How to Get a Great Start to Your Day: 7 Simple Tips

by Henrik Edberg

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
Marcus Aurelius

“Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.”
Buddha

It’s still dark as your alarm bell goes off. You pull up the curtains and the cold winter is waiting for you outside of the window.

As you stumble out of bed and into the shower a new day begins.

So how can you make it more likely that it will be a good or even great day?

Well, in my experience, what you do early in the morning often sets the tone for the rest of the day.

So let me share 7 simple tips that have helped me to create both better mornings and days.

1. Plan the night before.

Put down just 1-3 of the most important things you want to get done on a to-do list.

By keeping the list very limited it becomes easier to actually get the most important thing(s) done. And to not start procrastinating by doing a few of the less important and often easier tasks that I know I always used to add to a longer to-do list.

2. Prepare the night before.

Reduce the stress during your morning by getting the simple details out of the way the night before. Pack your bag. Prepare and pack your lunch. Put your keys, wallet etc. in their “home” if they are not already there so you can quickly find and grab them before heading out the door.

3. Keep a simple reminder on your bedside table.

What you see during your first minutes after you have woken up can in my experience have quite the effect on the morning and as an extension of that the whole day.

So try putting a small note with a reminder on your bedside table.

Three things you could put on that note are:

  • One of your favorite quotes. A powerful and timeless quote is one of the easiest ways to charge the mind with positive emotions and to find a helpful perspective. So write down one of the own favorite quotes. Here’s a list of 101 of them about happiness if you want some help.
  • Set a low bar for happiness. I love this simple reminder. I tell myself: “Today I will set a low bar for happiness”. And then I keep that thought in mind for the rest of the day as best I can. It helps me to feel grateful for the little and everyday things that I too often take for granted like having a roof over my head and all the tasty food I have available. It makes it easier to stay positive and to find a simple happiness throughout the day.
  • Write down your most important whys. Last week I described a quick exercise that I use to recharge my motivation again. It involves finding your deepest and most personal reasons for why you want to make a positive change in your life. Keeping these most important reasons written down on your bed side table can give you a powerful start to your day and make it easier to stay on the right track from the moment you get out of bed.

4. Go slow.

When I start my day slowly and keep doing things at a slow pace then it becomes easier to keep the stress away. It becomes easier to focus on what I am doing and keep my priorities in mind.

When I go slow I stay in the present moment more of the time and so less negative feelings come my way and I appreciate the everyday things in life more because my attention is focused outward and not aimlessly inward towards what happened in the past or may happen in the future.

When I start my day slowly I sometimes get worried that this slow pace will mean that I get less done during my day. But at the end of the day I most often discover that I got more done. Because I did things well the first time and because when I go slow I tend to spend less energy on draining feelings and on having my attention bouncing around between many things.

And so I have more energy during the last few hours of my workday to spend on things that matter to me.

5. Get some positive information into your mind over breakfast.

Start your day with something that does not depress you or makes you feel powerless to change your life or the world in some small or bigger way.

Add inspiration and optimism by for example:

  • Reading one or a couple of new posts from positive, funny or uplifting blogs or websites.
  • Listening to a podcast that boosts your motivation.
  • Reading a chapter from a book that inspires you.

6. Start your workday with the most important task.

Find the most important task on the very limited to-do list you created. Do it first thing when your workday starts.

This task is in my experience often quite hard so it is easy to fall for the temptation to procrastinate. If you feel that urge, then just be still and do nothing. The most powerful part of the impulse to procrastinate by checking email or Facebook passes pretty quickly.

When the worst is over then go easy on yourself instead of trying to push yourself hard.

Tell yourself that you will only work for 1-3 minutes on this important task. Then you can stop if you like. But you may not want to do that once you have gotten started. This seems to be the case for me most of the time.

Because getting started is most often the hardest part.

7. Build a right thing string.

Doing what you deep down think is the right thing will make you feel good. It will boost your self-esteem and put a spring in your step for an hour or more.

One way that I like to do that is by creating what I like to call a right thing string.

