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I started a little late today, but I started for me.  I put Bailey out of the bedroom last night and I slept great without the random wailing in my ear and involuntary pacing massage as she crisscrosses the bed.  It was another cool, rainy night, so the air breezing through the room was fresh and soothing.  I was awakened by an alert on my watch to the upcoming Show & Tell meeting at work.  I decided I wasn’t going to rush into it.  It’s recorded, so if there is something vital in it, I can watch it later.  Otherwise, it falls lower on my priorities totem pole than coffee, breakfast, and my own headspace.

The more I’ve practiced taking time for myself in the morning, the more I’ve come to realize that whoever gets your brain first owns your day.  This becomes annoyingly obvious on those days when I jump out of bed and directly into a work meeting.  Work now owns my day.  All of the things outside of work that are vying for my attention haven’t been served yet, and are begging and screaming to be heard.  Over the day, this wears down my will power, creates constant interruptions, and destroys my focus.

Starting the day on your own terms and clearing your head is like setting up one of those take-a-ticket machines.  You let all those thoughts and chores in and ask them to take a number.  The most important tasks get to pick first.  Then, you serve them all in order.  Here’s the kicker.  You can’t possibly get to all of them in one day.  You’re going to have to tell some, if not most, to come back later.  It’s no good to have all those thoughts and chores sitting there, staring at you demandingly, pathetically, hoping you will let them cut the line.  The amazing thing is, once you’ve done this a few times, they don’t mind being put in order.  Some can get a little fussy and may start pushing their way forward, but more often than not, they stay put.  Those little things begging for your attention have been acknowledged and prioritized, and they know their time is coming.  Sometimes, that’s all you need.

So the next time you set an alarm to wake you up with just enough time to get to your first meeting, consider bumping the time up by 30 minutes or an hour.  Get up, go for a walk, eat breakfast, make coffee, meditate, write in your journal, or any of the above.  Think about your day.  Make a plan.  Pick the two most important things and get those done first.  Any extra attention suckers you get to after that are a bonus.  (Hint: Always leave room in your day for a little bonus.)

Today, I need to get the house cleaned up.  I should be a little more specific about this.  I need to get the guest room ready for Mike, who’s visiting for the weekend, and I need to get the dishes done and vacuum the floors.  I’ll be out tonight at a meetup with friends and watching the USA in the Gold Cup finals, so my bonus time is rapidly evaporating.  But that’s OK.  I’ve scheduled my other important tasks for next week.  Everything else can wait.