How to have a great day, according to the world's most successful people
Can’t argue with Barack Obama
Have a great day. It’s a phrase that we nonchalantly drop at the end of emails or blurt out when we bump into… uhh, wave at an old friend from an acceptable distance of six metres, utterly unaware of the existential crisis we might be subjecting the other person to.
What even is a great day?
I asked some actual people around me and here’s what they reported.
- When I get to interact with more puppies than human beings
- Days where I strike a perfect balance between family time, work, and me-time
- The day my wife takes all her files, diaries and painting supplies off my bridge table will be a great day.
- One that ends with a chilled pint of beer
- A great day is when I meet 300 people, finish all the tasks on my list, cook, read a book, watch a great movie and feel exhausted and accomplished as I drop into bed at the end of the day.
- Zara sale days
- Good hair days
- When you wake up for work and realise it’s a holiday
A fair assumption to make is that everyone has their own idea of what constitutes ‘a great day’, but how you can actually engineer one is still a bit of a mystery. Even if we discount the fact that at different moments in time, even your own personal idea of a ‘great day’ could be wildly different.
When in doubt, like any good hobbyist anthropologists, we hunt for precedents. Scouring through the wisdom offered by some of the world’s most successful people, from world leaders like Barack Obama and titans of industry such as Bill Gates to the one woman who seems to be able to cure hair loss on the sub-continent.
We’re encouraging you to pilfer from their daily habits while you begin to craft a fulfilling circadian rhythm. After months of being taunted by your motivational throw pillow, it’s finally time to ‘Be Your Best Self’.
It’s not just about what you do but also about what you don’t do
Author Arianna Huffington’s perfect start to a day involves doing away with one ritual that most of us religiously follow.
“A big part of my morning ritual is about what I don’t do: when I wake up, I don’t start the day by looking at my smartphone. Instead, once I’m awake, I take a minute to breathe deeply, be grateful, and set my intention for the day,” says the co-founder of The Huffington Post.
Checking your notifications and scrolling through your phone as soon as you rise also wakes up the distraction monster up, and sets the tone for the rest of the day.
“Immediately turning to your phone when you wake up is more likely to increase stress and leave you feeling overwhelmed,” explains psychiatrist Dr Nikole Benders-Hadi. “The information overload that hits you before you’re fully awake also interferes with your ability to prioritise tasks,” she adds.
And if self-control isn’t your strongest suit, do what Huffington does – “I turn off all my electronic devices and gently escort them out of my bedroom.”
What you have on your breakfast plate can determine the course of your day
Celebrity nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar puts her expert stamp on what mummy has been telling you since the day you were born – never miss your breakfast.
“States which are known for their breakfast also live longer than the national average – Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Maharashtra. The idli or appam in Kerala, the bread or the noonchai of Kashmiri, paratha of Punjab and poha of Maharashtra are well known and widely eaten,” writes Diwekar on her Instagram page.
According to Diwekar, eating a wholesome breakfast will help kill that tidal wave of acidity building in your abdomen, and prevent mid-day headaches. It also balances cortisol levels, which reduces your overall stress levels, and reduces cravings for stimulants like tea, coffee, cigarettes and chocolates.
The answer to all your work stress is to delegate like Gates
“Delegate, delegate, and delegate some more” – a gazillion people would’ve offered you this piece of advice the second you assumed a leadership role, but if you aren’t delegating correctly then this strategy can really backfire.
Bill Gates advises all those looking to create a healthy work environment to steer as far away as possible from micromanagement. “You have to be open-minded. Somebody could do it differently and still do it well. You can’t have this bias that they need to do things the same way (as you),” he says.
Delegating might not come naturally to some, especially perfectionists who are set in their own ways, but a little self-control in the beginning can lead to reduced stress and workload in the long run.
Having a well equipped team that you trust might also mean that you can finally go on that honeymoon you’ve been putting off for three years.
In fact, research suggests that delegation doesn’t just help you have a great day but your colleagues and team members too. Delegating responsibilities to your team members empowers them psychologically, which in turn encourages them to seek feedback, and that’s when you swoop in and suggest changes without coming across as a nosey Nimmi, who can’t help but micromanage. It’s a win-win for everyone.
A multitasking tip that takes care of your professional and personal stressors in one go
Team building is Arundhati Bhattacharya’s secret to maintaining the work-life balance that all working professionals dream of having.
For the former chairperson of State Bank of India, this self-care tip is one that will help you feel at ease and help you get rid of the guilt that haunts you all day – if you’re at work, it’s the guilt of not spending enough time with the family, and when you’re playing monopoly with the kids, it’s the guilt of not working enough.
“It comes from a sense of insecurity,” says Bhattacharya. The solution? “Once you step out, the team should take over. I always focus on team building—both in office and at home,” she adds.
Knowing that there is a person or a group of people who can fill the temporary void created in your absence, can help lift your spirits, and let you enjoy the present moment instead of thinking about how things might be falling apart without you.
This also allows you to make time for family and friends, which if you believe it or not, is proved to make work life easier too. Research suggests that spending good quality family time helps working professionals cope better with stress, improves psychological well-being, and even has a positive effect on cardiovascular health.
A good night’s sleep is just a scribble or two away
People usually begin their days by making a to-do list, but former American president Barack Obama does things a little differently.
Instead of listing out tasks right after waking up, Obama supposedly includes this task in his bed time ritual. This helps put the mind at ease before turning in for the night.
And for all those who think that undisturbed sleep is overrated, maybe going over the list of benefits of getting adequate sleep will change your mind – lack of sleep can affect your overall physical health and make you more susceptible to obesity, heart diseases, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Sleep is also closely linked to how your immune system functions. And the benefits extend to mental health as well. Inadequate sleep for an extended period of time can lead to long-term mood disorders like depression and anxiety.
Research also suggests that charting out your next day before going to bed doesn’t just destress you but can also be included in the list of self-care practices that help you fall asleep faster than those who don’t engage in this activity, nine minutes faster to be precise.