16 things you should do at the start of every workday

Reblogged from Forbes, without the annoying slideshow.



You can do better than this!

16 Things You Should Do at the Start of Every Work Day

The first few hours of the work day can have a significant effect on your level of productivity over the following eight—so it’s important you have a morning routine that sets you up for success. With the help of career and workplace experts Lynn Taylor, David Shindler, Michael Kerr, Anita Attridge, Alexandra Levit and Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, I compiled a list of 16 things all workers should do when they get to work each morning.

Arrive on time.

This may be obvious to most people—but some don’t realize that showing up late can not only leave a bad impression, but also throw off your entire day. “Getting in on time or a little early helps your mindset for the day and helps promote a feeling of accomplishment,” says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant.

Take a deep breath and meditate.

“Literally,” says Michael Kerr, an international business speaker, author and president of Humor at Work. “And do something to focus in on the here and now.” Many people come into work harried because they don’t leave enough time at home to deal with “home stuff,” he says, “and then they’ve barely survived another horrendously stressful commute, and then they dive into the madness.” Slowing down, taking a moment to pause, and creating a routine around centering yourself can work wonders, he adds.

Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD, organizational psychologist and author of The YOU Plan, says after the deep breath, give yourself a few minutes to meditate and get settled in.“This is a good way to set the tone of the day,” he says. “Don’t allow yourself to be bum rushed by frantic co-workers lost in their own confusion. It’s not unusual to wake up to a long backlog of e-mails just screaming for your attention. The challenge is taking a moment for yourself before diving head first into your day.” He says there is a tremendous power in mediation when it comes to settling your mind. “Starting off your day right is really about setting your own tone and meditation is a great way to begin.”

Eat a proper breakfast.

“Breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day to help us down the path of not only being more physically fit, but also to have the mental energy needed to tackle your workday,” Kerr says.

Start each day with a clean slate.

You may have to attend to projects or discussions that rolled over from the previous afternoon—but try to treat each day as a fresh one, says David Shindler, founder of The Employability Hub and author of Learning to Leap. “Leave any crap from yesterday behind, tap into what’s happening at the outset of the day, get organized and ready or hit the ground running, if that’s what is needed,” he says.

Don’t be moody.

You’ll want to pay attention to your mood and be aware of its effect on others. “First and last thing in the day is when emotional intelligence can have the greatest impact,” Shindler says. So if you’re not a “morning person,” try to suck it up and have a positive attitude when you arrive at the office. Grab a second or third cup of coffee, if that’s what it takes.

Kerr agrees. “Your first hour at work can set your ‘attitude barometer’ for the rest of the day, so from a purely emotional point of view, I think it’s an important part of the day,” he says. “One morning grump can infect an entire team and put everyone on the wrong footing.”

Organize your day.

The first hour of the work day is the best time to assess priorities and to focus on what you absolutely need to accomplish, Kerr says. “Too many people get distracted first thing in the morning with unimportant activities such as diving right into their morass of e-mail, when there may be a whole host of more important issues that need dealing with.” Make a to-do list, or update the one you made the previous day, and try to stick to it. However, if your boss has an urgent need, then it’s OK re-shuffle your priorities within reason, Taylor adds.

Anita Attridge, a career and executive coach with the Five O’Clock Club, a career coaching organization, says when you prepare your morning to-do list, determine what must be done today and what can be completed tomorrow, and prioritize accordingly. “Also determine your peak working time and plan your schedule accordingly,” she says. “Use your peak time each morning to do the most important tasks.”

Be present.

Even if you’re not a morning person, you need to be awake when you get the office. Especially if you’re in a leadership position, it’s critical to be present, mentally and physically, and to communicate. “One of the biggest office pet peeves I hear from employees is about how their immediate supervisor just blows by them in the morning without so much as a smile,” Kerr says. “Taking the time to connect with your team members is essential, and doing the seemingly small things–making eye contact, smiling, asking them about their night, and checking in on what they may need help with–helps you as a leader take the pulse of the team, and helps set the tone for all the employees.”

Check in with your colleagues.

“A quick 5 to 10 minute team huddle can also be an effective way for many people to start their day,” Kerr says. Make it a short meeting, with no chairs, have everyone share their top goal for the day, and share any critical information the rest of the team absolutely needs to know, he says. “Doing the huddles helps people focus and more importantly, connects everyone with the team. And by sharing your goals for the day publicly, the odds of achieving them rise substantially.”

