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What if all you needed was a seven minute routine to get your day on track? How could that impact your life overall?
— John Brandon (@jmbrandonbb) August 14, 2015
Within days, hundreds of people had tried “the seven” and were sharing positive outcomes in their lives – real results.
During a team huddle last week, RAPJAB CEO and co-founder James Braendel shared “the seven” and challenged us to give it a try, and then report back.
Our Senior Account Executive Erin Martin is already a highly organized person. She manages to oversee client and vendor relationships, while still waking up at obscene hours for morning runs. She already had a routine down, so adding in another step didn’t seem daunting.
Meanwhile, Daniela Capistrano, our Senior Strategist, spends all day, well, strategizing – and being super efficient on behalf of our client-partners’ interests. But she wasn’t too thrilled about adding additional structure to her personal time.
She likes to spend her mornings making herself laugh with memes as self-care, and wasn’t looking forward to sacrificing that for an early morning, work-related routine.
But both were on board with giving this exercise a try – and both were surprised by what they learned about themselves. Take a look!
Find a quiet place (not at your desk or in the car). You’ll also need something to write on (yes, by hand), and a pen or pencil. Also, a watch or timer.
Erin: This was the easiest step for me; I’m an early riser and always the first person in the office, so I already had a quiet place and a routine built into my day. I probably own more notepads and pens than anyone else in the office combined, so that part was easy too.
Daniela: I am not a morning person. I hiss at the sun. My work is both creative and strategic, and like many angsty creatives, I do my best thinking (or so I thought) late at night. I decided that the only way I was going to be able to do this routine consistently before work, was by doing this immediately after I woke up – in bed.
I also needed to do it BEFORE I started scrolling my social feeds, or it wasn’t going to happen. So, I went to bed with my notebook under my other pillow so that I didn’t have to get up to find something to write on, which would mean being distracted by my cats Fellow and Yoda who will instantly start meowing for their breakfast. That small but important step made a difference.
100% of your focus needs to be on the seven minutes at hand. Whether it’s turning off the radio or going into a room by yourself, make sure you aren’t being distracted.
Erin: I found it super hard to actually clear my head of everything. I already have a routine and plenty of quiet time in the morning, but accessing that internal quiet time was extremely hard – making time to actually think of nothing.
Daniela: Luckily, this step was covered for me simply by doing this in bed. I was half awake and not yet distracted by the world, which made it easier to clear my head as part of this routine. I also made sure to toss my phone to the end of the bed before I started, so that I wasn’t tempted to take “just one look” at what was going on in my feeds.
Breathing deeply creates a calming effect in your brain and helps you focus.
Erin: Honestly, I think I may have skipped this step. What that says about me and how I’ve prioritized deep breathing in my existing routine, you be the judge.
Daniela: This step was easy because it’s already a part of my typical morning routine. I find it helpful to take 3-5 deep, slow breathes right after waking up, while alternating between having my eyes closed or staring at the ceiling. For this exercise, I did this for a minute (which can feel like a really long time if you’re not used to it – so be patient with yourself). Those deep breathes helped my brain “wake up” and center myself before the exercise.
Write down the first few thoughts you have before you’ve started on the day’s tasks. Draw a picture or doodle an idea. As John Brandon explains it, “it’s a way to figure out what is important, and what is stressing you out. It is a record of your preparation and a way to help you look back and see, for these seven minutes, what was really important. Make sure you don’t get too focused on the writing and not enough on the thinking.”
Erin: Forcing myself to take that time and have the mental clearness to plan my day ahead was a challenge at first. My doodles were mostly about the things I had going on that day – like a visual daily checklist.
Daniela: The first few days, this felt like a backwards process for me. I tend to take notes about my day in my personal journal in the evenings – reflecting on what had happened in my professional and personal life, and sketching out plans for the following day. This new routine felt like a combination of professional and personal reflection in a very condensed format – but at the start of my day, which felt forced.
In the beginning, I wasn’t into it. It felt like homework. But over time, I noticed patterns emerging. That was interesting. My feels were apparent in my sketches, clearly. Yikes.
John Brandon writes:
“After you write a few notes, keep track of the time and make sure you allow about one minute at the end to debrief. What does that mean? Just look over your notes a second time. Think about what you wrote and why, and make a brief plan–in only 30 seconds–to act on one of the items on your list. Just one. If you jotted down a note to deal with a conflict or to finish a report, decide to focus on that task and make sure you are intentional about addressing it.
That’s it. Seven minutes. I’m really interested to find out if you use this routine in the morning before you start working. Follow the plan for at least one week. Then, send me a note about what you learned and how it all worked out. I promise to respond.”
Erin: This routine confirmed it: I’m definitely a list maker! Everything I wrote was in a list – from projects that need to get done for RJ, to packing for a trip. I like to see my day visually planned out. Here’s my shameless plug for Field Notes: I’m a colors Subscriber to Field Notes quarterly Editions. I pretty much have 1-2 field notes with me at all times.
I use them to create daily lists, and also to house those annoying stickers you get when you check a bag at the airport. I recommend everyone get a field notes subscription – if not, at least get a set of these amazing 48-page books.
Although this exercise felt a little like homework, it made me realize how important taking a few minutes each day for yourself is – just to clear your head and refocus your mind. “The Seven” also shed light on how scripted and planned some of my habits are.
Overall, I felt like this concept wasn’t really new to me. I already practiced daily note taking intuitively, so it was surprising to me that doing it in a structured, intentional way – with a “mind clearing” component – felt difficult. Perhaps that’s a sign that I already live a very structured life, and rather than adding in more process to my days, what I need is to make room for a little more spontaneity. That’s always a good thing to keep in mind.
Daniela: With only seven minutes to work with, I found myself distilling my thoughts and sketches to very specific points or themes. I realized that there are certain things about my workflow that can cause me unnecessary stress. Because these stressors seemed minor, I hadn’t really reflected on them or brought them up before and just worked around them – but this exercise made me realize the long term impact it was causing.
Here’s an example: I like to be a team player and meet my deadlines – apparently even at the expense of my mental health. I want to be clear that I was doing this LONG before I joined RAPJAB, likely as a result of running my own boutique agency for five years. But thanks to this exercise, I’ve started to be more vocal with my team about what works best for me in terms of time management. If I know that I’ll produce better work if I have more time to do something, and it’s clear that there’s more time to do it, I’ll ask for that time instead of just being silent.
Small but important changes like these have made a huge difference in my quality of life, and that’s only after doing “the seven” routine for a week. I’m looking forward to seeing what else changes in the coming months.