How to Start Your Workday With Purpose
Starting your workday with clarity, focus and intention gives you a better sense of control over its direction.
The way you conceive and begin a thing sets a tone and intention for all that follows. By being purposeful in the way you start each workday you increase…
• The meaning and value of your work
• Connection to people you interact with
• Ownership of your time and decisions
• Time mismanagement and inefficiency
• Disengagement and antipathy
In a general sense, you’re simply aiming to recognize and exercise some choice in your direction, which can be achieved by taking a few moments to be present and thoughtful, organize your goals and schedule, fix a mindset and an emotional state, and look after your comfort and environment.
Purposeful routines are highly individualized, and if the individual actions aren’t of your choosing and effective, they’re not going to stick.
So feel free to experiment with, adapt, or immediately blow off any of the suggestions below, but work toward your own purposeful practices to start the day and notice the difference it makes.
It doesn’t have to be time consuming or elaborate; again, the point is just to be more cognizant of what you’re choosing to do and why.
1. Start the day before
The act of closing a workday and setting a framework for the following is very powerful, and can usually be accomplished in 15 minutes or less. Review the current day by giving some recognition to progress and then scanning for loose ends, which you’ll capture (digitally or pencil to paper) in order to let your mind relax overnight. Then, set your primary goal(s) for the next day in the form of a concise to-do list.
2. Get in early
Racing in the door moments before (or after) your first scheduled function is a surefire way to set up a chaotic day. Make it a priority to arrive calmly and with at least a 10- to 15-minute allowance for focused self-time before diving into the day.
3. Tend to your environment
The space and conditions you work within strongly influence your productivity and sense of satisfaction. Take the time to organize your desk/work area and address your physical comfort. To the extent it’s possible, adjust the lighting, sound, and temperature in your workspace. Even the smallest actions here demonstrate agency and affirm the importance of your work and well-being.
4. Proactive before reactive (or better yet, responsive)
Reading work-related email and texts first thing will typically send you hurtling off in some unexpected direction, responding to someone else’s agenda before even establishing yours, and from that tangent, your day will unintentionally branch.
Resist the impulse and instead,
• Briefly zoom out to establish perspective and a connection to the bigger context and longer-term direction, then zoom in on the day (only).
• Revisit and, if necessary, adjust the goal(s) you established the day before. Keep the to-do list simple and limited to true priorities.
• Review your schedule, making sure you’re allotting enough time for your priorities, and consider the placement of tasks and the overall flow (e.g. place the most important task during the peak energy and creativity hours, usually during the first half of the morning). Include breaks.
• If you feel like you must check messages in the first moments of the day, make it a quick scan to determine the priority of each, then schedule time to respond.
5. Establish mindset.
• Use a gratitude or other positive thought practice to reset your perspective and attitude.
• Choose how you want to show up to the day’s various functions (yes, you have a choice in the matter).
• Decide how you’ll contribute, who you’ll serve/help, and what you’ll create.
• Consider what challenges the day might present, and what will be needed to meet these with grace. Flexibility? Objectivity? Patience? Calm? Focus? Energy?…
• Commit to what aids progress (boundaries, reset breaks, multitasking avoidance…)
6. Perform a transition ritual
The point here is just to encourage awareness of what’s happening, so if the ‘ritual’ word pushes a button don’t call it that.
Take a moment of silence, a few rounds of deep breathing, stand to stretch, walk a lap, whatever can serve to positively signal the transition from intention-setting to work time. Change it up if you notice strong resistance or you start to regularly do it on autopilot.
7. Now, with clear purpose, begin