My top life hack is this:
Training my brain to be laser-focused first thing in the morning on ONE top priority.
But let’s be clear about one thing: I wasn’t born this way. Nobody is.
Here’s how I used to start the day:
- When the alarm went off, the first reaction was to hit the snooze button. At least twice.
- After acknowledging that yes, it was time to wake up, the follow-up reaction was to grab the phone and scroll through emails.
- At this point, brainstorming would begin: what are all the things that need to be done and by when.
- And in the background, the brain was never idle: all sorts of random thoughts would rush through—what’s the weather like, would the commute take long, how much time will be left after meetings to actually get work done, etc.
And when I started training my brain to focus, here’s what happened:
- When the alarm went off, I’d open my eyes and feel calm about the day ahead.
- I would start enjoying every part of my morning routine, from doing yoga to making the first cup of coffee, without feeling overwhelmed by what lies ahead.
- I also started feeling more optimistic about getting things done and getting closer to my professional and personal goals.
The time it took me to do this brain training exercise: 5 minutes.
Here’s what I started doing.
I asked myself one question in the first 5 minutes after I wake up:
What is the one thing I am committed to completing today?
I feel there are many benefits to starting the day this way.
- It puts me in the present moment: When I ask the question, I immediately have to think what’s important for that particular day. It forces me to “zoom into” my priorities.
- It’s less overwhelming: Even though I may be juggling a dozen or more responsibilities during that day, I know that actually finishing one thing is doable and realistic.
- It keeps one thing top of mind: There’s absolutely no way I can forget my top priority if I start my day thinking about it. It’s always there as a reminder.
- It helps me ignore distractions: I’ve noticed that I’m less likely to pay attention to things that aren’t related to my number one priority.
- It encourages better planning: I start working on my one thing early, then I can gauge how much more time it will take to finish it later in the day.
So how can you train your brain to be laser-focused with this one question?
- First, write it down: Take a large sheet of paper and write the question in big bold letters with a thick marker.
- Next, put it somewhere where you’re most likely to look at it: It can be on your bedroom or the bathroom wall, next to the mirror so it’s easier to see.
- Then, look at the question and ask it out loud. You can do this as you’re brushing your teeth or getting dressed.
- Take a minute to think what’s on your agenda for the day. Then pick one thing that has top priority for you and give an answer out loud.
- A final tip: Start working on your one thing early. For one simple reason: your brain is more capable of tackling analytical and complex problem-solving tasks in the first few hours of the day. For most of us, this is how our inner biological clock (also called the circadian rhythm) works. That’s why it’s super helpful if you make the most of those first hours and get the hardest work out of the way, so it doesn’t get pushed back to the evening when you’re more tired, more cranky, and more inclined to procrastinate. It’s a small change that you can implement easily, which will give you more freedom and better control of your time. And the best part: it makes you feel like you own your day!