Have you heard of Darren Hardy? I hadn’t until someone recommended that I read his book, The Compound Effect. The cover looks all business to me. Big, bold lettering in red and black. “Jumpstart your income, your life, your success,” it screams. A bit of a turnoff for me but I dove in any way. That’s how I discovered the notion of bookending your day.
In short, bookending your day means sandwiching the unpredictable middle of your day with predictable morning and evening routines.
Bookending your day sets you up for those inevitable curve balls.
As much as we’d like to control how each day will flow, let’s face it, we can’t. I don’t remember when I last managed to complete every item on my to-do list, and that’s not for lack of trying.
A client emails me with an urgent need. My daughter needs a ride because the subway’s down. The dog rolls in death and must be bathed. Or a friend suggests a spontaneous lunch. (Yay!)
Suddenly all bets are off. With all these interruptions, it’s easy for a potentially great day to spiral into an utterly chaotic one. And in the midst of chaos, you can easily lose sight of the bigger things that matter to you. Not the individual tasks you’re trying to check off your list, but the sum — or purpose — of them.
Behind every task is a purpose.
You don’t work for the sake of work. You work for the sake of the pay-off, be it financial gain, personal satisfaction, or (ideally) both.
You don’t cook dinner for your family purely for the sake of cooking. You do it for the sake of nurturing the family you love.
If like me, you practice yoga, you don’t do it for the sake of yoga. You do it for the sense of peace and wellness it brings you.
Understanding the whys behind the things we do gives them meaning. It makes them worth waking up for and investing in. But when we get caught up in the (excuse me) clusterf**k of life, we don’t have time to think about the purpose behind what we’re doing. And that’s when we start moving through our days on autopilot.
Running on autopilot isn’t a bad thing if you’re in it for survival. And let’s face it, sometimes that’s all we have the capacity to do: survive! But if you’re consciously pursuing peace, happiness, or success in some particular area of your life, then bookending your day — i.e. beginning and ending each day with a firm handle on your whys — can make all the difference.
Focus on the start and end of each day and roll with the middle!
As Hardy says, “it can be difficult, even futile, to predict or control what will show up in the middle of your workday. But you can almost always control how your day starts and ends.”
To establish a sense of control at the start of each day, Hardy thinks about the things he’s grateful for the moment he wakes up. He attunes his mind to abundance and sends love to someone by imagining all he wishes and hopes for them. Then, he thinks about his number one goal (his biggest why of the moment) and decides on three steps he’ll take that day with a view to achieving that specific goal.
While his morning coffee’s brewing, he does a series of stretches. Once it’s brewed, he sits on his leather recliner, sets his alarm for precisely thirty minutes, and reads something positive and instructional. After that, he takes 15 minutes to calibrate his day before digging in.
I liked the sound of that so I decided to give it a whirl. I created a morning routine for myself that was inspired by Hardy’s own rise-and-shine ritual.
Before I started bookending my days, my morning’s were “thoughtless.”
Not bad. Just kind of random. I’d begin by picking up my iPhone to quiet my alarm and then sleepily scroll through my Instagram feed. From there, I’d just go with my gut, rolling with whatever punches came my way. On busier days, I’d catch myself begrudging how my life was getting in the way of my life!
Hardy’s bookending principle has helped me ditch that grudge.
Now, when I wake up, I pick up my iPhone, turn off my alarm, and put the device back down. I sit up in bed, cross my legs, and meditate for a few minutes. I then head downstairs, put the kettle on, and wake up my body with a few stretches as the kettle boils.
With a strong cup of English Breakfast tea in hand, I sit down with a personal development book for 20 minutes or so. (I’m currently reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.) Only once I’ve done all of the above do I dabble in a little social media. I then head out for my morning walk, usually with an inspirational podcast playing in my ear. When I get home, I write my to-do list for the day and get to work.
– Fast Company examines the morning routines of the most successful people –
How do I make time for all of this before I start my workday? I get up at 6 am — and I don’t begrudge it one little bit. The satisfaction I get from starting my day this way far outweighs the sleepy feeling I can usually conquer with an extra jolt or two of caffeine!
Bookending my day helps me keep my whys top of mind.
My brief meditation practice and inspirational Podcast ritual feed my desire to live mindfully. My morning stretch, walk, and breakfast feed my desire to be healthy. My personal development reading feeds my passion for this blog. And my To Do list feeds my ability to work like a pro, which, besides being rewarding, helps feed the freedom that enables me to pursue all of the above.
What would your perfect morning routine look like?
By practicing a morning routine that honours your whys, you’ll be better equipped to handle the unpredictable middle of your day without feeling like your life is getting in the way of your life — because you’ll have already spent an hour or two actually living it!
Now, about the evening routine.
It’s called bookending your day for a reason, so let’s take a look at part two of this concept.
Hardy says it’s important to cash out your day’s performance. By that, he means look at what you planned to do that day, assess how it went, and figure out what needs to be moved to tomorrow. He also likes to log any aha moments he’s had that day so that he can pick them up and run with them when time affords. Finally, he always reads a few pages from an inspirational book before he goes to sleep.
Following his lead, I too cash out my day’s performance. This helps alleviate anxiety about the contents of the following day’s to-do list, and that sets me up for a much more relaxing evening. I also make sure I have reading time before I go to sleep, although unlike Hardy, I like to indulge in a good novel.
What would your perfect evening routine look like? Would it include an inspirational podcast? Or a gratitude journal? Perhaps a little meditation or a few pages written by your favourite author? It’s your routine, not Hardy’s or mine, so you get to choose.
Will bookending your day alleviate all stress from your life?
While I’d like to say yes, the answer is no. However, by bookending your day, you’ll at least be able to confine most of your stress to the middle and begin and end each day with peace. Worth a go, don’t you think? If you do decide to give it a try, I’d love to hear how it goes. Drop me a comment below!
Viv for today xo
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