Organize your workspace.

Clearing off the desk and creating a neat workspace sets a tone for the rest of the day, says Alexandra Levit, the author of Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success. It can also help avoid confusion. “While most communications are through e-mails and texts, if your boss or co-worker stopped by looking for you and left a sticky note about a last-minute meeting occurring in ten minutes, and it’s sitting on a mound of mail or papers, you’re already behind the eight ball,” Taylor says. “Also, for many, it’s difficult to think clearly, easy to forget important reminders, and just plain stressful if you feel you’re fighting the battle and the tornado of mail or paper is winning.” Ideally, you’d clear whatever you can out the night before so you can have a fresh start before you even turn on your computer in the morning. But if not, make sure clearing your desk takes precedence over things like checking e-mails and chatting with co-workers in the morning.

Remind yourself of your core purpose at work.

“As corny or as trite as this may sound, I’d suggest that you take a moment each morning to remind yourself of your core purpose at work,” Kerr says. Connecting to a sense of purpose is one of the most powerful motivators there is, and taking just a moment each day to reconnect to what truly matters in your job and what you are ultimately trying to achieve and for whom, can help you feel more motivated and help you focus on the priority areas in your work.

Don’t be distracted by your inbox.

This one is difficult for most people—but the experts agree that you shouldn’t check your e-mail first thing in the morning. If you do, only read and respond to messages that are urgent. “Priority-scan your inbox,” Taylor says. “Not all e-mails were created equal. Hone your ability to quickly sift the wheat from the chaff and address what must be answered on an urgent basis.” Attridge agrees. “Only respond immediately to the urgent messages so that you control your morning activities.” There will be time during the day to respond to the less urgent e-mails.

Why must you put off checking e-mails? “For far too many people, e-mail and the web can serve as huge timewasters and distracters, particularly in the morning,” Kerr says. “Once you start checking e-mails, it’s a click away from watching the funny video someone forwarded you, which then sucks you into the abyss: checking the sports scores on line, the news headlines, the stocks, et cetera, and before you know it you’ve been watching a cat play the drums for twenty minutes and, like a poorly planned Oscars ceremony, your entire schedule is already thrown off before you’ve even begun your day.”

Listen to your voicemail.

Most people jump on the computer and ignore their phone. “While office voicemail is indeed becoming antiquated as people rely more on personal cell phones, Blackberrys and e-mail, some people do leave voice messages, and if you ignore them, you could miss something important,” Levit says.

Place important calls and send urgent e-mails.

If you know you need to get in touch with someone that day, place the call or send the e-mail first thing in the morning. If you wait until midday, there’s a greater chance you won’t hear back before you leave the office. “There’s nothing more frustrating that trying to complete something and not having access or answers from people you need because your day time hours were lost on other matters,” Taylor says. “If you have your questions ready and your e-mails fired off during early peak hours, by the end of the day you should have what you need.”

Take advantage of your cleared mind.

“Many people feel that their brains function best in the morning, and that morning is when they are most creative and productive,” Kerr says. “Consider whether you are making the best use of your brainpower and plan ‘high brain’ activities in the morning.”

Plan a mid-morning break.

“This is the time to assess where you and take time to revitalize yourself so that you can keep your momentum going,” Attridge says.

Some things just deserve to be shared.

I found this by chance over on Reddit, serendipitously, without looking for it, in a random discussion about Portland, Oregon. There were a lot of humorous comments – the article had to do with a dispute between passengers and a cabdriver, but then the conversation drifted into the nature of Portland as a city.

And then this gem popped up, written by /u/fwaht. I’ve corrected one or two things for spelling and style, but it’s otherwise unedited. The added emphasis is mine.

The “Successful” Person

If you’re what society calls a “successful” person, then you’re probably making more than two standard deviations above the mean, and you probably have a family. And you’re probably working a 9-5 job, or something like it, where you spend roughly ⅓ of all the waking time you’ll ever have doing it. And your employer wants your best time, the time where you’re most energetic and willing to get things done. Your other time is probably spent in a lethargic daze staring at a television (and as you age it gets worse). And why are you watching television instead of doing something you can look back on in ten years be proud of? Because only unsocialized losers haven’t seen the latest episode of American Idol or the latest sports event.

The average company is not run as a meritocracy. If you were a boss, would you want to see the person that quietly does excellent work and all but ignores you and everyone else get the promotion? Or would you want your “friend,” the guy that talks with you about football and your kids and makes you happy, to get the promotion even though he doesn’t do such great work?

