Starting Your Day the Right Way

Last Updated Mar 11, 2011 1:39 PM EST

In Closing Your Day the Right Way, we kicked around the importance of spending a little time reviewing the day's activities and preparing for tomorrow. Next question: What's the best way to start the day?

Tony Schwartz, the president and CEO of The Energy Project, has the most unusual approach I've come across. He turns off all communications and devotes 90 uninterrupted minutes to the most important task. His colleagues understand he is off limits during this time.

"I launched this practice," he writes on HBR.org, "because I long ago discovered that my energy, my will, and my capacity for intense focus diminish as the day wears on. Anything really challenging that I put off tends not to get done, and it's the most difficult work that tends to generate the greatest enduring value."

The idea of doing your most important work at the time when you have the most energy makes a lot of sense, but I don't think I could work with Tony's method. I'd have this nagging feeling that things were stacking up outside my office, a wobbly pile set to spill in as soon as I opened the door. I can't start the day that way.

I'm a to-do list kind of guy, so my day starts with a prioritization exercise, tackling first the things I can knock off in a couple of minutes -- psychologically I like getting some early wins. How do you start the work day?

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(Photo by Flickr user madmolecule, CC 2.0)
  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.