Here’s what you do:

Do something that you deep down think is the right thing. Do it right now.

Give a genuine compliment to someone at work or in your life. Help someone who seems lost with directions. Unclutter your work space for 2 minutes. Go and work out.

Then add another thing that you think is the right thing to do.

Have an apple instead of an unhealthy snack. When you feel like judging someone in your life or on TV or in the newspaper try to find a kinder and more understanding perspective. Smile and ask how someone’s day is going (and really listen to the reply).

Then add another thing. And another.

Build a small string of doing the right things during for example 10-30 minutes to boost your energy and the positive feelings you have about yourself and your life.

Continue the string during your day as best you can.

After you have added a right thing to your string – no matter how small it is – make sure to take a few seconds to pause and to appreciate the good thing you did.

I usually think one of these things to myself:

  • Awesome!
  • Well done!
  • That was a good thing to do.
  • That was fun! (and then I smile to myself).

This boosts the positive mood within and ups the motivation to add another thing to your string.

If you break the string, no worries. Don’t beat yourself up.

Take a deep breath and then start a new string instead.

Image by Infomastern (license).





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{ 49 comments }

Vali December 18, 2013 at 4:49 pm

I don’t understand every word in english (i live in switzerland), but the most, and your tips are very very helful!!! thank you!

Henrik Edberg December 20, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Thank you Vali, I am glad to hear that the tips are helpful for you!

Eugenia December 26, 2013 at 7:26 pm

They are helpful to me too!! :) You are one of few people which tips/advices works for me :) Thank you very much!! Keep up the good work!! :D :D

deborah December 18, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Wow. Well I have to say that the “right thing string” is awesome! I never thought about that. It takes you higher and higher and it’s truly a great idea!
And yes you’re right I’ve learned to prepare the night before and to schedule my day a little bit the day before. It really works. Like going slow. It’s better to wake up a little bit earlier than rush.
I just have a question. How do you cope with a huge amount of work? Because sometimes we have to deal with relatives, friends, the 2° job…how do you manage stress in a very busy time like this?
I mean it’s almost Christmas and it’s crazy out there. How do you deal with a very busy schedule? Because personally I try to do my best but sometimes it seems like I have to stop and say no ’cause I can’t find time for myself but I feel guilty. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you Henrick! :)

Anonymous December 19, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Good to recharge ourselves…..with positive attitude…thanks
Henry…

Henrik Edberg December 20, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Thank you for the kind words and question, Deborah!

I think you are doing the right thing by sometimes saying no. I think it is absolutely necessary to find a balance between the things you can do for others and taking time for yourself. Without that balance one can easily become burnt out and not be able to do much of anything for quite a while.

So think of saying no as a way to ensure that your mental and physical health will continue to be good in the next few years and decades so that you can keep doing things and helping the people in your life out.

Another thing that has helped me to keep stress and overwhelm away during intense times is to stay in the present moment. Read more about it in this article:

http://www.positivityblog.com/index.php/2013/09/18/here-you-are/

deborah December 30, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Thanks a lot Henrik!

Laila December 18, 2013 at 9:18 pm

Thanks for this article, it was really useful, And I will start this night, so that tomorrow can be a great day, full os positivity :)

xoxo

Henrik Edberg December 20, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Glad you liked it, hope it will help you to have many great days! :)

Diana December 18, 2013 at 9:20 pm

nice post, Henrik – inspiring, as usual :-)

I don’t experience the usual morning madness of quickly dressing up, preparing for work and looking for my keys (because i work at home) but sometimes i find myself starting my day already thinking how it is not enough and in no way i can do everything i have planned… I do practice the tip about doing first thing in the morning 2-3 most important things – it sure helps.

And I loved your tip of starting slow and not thinking about it too much. I am not a morning person (if it’s not clear yet :-) and i am now waiting for tomorrow morning so i can try out the start slow tip ;-) thanks for the great tips!

