When Your Day Gets Away From You

By: Lynn Carnes

Do you ever start your day with great intentions and before 9:00 am, it’s nothing but putting out fires? Ok, don’t laugh. It might very well be every day that the distractions, texts, phone calls, and bad news seduce you away from doing the great work you had (operative word HAD here) planned for the day.

Look, your job requires you to be responsive. When an important client calls or something breaks, you want to be able to handle it. But are you handling it with a frustrated, anxious mindset or a receptive and prepared mindset?
Beating yourself up for not exercising this morning? Ripples of that thought are echoing in your voice when you answer the phone.

Worrying about how you are going to prepare for that presentation or agonizing over what to do about the team member who’s suddenly performing below par? Your anxiety surrounds your very being – and covering it up just telegraphs that you are covering something up.

Whatever your mindset at these moments of truth, like it or not, it’s leaking into your interactions. 

Where does this mindset come from? And how do you change it?
Racing into a busy day seems like the best answer – after all, it feels smart to get to work when there is a pile of work to be done.

However, racing into the day just creates a racing mindset – and when have you ever had a great performance when your mind was racing?

Recognizing this issue, for many years, I meditated most mornings. I also followed a pretty regimented routine to get out of bed, turn on the news, stretch, do several rounds of sun salutations, take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, make my tea and THEN meditate. Only after doing all of this did I start my day.

The problem was this: many of those days would still get away from me. If I were to divide my time spent between being reactive and responsive, it skewed heavily towards the reactive .

So I took a look at my daily architecture, focusing most carefully on the morning routine.

Why the morning routine? This is where I could stack the deck in my favor.

It’s one of those lessons I’ve learned from water skiing. In a lesson I will always remember, Corey Vaughn was in the boat coaching, and he was really focusing on my “gate”. The gate happens in the first few seconds of the 20 seconds in the course. I expressed some annoyance at working so hard on something that seemed so basic.

Here’s what he said to me: “Your gate is the place where you have the most control, and where you can repeat the same process every single time to set yourself up for success.  Once you turn in for the first buoy, all hell can break loose. A good gate can make up for a lot of errors in the course.”

And danged if he wasn’t right. A good gate has helped me more in the course than any single other area of focus. The same principle applies to my day.

So what would a “good gate” look like in the morning?

My usual morning routine had a toxic component that involved a habit of over 20 years: watching the news before I did anything else.

That external input influenced my mood in so many ways. It certainly diluted my ability to capture insights gained from “sleeping on it” and it simply set me up to be frustrated more often than not.

​So I tried an experiment: I meditated and journaled FIRST and then did my stretching. What a huge difference it made. I was able to set my intention for the day and get clear on what I would need to DO and how I would need to BE before having the talking heads set the conditions for my day.

I also just got much more intentional about creating a daily architecture that set me up for success. No more allowing my day to run me; with a solid framework, I have become much, much more productive. Plus my inner experience is much more calm and centered.

What is your daily architecture?  Where have you allowed external inputs to influence your internal state of being? In what ways is your internal state of being serving you. And where is your mindset getting in your way?

In order to help you stack the deck in your favor, I’ve built this “Daily Architecture Tool.” It’s a fairly quick review of your routines with suggestions that develop your internal locus of control. My clients have found this practice hugely helpful and I hope you do to.

Let me know how it goes for you!

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