What you do when you wake up in the morning sets the tone for the entire day.
And yet, if you are like most people, you spend it battling your alarm, anxious about what the day holds, distracted by things you know you should do later, yelling at your kids to hurry up, grabbing a quick cup of coffee, and then rushing out the door. You carry the shadow of these feelings with you throughout the day, and this limits your ability to be a successful leader.
Here are 15 things that successful people do at the beginning of the day to set them up for a great day.
1. They meditate to lower stress.
Did you know that the most stressful time of the day is actually first thing in the morning? This is when our cortisol levels are the highest, which is partially responsible for things like morning rage. Meditation can help you clear away these feelings and center your mind to start the day in a calm place.
2. They reflect on what they stand for.
To be a successful leader, you need to make decisions from your core set of beliefs and what character traits you want to cultivate. This may not always be easy to remember in the heat of the moment. Spend a minute or two each morning reminding yourself of these values, and what they mean to you: “I am kind; I am compassionate; I see the best in others; I make decisions quickly.”
3. They plan their day.
This can be done either the night before or the morning of. Check your list of To Dos and upcoming appointments, and figure out what are the most important actions for your day. Schedule them out, with a bit of buffer time. Make sure to plan only what will fit, and no more!
4. They check their email—but only for a set amount of time.
It’s important to check in with your team at the beginning of the day to make sure that everyone has what they need to have a fulfilling, productive day. However, don’t “fall” into an email pit and spend the whole morning on email: set a time limit (say, 1 hour) and address only the most important emails at that time.
5. They don’t get caught up in drama.
You may find some incendiary emails in your inbox, and be tempted to jump into the fray. Don’t. Remember, the beginning of your day is your time to set the tone for the day. Focus on the big-picture priorities and vision, and leave the drama resolution to a lower-priority time of the day, where it belongs.
6. They stretch.
We need our bodies to perform a variety of functions for us throughout the day, so give your body a stretch first thing in the morning to get it ready for what’s ahead. This is especially crucial if you are going to be sitting at a desk all day.
7. They pay attention to their partners.
Remember that your partner is preparing for their day, too. They might need a few words of encouragement from you, or a quick back rub to relax (see #1), and a few minutes of your attention can make all the difference in the world. Remember, “successful” doesn’t just mean at work.
8. They pick up after themselves.
There is something relaxing and recharging about coming home after a long day’s work to a clean home. While it may be tempting to leave that outfit you decided not to wear on the bed, or your dirty dishes on the counter, you will pay the energetic price for it later. So take the extra 30 seconds and straighten up after yourself.
9. They leave plenty of time.
If you start your day by rushing around and stressing out that you are going to be late, that will be the tone you set for the rest of your day. Is that really how you want your day to go? Instead, get up plenty early, honor your time commitments, and get out the door when you say you will.
10. They “plant the seeds” for tough projects.
Take a look at your schedule and anticipate what the most challenging parts will be. Start to mentally prepare yourself, and reflect on the open questions that need answering. Your subconscious brain will continue to think about these things throughout the day, and will often come up with the solutions for you.
11. They take their vitamins.
For many people, the morning is the most consistent time of the day, and so lends itself well to doing daily tasks like taking your vitamins, or remembering to give your pets their medications.
12. They avoid distractions.
As tempting as it might be to pop in on Facebook or get that one remaining chore done, it’s usually a good idea to eliminate distractions so that you can focus on the important work of creating your day. Schedule time for those later.
13. They think of what they are grateful for.
It’s easy to think about everything that stresses you out, but the truth is likely that you have far more things to be grateful for than you have things to be worried about. Remind yourself of this each morning by thinking of at least 5 things that you are grateful for. You will start your day happier and more confident that life really is good.
14. They drink water.
After not drinking anything while sleeping, your body is actually more dehydrated than you might think. Down a glass of water first thing in the morning, and you will be surprised how much that impacts your sense of physical well-being.
15. They make it all a habit.
Habits are all about efficiency. If you do the same routine day in and day out, not only will you get the results you want, but you also will spend less mental energy doing that routine because it has become automatic. That mental energy can be used for the important pursuits in your life.