Henrik Edberg December 20, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Thank you, Diana! I am not much of a morning person either so I hope you’ll find going slow as useful as I have found it to be. :)

Diana December 21, 2013 at 1:56 am

it did help! along with your breathing exercise when overwhelmed – i am gonna rock each morning – going s l o w :D thanks!

saad abdullah December 18, 2013 at 9:22 pm

It’s owesome

Henrik Edberg December 20, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Thank you!

LY December 18, 2013 at 10:42 pm

Well done, Henrik! I shared your tips on my Facebook page. I appreciate your generous spirit!

Henrik Edberg December 20, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Thank you for those kind words and for spreading the word!

Wal December 18, 2013 at 10:58 pm

Thanks a lot for this interesting and inspiring article!
I will try to apply these rules in my personal life!
Go Slow! I really like it.

Henrik Edberg December 20, 2013 at 4:19 pm

I’m glad to hear that, I hope they will help you out too, Wal!

Flo December 18, 2013 at 11:48 pm

These are all very good ideas IF you don’t have small children to get out the door on time! Numbers 4 & 5 made me laugh – I wish!

Henrik Edberg December 20, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Good point, hope some of the other ideas in the article will be helpful for you!

Olivia Fitzgerald December 19, 2013 at 12:11 am

Hello Henrik!

Your blog is great. Every article has helped me. I procrastinated too much and was prone to negative thoughts which stopped in my tracks. Slowly i’m learning how to leave these bad habits behind. You’re doing a great job. Thank you so much. I’ll continue reading!

Henrik Edberg December 20, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Thank you so much, Olivia, that is awesome to hear!

Zoe December 19, 2013 at 2:58 am

It has been a routine for me to read inspiring blogs during the morning to start the day right. I will definitely follow these tips. Great post!

Zoe
http://thatszoe.blogspot.com/

Henrik Edberg December 20, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Thank you, Zoe! And it sounds like you already have a very good habit during your morning routine.

Louise Barbier December 19, 2013 at 6:37 am

Wonderful tips on starting the day on a positive note and carrying it through the entire day.

Very uplifting.

Thank you

Henrik Edberg December 20, 2013 at 4:26 pm

You’re very welcome, Louise! Thank you for reading and for your kind comment.

Manish Kapoor December 19, 2013 at 8:59 am

How you start your day makes a great impact on how you are gonna spend your day.

As soon as I stumble out of my bed, I make it a point to not to be in a hurry. I concentrate on my breathing as I go with my morning routine. It helps me stay in the present moment and not to worry much about the day.

I have also started a morning stroll with my buddy since last few months and it’s great. The mesmerizing view of the morning alone is worth all the efforts of waking up early morning.

Thanks,
Manish Kapoor

Max December 19, 2013 at 9:24 am

I really liked what you said about how starting your day slow helps you keep you attention focused outward (to things in your present reality) rather than inward (to your own worries and anxieties).

I like to start my day by walking outside in the early morning. I guess this is my “slow start,” my way off starting the day focusing on the “outside.”

Tigist December 19, 2013 at 9:26 am

Thank you so much! It helps a lot.

J December 19, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Thanks! Always appreciate your blogs. Def gonna try numbers 1, 2, and 3. :-)

Mike Wood December 19, 2013 at 8:24 pm

THINK POSITIVE, very good motivational tool

ydal navarro December 19, 2013 at 10:25 pm

I wonder why there are just a few people like you. god bless and keep you on ways of real happiness

Isabel Crest December 20, 2013 at 11:55 am

The tips are really useful. Thank you for sharing

tsewang mutup December 20, 2013 at 7:16 pm

awesome very helpful and makes us refresh….

Anthony December 20, 2013 at 11:16 pm

I will follow your tips, it is hard to get out of bed on a cold winters morning, we need something to inspire and motivate us to get up, work does not usually fit into that criteria. You are right in what you say, planning the night before is the key. Go to bed in a positive feel good mood and you will wake up feeling good, we have a few minutes on awakening to decide what sort of day were going to have.

