How many times you had days where you had a bad start in the morning and your whole day was just a train wreck?
I’m sure we all have days like this when a thing after another thing goes wrong.
Now, compare that to a day when you had a perfect start to your day and how everything goes smooth that day. Days like these let us make huge progress on our goals and live a purposeful life.
What if you can have a day like this everyday?
It’s possible with a little bit of effort. Now, we know that life is unpredictable and sometimes even a good start doesn’t guarantee a successful day. But, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work on perfecting the beginning of our day.
Why We Need a Good Start to Our Days Anyways?
If you have ever came across a construction site, you probably have noticed time and energy that goes into putting together foundation for a building before layering walls and roof on top of it.
Most buildings require strong foundations because life and safety of any building mostly depends on its foundation with contributions from other factors.
Giving a strong start to your day is just like laying down a strong concrete based foundation before a house can be built upon it. If foundation goes wrong, life of a building will be in jeopardy. Similarly, a successful day is built upon a strong foundation – a solid start to a day.
Every spiritual teacher, philosopher or any other successful person in the history of mankind preached the need of having a good start to a day as it dictates rest of the day.
So, what does having a good start mean and how you can setup yourself for a successful day?
It means putting yourself into a position from where you can launch towards your goals with full energy and focus. It means you are in control of what’s happening around you especially during first few hours of your day. It means you are getting prepared both mentally and physically for what’s coming ahead during the day.
I am going to share strategies with you that can help you to build a strong foundation for your day. Some of these, I discovered through trial and error. Other, I have borrowed from successful people who lived throughout the human history.
#1. Successful Day Start at Night
There’s a lot of debate on how much sleep we actually need. Some people recommend taking bare minimum and promote insomniac culture. Others recommend taking full eight hours of sleep.
I’m not a sleep doctor but one thing I learned that if you want to perform at your highest level, you need to sleep. Duration of sleep varies from person to person. You can easily figure that out for yourself through little bit of self experimentation.
You can’t expect to have a successful day when you are sleep deprived. Protect your asset by giving it the rest it requires. Only required. Not less not more.
#2. Fix Yourself Before You Start Fixing Other Things
If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life.
Waking up a little bit early in the morning and having the opportunity to work on yourself before you start working on something or for someone else will prepare you to deal with opportunities and challenges throughout the day. This could be in a form of a prayer, meditation, reading, exercise etc.
It’s up to you to decide if you want to wake up early or not, but make sure you have few minutes dedicated only to yourself before you put yourself out there in the world for others.
Give yourself the time you deserve first thing in the morning. If not more, at least give yourself 10 minutes.
#3. Make Your Bed
If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed
— Admiral William H. McRaven – US Navy Seal
This might sound completely bizarre to you but this tiny task is super powerful. This task is a part of everyday routine of US navy seals and if not done right, makes them candidate for a punishment.
It’s small enough to accomplish under five minutes and big enough to give you a sense of accomplishment to start your day. You complete one thing and then another and then another.
Additionally, at the end of the day you can look forward to a bed that’s already made.
Take a minute to make your bed in the morning and start your day with an accomplishment.
#4. Automate Your Routine and Make Less Decisions
Routines allow us to perform repeating tasks without thinking too much about them. You don’t want to wake up and then decide what should you do next. This should come automatically to you so you can preserve your willpower for more cognitive demanding tasks happening later in the day. To start, just create very simple routine and keep refining it until it gets to your desired level.
Three common examples to get you started:
- Want to dress better for work without spending much time? Have all your clothes ironed and lined up for all work days.
- Want to read more in the mornings? Have your reading topic defined a night before so you can just pick up a book and start reading.
- Want to exercise before a workday begins? Have your workout clothes and workout plan ready a night before.
Try to bring as much automation as possible to your early morning tasks and preserve your willpower.
#5. Break Fast at Home
It doesn’t matter if you wake up early or not. What matters most is where you eat your breakfast. Don’t be one of those people who come to work, drop of their stuff and go to get a coffee and end up spending 20 minutes.
Stop wasting your precious time at coffee shop line ups and use that time to make progress on your biggest tasks. It can take you anywhere between 10-20 to get breakfast and settle down. Why not use that 20 minutes to get work done and also stay healthy at the same time? 20 minutes of productivity in the morning can be equivalent 40 minutes in the afternoon.
#6. Become an Architect of Your Day
How often do you take out few minutes in the morning to plan your day?
Most of us don’t. As David Allen, author of Getting Things Done says, we just try to put out fires as they arise.
As a result, we end up wasting too much of our precious time everyday due to bad planning. Now, you don’t need a 1000 lines long detailed plan. All you need is 5-10 minutes to think hard about what you need to accomplish on any given day. We can only do so much so why not focus on the right things instead of trying to do many things and end up achieving nothing.
Having no plan is like driving in an unknown city without google maps these days. Every new day is like an unknown city as it presents new opportunities and challenges.
Pro tip – If you work on your passion project/hobby by waking up early then do that first and do the planning for rest of the day when you get to your workspace.
Identify three or four big things you need to accomplish during the day. Anything that gets done in addition will be considered a bonus.
#7. Start With MIT or Passion Project
MIT doesn’t mean I am going to suggest you to start with Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It’s acronym for a most important task
If you have a non work related passion project and you wake up early enough, then you should start your day with working on it. Making progress on your passion project will motivate and energize you to achieve more for rest of the day.
If you don’t have a side project, that’s fine too. Do you have a big and important task that you need to get done anytime soon? Or do you have an important and urgent task that you need to get done but you procrastinate to start it?
If yes, tackle it first thing in the morning when your willpower is at all-time high. By leveraging your willpower and mental energy, even 30-45 minutes on tasks like these every morning can help you make a huge progress.
If you don’t know what are the urgent and important tasks for you, then take out 10-15 minutes to decide that. It’s like setting up a roadmap for success. Don’t wait for another email in your inbox to decide what you are going to do next. Be in charge of your goals and destiny.
Pro Tip – Finding it difficult to find motivation to wake up early? Find a passion project/side hustle and work on it every morning before work day begins.
Begin your work day with either a passion project or MIT.
#8. Control your Commute to work
If you have a some kind of commute to work, you can make effective use of this time by investing that in yourself. It could be either by consuming or producing.
Consuming means consuming valuable information via listening to personal development podcasts, audiobooks or spiritual sermons.
Producing means you produce something valuable such as personal relationships. Best way to do this is to call a friend or a family member who you don’t see very often because they live in different city/country and might be on different time zone too.
Listen to something valuable or call up a friend/family member during your commute to work.
I hope at this point you have decided to improve how you start your day. To make it easier for you, I have outlined step by step plan which you can use to do that.
- Go to bed at a time where you can get at least 6-7 hours of sleep (8 is preferred)
- Start waking up little bit earlier (10-15 minutes) than your standard wake up time.
- Make your bed either upon waking up or after freshening up.
- Use time you created by waking up early to work on yourself via meditation, reading or exercise.
- Make some breakfast while listening to a good music.
- Either eat breakfast at home or pack it to take it with you to work.
- Use your time in commute to consume valuable information ( through podcasts or audiobooks) or to produce relationships (by calling a friend or a family member)
- Once at your workspace, spend 10-15 minutes planning top 3-4 things you need to accomplish today
- Pick your most important and urgent task as a first task to work on.
Don’t limit yourself to a mediocre day. A slight change to how you start your day can have large impact on the rest of your day and can turn it into a successful day.
Most people don’t take out few minutes to set up solid foundation for a successful day and accept mediocre days as a reality.
Will you? Let’s talk in comments.