Since beginning my own business, I’ve become increasingly fascinated with learning how to intentionally improve my day. This blog post is for anyone seeking proven, practical advice for kickstarting your inner optimist to get things done.
For over twenty years I worked for successful mega-corporations around the world. In that time, I could always rely on my co-workers to rally my spirits. My corporate digs were always highly social, abuzz with weekend stories of hikes, gaming, booze, movies… and more booze. Despite the propensity for “meeting overload,” working with large teams made it a lot easier to get out of first gear in the morning. Put simply: I wasn’t doing it alone.
Since jumping out of the nest and starting Ansell Creative Group in 2015, I’ve had to develop an entirely new way to generate my own positive flow. Humans are inherently social creatures and when starting your own ‘thing’, dealing with that inner voice can be a huge challenge.
I once traveled on an international flight sitting beside an accomplished anesthetist. [Try saying that 5 times fast!] She explained that doctors in her field still don’t fully understand why certain drugs are so effective at what they do. They simply rely on the fact that the drugs do indeed work. I’ve found that these tips work in the same exact way.
So if you find yourself struggling to get into a positive mindset, the following tips are here to help.
Tip 1: Reinvent your list of things to do
Something that became a crushing weight to my mental happiness was the dreaded list of 26 tasks to accomplish each day. Sounds familiar?
I would find a notepad [one of three – more on that later], and write out my jobs for the day. Often the list would become a small novel and spread across two pages. I recall adding various asterisks before each task to denote their importance, as if that made things any more efficient. On average, I would likely achieve 40-60% of the tasks on my laundry list each day. Rather than make me feel great, this engendered a dangerously negative pattern of disappointment in myself. There were no wins; only regret, stress and an even bigger f**king list for the next morning.
I was mortgaging away the potential happiness of tomorrow, with a depression-inducing technique from today.
I decided to take some revolutionary and highly radical advice from the inimitable Gina Best, who suggested that I bring it back to one task a day.
Gina phrased it best by asking me a simple question. “Chris, what’s the one thing you can complete today, in order to make your day feel like a total success?”
I began repeating this question aloud to myself every morning for the next month. Even the mere act of SAYING it, instantly made me feel confident, relaxed and ready for action.
Inevitably what began to happen was completion of not only the main daily task, but also many others as a feel-good bonus. Positive accomplishment inspired more accomplishment. Since the change, whenever I feel myself slipping into an aimless direction I literally repeat the magic phrase and can re-prioritize my entire day on the spot.
One of the reasons I feel this technique works so well is because we all generally have one looming deliverable that sub-consciously burrows into our anxieties. The end of month report for the CEO, the artistic presentation to a tough client – these are the heavyweight tasks that snowball into a mental tsunami.
When you give yourself permission to list just one task, you’ll automatically identify it first because your sub-conscious already knows what’s keeping you up at night. Trust me, the remaining 23 tasks can truly wait, because the elation of successfully completing the big thing will overshadow everything else. Remember, the 23 other tasks were always a crutch to protect you from facing the most important task – so flip the table and start with just one thing first.
Tip 2: Empty the dishwasher & make your bed before you leave for work
Inspired by a great friend and terrific leader, Jo Burba, the following tip falls exactly into this same category. As an entrepreneur building an operation from scratch, business development and networking comes with the territory. The difficulty arises from always needing to feel a sense of self worth, often during periods wherein new prospects and projects are slow or get delayed.
Personally, I found it very easy to give in to a sense of panic and emptiness when waking up in the morning during these slower weeks. Ultimately you are what you do, so delayed projects had a nasty habit of making me feel lethargic and low when waiting to get started.
Jo referred me to some great advice that he’d discovered from the wonderful insights of Naval Admiral William McRaven.
“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”
Little things in life matter. Folks, I am a stout believer in karma. Good energy out = in good energy in. PERIOD. Doing the dishes, making your bed – these are small household rituals that represent outbound karmic gestures. Call me crazy, but I actually visualize ‘waves’ emanating from my hands when unloading the dishwasher and stacking dishes. I know these small waves will come back to me – and you know what? They almost always do!
No matter how insignificant and how un-witnessed these small contributions will seem at first to you, just do them anyway.
It’s a winning strategy you’ll thank Jo and the Admiral for later!
Coming next week will be the continuation of this thinking, with further tips and ways to approach your day. Thanks for reading and feel free to share thoughts, comments and questions on our ACG facebook page!