As entrepreneurs, we often work late into the night, only to roll out of bed the next morning, picking up where we left off. One day bleeds into the next, making it seem as if we're always doing, doing, doing and searching for new and novel ways to do more.
The truth is, your desire to do more and get more done will lead you not toward greater productivity, but toward burnout, if you don't take time each day to check in with yourself, and set your intention for how you want your day to proceed.
Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying, "If I had six hours to cut down a tree, I'd spend the first four sharpening the axe." There is no evidence to suggest that Lincoln actually said this, but the point is not lost on us. How we prepare to do the task before us determines our success.
How you spend your morning makes or breaks your day. Do you spend it rushing to get out of the house, waiting in the school drop-off queue or speeding through the drive-thru for anything to satisfy your hunger, or do you spend it in quiet contemplation of how to bring your best self forward? How you spend your mornings sets you up for the day, and how you spend your days is how you ultimately spend your life. To make a great life, let's start by making the most of your mornings.
I've written before on the importance of establishing a 90-minute morning routine. For those of you who are resistant to setting aside an entire 90 minutes, here is a 30-minute fast track I suggest for more productive and successful days.
1. Practice gratitude.
As soon as you wake up in the morning and before you get out of bed, say three things you are grateful for. By focusing on what you are grateful for, rather than on what's not working, you will set yourself up to receive more of what you're grateful for, and less of what you don't want.
I do Transcendental Meditation for 20 minutes every morning. Regardless of your meditation practice, find a place in your house where you won't be disturbed, sit in a comfortable chair and meditate for 20 minutes. This will clear your head, make you more present and focused and ready to tackle your day.
3. Read your goals aloud.
When I set six-month goals, I write a letter to my future self in great detail about how it feels to have already achieved each one of those goals. I read this letter to myself every morning, recreating the feeling of already having achieved what I'm setting out to do.
4. Set your intention.
After I've practiced gratitude, meditated and envisioned the fulfillment of my six-month goals, I set my intention for the day. What am I intending to create today? Am I looking to enroll someone into my program, to make a connection with an industry influencer or to work on product creation? Or, is today the day that I spend focusing on my family and other loved ones? Before you start your day, it is essential that you set an intention and voice it to those who can hold you accountable.
Your intention is so much more than your to-do list. There are many items on our to-do lists we never complete. Your intention is different. If your intention today is to connect with an industry influencer, for instance, then you will turn yourself inside out to do so. That's how powerful an intention is.
So that's it. Thirty minutes to prime the pump for your most effective day. I also recommend that you eat a healthy breakfast, consisting of food that will give you energy rather than zap it, and do some physical exercise to get your body moving and heart pumping.
What not to do
As important as what you should do in your first 30 minutes is what you shouldn't do. Never check voice messages, texts or email before your morning routine or else you'll get mired in other people's priorities. Rather, set aside the first 30 minutes of the day to check in with yourself, quiet your mind, anticipate your long and short-term goals and set your intention. Then and only then are you ready to meet the world anew, serve others and bring your best self into your work day and your life.
By Nick Unsworth, Entrepreneur Magazine