Day-one psychology asks you to generate an interrupt to your mindset continually, or regularly, in order for you to perform at your best. Here are a few tricks and tips to help you accomplish this.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos famously signs off his annual shareholder letter “It remains day 1”. In one of these letters a few years ago he explained why.
Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death.
And that is why it is always Day 1. Jeff Bezos, 2016.
I was recently exposed to the idea of day-one psychology – almost as a type of superpower, and I’ve found it to be really beneficial.
Essentially a day one mindset asks a question: What are you capable of doing today, given all the lessons you’ve learned and skills you’ve developed; all the resilience and appropriate emotional states you’ve built up; and the network you’ve established, as you face down today’s challenges and opportunities?
If we can view a problem or objective like it’s the first time we’ve seen it, but having at our disposal all our cumulative expertise and skills, we can bring to bear all the power and resources available to us in any given situation. The truth is we have the power and resources. What’s trickier to create, given the general busyness of our lives and our own human nature, is a “day one” – the right mindset to harness these resources.
I thought I’d highlight some of the things I’ve learned to apply this day-one mindset, by creating a day one whenever you need it.
How can you Create day one?
Every day, we each choose, manage and control our emotional states, and we travel through different states at work and at home. State or mindset determines our ability to access our own resources. If you analysed and compared your performance on your best day versus your worst day, there’s a big chance that your mindset had a lot to do with it.
At the start of the year, we all likely go through some resolution or goal-setting exercises, even if it’s only in our own heads. The start of a new year acts as a catalyst or an interrupt to our current mindset, that helps us to reflect, refresh and resolve to do things better or differently. While that once-a-year interrupt is good, we all know that keeping New Year’s resolutions is hard. Day-one psychology asks you to generate that interrupt continually, or regularly, in order to perform at your best.
So, how do we introduce this interrupt into our everyday? There are a range of tactics, some big and some small, that I’ve found useful and that you can employ.
- Attend a training course or conference – time out to hear from others, learn new things or refresh on old things is always a source of creativity for me and creates an opportunity to reflect, refresh and resolve.
- Take a holiday – a good break, staycation or abroad, to recharge the batteries and leave the minutiae behind for a while is a great tactic for creating day one if it’s coupled with some thoughtfulness and planning. Ensuring we get adequate holiday time is also crucial to our mental wellbeing.
- Meditate – connected with mental health, find quiet time regularly. Breathe, and think. Let go of the weight of poor emotional states that often hit us at work and hold us back from being our best – feeling frustrated, offended, hard done by, prideful, disengaged and so on.
- Read a book (or consume content of some form) – approach content with the intention to learn – take notes, think about how you can apply what you’re learning to your work. Adding to your bag of tools and thinking of ways to approach your goals is a good way to reinvigorate your mindset.
- Have an offsite – This could be as an individual or as a team. Get out of the normal environment, set an agenda that isn’t the day-to-day, employ some of the tactics below in this type of session to interrupt your mindset.
- Ideation sessions – individually or as teams, run workshops that remove the constraints and baggage specific to you and just look at the art of the possible.
- Ask how might we – a great one made popular by Jake Knapp in his book Sprint, I see “how might we” not just as an ideation technique but as a growth mindset technique.
- Team building – focusing on the more human side of things, and team relationships is a great way to recharge
- Goal setting – set good time-bound goals and have solid goal periods (for example, monthly or quarterly) to work in. This acts as the beginning of the new year and creates an interrupt, allowing us to shake off the fatigue and go again.
- Personal triggers – you can create triggers in your life that you can associate with a particular mental state or behaviour. I’ve seen this done in different ways by different individuals and it’s very personal. The idea of triggers is that you pick everyday events in your life, like getting in your car, putting your keys in the front door, picking up your notebook before going to a meeting, whatever it is, and attach a pattern of thought, or a phrase, or a behaviour to that action. You’re instilling an emotional state that is fit for purpose for whatever the task is that follows that action.
These are just a few things that I use regularly to get that interrupt and reset my thinking and approach.
It’s important to note that “day one” doesn’t mean you don’t do the stuff that was on the table from your previous days’ work. But it means how you approach that stuff, the resources you use, and the mindset you bring to the task can be very different and make you more effective.
We need to ask ourselves exactly how are we feeling? Does our current mindset match the circumstances? What mindset is needed for the goal or upcoming milestone in our lives? If we think that our emotional state or mindset isn’t aligned with the goal at hand, we need to employ day-one tactics to get us there.
As product people, we want to achieve great things. Amid all the to-dos and meetings and stakeholders and market trends and competitors, we can feel like we’re drowning. But, we have all we need to rise above it and succeed, and we have superpowers to draw on, including a great global product community.
Here’s to day one.