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The most important 5 hours you'll spend this week

(MoneyWatch) Few people like to work on weekends. But if you lead an organization, doing a certain sort of work on Sundays can lead to big payoffs the rest of the week.

At least that's what Michael Soenen has discovered. Soenen was the CEO of FTD Group (the florists) from 2004 to 2008, and now leads EmergencyLink, a company that stores important information in a way that's accessible to first responders and others in an emergency. As he often asks, "If you were ever unconscious or in an accident, how would the EMTs know who to call?" An EmergencyLink ID card would make that clear. Soenen manages teams in California and Chicago, and has systems set up for quick decision making (he tries to take only flights with wi-fi, for instance).

But his biggest productivity win comes from the 5 hours he spends working on Sundays.

"It's 5 hours of uninterrupted time," he says. He sets the organization's direction for the week, and decides how he wants his team to execute on that. He looks at potential road bumps, and so "I have a laser focus coming into Monday." He's learned that "If I do a good Sunday, then everybody knows exactly what they need to do when they hit the ground Monday morning." When he doesn't spend that advance time planning, "then it's not until the back half of Monday that people get focused on what they need to do." You can easily lose 5 productive hours from everyone in your group. If that's 10 people you're managing (as Soenen is) then that's 50 hours of unfocused time. That's more than the workweek of a full-time employee.

What organization has that kind of time to spare?

Whatever your role, a bit of time spent Sunday night planning your weeks can make a big difference in overall productivity. When you come into work Monday unsure what you want to do first, you burn up energy and willpower deciding. Better to use the focus we tend to have first thing in the morning to get things done, rather than waffling between ideas. "If I have a great Sunday afternoon, then everyone else has a great week," says Soenen.

How do you plan to win the week ahead?

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