Set an Intention for Your Day

May 29, 2013

9:00 am

For the past week or so, I’ve been doing a 5-minute morning meditation to set goals for my (personal) day. I wondered: can this same tactic be applied to business?

I was inspired by the idea of “setting an intention” in yoga. At the beginning of class, teachers often ask you to take a moment to focus on your goal for the session, whether it be breathing slowly or not getting distracted by work. Then you’re off, bending and stretching purposefully.

Here’s how I would set an intention for your startup day.

1. Review

Start by reviewing the day before. What did you do well or poorly? For example, you might have wasted too much time on unnecessary details, or worried too much about whether the funding would go through. This step is a quick reminder of what you can improve on.

2. Prioritize 

On Lift, an app for creating new good habits, almost 19,000 people are participating in a habit called “Set priorities for your day.” They understand that a few extra minutes in the morning can save you many more minutes in productivity later, as you focus energy on the most important tasks.

“I actually spend hours each week on the elliptical trainer. . . . That time alone gives me the opportunity to wrap my head around the priorities ahead of me each day (600 calories lighter),” says Lori Cheek, founder and CEO of Cheek’d.

DailyMuse cofounder and COO Alex Cavoulacos suggests using the 1-3-5 rule: filling your to-do list with one big task, three medium tasks, and five small tasks.

Entrepreneur Haim Pekel recommends crafting your to-do list the night before – so you don’t lie awake at night with miscellaneous tasks zooming around your head – and that’s probably a good idea. In that case, this step would be just a quick refresher.

3. Anticipate 

Finally, anticipate any challenges that might arise that day and think about how you’ll want to deal with them. If you expect to have a difficult conversation with a team member, remember to listen and be unbiased. If you expect to answer calls from customers, remember to be patient and compassionate.

These three steps somewhat mimic standup meetings, where team members review what they worked on yesterday, what they will work on today, and what obstacles stand in their way. Doing this on your own allows you to delve a bit deeper and examine how your feelings – fears, stress, impatience – affect your daily work.

High-performance athletes often practice visualization techniques, imagining how it will feel to win a race or dance a perfect routine. And there is some evidence that these techniques improve performance and physiological reactions, i.e., athletes do and feel better. In the same way, you can visualize a day where you’re productive and in control – and then see it come true.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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