“As a cook, your station, and its condition, its state of readiness, is an extension of your nervous system. The universe is in order when your station is set. Mise-en-place (a French phrase meaning “putting in place") is the religion of all good line cooks.” --Chef and best-selling author Anthony Bourdain

As a therapist for many an anxious nervous system, I love productivity hacks. As a die-hard morning fan, I’m drawn to tips, tricks and tools focusing on the wee-hours of each day.

If you found yourself damning the dawn reference above, the following four steps just may convert you to a morning-ish person:

I. Set Your Intentions

“When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” —Zen Proverb

It’s one thing to want to feel more calm and prepared for the day ahead, and another to actually execute your plan.

I suggest starting the night before, thereby ensuring adequate rest. For adults between the ages of 18 and 64+, that translates to 7-9 hours nightly. Sleep is the cornerstone of mental wellness, but it's rarely a priority. To reinforce this step, ask yourself about the last time you functioned bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after burning the midnight oil? (college kids will kindly exempt themselves).

Now close your eyes and envision the last time you were calm and in control. Channel that situation and remember that you’re capable of slowing down and getting the job done. Mindset is key to starting.

II. Think Proactive vs Reactive

According to social psychologist Dr. Ron Friedman, if you spend the first 10 minutes of each day checking and answering email, you’re priming your mind for a reactive state. Rather than go on the defensive each morning, take that time back and reframe it to “me time.” When you see yourself as having an internal locus of control, you’re less likely to reinforce anxious patterns of thinking.

If you’re at a loss for how to undo your reactive ways, consider these easy options first thing in the morning:

III. Plan, Plan and Plan

“Chefs like Anthony Bourdain have long appreciated that when it comes to exceptional cooking, the single most important ingredient of any dish is planning. It’s the 'Meez' that forces Bourdain to think ahead, that saves him from having to distractedly search for items midway through, and that allows him to channel his full attention to the dish before him.” --Ron Friedman

Start each morning with a mini-planning session. Because our minds and body are fresh, take advantage of your “clean slate.” Resist the urge to replay yesterday's soundtrack, or get sucked into worrying about tomorrow. Stay in the here-and-now, and think steps, not lofty goals.

IV. Own Your 120-Minutes

“It turns out that most people are productive in the first two hours of the morning. Not immediately after waking, but if you get up at 7 you’ll be most productive from around from 8-10:30. One of the saddest mistakes in time management is the propensity of people to spend the two most productive hours of their day on things that don't require high cognitive capacity (like social media)." --Dan Ariely, behavioral economist at Duke University.

Choose two things you can accomplish today, above all else. Just deux. Let’s be honest — those items you want to get through but never seem to are probably not so urgent. After all, we make time for what’s important. Many productive people write their upcoming tasks the night before to establish tomorrow's To-do list.

Before you roll up your productivity sleeves, remove all necessary distractions. Turn off the notifications on your mobile device, close the open tabs on your computer, and let others in your home or office know that you’re not to be disturbed for the next couple of hours.

When it comes to beginning your day, take it from a master chef. Set up the essential ingredients for the task ahead. You no longer have to be distracted about every single item which requires your attention. Focus on what’s right in front of you and start with a single bite.

Bonjour!

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Copyright 2015 Linda Esposito, LCSW

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