How exactly does an executive leader start their day? You’ve heard the phrases:
- “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”
- “Dress for the position you want.”
- “Fake it until you make it.”
- “Act like a winner and you’ll become one.”
- “If you want to change the world, start by making your bed”
But what does that all look like when it comes to actual, specific tasks?
I start the day a little bit before my family so that I can enjoy quiet time to reflect on the day before, on the schedule of the coming day and what tasks I want to complete. Just that little bit of extra time, 30 minutes or so, before the chaos of the actual day, is enough to set my mind and my spirit for what the day will hold.
Some use that time to journal their thoughts, hopes, plans, and fears. In the book, The Artist’s Way Workbook (not a book for artists, by the way, but a great way to focus on what you enjoy in life), the author Julia Cameron suggests you start the day with “morning pages,” a freeform release of thoughts onto the page. It is a great way to focus your brain and get it in gear for the day to come.
Some start their day with exercise, but no matter what your preference, the idea is to start the day with purpose rather than the stereotypical slam of the snooze button.
Take a deep breath. “Literally,” says Michael Kerr, an international business speaker, author and president of Humor at Work. “And do something to focus in on the here and now.” Many people come into work harried because they don’t leave enough time at home to deal with “home stuff,” he says, “and then they’ve barely survived another horrendously stressful commute, and then they dive into the madness.” Slowing down, taking a moment to pause, and creating a routine around centering yourself can work wonders, he adds.
How do executive leaders start their day? With purpose.
The question is – will the day run you or will you run your day? A key place most go to start their day is with your messages and inbox. Do you start there or with the people in on your team. It is easy to get bogged down by the mundane and lose the momentum you started the day with. More from Smith:
Don’t be distracted by your inbox. This one is difficult for most people—but the experts agree that you shouldn’t check your e-mail first thing in the morning. If you do, only read and respond to messages that are urgent. “Priority-scan your inbox,” Taylor says. “Not all e-mails were created equal. Hone your ability to quickly sift the wheat from the chaff and address what must be answered on an urgent basis.”
Also, make sure your workspace is clean and organized so that your thoughts and work product are as well. In Brian Tracy’s book, Eat That Frog, he talks about having only the tools you need to actually complete the task at hand. That means removing the piles and various other clutter items so you can get right to the task at hand.
If you want to be viewed as an executive leader, your actions need to mimic those of the leaders you admire. Observe their actions at the start of the day. What is a priority for them? Ask them for their advice. One company president refused to end his day until he’d responded to every email. As an executive leader, he didn’t need to actually do the task requested in the email but would delegate. His commitment to his team was that he didn’t turn off his computer at the end of the day until he’d acknowledged the request and then forwarded it on to the person who was responsible for the information.
How you end your day is just as important as how you start it. With purpose.
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JJ DiGeronimo — the president of Tech Savvy Women — is a speaker, author, and thought leader for women in tech and girls and STEM. Through her work, JJ empowers professional women and consults with senior executives on strategies to retain and attract women in technology to increase thought and leadership diversity within organizations.
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