No, you need to play the game. Most every business is its own Machiavellian-themed nightmare or kingdom depending on the ease with which corruption and deception and social lubrication comes to your character (and if it doesn’t come to you easily, then you will fall behind those that are better at it).

And what do you win after having beat this game? Retirement? You mean 10-20 years of low-quality life where you have the freedom that you could have had all your life if you chosen a life of less responsibility, of placing less importance in what’s expected of you than trying to do what you’ve always really, really wanted to do. Did you need those new cars, that large house and expensive furniture, the expensive meals, and so on and on? No, they made you happy for a short while, but then you just slid back into normalcy – you were on a hedonistic treadmill. Here you are, 60 years old, with all sorts of aches and pains, and remembering the senility your parents drifted into around this age. Remembering how you wished they just died quickly while feeling your intelligence diminish every year as it has since you reached 50.

And on your deathbed, what are you going to look back on and be proud of? Your children? They will die soon, and so will their children. In a short while you’ll be long forgotten as they will, and any trace of your genetic legacy will have disappeared – you aren’t Genghis Khan. Nothing of you will remain. And why should you care about such a thing after you’re dead anyway?

The “successful” person has sculpted their future and life into a hell worse than the one given to Sisyphus, and yet as miserable and meaningless as they are, they still come to think they’re better than others somehow.

While this may sound a bit negative, it’s a very accurate distillation of business and working life, and a wakeup call to those who find themselves on the treadmill. This would be a good place to share another good tidbit I found while surfing around:


In the United States, it’s getting harder to build a successful business or enterprise on a shoestring; increasing regulation, coupled with the consolidation of wealth at the highest levels, has made it more challenging to get off the treadmill than it was for great-grandpa who started life manning a vegetable pushcart in Little Italy in 1900. Harder, but not impossible.

If a person is really interested in success that lasts, they won’t be able to measure it by the standards found in Corporate ‘Murica. From where I sit, true success can only be measured by the number of people one has served, and the level to which one has raised the human condition. Efforts of this nature will ripple through time, whereas the accumulation of stuff and the generation of progeny who will walk in the same corporate rut will, as fwaht has noted, be forgotten within a span of time so short as to be insignificant in social terms.

I am proud of my children – each of them is looking for ways to make a difference rather than to die with the most toys. It’s not easy, but keeping one’s eye fixed outside the societal box of corporate norms is the only way to ensure that one’s efforts count for something after our bodies have returned to dust.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Kel-Bowl Pac: Good ideas never die.

Kel-Bowl-Pac 2

In a previous post, I used this clever innovation to springboard an exploration of my earliest stirrings as a prescriptive grammarian – an affliction I am pleased to say I was able to shake off over time. It was a good idea, especially for its time; and even though the patent on the name has expired, and nothing is said about it any longer, the idea persists.

Friday we were coming out of a showing of “Now You See Me” – phenomenal show, by the way, I recommend it highly – and they were giving out sample packs of “Krave,” a new cereal that would rival Calvin’s “Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs” for unhealth:



But as I happened to examine the back, the light was just right and there they were… the Kel-Bowl-Pac perforations. I would be curious to know if anyone ever uses these little boxes the way they were designed, or if it’s just one of those manufacturing holdovers that no one ever thought to do away with. Whatever the case, it gave me a smile.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Illusion of Choice



The above graphic (click on it for a larger version) shows how many brands and products are controlled by just nine food conglomerates. The chains go so deep that unless you have a roadmap, it’s almost impossible to know if a product you’re buying comes from an independent producer or one of the giants. Moreover, a number of these large entities have been in trouble with environmentalists and regulators for various advertising violations, health issues, or environmentally-unfriendly practices. If you’re trying to be a responsible consumer, it becomes a lot harder when there’s so much misdirection.

The good news is, the Internet has so much information available that with patience and diligence, almost any question can be answered. Just don’t trust sources like Ask.com or Yahoo! Answers, which are tantamount to the stupid leading the blind.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


What brand is your state famous for?



Click to enlarge

Found at designtaxi.com. Maps on the Web has created a map that shows the most famous brand to come from each state in the US.

