How You Start Your Day is How You Start (and End) Your Year
How you start your day is predictive of how your day is going to end. And a consecutive series of good starts is predictive of not just how your year is going to start but also how it ends.
Over the weekend, I saw a quote from country star and fellow native West Virginian Brad Paisley that inspired this post – “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.”
At this time of the year, there’s all kind of advice about how to have your best year ever. Like Brad, I’m going to keep it simple. Start each day in a way that sets you up to be successful for the rest of the day. If you’re like me, you won’t succeed every day in following through on that intention, but holding it practically guarantees you’re going to have more good days than bad.
The beauty of this approach is it’s about baby steps. Small incremental progress that, if you’re consistent with it, makes things better step by step by step. Let’s say, for instance, that the small step of taking a little time each morning to set your day up for success leads to a week with a five percent better outcome. Five percent doesn’t sound like much until you consider that a five percent improvement week over week for 52 weeks leads to a year that is 260 percent better than last year.
So, how you start your day isn’t just predictive of how your day is going to end, it’s predictive of how your year is going to end.
How do you start? Here are some practices that have served me well singularly and in various combinations over the past 30 years.
Start the night before – Make smart choices about what you eat, what you drink, and when you go to bed and you’ll have the mental and physical energy you need to start the next day off on a positive note. The older I get, the more I realize that it’s a total tradeoff between the big meal and an extra glass of wine that messes with my sleep, and feeling ready to go the next day. Some nights I choose the meal and the wine, but more and more I choose the moderation that enables a better tomorrow.
Morning review – If you use a Life GPS® or some other personal planning framework to organize your life, review it a few mornings each week and just ask yourself, “How am I doing?” If things feel like they’re on track, keep doing what you’ve been doing. If there are areas where you’re not meeting your own expectations, look for just one thing to adjust today that would be relatively easy to do and likely to make a difference. You’re not solving for 100%; you’re solving for just one small step that can make today incrementally better.
Morning visualizations – Take a few minutes early in the morning to scan your calendar for the day. For the key conversations and meetings, pause and ask yourself two questions. What am I trying to accomplish in that event? How do I need to show up to make that outcome likely? That minimal amount of preparation through visualization can make a huge difference in what you accomplish during the day.
Morning reflection – Read a book that you can absorb in five-to-ten-minute chunks that sparks reflection on the purpose of your life and how you want to act on that during the day to come.
Morning meditation – This can be as simple as taking three to five deep breaths from your belly, using an app like Calm or Headspace, or just sitting quietly for a few minutes with the intention of not thinking about anything in particular. It just needs to be a routine that’s long enough to let your mind settle, tune in, and reveal whatever it is that is going to most need your attention during the day.
Morning pages – Take a few minutes to fill up a page or two in a journal about what’s on your mind. This practice organizes your thinking while creating a record of your year. At the end of the year, you have an amazing tool for assessing what worked well, what could have worked better, and what you spent way too much time worrying about that actually turned out great in the end!
Morning movement – Try to get at least a few minutes of physical movement each morning. If you’re a morning exerciser, get your workout in. If that’s not you, take a few minutes to do some simple stretches or go for a short walk before you start working. You won’t just feel better, you’ll think better along with creating a sense of accomplishment that sets a positive tone for the rest of the day.
So, that’s what’s on my list of tried-and-true ways of starting my day so that I’m happier with the outcomes that develop daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. It’s about practice, not perfection but the practice definitely helps. What’s on your daily start list for this year? Share yours in a comment on LinkedIn or email me.
And, before I forget, happy new year (created one day at a time)!
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