As small business owners we live with never-ending to-do lists and a constant frustration that there aren’t more hours in the day. While we can’t do anything about that last complaint, it turns out that how we use the first hour of each day can significantly improve the productivity of the rest.
Many successful people and “success gurus” have weighed in on how to use that first hour. While there’s no consensus about the one best way to start the workday, here are several strategies to consider.
No Email or Facebook. (Really!)
We’ve all experienced it: A whole day spent at our desks, fully focused, with only an empty email inbox and lots of Facebook chatting to show for it. We may feel a false sense of accomplishment—we worked hard but not on anything that pushed the business ahead—or deflated at the end of it all that nothing got done. That’s email and social media for you. Though it’s hard to imagine work or personal life without them these days, the truth is they’re every bit as much a hindrance to productivity as they are a boon. And once you’re sucked into the vortex for the day it’s hard to get out. Better to relegate your email and social media to specific time blocks if you can, leaving larger blocks of uninterrupted time for project productivity and serving clients.
If the nature of your business requires heavier client communication—pet sitting clients wanting to check in on their dogs, for example, or daycare clients needing a change in their schedule—train clients to know when to expect you to be online, put policies in place about timing of schedule notifications, and provide an emergency text number (but be sure to clearly define “emergency”).
With email and Facebook off your morning plate you’ll be ready to give your workdays a smarter, more satisfying start with one of these alternative activities.
Grab Some Energy
Many a success guru, personal coach, and health coach have advocated starting each day with a little “me time.” Some push exercise. This could be anything from a walk with your own dogs to a more involved workout. Some sing the praises of meditation, from specific practices to reflecting on all that you’re grateful for or have already achieved, or visualizing future success. Others suggest doing something you find personally empowering, satisfying, or important. Spending time walking, loving up, or training your own dogs might be a good option. Or breakfast with a loved one. Or enjoying a hobby like working in your garden, reading a novel, or some sort of creative endeavor.
The point is to start the day with something you look forward to, something that gives you energy to apply to the rest of your workday.
Eat A Frog (Not Really!)
Alternatively, others encourage success-minded small business owners to open the day by tackling something unpleasant, playing on the Mark Twain quote, “Eat a live frog first thing in morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” We all know the weight of carrying around a big, ugly to-do list item in the back of our minds. While actually eating a live frog may bring animal activists to your door, choosing a task you dread (a marketing email, perhaps, or a bit of bookkeeping) and getting it out of the way first thing can bring relief and a surge of energy to carry you through the rest of your day.
Market Your Business
Speaking of marketing, as we often do here at dog*tec, you’ll be unsurprised to hear us say that a bit of marketing would be a great way to begin the day. Some networking, perhaps, or an hour spent writing a new tip sheet or a blog post or an article for your email or print newsletter. Marketing isn’t likely one of your favorite tasks, which means it’s more likely to be one of those weighty frogs you carry around. Whittling away at your marketing each morning while enjoying a nice cuppa can be a great way to reduce the pressure and even feel like you’ve got this all-important part of running your business well in hand.
Provide Great ServiceYou take great care of the dogs you serve, but do you give your clients your best, too? We’re talking here about the above-and-beyond stuff that fuels a successful business—things like taking a few minutes to check in with past training clients, or follow up on a daycare dog’s post-surgical recovery, or send dog walking or boarding clients some photos of their dogs hard at play. You can extend this notion to your referral relationships, too, by arranging a thank-you gift or penning a hand-written note.
Whatever rise-and-shine strategy you choose, taking a deliberate approach to getting each day off to a good start should increase your energy and productivity throughout the rest of the day. It won’t add hours, but just maybe it’ll make 24 feel like enough.