I never start my workday by checking email. Instead, I start with four simple tasks that I save in an Evernote, I copy the table freshly for the new day and then I take a few moments to answer each of the questions.
First, what are my priorities? Before I get bogged down in the little tasks of the day—the timely but fairly unimportant things—what are the things that really have to happen to move the needle in my business? What is the big client project that’s looming, that I need to move forward?
Second, where’s my energy likely to leak? I realize that a lot of days I have some underlying, unsettled business. Whether it’s with a client or in my personal life, these negative thought loops have the potential to drain a ton of mental energy. So I try to identify them and write them down. This practice doesn’t make them disappear, but it takes the edge off and puts them in perspective.
Third, I briefly write out what my schedule should look like. I also have a to-do list, but I’ve had a lot of frustration with to-do lists when I have 20 tasks a day and I get through 8 of them, and I just keep pushing things off. When I actually sit down and schedule I can be more realistic about what’s actually going to get done. So I might spend 9-10:30am on this project, then 10:30-11:15 on this other thing, then spend 15 minutes checking my email. I can actually look at my day and then make some hard choices when it’s clear that all the things that I ideally would get done just aren’t gonna fit into the hours I have that day.
Lastly, I take a second to set an intention for the day. How do I want to be today? I’ve already laid out what I want to do but I want to infuse my value, whether it’s to be more present when I’m in conversation with people, whether to move slowly between things, whether it’s to clear my desktop when I finish a task and start the next one. Whatever that habit or that way of being that I want to infuse to my workday, I try to just jot that down and let that set the tone.
Then once I do all that I take a sip of my coffee and then I start my day. And usually, it goes alright.