Consider your last week and answer the following question:
Which days were good and which weren’t?
Now think about those individual days for a moment.
Did the good days include intention, surprises and self-care? Did the bad days include procrastination, lack of priorities and getting off track?
Like most people, I used to open my bleary eyes and grab for my phone to check my email and social media. No wonder my days got sucked up by everyone else’s priorities–their interview requests and questions and requests for guidance or advice.
By the time my husband called to ask what I’d like for lunch (yes…we’re one of those gooey, over the top couples that insists on eating lunch together on work days), I’d responded to Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram comments, blog comments and emails but I hadn’t spent the morning on what I prioritized.
And, our mornings usually dictate the rest of our day.
So, you probably know where this is going. I’d start my work in the afternoon feeling like I was already behind, continually interrupting my day by checking every new email and Instagram comment.
One day, I’d had enough.
I’d done a bunch of things for other people, but I hadn’t checked off one single thing from my own to-do list.
Now, my days look a lot different because I start them with intention.
Most weekdays, I don’t check my email, social media accounts or Voxer messages until my husband calls to say that he’s coming home for lunch. Between that call and when he arrives home is the first chunk of time I set aside for email and social media. I try to get as much of it done as possible during that time period–which is sometimes 10 minutes because we already have what we’re eating at home or 20-30 minutes because my husband has to pick up the ingredients or takeout.
This has not only changed how much I get done, but it’s also changed my happiness level.
When I start my day with email and social media, I’m a lot less happy throughout the entire day than when I start my day with writing or watercolor painting or working on something for Sunday Society.
I want you to be happier and I know that if you start your day with more intention, you’ll most likely enjoy your work days a lot more.
Let’s walk through the most important pieces and then you can download and print the one-page guide that will help you do this every morning.
It’ll only take you 15 minutes and we all have 15 minutes to put towards our happiness, right?
1. Your word or message for the day.
Have you ever bought a new car and then suddenly you notice all the other cars with the same make and model when you’re driving around town? Have you ever prioritized something, like email marketing, and all of a sudden you notice a webinar and blog post and book on the topic? Have you ever thought about dying your hair a light lavender color and then see 12 different pictures on Pinterest where the each woman’s hair is lavender (by the way, I think that looks so cool and wish I could pull it off)?
We can’t possibly pay attention to all of the stimuli around us, so our brains tend to choose the things that are most important.
This is called selective attention.
“This type of selective attention is what scientists call inattentional blindness–that is, we see what we’ve decided merits our attention, and we’re remarkably blind to the rest. So the priorities we set for ourselves really matter.” -How to Have a Good Day, Caroline Webb
You want to start the day by telling your brain what to focus on.
What’s the message or word or thought you want to be the center of attention?
2. Your big goal for the quarter.
“Having explicit objectives that are challenging and specific–with clear timelines and performance criteria–leads to better performance. Setting a goal is about making a commitment in words, and words have the power to create a better future.” -Happier, Tal Ben-Shahar
What’s the main thing you want to achieve this quarter?
If you’re anything like me, you want to do it all, but unfortunately that usually leads to accomplishing nothing.
If you pick your one main thing and keep it top of mind, you’re going to be much more likely to achieve it.
When you’re stating your goal, here are a few rules to follow: a) make sure it’s something actually achievable (read more versus read 25 books) b) make sure that the language is positive (stop eating junk food versus fill half my plate with fruits and veggies at every meal).
If you haven’t been making a lot of progress towards this goal, ask yourself what it will feel like to achieve this goal. How will it improve your life or business? How will it affect your day-to-day life?
3. Top three priorities/tasks.
For years, I’ve used this top three method and it’s completely changed my productivity. Every single evening before I wrap up for the day, I write down the top three tasks I want to achieve the next day.
I don’t give myself a to-do list that includes 27 tasks.
That’s overwhelming and will immediately make you want to run back to bed and hide under the covers. And, it can’t be accomplished so you’ll feel like a failure at the end of the day and you’ll spend way too much time trying to decide what to do next because you know you can’t do it all.
Trust me on this one. I wouldn’t lead you astray.
Commit to three tasks–three things that you can absolutely get done. For example, you might include write next week’s blog post rough draft, do a 15-minute Facebook live and reply to all comments on my last blog post.
