Monday Morning Mindset: Think, Plan, Execute

Having a plan can keep your thoughts organized.
Staff Sgt. William Feck, a vehicle mechanic with 155th Vehicle Maintenance, realizes the importance of making a list. (Staff Sgt. Mary Thach/155th Air Refueling Wing, Nebraska Air National Guard)

People have trouble fitting things into their day, but if you can prioritize your list of things to do, you may find that you actually do have time to get exercise, finish a project or even relax and recharge your batteries for a few minutes.

Consider making Monday morning your time to organize your week.

Here is the system: Think, Plan, Execute.

Think: Think about what you need to do every day of the week. Write it down on a calendar, piece of paper or whiteboard.

Plan: Take your list and organize the order. Prioritize time-sensitive tasks and other to-do items accordingly. Write things down and refer to your list several times a day. Having this as an easy reference is life-changing and the key to success.

Execute: You will find that if you simply use the list as a reference tool, it allows your brain not to have to keep track of everything. Now you can focus on one thing at a time and do that thing well.

The next key is to check off completed tasks. The act of checking off each task is powerful and allows your mind to move to the next event. This habit will lead to more discipline in your work and personal life. Who knows? You may find extra time in your day to exercise and eat healthier, too.

In the Navy, we would have meetings on the Plan of the Day, and together those plans of the day worked to complete the Plan of the Week. The different departments had work and training they needed to accomplish each day of the week, and together all the departments met command goals by completing these daily tasks.

This is a system of thinking, planning and doing that not only works for big organizations, but it can work for you personally as well. This is not groundbreaking information, but it can allow you to be more productive at work, achieve goals and create more time to focus on things you enjoy and need to do to live a better and healthier life.

Most people go wrong when they do not take time to make a list of things to do daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly. Whether it is paying bills, meeting deadlines or just processing the administrative activities necessary to get through a day, the chances are good that you will forget something if you rely on scattered notes or try to keep everything filed in your head.

Even if you don't forget what you need to do each day, you may be so distracted that you cannot focus on doing any job or activity well. This cluttered mindset can lead to being late for meetings, missing deadlines or failing to complete most of your day's tasks.

This also leads to other issues that affect our mind and body health, including:

  • Can't sleep at night? Make a list of the things on your mind, then put it on a schedule to do tomorrow. When all of the week's activities are floating around in our heads, the ability to focus on any one of them at a time is difficult. Making a list and schedule enables you to organize your thoughts better.
  • Exhausted at the end of the day? This can be a combination of losing the battle with your thoughts while you try to sleep and a lack of planning about which fuel you put into your body at each meal. Good food planning requires some effort and foresight.

Having your brain work overtime as it tries to keep track of everything on your schedule is exhausting. Put it on a list and refer to the list regularly. Don't overtax your brain with details. There can be an easy fix with this simple reference tool.

  • Can't work out? If you do not have enough time to get some exercise, either you are not thinking creatively enough or it is just not a priority to you right now. Sometimes that happens, but if it has been years since you have done physical activity, consider the system above to help you not only organize your thoughts but your schedule and life, too.

Make an appointment for yourself if you are going to make fitness a part of your life. It does not matter when and how long; just make time in the day for you. If you take 10 minutes to walk after every meal, you will have accumulated 30 minutes of activity. That is a good start, and the seed of fitness is planted and it will grow.

You are less likely to skip a morning (pre-work) training session than an early evening session of training. The late afternoon or early evening time is too riddled with "fires you have to put out" that can delay or cancel your workout.

  • Missing family events? Sometimes the work we do to pay the bills comes with a personal price, especially in the tactical professions. If your time off from work is filled with distractions of more things to do and future work events, take time to relax, breathe and focus on today. The moments with family don't have to be exhausting.

You also should consider teaching this system to your kids to help with their busy days of juggling school projects, sports and activities.

Before you go into any new event or task, here is a quick mental focus moment: The right mindset is everything. No matter what event at work or home you are about to start, consider saying to yourself, "I am going to focus 100% on being the best _______ I can be this next event."

Whether it is focusing on your occupation or being the best parent or spouse as you perform the next item on the to-do list, execute that plan.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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