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What does a great morning look like?

At a conference recently, I moderated a panel of professionals who had made changes in their schedules in order to be more effective. One woman, a college administrator, logged her time and realized that her work day featured constant interruptions. This was partly by design; she had an open-door policy, and valued close collaboration with her team. Indeed, we soon saw that her "interruptions" were probably the most important part of her job!

The problem was that she had other work she had to do as well -- work that required concentration to be up to her standard. So how could she make time for that?

The answer was found in a part of her personal life. Her teenage daughter played on her school's water polo team, and several days per week the girl had to be in the pool around 6:30 a.m. Mom would get up to take her. So, rather than go back home, she could go into work, and score a solid 90 minutes of quiet time before anyone made use of that open-door policy. She'd plan ahead of time what she wanted to do during those 90 minutes, complete her important tasks for the day, and then she could relax when her team members came in to see her, and give them the attention they deserved.

It got me thinking: What does a great morning look like? Starting the day right can make the rest of the day more relaxed and productive. Last week I wrote that standing in a Starbucks line for 20 minutes was a waste of time, but I understand that people like their morning rituals. The question is, how can you create morning rituals that truly move your life and career forward (and not just enhance the Starbucks bottom line)?

For me, a great morning would start with a run. I'd come home and have breakfast with my family (making my own coffee -- which takes a lot less than 20 minutes). After getting ready for work, I'd spend the first 1-2 hours of my workday working on my book projects. Then, after that, I'd be ready for conference calls and other such things that require less concentration.

What would you do on a perfect (workday) morning? What one to three things could you knock out by lunch that would start the day right? And how often do you manage to pull that off? If you're like most of us, probably not too often. But the college administrator on the panel reported back that even after a few days, she could tell a difference in her work. That in itself was enough motivation to keep getting up around 6 a.m.

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