04 July 2011, by A. Cedilla
I’m going to tell you something you already know about making your mornings flow smoother. Ready?
To have an easy start to your day, create a system where you set up needed things the night before. This is the short, polite version of “Prior planning prevents piss-poor performance.”
Even in this economy, people’s lives have a way of establishing equilibrium. We’re hardy little survivors, we are, and life has a way of settling into a state of stability as we adjust to our new circumstances. And whether you’re a free-lance artist, a stay-at-home-parent, a line worker, an executive or an executive assistant, you have a work day: a time of day where you labor.
That equilibrium posits that you have a relatively steady life. For the most part, you can safely expect things to run on a certain schedule. You can assess and prep for the situations you expect, you can prepare the things you need for those events, and you have a hold on what’s going to happen in your regular workday and work week… that’s why you have routines.
Routines grow around things we need to do on a regular basis, everything from how you wake up and feed yourself in the morning, to the way you set up your office and desk, to the things you attend to first as you balance your workload, all the way down to your before-bed rituals.
You know what you’re going to do? Prepare the way for it to go smoothly.
You know what you want to happen? Set it up so it will.
You know what you need to do? Stop over-analyzing it and do it.
Simple, well-thought out set-ups take the guesswork and perfectionism out of the process, and over time become automatic as well as well-practiced. Honesty also helps a lot; When you know where you trip up and what trips you up the most, you can deal squarely about what you will — not just can — do about dealing with your weak spots.
- To get the blood thumping and the body fully oxygenated , have your exercise gear — shoes, shirt, shorts and music player/earphones set up — right next to the alarm set across the room so you have to get up to shut it off.
- Quick breakfast ? Mug, oatmeal, microwave. Go-cup sits right beside the coffee-maker, with your keys, flash-drive, company ID beside that.
- Today’s outfit set out the night before, tomorrow’s out waiting in line.
- Post-It with today’s top 3 priorities, or smart-phone note-taking app to remind you of what they are.
- A nicely visible (and accessible, if in electronic format) workweek calendar indicating the big tasks for each day, and expandable to monthly and six-week view (for rolling over the months).
- A big-ass whiteboard with today’s/this week’s/this month’s MVT’s (Most Valuable Tasks, or projects) and the corresponding progress reports under them
Fore-thought is pre-thought : You think things out and plot the routes in your head now so when you’re attending to the Important Thing, you won’t have to trip over the trivial details ; you’re already attending to the Big Deal. The Big Deal is the why behind the Important Thing. It’s what makes it an Important Thing.
And part of pre-thinking is dealing with irritation ahead of time by knowing you’ll be irritated, and doing what needs doing anyway.
Many times the importance of a goal is equal to the level of irritation and discomfort you endure in achieving it. Only, the most common reaction is to avoid the discomfort, and so discount the value of the goal in question.
For example: OK, health is important, but it’s a struggle to get up, get dressed, and walk around the block at dang o’ clock in the morning. You know it’s vital, and you don’t do it because it’s a PAIN.
Deal with it. Don’t grouch “before doing it,” because that just kill momentum. Ignore the bed calling for you, just move away from it and toward the gear you set up. Go to the bathroom. Wash your hands and then wash your face with cold water to wake up. Maybe do a few jumping jacks, or if your downstairs neighbors would object, a few squats and push-ups. Set the alarm for the most hideous sound at the highest level your neighbors or room-mates can tolerate, and put it across the room. In your exercise shoes.
Another way to think ahead is to write your week out in daily chunks. If you’re physically more active in the morning, attend to the heavy loads while you have the energy and save the light loads for when you’re running low and need to recharge anyway.
- AM – heavy lifting – when you have the most energy, attend to the most important tasks you’ve set for the day, like focus-intensive writing, for example.
- PM – lighter loads – when you’re at the half-way mark, you can spend your energy on clean up detail, like after action analysis and further planning, and follow-ups (through email and voicemail), etc.
Or the reverse if you think better in the morning and need to move around in the afternoon, if you run the usual eight to five route. If you’re on night shift, adjust accordingly.
Stress is inevitable, but having to deal with unhealthy levels for long-term isn’t. By using distance, either in space or time, and applying reasonable action, you can make your easy mornings set the tone for the rest of your day.
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