There was recently a great article by Kevin Daum on Inc.com called "6 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Everyday". As Daum lays out in the opening paragraph, it is so easy to lose sight of what is important everyday (both what are priorities are but also to recognize this great life we get to love everyday). So whether it is during times of stress, times of disappointment or frustration or times of abundance and joy, we should all take a few minutes in each day to do an exercise that grounds us. Some people like meditation, some people like prayer, others just need a sanity check. As always, I like to share a bunch of tools and you choose what works best for you! Here are some of the ways I think about the six questions.
1. Why Am I Here?
My goal in life is to have a positive impact on people every day. To help them feel happy and successful and fulfilled. Whether that is the person behind the register at the grocery store, my inner circle of loved ones or the people I interact with through work. It's important to remember this so no matter what comes my way, I can stay focused on why I do what I do, how to weigh any decision that is put in front of me, how to prioritize my day. Even if I have to have a difficult conversation with someone, I feel like if I approach it with this mentality, I can make it the least painful conversation as possible. And hopefully they will look back on it a good turning point or a helpful moment in their life, not the sad/frustrating/angry/disappointed moment they might have felt. Hopefully, anyway!
2. What More Should I Do?
Ironically for me, the way I do more is to remember I can't do it all, especially not every day. So each day I determine the one thing can "do better". But that's it, just one :). And I make sure each day I pick something that enhances a different part of my life (going back to the whole self!). It can't always be about my career, which is my default. It needs to enhance my soul, my relationships, my wealth...or my career. That can be finding time to write this blog, or finding a 20 minute exercise routine, or taking my dog on a nice long walk, or suggesting a impromptu date night with my husband, or reaching out to a friend, or sending a proposal to someone for a workshop, or reading a good book. Or letting myself sleep in one morning...if my body actually lets me!
3. What Can I Let Go?
One day last week, the thing I needed to let go was trying to control a couple of upcoming events and just let them happen organically. A birthday present for our goddaughter might not arrive right on time. I can take a few days to figure out the timing of a couple of things for my birthday, and that's ok. Waiting to see where my family ends up in the city at whatever time we want to get dinner - and not trying to force something ahead of time. This may shock you, but not everything has to be scheduled to a T! I know, this goes against every fiber of my Type A personality, and I truly have to focus on letting go of something every single day. the other day, I was getting really frustrated that I wasn't completing a piece of a project by my internal deadline. No tragedy was going to happen if I kept working on it the next day. I wasn't going to miss an important deadline with others. This was just something I wanted to check off on my list. But it just wasn't happening. For whatever reason, my brain was just not in that space that day. So after a few hours of fighting it, I finally just put it to the side and started working on something else. The next day, my brain felt like cooperating and I got the task done in an hour. If I had not gotten to that point where I let it go - I would have wasted time and energy forcing it that day. Instead, I got something else done and was able to successfully complete both tasks in the exact same time frame, just a different order. And that's OK!
4. How Can I Be More Efficient?
My most recent example of this is a super simple thing I started doing but has made a huge impact. I don't have an internet browser open on my laptop unless I need it that moment. Let me explain. I used to always have my Gmail open in the background at work. Why? Who knows! I really don't get that many emails during the day. But what if?! What I realized was that it was extremely distracting! And it would lead me down a rabbit hole of other websites every time is clicked over to Gmail. It was only 1-2 minutes down the rabbit hole. But still. Anyone who has done studies on "multitasking" will tell you that it takes way more time to shift gears each time you switch to a different task then if you focused and completed one task and then moved on to the other. You waste more time multitasking than you realize. It is actually more efficient to just focus, and really focus, on the one task in front of you. So my keeping the browser shut and only opening it when I need it (literally when I need it or as a planned mental break) has really helped me stay energized and driven throughout the day...aka more efficient!
5. Whom Should I Thank?
This is an extra important one for me. I am good about doing the obvious thanks throughout the day (thank you for that information, thank you for doing that thing, thank you for that extra effort). But I forget to thank the person that makes my current life possible. The person that does all the things that you can't see, but you feel their impact. This person is my husband. He has always had my back. He is my biggest fan but my most honest critic. He keeps our life moving forward even when mine looks like a tornado. And I absolutely do not thank him enough! So let me just do it now - maybe I can gain some extra points :) Thank you Bray! Thank you for always supporting me and my endeavors. Thank you for standing by me in tougher times. Thank you for being my partner and my best friend. Just thank you!!!
6. How Should I Start Tomorrow?
For some people this will be a "to do" - what is the top priority tomorrow that I should tackle first? For some people, it will be organizing their day (and determining what that top priority is). For me, it's making sure I start the day with a deep breath. I am such a planner, that I know (as much as possible) what I need to do tomorrow from a task perspective. But what I need to think about is how I'm going to start each day on a relaxed, positive foot. If I am unexpectedly stressed at the beginning of the day - my day is shot. So to avoid as much stress as possible in the morning, I have created a routine that allows me to get up earlier each morning and take advantage of that extra time. I take my time walking the dog and enjoy the quiet around the neighborhood of the early morning hour. Of course it's easy now when it's warm and light out - talk to me in December when it's still dark and only 5 degrees and see how I'm doing now! I also found a 10 minute yoga routine to do in my living room to help center myself and stretch out the bones & joints that are starting to creak more and more! Then, I take my time getting ready, not running around like a wild person. And if the subway is a little late, which living in my neighborhood of NYC is a high probability, it's ok. My new schedule gets me in to the office over an hour earlier than most others. Finally, when I do get to work, I close my door and take 90 seconds to close my eyes and breathe. True preparation for whatever the day is going to throw at me.
So that was my six questions! How would you answer them? Which one really gave you a wake up call or a clearing of the mind? What is the hardest one for you to answer? Let me know if you ever need help thinking through any of these or need help coming up with a plan to address/put into action anything you learned by answering these questions! It only helps if it changes your approach or behavior in life!