the science behind having a great day: am I ready?

Do you want today to be great? To be really positive in both attitude and production? Psychological research tells us that how someone begins their morning will most often set the tone for the rest of their day. So, what are your morning habits?

3596777523_5751c9ffbe_b-morningBenjamin Franklin wrote down his morning routine for us:

  • Rise and wash.
  • Address God with thanksgiving for His Powerful Goodness.
  • Ask the question, “What good shall I do this day?”
  • Prosecute the present study, and breakfast.

As a pastor and a therapist for many people who are dealing with crisis or living at max overload, I get how hard a day can be. Anxiety, exhaustion, demands, and worry can come more quickly than the sunrise. After twenty years of coaching spiritual and emotional health, can I offer some “plain sense” ideas that are backed by scientific research to help your day get going right? For the next week, I’ll add one suggestion a day for you to review. You could even start a personal experiment. So first…

  1. Start the morning the night before: mis-en-place.

“As a cook, your station, and its condition, its state of readiness, is an extension of your nervous system. The universe is in order when your station is set. Mise-en-place (a French phrase meaning “putting in place”) is the religion of all good cooks.”   –Chef and best-selling author Anthony Bourdain

If you read his work, you find that Franklin actually started each day the night before by seeking to, “put things in their places and then examine your day.” He was a wise man.

8596334940_29ff157691_o-razorA study of nurses conducted at Vanderbilt University Medical Center showed clearly that nurses who set everything in place at home the night before were significantly more productive the next shift. Research by Kenneth McGraw at the University of Mississippi was able to show that the biggest wall to success was often just getting something–anything–started. He suggests that we’re prone to procrastinating on large projects because we imagine the worst parts or are overwhelmed with the entire day ahead. People who start “a little bit of the task” the night before do much better in getting started in the morning.

SO…before you go to bed, prepare. Write a short list with those things that you need to accomplish the next morning or day. Lay your clothes out so you won’t rush around solving “black or navy?” or wake someone with screams from a toe stubbed in the dark. Pack your lunch. Shine your shoes. Decide on what’s for dinner tomorrow. Check you kid’s calendar. This kind of preparation is proven to make sleep easier and to depressurized life in the morning. I am NOT by nature an organized, check list,”everything-in-its-place” kind of person. I live in the moment. But I want to have more great moments tomorrow; even I can do this kind of simple preparation. And it helps a ton in the morning. Prepare.

Then change gears. Stop working, cleaning, planning, and fussing.

A Chinese proverb instructs,”When walking, walk. When eating, eat. When sleeping, sleep.”

We learn this from raising toddlers: people need to begin a process of moving-to-sleep at least 30 minutes ahead of bedtime to sleep well. Study after study has found that you must “train” your brain to sleep soundly. Sleep requires mise-en-place, too. Develop a bed time routine, and stick to it. Turn off the TV. Take a hot bath or shower. Leave your smart phone out of reach when you crawl in to bed. Read a biography. As someone who struggles to turn my mind off, I learned a great lesson from my doctor: “Use your bed for cuddling, procreation, and sleep. That’s all. Find someplace else to do your TV watching, discussions, email, phone calls, and other things. Let going to bed mean something clear, to your family and your brain.”

Start each day getting ready to have a great day tomorrow. Try it. No guilt or shame, just give it a shot. I promise it will help you find that great day which lies ahead.

Tomorrow: The science behind getting up the first time the alarm rings.

i greet the day
greet the day

Author’s Source note: As a blog, not a research paper, I am not footnoting sources. Still, I’ve drawn from many reading sources on wellness and productivity to build the blog data for this series, including Psychology Today, HuffPost, Hope and Optimism, The Wall Street Journal, OpenBuffer, Forbes Magazine, Applied Psychology, Personality and Individual Differences, Harvard Business Review, and the National Institute of Health.



  1. I love Ben Franklin’s morning routine. An older lady at my church has encouraged us to ask God each day what he has for us to do. It’s amazing how often that sets up for surprises during the day and how seemingly small things to do for him can bless others. I must confess though that procrastination doesn’t get in the back seat easily. For instance, right now I’m supposed to be working on a writing project:)

  2. This is great – as a fellow someone who has difficulty turning my brain off. Love your blogs, thank you.

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