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15 Things Highly Successful People Do At The Beginning Of The Day That You Should, Too

15 Things Highly Successful People Do At The Beginning Of The Day That You Should, Too

What you do when you wake up in the morning sets the tone for the entire day.

And yet, if you are like most people, you spend it battling your alarm, anxious about what the day holds, distracted by things you know you should do later, yelling at your kids to hurry up, grabbing a quick cup of coffee, and then rushing out the door. You carry the shadow of these feelings with you throughout the day, and this limits your ability to be a successful leader.

Here are 15 things that successful people do at the beginning of the day to set them up for a great day.

1. They meditate to lower stress.

Did you know that the most stressful time of the day is actually first thing in the morning? This is when our cortisol levels are the highest, which is partially responsible for things like morning rage. Meditation can help you clear away these feelings and center your mind to start the day in a calm place.

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2. They reflect on what they stand for.

To be a successful leader, you need to make decisions from your core set of beliefs and what character traits you want to cultivate. This may not always be easy to remember in the heat of the moment. Spend a minute or two each morning reminding yourself of these values, and what they mean to you: “I am kind; I am compassionate; I see the best in others; I make decisions quickly.”

3. They plan their day.

This can be done either the night before or the morning of. Check your list of To Dos and upcoming appointments, and figure out what are the most important actions for your day. Schedule them out, with a bit of buffer time. Make sure to plan only what will fit, and no more!

4. They check their email—but only for a set amount of time.

It’s important to check in with your team at the beginning of the day to make sure that everyone has what they need to have a fulfilling, productive day. However, don’t “fall” into an email pit and spend the whole morning on email: set a time limit (say, 1 hour) and address only the most important emails at that time.

5. They don’t get caught up in drama.

You may find some incendiary emails in your inbox, and be tempted to jump into the fray. Don’t. Remember, the beginning of your day is your time to set the tone for the day. Focus on the big-picture priorities and vision, and leave the drama resolution to a lower-priority time of the day, where it belongs.

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6. They stretch.

We need our bodies to perform a variety of functions for us throughout the day, so give your body a stretch first thing in the morning to get it ready for what’s ahead. This is especially crucial if you are going to be sitting at a desk all day.

7. They pay attention to their partners.

Remember that your partner is preparing for their day, too. They might need a few words of encouragement from you, or a quick back rub to relax (see #1), and a few minutes of your attention can make all the difference in the world. Remember, “successful” doesn’t just mean at work.

8. They pick up after themselves.

There is something relaxing and recharging about coming home after a long day’s work to a clean home. While it may be tempting to leave that outfit you decided not to wear on the bed, or your dirty dishes on the counter, you will pay the energetic price for it later. So take the extra 30 seconds and straighten up after yourself.

9. They leave plenty of time.

If you start your day by rushing around and stressing out that you are going to be late, that will be the tone you set for the rest of your day. Is that really how you want your day to go? Instead, get up plenty early, honor your time commitments, and get out the door when you say you will.

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10. They “plant the seeds” for tough projects.

Take a look at your schedule and anticipate what the most challenging parts will be. Start to mentally prepare yourself, and reflect on the open questions that need answering. Your subconscious brain will continue to think about these things throughout the day, and will often come up with the solutions for you.

11. They take their vitamins.

For many people, the morning is the most consistent time of the day, and so lends itself well to doing daily tasks like taking your vitamins, or remembering to give your pets their medications.

12. They avoid distractions.

As tempting as it might be to pop in on Facebook or get that one remaining chore done, it’s usually a good idea to eliminate distractions so that you can focus on the important work of creating your day. Schedule time for those later.

13. They think of what they are grateful for.

It’s easy to think about everything that stresses you out, but the truth is likely that you have far more things to be grateful for than you have things to be worried about. Remind yourself of this each morning by thinking of at least 5 things that you are grateful for. You will start your day happier and more confident that life really is good.

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14. They drink water.

After not drinking anything while sleeping, your body is actually more dehydrated than you might think. Down a glass of water first thing in the morning, and you will be surprised how much that impacts your sense of physical well-being.

15. They make it all a habit.

Habits are all about efficiency. If you do the same routine day in and day out, not only will you get the results you want, but you also will spend less mental energy doing that routine because it has become automatic. That mental energy can be used for the important pursuits in your life.

Which one or two items from this list will YOU implement in your mornings? Write a note and share.

Love,

Samantha

Featured photo credit: Wiertz Sebastien – back to Kung Fu/Wiertz Sebastien via flickr.com

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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