Before You Start Your Day, Do These Five Things.
It starts out simple enough; I open my computer each morning and before I know it I’m swimming in the deep end of distraction. My email inbox overflows, my calendar floods with meetings and my to-do list grows faster than a sponge soaked in water. Don’t even get me started on the undertow of Social Media! If I’m not careful, the storms of life will toss me to and fro like a ship lost at sea.
When this happens, the looming tsunami of deadlines and commitments threaten my sanity as everyone seems to need more from me than I have the capacity to give. I start to feel crazy, out of control and demoralized. Days morph into weeks and before I know it I’m remarking to myself “What? Is the month almost over? Where did all my time go?” To make matters worse, as I look back on my days; I feel as if I have been sleepwalking from one task to the next without ever living with purpose.
It’s like the sage words from Ferris Bueller who once said “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” So true! If I don’t take the time to set my intentions for the day, I can forget what life is all about.
To help me with this, I recently started what I call the “Desktop Ritual.” I call it this because it is what I do first thing after sitting down at my desk and before ever turning on my computer. With practice, I find this morning routine helps me to set my intentions, lower my stress level and stay focused. Not only that, this small investment of time pays big dividends by being more productive and positive throughout my day. What is this “Desktop Ritual” you may ask? Well, without any further ado, allow me to share with you this little game changer that can jumpstart your day.
The Desktop Ritual
1. The reminder: On my desk next to my computer sit a small picture frame with a quote from Aristotle that says “We Are What We Repeatedly Do, Excellence Therefore is Not an Act but a Habit.” It is oh so tempting to go straight for the power up button on my computer and jump into the fray of work. This little reminder acts as a buffer to take me to the next step in my morning ritual.
2. Five Minutes of Focused Breathing: I silence my cell phone, close the door to my office and sit comfortably with my eyes closed. It’s a wonderful experience of connecting with myself that creates a pause before jump into my day. In our noisy world, of information overload, our minds desperately need a break from the constant influx of stimulation. When I focus on my breath, I become aware of my body and slow down my monkey mind. As I breathe, I become conscious of the physical sensations. I often start with my feet then slowly scan up to the top of my head. With each breath, I focus on each part of my body. When I combine focused breathing with body awareness, I lower my blood pressure, reduce stress and calm my mind. Author and former Navy Seal Mark Divine puts it this way “Breathing is free medicine, and the daily practice of breath control leads to optimal health and longer life.”
3. Five minutes of reading: Daily reading helps me create a theme for the day. What I read often becomes my mental assignment. Consequently, reading books that are divided into daily meditation work best. I’m currently using “The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living.” It has become a tremendous source of inspiration. I used to read on my iPhone or computer but found it I would easily get distracted by the urgency of technology. I also enjoy the visual sensation of reading actual “paper books” and find it useful for taking notes in the margins.
4. Five Minutes of Gratitude and Reflection: “The 5-minute journal” is my go-to for creating a place where I can quickly reflect on what I am grateful for and set my intentions for the day. Keeping a gratitude list is something I learned that has benefited me a thousand times over and changed the way that I look at the world. I’ve found that it’s impossible to be both grateful and anxious at the same time. Establishing gratitude before my day starts creates a within me a compassionate heart and mind which allows me to sift through all the distractions that come in a day.
5. Incantation: Something I learned from listening to Tony Robins is the idea of creating a daily incantation. Every morning I say: “I open myself to the universe to be of service as my day unfolds. I am a conduit and a servant. I ask my unconscious mind to bring forth my intellect, my compassion, my humor by whatever means necessary to meet the needs of my clients.” This incantation puts me in a mind frame of servanthood rather than a slave to my schedule and opens me up to the possibility that each day brings.
The daily practice of my “Desktop Ritual” has significantly improved my focus and made me more productive. Just last week I was running late and started my day without doing these exercises. Everything went downhill, and I felt consumed with stress! I ended up missing some important information which had a domino effect on the rest of my day. It was a lesson in the importance of the focused habit that creates excellence. I guess you could say that my “Desktop Ritual” is the breakfast of champions for my soul!