How to Be Successful in One Minute

How to Be Successful in One Minute

The most important moment of your day is your first minute at your desk.  Choose wisely how you spend it.  It can mean the difference between a huge infusion of positive momentum or getting sucked down the rabbit hole into a day of non-stop fire drills and chaos.

I learned this lesson well working in the world of logistics. Every morning, there were shipping emergencies and customer complaints waiting to be addressed.  But the choice I had to make in that first minute at my desk was incredibly important.

“Am I going to address these “emergencies” now, or is there a bigger priority that comes first?”

You make this choice every day, too.  Have you really considered how important this is to your success?

Is Your First Minute Setting You Up for Stress or Success?

If you leave your first minute up to chance, it’s likely your day will get started with a dose of stress or anxiety generated from a sudden tidal wave of urgent emails, last-minute meetings, or an ominous message to stop by the boss’s office.

As an alternative, you can become intentional with how you spend it and reap the benefits:

  • Establish a mindset of achievement for the day ahead.
  • Set a positive tone and get your day off on the right foot.
  • Form a simple, positive habit — Success is built on positive habits, routine, and plan.  An important time for habit-forming is the proactive start of the day, because it allows you to be consistent and uninterrupted.

The good news is that setting yourself up for success in this first minute is easier than you think.

Two Steps that Make Your First Minute Your Best

You have only got 60 seconds, so let’s make them count.

Let’s break the seconds down, so you can get the most of out it.  Note that you may be expecting something that includes meditating, praying, visioning, visualizing, stretching or something else in the abstract.  While these can be positive habits, that’s not my focus here. Those can take years of practice and focus before seeing the results. I want to give you something concrete and tangible. If you try what what I share here, I believe you’ll notice the impact today!

Also watch for your inner voice saying, “But I really need to check my email first just in case something happened overnight.  Yell back, “IT’S JUST ONE MINUTE!”

Now, let’s get to approaching your first minute in a proactive versus reactive way.  You can experience success in the next 60 seconds if you have a plan, so here it is…

Step 1:  Plan your minute (10 seconds)

You get the most out of these 10 seconds if you’ve already set your morning up the night before.  You do this by identifying your biggest priority when it was fresh in your mind yesterday.  Plus, you’ve identified the next physical action to advance that priority.

With this mind you’ll use these 10 seconds for settling into your chair, grabbing your tools like pen/paper, or waking up your computer.  If you didn’t identify your biggest priority the night before, pull your to-do list, scan it quickly and circle the one you’d most like to work on. I find the best way to do this is quickly scan my to-do list and then circle what’s hot.  That’s the reason this works so well!  It limits your time and forces you to focus.

Step 2:  Focused execution (50 seconds)

Execute the next physical action of your biggest priority.  If you’ve avoid all distractions, there is NOTHING standing between you and success on this.  If you’re thinking, “What the heck can I do in 50 seconds?”

For me this morning, my priority was to work on a column for Inc Magazine.  I knew I wouldn’t have much time because I’d be sleeping later than my usual 5:30 a.m. wake-up.  I was out late at a baseball game.  So my next action was to set the timer on my phone for 50 seconds and outline my ideas.  It wasn’t pretty,  but I scribbled down my ideas on paper in those 50 seconds, which made writing this very article much easier.

You might be blown away with how much you get done in 50 seconds when you’re focused:

  • Outline the next steps for a project you’re working on.
  • Brainstorm potential solutions for a challenge you’re facing.
  • Brainstorm an idea for an article (taps into your creative energy).
  • Balance your checkbook (gives yourself a feeling or organization, if it’s really been awhile it might take a few mornings).
  • Make a list of potential mentors or collaborators you could ask for help from (taps into your network).
  • Write a thank you note to someone who helped you yesterday (gratitude).
  • Send an email request (I recommend leaving your email offline, so when you sit down at your desk you can focus without seeing all the new emails stacked in your inbox).
  • Make a dinner reservation for a night out (gives you something to look forward to)
  • List one thing you can say No to (frees up your capacity).
  • Make a list of what you’re waiting on.  It’s hard to keep up with what you’re not tracking (reduces the feeling of overwhelm).
  • List ideal outcomes (visualizing-lite and helps you stay on task).
  • Define your next physical step on a project you’ve been procrastinating.
  • Acknowledge someone else’s compliment with an email.
  • Pay your bills.
  • Learn CPR.  (You can extend this time, but always decide what action you’ll take before just doing it.)

Five Terrible Things to Avoid Your First Minute at Your Desk

In your first minute, all action that takes you out of the driver’s seat of your day is to be avoided. Anything that removes your first minute from within your control puts you in a reactive state of mind.

These things are not “bad”; they are just not very helpful in doing the first minute at your desk. They are in order of most to least terrible:

#1 Email/social media:  The ultimate in reaction.  You have no idea what will be in there. It could be good news, bad news or something you need to do.  Two of those are bad news.  Deal with that after your first minute.

#2 Reading or listening to the news:  News is not bad, but it’s random and created to make your react.

#3 Multi-tasking:  You’ve only got a minute. Please don’t squander your focus by trying to fit in more than one task.

#4 Cleaning/organizing:  Good to clean; bad to clean first thing in your most sacred time. Save this for one of the lulls in your day or something you do as part of your end-of-day ritual.

#5 Mapping out your day:  If you sit down at your desk and start mapping out your day, you’re already too late.  I know from experience and have to keep reminding myself to do this the day before.  Successful people review their calendars to assess if anything needs changing or rearranging with how their day is planned and to see if there’s any preparatory work that might need scheduling in before a call or meeting.

Now, try the “one-minute experiment”

You don’t have to wait until the first minute of your day to try this.  In this very minute, take 10 seconds to write down your biggest priority. Write down your next step. Then see how much progress you can make in 50 seconds before you get back to everything else.  You might surprise yourself!


PS: What’s one thing you’ll do to experience success in the next minute? Please share in the comments below.