How Do You Start Your Day? (and Why It Matters)

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Sergej Khakimullin /

August 22, 2012; Source: Fast Company

Much is written about the duties and responsibilities of nonprofit governance and leadership, and there are many books on inspiring donors, volunteers, and even (occasionally) development officers. There is remarkably less literature devoted to nonprofit motivation and leadership, so it’s a good idea for nonprofit leaders to look to the broader leadership genre to find inspiration, tips, and techniques for maximizing both performance and personal satisfaction.

For instance, a recent column from Kevin Purdy in Fast Company is an excellent reminder of the importance of taking control of the start of your workday. Unlike a lot of self-help or how-to advice, it’s blindingly simple and applicable to almost every situation. We all start our days doing something, right? The key is for each person to make the start of the workday meaningful in one’s own way. Steve Jobs advised looking at each day’s activities, and saying, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” If the answer is “no” for too many days, he said, then something needs to change.

Successful people set their own agenda and they get “big” things done without the distractions of small stuff. Professional organizer Julie Morgenstern has long advised workers to avoid checking e-mail first thing in the morning. Why? Because doing so makes one start the day reacting to others’ needs rather than being proactive in setting and pursuing one’s own objectives. A technological workplace offers endless distractions that allow us to confuse activity for accomplishment. It also tempts one to disconnect from personal interaction with others. Successful people, according to the article, set a priority for “customer service” that usually includes actually talking to and visiting with others. Communication experts say that 70 percent of all communication is non-verbal, and even social media evangelists say that at least 90 percent of social networking still occurs offline. Successful people make sure to use technology as a tool and an aid, rather than as a substitute for talking with and meeting people.

It’s important to nurture the habit of starting the day right. Exceptions may be forced upon us from time to time, but failure to establish and reinforce the habit is just another sign that we are not in control of our personal approach to work and life. What energizes you and empowers you to meet the day head-on? What helps you feel more in control and better equipped? To-do lists of goals and objectives? Meditation? Exercise? Touching base with colleagues, clients, donors, or friends? Let us know. –Michael Wyland

  • Charlene L. Webster

    My day begins with watering and feeding our cat; making coffee; sitting at my breakfast nook with a cup of coffee, a biscotti and God’s Word; reading one chapter every morning and meditating on it.