April 11, 2019

Over the years, I’ve built up an arsenal of productivity hacks: the Pomodoro technique, priority checklists, 2-hour hermit mode—the list goes on. Hacks on hacks on hacks.

Some days they work beautifully and I’m crushing it.

Other days: There’s no amount of color-coordination or to-do list tactics that can save me.

Lately, I started thinking about why this is. I realized on days that I win the productivity game, I start from a place of happiness or joy. On less than stellar days? I start from a more frustrated or stressed place.

Studies show that how you start your day sets the tone for your motivation, drive, and efficiency.
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It should come as no surprise that our moods directly affect our productivity or forward movement. Studies show that how you start your day sets the tone for your motivation, drive, and efficiency. Starting the day on the right foot likely means you’ll stay that way, even through would-be derailers.

Knowing that my mood was the factor to make or break my day, I looked for a way to give myself the best chance of success. The solution: Creating a “productive mood anchor.” It’s a joyful action that primes your brain to tackle the day. It lets you set the mood for your work rather than seeing which mood just happens to pop up.


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The idea came to me thanks to Thomas Oppong, a founder and productivity author. “Every morning when you are getting ready for your daily tasks, don’t dive straight into things you have to/must/should do, indulge in activities you love first,” he writes in a post for Medium. “…This starts your morning on an optimistic and happy note, putting you in the right frame of mind for tackling the day.”

A “productive mood anchor” is a joyful action that primes your brain to tackle the day. It lets you set the mood for your work rather than seeing which mood just happens to pop up.
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Want to find your productive mood anchor? Here’s how it works:

Pinpoint Simple Things That Spark Joy

Kind of like boxers getting hyped before entering the ring, think of the things that you know help you get you in the zone that can also spark joy.

Look for the things that make you optimistic or happy, and try to make it something you love. For me, that’s a cup of hot tea, a few light stretches, and a quick morning podcast. If I really want to start the day off right, I toss in a soothing Spotify playlist.

These things have no direct connection to my work, and that’s why they’re great—they feel like I’m doing something just for me. It’s calming.

Kind of like boxers getting hyped before entering the ring, think of the things that you know help you get you in the zone that can also spark joy.
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Thomas explains that that’s key—when you choose to “do what brings out the best in you first,” he writes, that helps you feel more in charge of your day.

For you, it might look like lighting that desk candle and giving it a sniff, taking 5 minutes to play with a pet, or doing a fun doodle in your notebook before you fill it with notes from the day. As long as it’s quick and sparks joy, it’s a productive mood anchor.

Make It a Pre-Hustle Habit

Once you find a small action that sparks joy, make it your go-to move before you dive into a busy day. This will help you connect the good vibes from that action with your work.

The more often you do the joyful activity before starting your work, the better. This will create a strong “action trigger” (first I do the happy thing, then I do the work) and make it a habit.

“A trigger tells your body and mind you are ready for work,” Thomas writes. “For many people, the mere association of coffee and getting on with work becomes so strong that they don’t need to force the situation anymore.”

If you do find your mood rocked later in the day, your productive mood anchor is always there for you. You can use your anchor anytime you need to hit reset on your vibe.
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After prioritizing a productive mood anchor for the past few weeks, I’ve definitely seen the benefits. Spending a few moments savoring my cup of tea helps me dive into my email inbox in the right frame of mind. When I start pouring over my to-do list, it’s with a lot less dread.

The best part: If you do find your mood rocked later in the day, your productive mood anchor is always there for you. You can use your anchor anytime you need to hit reset on your vibe.

Find what sparks joy for you, make it your pre-work ritual, and get ready to get stuff done.


Read next: How to Visualize Your Way To a Productive Day

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