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Why You Should Never Start Your Day Reading Emails

April 11, 2017, 5:30 PM UTC
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The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “What’s your morning routine before going to work?” is written by Scott Lee, president and principal of SB Architects.

To perform my best when I’m at work, I have crafted morning rituals and practices that maximize my energy, productivity, creativity, and leadership capabilities throughout the day.

Starting each day right is critical. I am usually up by 6 a.m. and cannot stress the importance of starting early. Many people start by immediately sifting through emails and listening to voicemails. But these are among the worst ways to begin a day. Both hijack our focus and put us in a reactive state. Instead, for the first 20 minutes, I let my mind creatively set and reflect on what I want to accomplish. I am an architect, and so I translate visions into built structures. In a similar way, I use this time to imagine the day ahead, thinking positively about the successes I will have. Even small moments of visualization, fueled by positive energy, will improve my mood and outlook.

Once that’s complete, I can go about doing the little things that get me ready for the day ahead. I clear my email inbox and schedule any appointments, phone calls, or tasks. Getting these responsibilities out of the way from the start allows me to concentrate better when I move on to more challenging projects later on.

Last year I traveled 186 days. If I am at home, the next thing I do is prioritize spending time with my kids and wife. We make a big deal about having breakfast together. We are very conscious about starting the day in a calm way, since life gets much more challenging and frenetic once we’re at school and work.

When I arrive at the office, the first thing I do is communicate with my colleagues. I like to know what is going on at the firm—understanding where I am needed, what I may have missed, and how I can assist on existing projects. Engaging with my teams early in the day anchors me to reality. I also consume a wide variety of news in the morning. I will read every part—domestic, foreign, business, sports, even the parts that might bore me a bit—because feeding my mind is essential to my day.

Finally, it is important to develop a morning routine that works on weekends too. Just as on weekdays, I start by visualizing what kind of day I would like to have. I usually view Saturday and Sunday as an opportunity to recharge for the upcoming week. I am an avid cyclist, and on weekend mornings I can usually be found on a mountain riding my bike. Exercising helps me deal with stress, improves my memory and gives me more energy. All of these ingredients are essential for a successful professional life.