How you start your day is key.
The first hour of your day is critical for the further course of what your day will look like. A mindless start into your day sets you up for failure to achieve. Here is why and how to create mindful mornings that will boost your days.
Let’s be honest. If you are like many of my clients when they begin a coaching program, chances are high that you did indeed check your e-mail on your iPhone, BB, etc. while you were still lying in bed.
You may even feel good about it. It may give you a feeling of being on top of things, replying early in the morning and late in the evening, being on it all the time. After sifting through your e-mail, you may even have succombed the temptation of Facebook, Twitter, reddit, Google+ or whatever social hobbies you fancy.
While this may indeed help you to be on top of things, it will certainly not get you on top of your life.
Here are the three reasons why you need to stop e-mails in the morning.
e-mail is the social acceptable way of other people to own your agenda
The article entitled What time do top CEOs wake up that appeared two years ago in the Guardian demonstrates how much even people we think of as high achievers let the pseudo-urgency of e-mail intrude their personal space. A consistent theme in this article is: Wake up early, start your day with your mail. This may be a good idea to be on top of your 24-hour business, but certainly not good for mastering your own life.
E-mail is an instrument to get others people’s priorities on top of your agenda. Unless e-mail is indeed driving your priorities by design, e.g. if you’re a service center agent receiving tickets by e-mail, there is no single reason to be on it at all times. Start answering your mail gets you quickly dragged into a seemingly never ending maelstrom of reading, replying, following up, digging elsewhere for supplemental information, and will almost certainly end up with a couple of browser windows that haven’t been at all on your agenda.
Wakeup time e-mail exhausts your willpower before you’re even fully awake
How often are you getting emotionally involved when reading and replying e-mails? Seldom? Sometimes? Often? Sharing status updates, issues, risks, personal issues and alike by e-mail almost certainly causes an emotional response.
More often than not, there will be at least one message in your inbox that will cause an immediate stress response. As we know from cognitive and neuroscience, stress draws on the sole battery in the brain. That battery is the same that provides energy for an array of brain functions, including high-order functions such as decision making.
Deplete your energy by coping with early morning stress, and you will have less energy left to rationalize, make intelligent decisions, and act strategically rather than short-sighted and emotionally driven.
Wakeup time e-mail adds more work
How often have you just read your e-mail without acting upon it? Just to have a quick look, if there is something urgent?
It’s obvious that this adds additional work (just reading e-mail) into your agenda, on top of the acting upon e-mail. It’s also obvious that it adds a risk that follow-up action gets forgotten, since you already read these mails you didn’t act upon, and they no longer appear your mail client’s unread list.
Answering your e-mail (or even only read it, which is a total waste of brain power, because you’re going to stuff information and emotion into your brain without being acting upon it) first thing in the morning is totally disrupting your day and setting you up for failure.
Use your mornings to set you up for achievement
You really want to start your day by setting you up for success, physically, and mentally.
You want to energize yourself, bring your brain up to full speed, clarity and focus, being able to maintain this state for the day. You want to create clarity about your objectives for the day, about what needs to be done to reach your goals. You want to create an emotional state in which your productivity and creativity can thrive. You want to be present in the moment, embrace your challenges, and all of that with the certainty that you will achieve.
Case summary: Julie came to see me and in our first conversation she said: “I struggle being motivated. I don’t want to get up in the morning, I don’t want to go to work.” Followed an in-depth analysis of what her current life looked like. I quickly found that she was, you guessed it, starting her day reading e-mail, and from that very moment onwards her agenda was driven entirely by other people. She was firing off e-mails at 6am, before she even got up, and went on throughout the day.
The unreflected use of e-mail and social media is a symptom, not the root cause. The root cause is the lack of a clear personal purpose and vision, and because of that a clear view on what the personal priorities for the day are.
I teach my clients to start their day with a structured morning routine that is designed to prime mind and body for success and achievement. No e-mail, no social media, no other people’s priorities. Just your own.
After their morning routine, they are energized, motivated, engaged, present, and ready to achieve their clearly defined goals for today that will help me achieve their mid- and long-term goals. They are ready to live to their life’s purpose and vision, and to achieve.
How does a morning routine look like?
Here is my morning routine as an example:
15 min – bathroom – including brushing my teeth (to get fresh), dry brush from head to toes (to get the lymphatic system up to speed and it gives my entire body a nice energy kick), and a cold shower (to get the circulation going)
10 min – morning journaling – journaling is important to get my thoughts clear, and to put any leftovers, dangling ends, and creative sparks to paper (or in this case into the Day One iPad app). I always finish with at least one expression of gratitude. Also, I am keeping a dream journal, which helps me to improve my lucid dreaming skills.
15 min – yoga – awakening of the body and the mind.
20 min – meditation – I use the iPhone app Headspace for guided meditation. Meditation helps me to calm my brain, get more focus and clarity, as well as increased presence. I am a great fan of mindfulness, and meditating is a powerful tool to sharpen the mind, and increase awareness.
20 min – walk the dog – run with my dog gives me fresh air and I either use the time to think, or to listen to an audiobook for my personal development.
10 min – define my objectives of the day and finetune my agenda using the DART principle (you will read about that in my upcoming book), that gives me a perfect flow for the entire day.
I’m usually getting up at 4:30am, so by 6am I already have had 90 minutes of quality time for my personal development, and I am primed for a fantastic day.
How to get started
A good practice to begin with is journaling. Begin the daily routine with
- 5 minutes evening journaling recapping the day (achievements, learnings, outlook, gratefulness)
- 10 minutes morning journaling (reflection, objectives, gratefulness)
Add other activities to your personal preference. Whatever gives you positive mental focus and preparedness for a great day works.
What is your morning routine looking like? Comment please! I’m curious to hear what you’re saying!
Any questions? Use the comment box to ask!