Note: I’m going to call this routine “The Seven,” as in, “Did you do your Seven this morning?” Feel free to borrow that term or send me ideas on a better name.
1. Before you start: Prepare
First, you need to find a quiet place. Hint for those who work in a cubicle farm: This is not at your desk. And it’s not in the car, because there are too many distractions. At a busy startup, it might be a foyer or a balcony. You might have to arrive earlier in the morning to make this work. You’ll also need a journal. Make sure you have one, and that you have a pen. Also, wear a watch. You will want to time yourself and finish up within seven minutes.
2. Minute one: Clear your head
I won’t get into any religious issues or get preachy here, and I’m not even encouraging meditation, but every person on the planet who has to work for a living needs to follow this basic routine. You have to clear your head. That phone you use to check your messages constantly or that iPad that’s stuck to your hip? Get rid of them. They are not part of this morning routine. Clearing your head just means being present as you prepare for the day.
3. Minute two: Breathe a little
Again, you may have a different way of dealing with the stress you feel in life. However, breathing deeply creates a calming effect in your brain and helps you focus. Intentional breathing is important at all times of the day. For this routine to work, you have to stop and settle your thinking and get into the right frame of mind. Just sit quietly and breathe.
4. Minutes three through six: Write notes and draw
You’ve heard all about journaling, but the process I use is not just journaling. I write in a journal all day, right after I get up in the morning and have coffee, at night before bed, and during meetings and at conferences. I’m not just talking about journaling. I’m talking about writing down the first few thoughts you have after you’ve arrived at work but before you’ve started on the day’s tasks. Draw a picture or doodle an idea. It’s a way to figure out what is important, and what is stressing you out. It is a record of your preparation and a way to help you look back and see, for these seven minutes, what was really important. Make sure you don’t get too focused on the writing and not enough on the thinking.
5. Minute seven: Debrief
After you write a few notes, keep track of the time and make sure you allow about one minute at the end to debrief. What does that mean? Just look over your notes a second time. Think about what you wrote and why, and make a brief plan–in only 30 seconds–to act on one of the items on your list. Just one. If you jotted down a note to deal with a conflict or to finish a report, decide to focus on that task and make sure you are intentional about addressing it.
That’s it. Seven minutes. I’m really interested to find out if you use this routine in the morning before you start working. Follow the plan for at least one week.