As a leader, when you have a lot on your plate – whether it’s work or family responsibilities– it can feel like things are spiraling out of control. In my own life, one of the most challenging periods was when I was caring for a deathly ill family member.
What I discovered during this experience was that the ability to weather life’s storms doesn’t require willpower – it requires building a personal fortress. This fortress isn’t built in a day; it’s built over a lifetime through habits and routines. And although your fortress won’t prevent the storms from arriving, it will allow you to thrive when they occur.
Below are two sets of routines – one for mornings and one for evenings — that I’ve used over the years to build up my fortress. Take the time to decide which ones would work best for you and then commit to implementing them.
You need to hit the ground running right when you wake up, and that means coming up with a morning routine.
If you roll out of bed feeling miserable about having to go to work, or spend your morning fighting with your kids, your day is off to a bad start. One or two things go south—a bad phone call, or an argument with a co-worker— and you can easily get railroaded. A morning routine is the first layer of bricks in the fortress. You have a lot of options for what to incorporate in your morning routine, but this is what has helped me:
- Journaling: This is something that I only started doing recently, but it’s made a huge difference. Today, I take about 5 minutes in the morning to journal, and I do a lot of freestyling depending on what I think I might need to explore. Sometimes I focus on my long-term goals, other times I ask myself questions to get me focused on my goals for the day.
- Meditation: I never believed in meditation, but once I started, it was eye opening because it was so incredibly powerful and helped me remain balanced and grounded.
- Reading: This was hard for me at first, but I kept at it and managed to make it a part of my routine. I don’t always have time to actually read, but I’ve gotten in the habit of listening to audiobooks when I exercise and run.
- Spirituality: It could be reading the Bible, but it not need to be religion. Spirituality comes in many forms, but making this a daily practice first thing in the morning can help get you in the right mindset and lift up your spirit.
- Exercise: This can be going to the gym or just walking your dog, but the point is to get you active and your body moving. When you move your body, you just feel better, and the simple act of moving can create the momentum you need to be productive throughout the day.
Bookend the Day
I didn’t have an evening routine until a few years ago. I avoided it for the longest time because I’m usually fried at the end of the day, but I learned that taking just 15 or 20 minutes makes a world of difference and can help me wind down and prepare for the next day. Here are some of the basics I’ve used to help me relax at night:
- Cut out distractions: Often people have the TV or something else on that can pull focus from what we’re trying to do. Even social media is a major distraction. Social media in moderation is fine, but if you get sucked in, it becomes a complete waste of time, so get to a place mentally where you can focus on the task at hand.
- Avoid the bad stuff: Don’t fill your mind with negativity right before you go to sleep, because that will set the tone for your night and can carry over into the next morning. It’s good to stay informed, but you can look up any information you want the next day.
- Look for positivity. What lifts you up? What puts you in a good mood? Find what you love and try to make it part of your evening routine. That might be spending time with your kids or reading something inspiring and uplifting.
- Avoid stress: Some people take the time to go over their schedule for the next day, and that’s what I used to do as well, but I’ve learned it only stresses me out. I now deal with that the following day because that’s what works best for me, but if it will put your mind at ease to get your schedule in order and plan the next day, make that a part of your nightly routine.
- Check in with yourself. I constantly strive to be better every single day, and I do that by checking in with myself at the end of the day. How did I make a difference? Who did I compliment? How did I contribute? What act of kindness did I perform? What act of kindness did I perform that went unnoticed? What am I grateful for?
Figure out what works best for you. You can start by trying some of these suggestions or incorporate your own. Have patience, though, because not everything is going to be a good fit for you and your life. Simply focus on what best allows you to jump start your day and then wind down in the evening, giving you time to relax so that you can enjoy a good night’s sleep.
Written by Bill Murphy.
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