Time management: day planning with to do list
Getty Images
September 21, 2016 4:28 PM EDT

Nela Canovic, productivity hacker, writer and entrepreneur, answered the question “What single change in your daily routine has had the biggest impact in your life?” on Quora.

Training my brain to focus really early in the morning on what I need to do that particular day.

Instead of:

  • waking up to immediately grab my phone and scroll through emails
  • brainstorming everything I need to accomplish and by what time
  • letting random thoughts take over how I feel about the day

Related from Quora: How do you reprogram your mind to tell you positive things instead of negative ones?

I now can:

  • open my eyes and feel calm about the day ahead
  • enjoy every part of my morning routine, from doing yoga to making the first cup of coffee, without feeling overwhelmed by the plan for the day
  • feel more optimistic about getting things done and getting closer to my goals
  • rely on my daily habit to keep me on track with what is most important

So what is this daily habit I’ve started practicing in the past year that helps me focus and set the tone for the day?

Related from Quora: How can I live a more interesting life?

It’s asking myself one question in the first 5 minutes after I wake up: What is the one thing I am committed to completing today?

What are the benefits to starting the day with this question?

  • It snaps me into reality: When I ask the question, I immediately have to think what’s important for that particular day. It forces me to “zoom into” my priorities.
  • It’s less overwhelming: Even though I may be juggling a dozen or more responsibilities during that day, I know that actually finishing one thing is doable and realistic.
  • It keeps one thing top of mind: There’s absolutely no way I can forget my top priority if I start my day thinking about it. It’s always there as a reminder.
  • It takes me away from distractions: As a result of having this one question in mind, I’ve noticed that I’m less likely to pay attention to things that aren’t related to my number one priority.
  • It encourages better planning: I start working on my one thing early, then I work on it again in the afternoon, and keep going until I’m done. Usually, by evening it’s finished and I can focus on other things like chilling out and unwinding.

Related from Quora: How long should it take me to write a good cover letter?

How can you start your day this way?

  • First, write it down: take a large sheet of paper and write the question in big bold letters with a thick marker.
  • Next, put it somewhere where you’re most likely to look at it: it can be on your bedroom or the bathroom wall, next to the mirror for example.
  • Then, look at the question and ask it out loud as you’re brushing your teeth or getting dressed.
  • Take a minute to think what’s on your agenda for the day, then pick one thing that has top priority for you and give an answer out loud to yourself.
  • Tip: Start working on your one thing early. Why? Your brain is more capable of tackling analytical and complex problem-solving tasks in the first few hours of the day; for most people, this is how your circadian rhythm works. Make the most of those first hours and get the hardest work out of the way so that you can move on to other (including fun) things later.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What single change in your daily routine has had the biggest impact in your life?

More Must-Reads From TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com.

You May Also Like