Does morning planning seem like something that everyone else can do, but eludes you? You really are not alone! When you arrive at the office, or wherever you begin your day, try Mindful Morning Planning Using STOP to see if you can develop the habit of morning planning.
(Before you begin, make sure you have something in your space to remind you to STOP – a note to yourself, picture, notification, or reminder. Try the companion infographic!)
The ‘S’ in STOP, stands for Stop. So, stop yourself from diving into checking emails, beginning work on the project that’s due, or returning calls. Just stop. Sit in your chair and do nothing.
This step takes almost no time at all.
Take a Breath
The “T” in STOP stands for Take a Breath. So, take an intentional breath. Place your attention on your in-breath. Feel it fill your belly. Place your attention on your out-breath. Feel your belly deflate. Maybe take a couple more breaths with attention.
This step only takes about 30 seconds if you do three intentional breaths, but feel free to do more.
The “O” in STOP stands for Observe. To observe means to notice but do nothing about what you’re noticing. To observe, it might help to ask yourself these types of questions:
What am I thinking about right now?
How does my body feel in this moment?
What am I worried or excited about today?
Ask slowly and give yourself time to answer. Sometimes it helps to ask and answer out loud, which helps you to slow down and articulate your observations in a more substantial way. For mindful morning planning, you could ask:
What is the most important thing I need to focus on today?
What will my day look like to me at the end of the day?
How do I want to approach today’s work?
How can I best use my strengths and interests?
And, What might block me in my work today?
Observing is a deep practice that requires you to scan for everything that is on your mind – sensations, memories, feelings, tasks, worries, joys, plans, past failures or successes, etc.
This step can take anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes. Some days it will take longer and some days it will take less time.
The “P” in STOP for stands for Plan. Planning allows you the freedom to direct your own time and energy. You can use a blank piece of paper, a digital to-do app, a whiteboard and colored markers, or a journal or agenda book.
Write down everything that you observed during the last step that you would like to pay attention to today. Write down meetings and appointments. Start to sketch in your tasks. Ask yourself, what is the most important task for me to do today? Ask yourself, can I delegate, reduce, delete, or put on hold (on purpose) any of these tasks? Then, estimate how long you think each task will take. If you often underestimate, you can pad the time by adding 50% more or even doubling it. Make a timeline for your day, remembering to add time for eating, taking breaks, and transitioning from one task to another.
Sit back and review your plan. How does it feel? If it is too much, ask yourself again if there is any way to delete tasks, move them to another day, or cut them down to size.
This step can take anywhere from 1 to 20 minutes depending on how much you have to do, and how practiced you are at planning. You will get faster at this step with more practice.
Before you jump into your day, take another couple of deep, noticing breaths.
Acknowledge the good work you have done to set yourself on the right path by doing your Mindful Morning Planning Using STOP. Nice work!
Want to be reminded of your intention to practice Mindful Morning Planning Using STOP?
Download the Mindful Morning Planning Using STOP infographic! Print it out and hang it on your wall to remind you every day.