Huff Post Small Business
The saying goes that the early bird gets the worm. But success isn’t as simple as waking up before everyone else. It’s about what you do — or don’t do — in those first hours of the day. We partnered with Wells Fargo and asked several small-business owners to share the simple morning habits that help keep them positive and productive all day long.
1. Make some mindful me-time.
It’s tempting to check email before getting out of bed, especially when your phone doubles as your alarm clock. But motivational speaker Sylvia Theisen advises against it. “Opening email first thing is reactive, not proactive,” she says. Instead, many business moguls, professional athletes and thought leaders start the day alone with their thoughts. Mindfulness exercises have been associated with improved physical and mental health, decreased stress and sharper focus. They don’t require any specific postures or equipment, either. Ben Landers, CEO of the online marketing company Blue Corona, mentally connects the day’s goals with his long-term business plan during his daily 30- to 90-minute “one thing” walk. “I visualize our company’s three-year goal and work backward, visualizing the one thing I can do this year, this quarter, this month, this week and today, so that I’ll be measurably closer to achieving it,” he says.
2. Tend to your to-do list.
Almost all small-business owners keep a running to-do list. The most successful ones review and refine it every morning, making sure it ties back to and drives their overall business plan. We could make a long list of their best practices. Some stick to three tasks and “eat the frog” (or complete the most dreaded one) first. Others set time limits or organize by the day’s schedule. Steven Friedman, president of the legal filing service Platinum Filings, practices his own version of the 80/20 rule by making a long list, picking the tasks he’s best suited for, and then delegating the rest. Cultivating your personal to-do list style may take some time and experimentation, but it pays off.
3. Give thanks.
Even when you’re calling the shots, waking up and going to work each morning can be a challenge. To start the day on a positive note, some small-business owners dedicate time to gratitude through journaling, spoken affirmations, reflection or even customer interactions. Personal trainer Jenna Applebaum checks in and shows her appreciation for clients with motivating emails. Mitch Goldstone, president and CEO of ScanMyPhotos.com, reviews the previous week’s orders and sends flowers to two dozen customers every weekday as both a thank-you gesture and a way of recognizing the memorial services, anniversaries and life milestones that brought them to his site.
4. Get smarter.
Savvy entrepreneurs do their homework, knowing that they’ll never graduate. They recognize that there’s always something new to learn. The easiest way to keep up — or better yet, stay ahead — is to make education a daily priority. Fortunately, there are a number of resources available for staying informed and acquiring new skills, including free online tools like the Wells Fargo Business Plan Center. Angela Mader, founder of the fitness company Fitlosophy, reads The Wall Street Journal during breakfast and listens to informative podcasts on her way to work. After researching competitors’ websites over his morning coffee, massage therapist James Smith is now building his own. Bonnie Joy Dewkett, founder of The Joyful Organizer, devotes 10 minutes to a long-term project that might otherwise go on the back burner. “In that short amount of time each morning, I’m investing in the future,” Dewkett says. It makes all the difference.