The time of year in which many of us pause, reflect, and consider the changes we wish to make for the year ahead has arrived. Resolution inquiries may excite you or fill you with dread as friends or family members begin asking you what you have planned for 2017. Myself, I am not a fan of resolutions set at New Year and forgotten a few weeks later. Some of us have likely abandoned several already. Research continues to show us that one thing is very clear, to be successful, you must have clear goals, but you must also become very intentional in your process toward that target. So here is a list of things you can change in your live today, that will benefit you greatly if you make them a part of your routine.
#1) Sleep - Awesome, I just told you to close your eyes more and rest, seems easy, it isn't. Researchers estimate that more than 20% of the adult population is suffering from sleep deprivation, and what many do not know is that there are cumulative effects of sleep deprivation. Even missing one hour of sleep a night over a week long period begins impacting your optimal performance levels.
The change: Program into your day at least between 7-8 hours of rest. Schedule it. If you are self-employed, you probably cannot afford a dip in productivity. So much like investing you, you have to play the long game here. Get the sleep you need, and program your day around that.
#2) Water - There’s a Slovakian proverb that says, “Pure water is the world’s first and foremost medicine.” Few of us would forgo bathing; drinking water first thing in the morning is akin to giving your insides a bath. Look, I love my coffee, but reaching for a cup of coffee first thing in the morning can shock your system into operation, whereas water will gently get your body moving. Much like the proverb above, water, is life. Our brains and bodies function optimally or not, based on hydration.
The change: Upon waking drink water. There is a debate about how much is the perfect amount. For me, it is 25.3 fluid ounces of room temperature water. Try what works for you, but prime your body for the day ahead.
#3) Contemplative Practices - Be it meditation, in all its various forms, or prayer, or mindfulness - contemplative practices, like the water starting up your body, will start up your brain. As a creative, I can think of nothing more important than getting your mind in gear and prepared for the day ahead. I might have lost you here. People of rejecting the idea of contemplative practices as being "too new age." For the record, they have been around as long as people, so I am not sure what is "new" about them. If you are a fence sitter, let me ask you this, how many of you would like to be smarter? Through research in Neuroplasticity, we are learning that contemplative practices thicken the insulation along our information highways, allowing information to flow quicker. These practices have also shown to help grow "gray matter." Sort of like upgrading your hard drive, you have more space for information, but you can't access it until you start filling in space.
The change: Just 20 minutes of reflection time in the morning will start impacting you for good. If you meditate once will you feel its effects? Perhaps to a minor degree, but real change will not be felt until you make this a habitual practice.
#4) Hunt for the Good - Often referred to as a gratitude practice, this works hand in hand with contemplative practices. By spending a few moments to reflect on good things that have happened to you, you increase positive emotions you experience. This practice can also help strengthen relationships and lead to overall greater life satisfaction. This emotional boost has been proven to increase creativity, something which we need in our field.
The change: Take a few moments as reflect on things you are thankful for, perhaps good events from the day before. During the reflection time, ask yourself how this good thing happened; what did you do you contribute to this good thing, what did others do to assist in the good thing happening, what can you do again to make the good thing more likely to happen. These reflection questions will help cement the positive emotions you felt during your gratitude time.
#5) Breakfast - Our mothers and grandmothers have told us over and over that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I am not confident that one meal is more important than the other, but I do know that breakfast is the most skipped meal of the day. We offer ourselves excuses, "not having time to eat" being chief among them. Let's think about this, how often throughout the rest of the day do you go eight hours+ without eating? Breakfast typically is breaking up the longest fast of our day, hence the word "Break fast." Getting the fuel we need to start our day is critical. If you are like me, once I get to working on editing photos and my typical business day, I am often in the zone and will forget to eat anyway. Missing this meal is just insane.
The change: Scheduling your day, the night before, becomes decisive as it ensures you will have time for breakfast. Breakfast should contain a protein source to maximize the time invested. Proteins will also keep you satisfied longer, meaning you won't need to stop to eat as often (or snack if you are watching the waistline).
#6) Exercise - Much like everything else written here, exercise helps boost our systems and start activity in our bodies. Chemically, movement is also making sure our brains get oxygen, releases endorphins, thus enhancing our mood. Since many of us will spend a significant portion of our day behind a computer planning and fitting some exercise into our morning routine will likely give us one of the few moments in the day where we will be up and mobile.
The change: Plan. Carve the time out of your day to make sure you grab at least 30 minutes of movement time. I am a brand new father, I often take my son, put him in a stroller or jogger and take him out for a morning walk or run. This morning routine is a twofold activity for me, time with him and getting the movement I need. This doesn't need to be a long drawn out process, just get in the morning activity.
Chase Jarvis, photographer, and CEO was a major influence in my adopting this steps. As first reported by Michael Brown over a year ago, in his article "6 Things Chase Jarvis Does for a Happy and Productive Day," Chase is extremely intentional in his morning process. After a year of watching Chase Jarvis' life on Snapchat, I am confident in saying his day is hectic. If he can find the time to make his morning activity as intentional as he does, so could I. In reading many books written by top producers in various fields, I have discovered that many movers and shakers have regular morning routines. I not only see this as evidence of the benefits of habit but also as proof that any excuse I offer just isn't valid. If they can do it, so can we.