Now I'm generally not one for motivational videos, quotes or posters, but you can't seem to escape them, it seems every other post on Facebook or LinkedIn is a quote from some dead guy or a picture of a cat hanging from a tree with the immortal words 'Hang In There' emblazoned on it. It kinda loses it's 'motivational effect' for me. I just find them all a bit cheesy and cliché.
However, there was one doing the rounds recently that actually clicked with me, maybe it's because I've started reading some of these 'How to get ahead in business' and 'How to live your best life' books and it seemed to be more than just a coincidence. FYI I never used to buy into those kind of books either, but the few that I've read so far have really made a difference to my outlook on life, whether it's work or personal.
You've probably guessed by the title which one I'm referring to and if you haven't seen it, here's the link:
If you didn't or couldn't watch the video, essentially what Admiral McRaven says in his address to the University of Texas is if you make your bed when you get up everyday, you would have achieved the first task of the day, which will set you up for the next task and the next and so on. What I liked about it was that it wasn't one of these vague wishy washy messages like 'keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground' it had logic to it, it had purpose, it was something you can physically do and achieve every day.
Now I'm not saying that if you make your bed everyday that you're guaranteed to become a millionaire and take over the world. But there is science behind what he is saying and maybe making your bed is more important than you thought. Have you ever noticed that it's harder to tackle the bigger tasks? And especially in the morning? And if you have a to do list which has all your important tasks for the day on it, it makes sense to tackle the most important and big ones first right? Wrong!
In 2016 the Harvard Business Review published the findings of Professors Francesca Gino and Bradley Staats titled 'Your Desire to Get things Done Can Undermine Your Effectiveness'. You can read the whole article here if you wish, Your Desire to Get Things Done Can Undermine Your Effectiveness
But I can surmise for you, basically as humans we seek completion and we get a kick out of ticking things off, it actually releases dopamine into our system when we achieve a goal setting us up for the next. But what's really interesting is that it's actually more effective clearing off some of the more mundane tasks first before tackling the bigger ones. Completing something small first will actually help you to tackle the larger more important tasks of the day. Look at it this way, if you go to the gym or run a lot, you never just go straight for the weights or start sprinting on the treadmill, you'll cause more damage than good. You warm up first, you stretch, you lift a light weight or walk on the treadmill to get the blood pumping and your body ready for what's coming next.
This is exactly the same principle, the reason you want to complete your important tasks is because they are, well, important. So they should be treated as such. Why go diving in head first to your most important task of the day, the task that could change your week, month, quarter or year when you aren't mentally ready for it. Surely you want to go at it fully armed and knowing your task doesn't stand a chance, rather than going in half asleep and limping out half way through because something easier has come up.
Making the bed each morning seems to make a bit more sense now right? You can interpret this however you like, if I tried to make my bed in the morning before I left for work, my Mrs would scream bloody murder at me for waking her up before the kids got up. So I came up with something that would work for me and actually tick two boxes before the day has even started. I've been dying to get back to the gym for ages now but I just don't get the time, I leave early and get home just in time for the kids to go to bed. So I decided that my 'make your bed' task would be to get up 15 minutes earlier each morning and do some exercises at home before I leave. And it's worked. I used to be the guy with his headphones in struggling to get to sleep on the train and walking into work still bleary eyed wondering what to tackle first.
But now, I'm achieving something before I even leave the house, and I honestly feel so much more focused and better about the day ahead, I'm either writing or reading said books on the train in the morning and I'm walking into work not only knowing what to tackle first but more importantly knowing my tasks don't stand a chance. Our days are generally dictated for us and we don't always have a choice on what we need to focus on first, so starting our day right and being mentally ready and fit for it is so important.
Pick something that works for you, something small, mundane and more importantly achievable, if you can fit one or two mundane tasks in before you get to the office it will have a snowball effect and you'll be much better prepared for the larger things to complete that day. PMA is such a big part of this job and sometimes it's hard to stay positive, but if you start your day right, the odds for the day are in your favour.
so, make your bed.