Do you remember what you did the first hour of every school day? You went to your Homeroom. In doing so you would enter your day slowly. You would catch up with friends and get a couple of things done so you could focus on the day before you.
Those days are long gone. Most people I talk to do not have a homeroom moment. They tend to jump out of bed with an immediate on-call awareness. They check never-ending emails, get distracted by multiple headlines and topics, hear their phones ping for their attention, and simply (or un-simply), diffuse any focus that would make them feel good or be productive.
In order to have a peak performance, you need a peak purpose. Using the first moments of your day to gain clarity is a great strategy. The following are some tips on what and what not to do during those first moments. Then we’ll look at a deeper, surprising reason to eliminate being overloaded and overwhelmed as you begin your day.
For starters, never check your email first thing in the morning.1 Checking it diffuses your focus. Use that time to strategically think about the day before you. Start with the big picture of what you want your life to be. What’s important? What things could be considered bunny trails?
As you gain awareness of your “bigger” life, then marinate it with gratitude. One of the most productive habits to develop is taking time to peruse your “gratitude grid”. One result of doing this is that you will acquire an elevated confidence. You gain certainty about the tasks before you. They will make more sense. This enhances both your insight and courage to sidestep the distractions that urgently scream for your attention. This transforms a whining day into a winning day.
Focus and gratitude in your beginning moments creates winning moments. It’s easy to focus on the wolves at the door and ignore the termites in the floor. The greatest threat to our well-being are not the external wolves growling and howling. The greatest threat are those internal termites as they silently eat away at the infrastructure of our soul. The biggest threat to ourselves is—our self!
Let me give you another reason to eliminate the overloaded and overwhelmed lifestyle. Distractibility and frenetic behavior are symptoms of a trait that is unique to modern society. It has to do with overloaded circuits in the brain. It leads to what is called Attention Deficit Trait (ADT). It’s different than Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).2
ADD is a neurological disorder that has a strong genetic component. It inflicts about 5% of adults. It can be aggravated by environmental factors, but it is a genetic condition. Those with it have a propensity to procrastinate and miss deadlines. Disorganization, tardiness, drifting, and forgetfulness are common symptoms. Those with ADD tend to achieve inconsistent results in life. Some of our most brilliant people have ADD. They surprise us when they come off unsatisfactorily. They often possess rare talents and gifts that at an early age are in danger of going unnoticed.
ADT (Attention Deficit Trait), is caused entirely from the environment. It is a phenomenon of modern life. Like a lack of margin, traffic jams and 24/7 connections, it didn’t exist before our age of information. As we have throttled up our lives with increased acceleration over these past three decades, the demands on our time have exponentially increased.
Overtime the brain loses its ability to fully and thoroughly take care of business. It can become immobilized in part, and it’s not genetic. ADT takes on the negative traits of ADD, but with none of the positive traits.
So rather than focusing on the wolves at the door, pay attention to the termites in the floor. Make sure you are doing the things that will make you the most productive.
Spend those first few moments getting a clear view of your life and clarity about where you are going. Strategic thinking starts at the floor, not at the door.
It’s really a no-brainer.
1 “Never Check Email In The Morning: And Other Unexpected Strategies For Making Your Work Life Work; Morgenstern, Julie. Sept 27, 2005.
2 “Overloaded Circuits: Why Smart People Underperform; Hallowell, Edward, Harvard Business Review, Jan 2005.