The Hour That Drives Your Day

By Dan Richards

March 4, 2014

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What’s the one hour that defines your productivity for the balance of the day?

A recent article outlined how Merrill Lynch trains new advisors to employ the 15-85 principle, where 85% of daily results are determined by what happens in the first 15% (or hour) in the office. This is a view shared by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the three-term mayor of New York and founder of the financial software company that made him one of America’s wealthiest men.

In the title of his 2008 book, Bloomberg provided practical advice to anyone running a business: Do the hard thing first. Bloomberg doesn’t subscribe to the “low-hanging” fruit philosophy, where you get momentum by doing the stuff with a quick payoff before working up to higher return but more challenging activity.  His view instead is that business people should tackle their most pressing problem first thing each morning, while they have maximum energy – and that the sense of accomplishment from putting that client call or difficult conversation you’ve been dreading behind you will energize you for the rest of the morning.

Crafting your first hour routine

Much has been written about how to get your day off to a good start – check out this example from Fast Company on what successful people do with their first hour, in which the CEO of one internet startup suggests avoiding the distractions of email until 10 am. Recently, I hosted three roundtables with high-performing advisors and asked them whether they had a regular morning routine. I was surprised by the number who did – and while there was a great deal of variation among those routines, no one admitted to spending the first half hour in the office reading the paper or checking out WSJ.com online.

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