This Two-Minute Morning Practice Will Make Your Day Better
Insights from Harvard Business Review
In this lesson by Harvard Business Review, Author Neil Pasricha has devised a way to combat stress arising out of procrastination and long to-do lists. Learn this simple two-minute routine that breaks down big projects into small tasks.
When life events leave you feeling stressed out and anxious, Neil Pasricha, author of the bestselling book The Book of Awesome, among others, suggests a simple, two-minute practice to improve the quality of your days.
First, check to see if you may be suffering from decision fatigue.
Let’s face it—between our jobs, children, elder care we all have too much on our plates these days.
Pasricha’s low-tech coping mechanism for tough emotional times is a pack of 4x6 index cards on which he writes a few things he will focus on each day.
This “I will focus on” exercise helps break down giant projects into simple tasks.
For Pasricha, a looming book deadline becomes “writing 500-words,” and a non-existent exercise regime becomes “going for a 10-minute walk at lunch.”
But while these daily directives reduce decision fatigue, clearing the negative thoughts from the rest of our lives can be trickier as research shows that humans are hard-wired to search for the negative.
Turns out, our brains contain an almond-sized amygdala that secretes fight-or-flight hormones all day, and evolution has programmed our amygdalas to look for, find and solve problems.
This naturally-ingrained tendency is why we want to stare at bad news, sad news, and controversial news endlessly, and it takes a toll on our minds.
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But a study comparing people who wrote down what they were grateful for, to those who wrote down their hassles or events, shows that writing things one is grateful for every week, over a 10-week period, brings increased happiness and increased physical healthiness.
Pasricha suggests adding to your tasks-for-the-day cards the line, “I am grateful for” but finds the key to this exercise is being specific. Listing things like “my family, my dog, my job” won’t work.
He writes things like, “the way the sunset looks over the hostel across the street,” or “when my mom dropped off leftover matter paneer.”
And finally, a study in Science magazine called 'Don’t Look Back in Anger!' reveals that minimizing regret increases contentment. Simply put, if you share your worries, you’ll more readily free yourself from them.
To put these findings into practice, Pasricha suggests adding this third line to your index card regimen:
“I will let go of”
the rude things I said to the driver honking at me;
the friend I missed calling back.
"I will focus on..."
"I am grateful for..."
"I will let go of..."
This small, research-based ritual made a big difference in Pasricha’s life, and it can do the same for you.
Of course, no one will be completely stress-free and happy all the time after practicing this daily routine, but of the thousand or so minutes from your day that you’re awake, if you can invest two of them in prepping for positivity, you’ll find yourself happier during the remaining 998.