Leslie December 21, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Thank you Henrik, for another wonderful post. I love the 2 quotes at the top that you started with, too. I want to tell you, I often turn to your blog when I have been reading too much “news.” Your words help me to feel grateful and inspired, ready to accomplish good things. Thank you so much for that.

meital December 21, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Light therapy alarm clock! I can’t recommend this thing enough! (http://www.light-therapy-reviews.net/how-to-wake-up-early/)

Andreea December 22, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Thank you
My monday mornings are always busy and hectic. Hope I will survive better using your tips -_-.
No 4 will become like a mantra to me I’ll tell you that.

Marcia December 27, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Henrik,
Thank you very much for such wonderful advice, here and in many other postings. I just need to remind myself to keep reading and acting on them, as if I were studying for any other school subject. I hope you and your family have an excellent 2014, full of health and joy. Keep up the wonderful tips. Marcia.

HappinessSavouredHot December 28, 2013 at 3:38 am

Very good advice here!

I have found that I always planned too much or aimed too high. Now that I have realistic goals, I reach them, and feel content. I have accomplished much more that way, too. :-)

Chantal December 28, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Beautiful article, Henrik! Powerful, yet simple points you make, I like the smart way. I must say I never realized I try to “set a low bar for happiness”, this formulation is wonderful. Thank you very much!

Sam December 29, 2013 at 6:38 am

What a great post!

I kick started life a few months ago with some of the ideas you have here:

1) I set out a priority list the day/night before and tackled it first thing without changing anything

2) I made sure I achieved these set goals before I took in any news, distractions or negativity

3) I made sure I took in some good, positive, inspiring stuff before any news or negativity.

One thing I would add, for me, I got out of bed earlier than I had been and made a private ritual out of these steps.

I look forward to reading through the rest of the blog, I am glad I found it!

Ian January 6, 2014 at 1:13 am

Thanks for all your advice Henrick. It helps a lot. My more positive nature attracts like minded people to me and me to them, The ball keeps rolling and things get better and better.

Beth January 6, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Love the right thing string Henrik. It really is that simple isn’t it? Love your blog- I try to start each day with a piece of positive, uplifting content. I know I can always rely on you for this! :)

Morgan January 7, 2014 at 5:31 am

When I read your blogs, I always end up bursting out in mid sentences, “Oh my god, So True!” or “Yes! Yes, Me too!”. Thank you Henrik, thank you for knowing exactly how I feel, and what I have been trying to deal with every single day since I turned 18 years of age! I’m now 21 and currently attending University. I’ve been undergoing inner turmoil of night/day of self contradictions, pursuit of happiness with myself, my purpose and most of all my self esteem; both physically and mentally. I am not usually one to take the time to leave a comment on various blogs, However it hit me suddenly that the right thing to do is to share how I feel at this very moment, and to let you know how much I appreciate your words of wisdom. I am ending my night with my very first “string of right thing”.
PS. I wouldn’t consider your blog to be “any various blog”, quite the contrary!

Cheers !

Stephanie BROWN January 9, 2014 at 6:18 am

Hi Henrik,

Truly wonderful post about Bruce Lee and I’m a fan of him.

Live life as there is no tomorrow and you will appreciate life to the fullest. Always do the thing that matter to you most first thing in the morning. For me, I give thanks to GOD to start of my day and ALWAYS stay positive no matter how tough the day goes.

Thanks for your tips.

mielly January 18, 2014 at 6:35 am

Tnku very much. Been so lost. Out of no where i found ur site. It helps. Been scared and alone. I a stay home mom and it gets lonely, depressing, i have no friends, no one to talk too. So all this negative thoughts are driving me nuts. I just started getting nervous when going to store by my self .my leg was shaking uncontrollably while driving. It was scary. I will keep reading and looking for help tnku for writing such beautiful words

Meena Pillai January 22, 2014 at 6:35 am

Wonderful read. Hoping to be more practical in life. Life is so short that it has no place for regrets. Thank you for the inspiring words and post!

Hema January 31, 2014 at 12:26 am

Enjoyed reading this blog. Most of it matches with what I do….Except for going slow. I might from now actually try and slow down at work and at home… Am always in so much of a hurry that I hurt myslef or miss things. So thank you for the inspiration.

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