For obvious reasons, the map is creating a stir among those who don’t agree with the particular choice made to represent their state. Regardless of how it all shakes out, I found the map intriguing as I only knew the origins of a few of these brands.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


New York Market, 1917

Interior retail stalls at Washington Market in New York City in 1917. New York Word-Telegram & Sun Newspaper Collection



While this is much larger and brighter, it still has the same feel of an indoor market I found in Toulouse, France in 1970:

Europe Trip - Jun 1971 - Toulouse Market


Of course, such places still exist: here Quincy Market in Boston:



I’ve always loved spaces like this, and I think we need more of them.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Übercrappy and Filth

Abercrombie CEO Mark Jeffries still only wants ‘thin, beautiful’ customers. There’s only one problem.



Gacked from Reddit

This kind of corporate douchebaggery is, unfortunately, legal… but it certainly doesn’t make for a responsible corporate image. But A&F has a long, long tradition of being shallow and exclusive; I present for your gratuitous enjoyment a cartoon by Al Frueh, published in The New Yorker in 1926 (click for a larger version)

Abercrombie and Fitch


I remember buying one of A&F’s lighter-fluid-fueled hand warmers in their NYC shop as a kid, because it looked cool:



It’s basically just a slow-burning lighter, but it worked great. Aside from that, I don’t think I’ve ever purchased anything from them over the subsequent 50 years. But then, I’m not one of the “beautiful people,” so that’s OK according to them.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

22 Years Later, Waiters Still Work for $2.13 a Hour

A recent article at Bloomberg highlighted a situation that has long irked me. And I’m part of the problem, and I’m groping for answers.


One thing about the Bloomberg article that I’d change is “waitresses” -> “servers.” Obviously the problem is industry-wide, and not limited to those who are y-chromosome-challenged.  But whatever. That’s a subject for a different  essay.

I’ve written about tipping before. For reasons outlined there, it’s not optional. If you eat out, be prepared to tip, and tip well. The people who bring you your food depend on it, as do numerous others in the restaurant who don’t get tipped directly.

So here’s what I struggle with. While states can set their own minimum wage numbers, New Mexico and 12 other states use the federal level, which hasn’t been raised in 22 years. And even states that have raised the minimum for tipped employees tend to err on the side of parsimony. That means “being cheap.” I happen to think that paying a server $2.13 an hour (I only made less than this back in the 60’s and 70’s, when the minimum wage in Utah was $1.65) is an abomination and an affront to ethical business.

See, tips were never designed to be part of a server’s base wage… it’s just that employers saw a gold mine and took advantage of it. Restaurant owners justify their actions by saying that servers are making at least minimum wage with tips included and often more, and while this can happen, it’s the exception rather than the rule. Raising the base minimum would “also spur firings and reduced hours as thin-margin businesses grapple with higher costs, say some restaurant owners and economists.” And therein lies the rub.

According to the Houston Chronicle, in an article dealing with operating margins in the restaurant industry:

“Recent times have proven very difficult for the full-service restaurant industry. According to the NRA [National Restaurant Association, not the gun lobby], in 2010 the casual restaurants had an average operating margin of 3.0 percent with respect to gross sales. More formal $15 to $25 restaurants had an average operating margin of 3.5 percent. Fine dining establishments, costing $25 or more, had the worst margins of all, at 1.8 percent on average. Many such restaurants earned a loss, rather than a profit. Overall sales for the full-service restaurant industry came to $184 billion, a nominal increase over 2009.”

These razor-thin margins are built on the base + tip model, and if restaurant owners are required to quadruple their waitstaff’s wages and still keep the same pricing structure, the business goes under – which means loss of jobs for people and loss of tax revenues for localities, neither of which is a good thing. There’s no way to balance the equation without changing some variables, and the only one I can see that can change is price.

As Americans, we have developed a sense of entitlement regarding cheap eats, either in restaurants (supported on the backs of the servers), or in the grocery store (supported on the backs of low-paid migrant workers.) Raising prices for dining and groceries to give a fair living to the people who provide them would be the right thing to do… but would go over like a lead balloon with much of the public and would be a logistical nightmare – push over that domino and the whole house of cards would come tumbling dow, to mix metaphors.

You can see why I’m conflicted. I like eating out. Boycotting restaurants to make owners pay a living wage is the worst kind of self-spiting solution, because it would simply force many eateries out of business. The problem is multifaceted, and there are better minds than mine working on addressing it. One of them is Gina L. Darnell, a former server who authors Wiser Waitress. Here’s her wish list.  It’s not too much to ask.

