you like.
  17. Make a playlist of inspiring work music.
  18. Meditate.
  19. Clean up the desktop on your computer (or your desk).
  20. Plan the perfect dinner party.
  21. Read that business book that’s been waiting.
  22. Write a short story.
  23. Give yourself a clothing makeover. (Yes, that means shopping.)
  24. Read all my previous columns. (If you found value in this one of course.)

Note:  Yes, of course I realize that technically you must go to bed later to gain the hour of time each day. But honestly, aren’t some of the ideas above worth sacrificing an hour of sleep?

Google’s Grand Plan to Make Your Brain Irrelevant

Google is on a shopping spree, buying startup after startup to push its business into the future. But these companies don’t run web services or sell ads or build smartphone software or dabble in other things that Google is best known for. The web’s most powerful company is filling its shopping cart with artificial intelligence algorithms, robots, and smart gadgets for the home. It’s on a mission to build an enormous digital brain that operates as much like the human mind as possible — and, in many ways, even better.

Yesterday, Google confirmed that it has purchased a stealthy artificial intelligence startup calledDeepMind. According to reports, the company paid somewhere in the mid-hundreds of millions of dollars for the British outfit. Though Google didn’t discuss the price tag, that enormous figure is in line with the rest of its recent activity.

Lifelike robots, sentient machines, the Jetson’s smart home in the sky. Google is spending billions to make itself the place where these fantasies become facts.

The DeepMind acquisition closely follows Google’s $3.2 billion purchase of smart thermostat and smoke alarm maker Nest, a slew of cutting-edge robotics companies, and another AI startup known as DNNresearch.

Google is looking to spread smart computer hardware into so many parts of our everyday lives — from our homes and our cars to our bodies — but perhaps more importantly, it’s developing a new type of artificial intelligence that can help operate these devices, as well as its many existing web and smartphone services.

Though Google is out in front of this AI arms race, others are moving in the same direction. Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft are doubling down on artificial intelligence too, and are snapping up fresh AI talent. According to The Information, Mark Zuckerberg and company were also trying to acquire DeepMind.

The New AI

Google’s web search engine already uses a powerful type of artificial intelligence to find what you’re looking for in the chaos of the web, and it has built an insanely profitable ad business atop this engine. But recently, the company has been bulking up its roster of geniuses as it seeks to explore a new branch of artificial intelligence known as “deep learning.”

Basically, the idea is to mimic the biological structure of the human brain with software so that it can build machines that learn “organically” — that is, without human involvement.

Google is already working to apply these insights to its familiar consumer products and services. Deep learning can help recognize what’s in your photos without asking you to tag them yourself, and it can help understand human speech, a key tool for its smartphone apps and Google Glass computerized eyewear. But Google also sees the new AI as a better way to target ads — the core of its business.

The DeepMind acquisition is one more step down this road. And though the company has not said as much, you can bet that this new form of AI will also play into things like Nest smart thermostats, the Google self-driving cars, and its big push into robotics.

A Century of Sci-Fi Dreams Come True

At the moment, it seems, no other institution on earth has the concentration of brain power — coupled with the money, technology, and freedom — to chase the dreams that have fueled a century of science-fiction speculation. Lifelike robots, sentient machines, the Jetson’s smart home in the sky. Google is spending billions to make itself the place where these fantasies become facts.

In a profile of deep-learning pioneer and now part-time Googler Geoff Hinton, WIRED’s Daniela Hernandez writes that the key difference between deep learning and other approaches to artificial intelligence is that it aims to free machines from the need for human intervention, to give them a human-like understanding of our environment. By building so-called neural networks that approximate the brain, Hinton and company are trying to make it possible for Google to understand language, speech, and the physical world without having to be told what its machines are seeing, hearing, or touching.

For many of us, Google already functions as an important part of what WIRED columnist Clive Thompson has called our outboard brain. The more Google “knows,” the less we have to remember. We just Google it. Now imagine that same kind of intelligence Google applies to the web set loose on your personal existence, not just online but out in the real world.

If its artificial intelligence dreams come true, Google might end up knowing you better than you know yourself. As we export more and more of our intelligence to Google, the question might become: What are our own brains for?

Marcus Wohlsen


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