Here’s the magic in the three task to-do list: you waste no time trying to decide what to do, you feel amazing when you accomplish your three tasks and you often keep going because you’re high from tackling your to-do list like a pro.
And, my best tip for this section is to make sure that at least one of your top three is helping you to get closer to your quarterly goal.
4. Self-care and exercise.
Running your own business can take over your life.
You miss lunch and only realize it when you check the clock and it’s 4:28 and your stomach is rumbling. You don’t get out of your chair all day except when you race to pee (because you held it until the last possible moment). You go to bed at one in the morning when you have to wake up at six to get your kiddos ready for school.
You need a reality check and I’m going to give it to you.
When you don’t take care of yourself, your health, and your mental health, your work suffers.
You’re irritable with your husband because he forgot to take out the trash. You’re feeling depressed and you have no idea why. Your head pounds at the end of the day, making it next to impossible to fall asleep.
Your work, health and mental health will improve if you spend a small amount of time taking care of yourself.
“People who exercise are healthier, think more clearly, sleep better, and have delayed onset of dementia. Regular exercise boosts energy levels; although some people assume that working out is tiring, in fact, it boosts energy, especially in sedentary people.” -The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin
Each day, make this a priority and write down how you’re going to eat healthier, move your body and get rest. It could be as simple as dancing to one song every 90 minutes, eating lunch away from your computer so you can enjoy what you’re eating and getting eight hours of sleep.
6. Obstacles and contingency plans.
“An excellent way to reinforce your positive intentions, strangely enough, is to make sure you spend a little time on the negatives. By this, I mean thinking honestly about what’s likely to get in the way of achieving your goals, so you can address those obstacles head-on.” -How to Have a Good Day, Caroline Webb
Look at your top three priorities. What might get in the way of achieving them?
Maybe your kid might get sick and have to come home early. Maybe your sister might call with a “crisis” and need to talk for an hour. Maybe your kids might need more help on their homework than usual.
You now need to create a contingency plan for each of those obstacles.
Let me give you a few examples:
If my sister calls wanting to talk for an hour, I’ll tell her that I’m working and will call her back this evening when she can have my undivided attention.
If my husband can’t pick up the kids from school and I have to do it, I’ll work thirty minutes later before going to bed.
If I start to get a headache, I’ll lay down in a dark room for an hour and if it gets better, I’ll decrease my task list from three to two items.
7. Visualize it.
Now comes the fun part (which some people think is a little “out there” but actually works).
I want you to imagine going through your day, getting those three tasks done, dealing with any obstacles that pop up. Play it in your mind as if it’s a movie.
Visualization is something that many pro athletes swear by.
When I was a diver in middle and high school, I had a routine for every dive meet. When they called my name and the dive I would be doing, I would climb the diving board steps and then I would shut my eyes and visualize myself doing the dive beautifully.
It absolutely made a difference. I went from earning lots of third and fourth place ribbons to getting second or first place at every meet.
“Mindfulness brings many benefits: scientists point out that it calms the mind and elevates brain function, it gives clarity and vividness to present experience, it may help people break unhealthy habits, and it can soothe troubled spirits and lift people’s moods. It reduces stress and chronic pain. It makes people happier, less defensive and more engaged with others.” -The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin
After you visualize your day like a movie, check it off your PDF.
Are you the type of person that gets motivated by rewards?
I must raise my hand and admit that I do.
If I tell myself that I can read A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas for thirty minutes if I write my blog post draft and post on Instagram, I’m more motivated to do the work.
This doesn’t work for everyone but it works for a lot of people.
“Studies of people who have successfully started new exercise routines, for instance, show they are more likely to stick with a workout plan if they choose a specific cue, such as running as soon as they get home from work, and a clear reward, such as a beer or an evening of guilt-free television.” -The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg
Your reward could be taking a bubble bath or doodling or watching Friends reruns.
This also circles back to self care. I don’t know about you, but all of my rewards help my mental health. They make me calmer and give me more energy for work the next day.
There you have it. The eight things you should consider every morning before you start your work. Start your day intentionally and see how it impacts your productivity and happiness.
In the comments below, I would love to know one thing you do in the morning that helps you have an awesome day.