Start Every Day Sprinting with 9 Mindfulness Questions
For the last few months, I've been trying some new "keystone habits" on for size, like logging and categorizing all of my time use every day, managing my to-dos, tasks and calendars with a bullet journal, meditating every day, going through a list of daily affirmations each morning, and beginning and ending my day with 9 daily mindfulness questions to focus and validate my goals and path ahead.
The Power of Asking the Right Questions
What happens to your brain when you're asking questions about your day? It turns out that focusing your thoughts for just a little bit in the morning – scarcely ten minutes of your time – is a great way to get your brain working in advance on the things you're planning for later in the day, week, month and year. By asking the right questions, you're setting a plan into motion, and at the same time, training your subconscious mind to think ahead and start putting its immense capabilities to work figuring out the next steps between you and your goals.
What do some great mindfulness questions look like?
I've broken my daily mindfulness questions into two sets: one that I ask in the morning to set goals and pace for the day, and another set I ask myself each night to make sure I'm staying on track that day. This is all part of a much larger system I've been working on that has really had an awesome impact on my life... but more on that later.
Here are some of the mindfulness questions I'm asking each morning to set the course of that day's events into motion:
9 Morning Mindfulness Questions
1. What can you get excited about today?
This is my way of getting fired up about my day! There is always something you can get jazzed up about each day. Some days it takes a little more creativity than others, but there will always be something you can get excited about. This is a great way to get your energy and motivation up at the start of the day.
2. What obstacles need to get cleared today, to help things go easier tomorrow and beyond?
In the software development world, we call these things "Blockers": something that is standing in the way of another task or goal you're working on. By identifying these early on, you can proactively clear those obstacles to make room for your next big play.
3. How can I show someone special appreciation or attention today?
This is an important cornerstone of personal happiness and a sense of satisfaction in your life. You absolutely must include in your daily activities time to show some gratitude, support, respect and attention to those who you owe it. By asking this question every day, you're inviting opportunities to cultivate better relationships with literally everyone in your life.
4. What bold action can I take today that stretches my comfort zone?
Those who accomplish the most in life are able to do so by pushing past the boundaries of what is most comfortable to them. If you aren't stretching that comfort zone and pushing the envelope every single day, you are denying yourself some serious compound returns and exponential growth in the trajectory of your life. You absolutely MUST ask yourself, every day, how you can push yourself a little further than before.
5. Who needs me to be my best today, or who needs my help the most today?
In order to function as the best boss, spouse, parent, student, coworker, artist, athlete, musician or literally anything you want to be, you must also be attuned to those in your circle that need your help, or need you to be operating at top efficiency. Figure out who needs the attention most today so you can always ensure support where it can't afford to be denied. This is the secret to running a well-oiled operation.
6. What interesting content can I create today to share with the world?
This content could come in one of many forms: perhaps you're working on a song, or painting a mural. Maybe today your content is a blog post in a niche that fascinates you, or perhaps you're doing unboxing videos on a YouTube channel. Perhaps you're taking a really interesting photo and taking a few moments to edit it so it's great, and then sharing it on Instagram. What's crucial is that you're creating and sharing interesting content on a daily basis. By asking yourself what that content will be ahead of time, you're giving your brain time to think about what that content might look like. When you decide to write the post or paint that picture later, the creativity will come spilling out freely.
7. BIG FROG: What is one thing I can work on today that I've been putting off for too long?
It's entirely human to procrastinate... as universal a trait as can be found for our species. Every morning, kick off your day asking yourself what the most frustrating, obnoxious, insurmountable or objectionable task is on your entire to-do list. Then, see if you can conquer that task completely – or even just start to make a dent in it – by no later than 11am. There is some powerful psychology at work when you tackle one of these terrifying tasks (or "big frog"): it builds up inertia. Suddenly you are taking on one big task after another, and it feels amazing!
There will, of course, be days where your whole afternoon goes off the rails because of some unexpected scenario, but that's where this tactic really shines: by eating the big frog first, even if nothing else productive comes out of your day after 11am, you've got some serious productive output to show for that day.
8. If I only got ONE thing finished today, what would that be, to feel great at the end of the day?
This question is a little different than the last one, as the previous question is asking you to identify what you've been procrastinating on (identifying avoidance). This question is focused instead on maximizing that which you would most like to see done today. What single activity could you accomplish that would make you feel gratified and appreciative for your time invested? This helps you feel like you're doing productive things that also make you feel good, and not exclusively focusing on those actions that are difficult chores.
By taking on the activity you accomplish in the previous question (your "Big Frog") along with the one thing you'd love to see accomplished (your "Big Win"), you will end up with a series of amazing victories in your life. Even on those days where you only get to one of these or the other, you will feel like you are super-human.
9. What good can I do for the world, for my family and for myself today?
This question is one that I borrowed from Benjamin Franklin, and adapted slightly. It asks you to focus on what good you can do with your life: first, for the world at large, and next, for your family... and always, always last of all, for yourself. It asks you to figure out how you can make your days bear fruit and reap value, most especially for those whom your life's efforts serve.
Are you ready to start each day off with Rocket Fuel?
That's what it's like to ask yourself these questions every morning. I've been doing this practice every single day for a few months now, and it's been an immensely gratifying and productive experience for me. It's been so transformative for me that I'm working on building this life-changing system into a new app, VieDay, to help people with the process of reaffirming their daily direction, asking these questions each day and recording the answers, and another set of questions I ask myself each night before I go to bed... along with visualizations of how your time is spent, how you are aligning your daily actions more closely with your life's ultimate goals, and little quotes and inspirational motivators to keep you heading in the right direction.
That's all still in the works, so I'm afraid I don't have much more to share just yet... but drop by again soon, and I'll have more details. I'll be adding my 9 mindfulness questions to ask yourself each evening soon as well! Thanks for reading, and let me know how your own experiences went in the comments below.