Getting a Great Start to Your Day
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
– Marcus Aurelius
“Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.”
It’s still dark as your alarm bell goes off. You pull up the curtains and the cold winter is waiting for you outside of the window.
As you stumble out of bed and into the shower a new day begins.
So how can you make it more likely that it will be a good or even great day?
Well, in my experience, what you do early in the morning often sets the tone for the rest of the day.
So let me share 7 simple tips that have helped me to create both better mornings and days.
Plan the night before.
Put down just 1-3 of the most important things you want to get done on a to-do list.
By keeping the list very limited it becomes easier to actually get the most important thing(s) done. And to not start procrastinating by doing a few of the less important and often easier tasks that I know I always used to add to a longer to-do list.
Prepare the night before.
Reduce the stress during your morning by getting the simple details out of the way the night before. Pack your bag. Prepare and pack your lunch. Put your keys, wallet etc. in their “home” if they are not already there so you can quickly find and grab them before heading out the door.
Keep a simple reminder on your bedside table.
What you see during your first minutes after you have woken up can in my experience have quite the effect on the morning and as an extension of that the whole day.
So try putting a small note with a reminder on your bedside table.
Three things you could put on that note are:
One of your favorite quotes. A powerful and timeless quote is one of the easiest ways to charge the mind with positive emotions and to find a helpful perspective. So write down one of the own favorite quotes. Here’s a list of 101 of them about happiness if you want some help.
Set a low bar for happiness. I love this simple reminder. I tell myself: “Today I will set a low bar for happiness”. And then I keep that thought in mind for the rest of the day as best I can. It helps me to feel grateful for the little and everyday things that I too often take for granted like having a roof over my head and all the tasty food I have available. It makes it easier to stay positive and to find a simple happiness throughout the day.
Write down your most important whys. Last week I described a quick exercise that I use to recharge my motivation again. It involves finding your deepest and most personal reasons for why you want to make a positive change in your life. Keeping these most important reasons written down on your bed side table can give you a powerful start to your day and make it easier to stay on the right track from the moment you get out of bed.
When I start my day slowly and keep doing things at a slow pace then it becomes easier to keep the stress away. It becomes easier to focus on what I am doing and keep my priorities in mind.
When I go slow I stay in the present moment more of the time and so less negative feelings come my way and I appreciate the everyday things in life more because my attention is focused outward and not aimlessly inward towards what happened in the past or may happen in the future.
When I start my day slowly I sometimes get worried that this slow pace will mean that I get less done during my day. But at the end of the day I most often discover that I got more done. Because I did things well the first time and because when I go slow I tend to spend less energy on draining feelings and on having my attention bouncing around between many things.
And so I have more energy during the last few hours of my workday to spend on things that matter to me.
Get some positive information into your mind over breakfast.
Start your day with something that does not depress you or makes you feel powerless to change your life or the world in some small or bigger way.
Add inspiration and optimism by for example:
Reading one or a couple of new posts from positive, funny or uplifting blogs or websites.
Listening to a podcast that boosts your motivation.
Reading a chapter from a book that inspires you.
Start your workday with the most important task.
Find the most important task on the very limited to-do list you created. Do it first thing when your workday starts.
This task is in my experience often quite hard so it is easy to fall for the temptation to procrastinate. If you feel that urge, then just be still and do nothing. The most powerful part of the impulse to procrastinate by checking email or Facebook passes pretty quickly.
When the worst is over then go easy on yourself instead of trying to push yourself hard.
Tell yourself that you will only work for 1-3 minutes on this important task. Then you can stop if you like. But you may not want to do that once you have gotten started. This seems to be the case for me most of the time.
Because getting started is most often the hardest part.
Build a right thing string.
Doing what you deep down think is the right thing will make you feel good. It will boost your self-esteem and put a spring in your step for an hour or more.
One way that I like to do that is by creating what I like to call a right thing string.
Here’s what you do:
Do something that you deep down think is the right thing. Do it right now.
Give a genuine compliment to someone at work or in your life. Help someone who seems lost with directions. Unclutter your work space for 2 minutes. Go and work out.
Then add another thing that you think is the right thing to do.
Have an apple instead of an unhealthy snack. When you feel like judging someone in your life or on TV or in the newspaper try to find a kinder and more understanding perspective. Smile and ask how someone’s day is going (and really listen to the reply).
Then add another thing. And another.
Build a small string of doing the right things during for example 10-30 minutes to boost your energy and the positive feelings you have about yourself and your life.
Continue the string during your day as best you can.
After you have added a right thing to your string – no matter how small it is – make sure to take a few seconds to pause and to appreciate the good thing you did.
I usually think one of these things to myself:
That was a good thing to do.
That was fun! (and then I smile to myself).
This boosts the positive mood within and ups the motivation to add another thing to your string.
If you break the string, no worries. Don’t beat yourself up.
Take a deep breath and then start a new string instead.