I'm continuing to write a set of Sunday posts that revisit in turn the ideas Tony Schwartz offered in "Turning 60: The twelve most important lessons I've learned so far". This week, I'm considering the fifth of Schwartz's observations:
Do the most important thing first in the morning and you'll never have an unproductive day. Most of us have the highest energy early in the day, and the fewest distractions. By focusing for a designated period of time, without interruption, on the highest value task for no more than 90 minutes, it's possible to get an extraordinary amount of work accomplished in a short time.
We all have read or heard advice about how to make the most of our days. Helping businesses and people with time management and productivity improvement are probably growth industries.
Schwartz's advice has two intertwined components: picking the most important thing you want to accomplish, and spending time at the outset doing whatever you can to make that happen.
My best days start when I sit down and write a post, typically for the following day. I try to do that before I do anything else. As soon as I start to read (and necessarily respond to) e-mail, check out Twitter or Facebook or do anything else that is essentially unplanned, I lose that window to write.
Your own "first thing" probably isn't writing, but it's something you can identify and prioritize. It need not be the same every day, and it might evolve over time. Setting aside 90 minutes isn't easy, but choosing the most important thing to do with the time tells us a lot about ourselves and our priorities.