7 WINNING HABITS TO SET THE TONE FOR 2020

1) SOLIDIFY YOUR MORNING ROUTINE

“Lose an hour in the morning, and you will spend all day looking for it”. – Richard Whately

How you start your morning, will set the tone for the day. Have you ever found yourself in the morning rushing out the door, unnourished, still tired, and forgetting to take important items? How did the rest of the day progress? I’m guessing much of the same, which resulted in poor performance and productivity...

Make your morning routine a non-negotiable, and include activities that energize and clear any heaviness or chaos, to allow space for you to be creative and maximize motivation.

Making your bed, and doing any other chores that leave your house in order will clear chaotic energy and start the momentum of feeling accomplished.

Doing 30 minutes of exercise will actually energize you, and ensure that you fulfill your fitness needs, whereas waiting until later in the day will increase the likelihood of not doing it.

Meditation will also alleviate any feelings of mental stress and anxiety, and having your schedule for the day set up, will provide you with purpose, and better equip you to manage distractions. I recommend starting off with 10-15mins of guided meditation using the Headspace app, and using Wunderlist to organize your tasks and projects for the day/week.

Writing in a gratitude journal also helps you start the day with a joyful, positive mood, which is infectious to others. Start with three things you are grateful for, then progress to writing ten. This is especially important for leaders in the workplace, because they are the source for the mood, attitudes and results of employees under their management. After all, it is scientifically impossible to be in negative emotional state while expressing genuine gratitude for something or someone.

The good news is that our body’s circadian rhythm allows more will power right after long bouts of sleep. So make the most of your morning by adding habits that set you up for a winning day, and removing those that don't.

2) ESTABLISH A DISTRACTION MANAGEMENT STRATEGY

“There are always distractions, if you allow them” - Tony La Russa

We live in a world of endless, abundant distractions, especially in this new age of the internet and Social Media. Accepting this and acknowledging the main distractions that sabotage your productivity, is the key to developing a strategy for success.

Our biggest problem is that we tend to confuse being ‘busy’ with being ‘productive’. Setting a realistic schedule or task list for the day will be the first step to combatting distractions, as it provides the direction and purpose that paves the way for productivity.

Next start a ‘distraction journal’ and honestly document whenever you engage in a activity that distracts you from completing the tasks you have on your schedule. Doing this for a day will give you some awareness, but doing it for a week will allow it to truly sink in.

The most common source of our distractions is the smart phone. Use the Screen Time app on iPhone and Digital Well Being app on Android to give you an idea of how much time you spend on your phone, which apps you are using the most, and when during the day. You can then set limits on your usage and notifications to let you know when it’s time limit is up. If this isn’t enough to curb your phone cravings, simply lock your phone away for a period of time, perhaps when an important task needs to be completed by a deadline. I recommend using a safe box with timer.

3) HIT THE RESET BUTTON BETWEEN TASKS

“Genius is the ability to renew one’s emotions in daily experience.” — Paul Cezanne

As we move through our day, we often encounter a variety of tasks and projects that require a different type of thought process, energy, and emotional investment.

Presence and focus can be affected if we move straight from one task into another, impacting overall productivity, especially after completing a task that required lots of brain power and emotional deposits.

Taking 5 – 15 minutes to step away and reset your focus and emotional state will do wonders for staying on your productivity path throughout the day.

Countless scientific studies suggest that meditation reduces stress and helps reorient and maintain one’s attention span.

Simple breathing techniques can also be effective to restore the mental and physiological levels necessary to tackle the next object.

Another important element to hitting the reset button between tasks, is setting your intention, which grounds or centers you for the next block of time. Thoughts and emotions can still linger from the previous task, and thinking or worrying about future tasks will steal away from attention needed in the present moment.

Factoring in a time buffer for between important tasks or meetings on your schedule will also help you develop the habit of regular resets.

Writing in a gratitude journal also helps you start the day with a joyful, positive mood, which is infectious to others. Start with three things you are grateful for, then progress to writing ten. This is especially important for leaders in the workplace, because they are the source for the mood, attitudes and results of employees under their management. After all, it is scientifically impossible to be in negative emotional state while expressing genuine gratitude for something or someone.

The good news is that our body’s circadian rhythm allows more will power right after long bouts of sleep. So make the most of your morning by adding habits that set you up for a winning day, and removing those that don't.