In the meantime, all I can do is try to make a dining experience as pleasant for my server as they are trying to make it for me… and leave a decent tip.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Alternatives to Amazon

In Germany, they’re fighting hard for the independent bookseller. Just found this German version over at Glaserei, noting that ZVAB and AbeBooks are both owned by Amazon, which I did not know.

For us English speakers, there’s this article over at Biblio.com, which includes a link to this New York Times article: Online Shoppers are Rooting for the Little Guy

The marrow of the article:

Try these independent companies:

Marketplaces: Biblio (of course), AntiqbookLivre Rare BookMaremagnumPowell’s BooksABAA.org*, Tomfolio*, andIOBAbooks.com*
Meta Searches: AddALLviaLibriMarelibri
Inventory Software: BookHoundBookTrakkerBiblioDirector
Website Providers: BibliopolisForeseeing Solutions
Book Order Management: Art of BooksIndaba

*These book searches  provide customers with books supplied only by bookseller members of those particular organizations.

For the record, I have nothing against Amazon as a consumer – mostly because they’re convenient, and often cheaper, and I get free shipping. But I shop the indies whenever I can find them as well. I think there’s room for everyone, and losing the neighborhood stores is always a loss. That reminds me, I need to watch “You’ve Got Mail” again.

For my friends in Salt Lake, I’ll recommend The King’s English bookshop.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

“After reading this blog, you’ll think Shakespeare was a penny dreadful hack!”

Yup, that’s a “blurb”. We see them everywhere, but tend to notice them most on movie advertisements. We ignore them or laugh at them, but for better or for worse they influence our consumption habits.


Seeing the blurb on this dime store pulp made me chuckle – “damned with faint praise” is the first thing that came to mind. You’d think they might have come up with something a bit more riveting, but what it shows is the absolute necessity in some editor’s mind that a blurb – any blurb – must grace the cover.

The word “blurb” itself was coined by American humorist Gelett Burgess, author of Goops and How to Be Them (you can see a sample here.)


Burgess handed out a limited run of his book Are You a Bromide?  to a trade organization dinner, and the dust jacket included this image:


Blurbs are everywhere, and well-known authors are often solicited for blurbs about other books. The New York Times published “Riveting!’: The Quandary of the Book Blurb,” a series of essays on blurbing including a piece by Stephen King; the upshot is that blurbs are a necessary evil, but they can have a certain value. On the other hand, however, sometimes the writers should probably have stayed in bed.

In their famous parody Bored of the Rings, Harvard Lampoon lost no opportunity to make fun of blurbs themselves, publishing this page of blurbs in the front of their book:

“Much have I travelled in the realms of gold, and many goodly states and kingdoms seen; round many western islands have I been, which bards in fealty to Apollo hold. Oft of one wide expanse had I been told, which deep browed Homer ruled as his demesne. Yet never did I breathe its pure serene, till I heard Bored of the Rings speak out loud and bold!…”
JOHN KEATS, Manchester Nightingale

“This book… tremor… Manichean guilt… existential… pleonastic… redundancy…”

“A slightly more liberal reading of the leash-laws would keep books like this off the stands. I don’t know how you’ll fare, but my copy insists on long walks around suppertime, bays at the moon, and has spoiled every sofa cushion in the place,”
WILMOT PROVISO, The Rocky Mountain Literary Round-Up

“0ne of the two or three books…”
FRANK O’PRUSSIA, Dublin Gazette

“Truly a tale for our times … as we hang suspended over the brink on a Ring of our own, threatened by dragons and other evil people, and, like Frito and Good­gulf, fighting a cruel Enemy who will stop at nothing to get his way,”
ANN ALAGGI, The Old Flag

“Extremely interesting from almost every point of view.”
PROFESSOR HAWLEY SMOOT, Oer Loosely Enforced Libel Law! 

Scott Adams, author of Dilbert, sponsored a reader contest to provide a blurb for his book Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain!; the grand prize winner was Nicolas Feia who came up with this gem:

“‘What a perfect companion for my afternoon milk bath,” I thought while picking up this little gem on my way home from work. Within the hour I had laughed myself into a neck-deep tomb of butter. My wife came in, sipping her eggnog, and topped me with meringue.”

The others, however, are good for a laugh as well.


“Keep reading this blog and you’ll soon see that Mark Twain has met his match!”
SIMPLOT Q. ANALEMMAOn the Rising Value of Badgers, Mushrooms and Snakes in the Modern Commodity Market

The Old Wolf has spoken.