4) SCHEDULE MANDATORY PLAY

“Play keeps us vital and alive. It gives us an enthusiasm for life that is irreplaceable. Without it, life just doesn’t taste good” - Lucia Capocchione

I am always advocating the need for balance in life, and this is the main area where most humans become way off track. “I’m too busy ” or “I’ll enjoy myself when things calm down at work” are common excuses for neglecting our need for play.

Studies show that adult play keeps you functional when under stress, triggers creativity and innovation, increases energy which prevents burnout and enhances relationships.

If you have developed the habit of consuming yourself with work and other life commitments where you forget to enjoy yourself, then it’s time to develop a new habit of scheduling recreation.

So when setting up your diary for the week, schedule in enjoyable activities at least twice in the working week. By locking in blocks of play, it will support your habits of being present, focused and intentional during your work, while creating and maintaining balance in your life.

5) EVALUATE YOURSELF

“Without proper self-evaluation, failure is inevitable” - John Wooden

As a professional rugby player, one of the most important tools for individual and collective success (and often most dreaded), was reviewing video footage of the previous game. After team video sessions, we would then evaluate our own performance individually to determine what areas of performance needed fine-tuning, often with the support of a self-evaluation document.

Get into the habit of evaluating yourself in areas of your life that you are committed to grow. The simplest way to self evaluate, is to ask yourself regularly “what worked?” and “what didn’t work?”, for example after a pitch to a potential client, a colleague performance review meeting, a job interview or even after a first date!

Creating a self-evaluation practice of how well you are achieving the work/play balance outlined previously in winning habit #4, is also a powerful way to check in with how you are living, and set new goals around how you want to live. Check out this free example of a weekly life self evaluation.

6) SLEEP WELL

“Happiness consists of getting enough sleep. Just that, nothing more.” - Robert A. Heinlein

As the renowned sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus (aka the Sleep Doctor) says, sleep is the third pillar of health along with diet and exercise.

A 2018 study examined the ways different sleep issues affected work productivity. It found that people with mild insomnia had a 58% productivity loss. People who experienced daytime sleepiness had a 50% loss in productivity. And people who snore lost between 19-34% of their productivity.

It is widely publicized that 7-8 hours is the sweet spot for recommended sleep, but there are many other factors that contribute to optimum rest, including quality of sleep.

So how do you develop optimal sleeping habits? First step is to find out your chronotype, which is the scientific term for ‘body clock’. Take this quiz to determine your chronotype and reveal what you need to do to work with your body, not against it for quality sleep.

Dr Breus’s blog is full of great tips on achieving quality sleep, and I also recommend you incorporate #5 of this winning habits list, and log your hours of sleep each night, then calculate your average over the week to ensure that you’re staying on track, and doing what is necessary to prioritize your sleep.

7) REMIND YOURSELF OFTEN THAT YOU'RE GOING TO DIE

“One should die proudly when it is no longer possible to live proudly.” - Friedrich Nietzsche

Ok, I know what you’re probably thinking - ”that’s quite a strange and morbid thing to include in a winning habits list”, but allow me to explain...

So often in our personal and professional lives, we hold ourselves back from fulfilling our potential, and from truly giving ourselves the best chance of achieving what is possible for us.

This normally happens as a result of our own crippling limiting beliefs, and our tendency as humans to seek comfort and avoid emotional pain, instead of putting ourselves out there, taking risks, and getting comfortable in the uncomfortable in order to grow and generate extraordinary results in the process.

One way to remind us to start living fully, is to develop a healthy relationship with our mortality. In fact, the monks of Bhutan traditionally contemplate their death 5 times daily to alleviate any fear of dying, and therefore create happiness in their current state of being alive.

My favorite app, that is based on this concept, is called We Croak which simply sends me a notification 5 times randomly throughout the day, and attaches a quote relating to life and/or death from a poet, philosopher or notable thinker.

Steven Covey also touches on a similar practice in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” with the chapter “begin with an end in mind”. Covey suggests that we imagine our own funeral, and how we would like that to look in terms of who attends, what people say about you and what kind of legacy you leave behind. Then work backwards from there in figuring out how you are going to achieve this and live your best life.

Another version of this which I practice daily, is reading a Poem called ‘The Dash” by Linda Ellis. The impact of its words are profound, and highly effective in stirring up inspiration and motivation to get busy doing whatever it takes to achieve your version of personal and business success.

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