Easy wins: five minutes of fun before the work day begins ‘it’s the closest I get to childlike joy’

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, you’d better do it first thing in the morning” is a bit of wisdom attributed to Mark Twain that has inspired many an entrepreneurial go-getter. But in my 37 years of endeavour, procrastination, discipline and punishment, one thing I have learned is that even the worst days are infinitely better if you start them not by swallowing the frog, but by being just a little bit kind to yourself.

Consider: which activities bring you joy? What’s your idea of bliss or comfort? What do you do to feel most like yourself? Now, imagine: what if that blissful, comforting, singular joy was the thing you woke up to?

Maybe your joy is having a bubble bath. What if you started having them first thing in the morning, in the quiet, before anyone else in the house was awake? Maybe it’s lying on the couch, reading a poem. What if you did that with your coffee in the morning sun? Maybe it’s listening to your favourite heavy metal song at ear-splitting volume. Maybe it’s sketching, or throwing a stick for the dog, or staying in bed, doing other bedtime things.

I think many of us are doing mornings all wrong. We’ve been telling ourselves that because they so often involve gruel and grind, this is what they must always be. But that is kind of the point, because even with the tightest schedule and the most soul-destroying list of tasks to accomplish, it’s all the more difficult and important to tend to your soul – to make time for your own desires, joys, pleasures.

My advice is: do that first. Very first. For five minutes, if that’s all you have.

My joys are fairly small, like reading a good novel and knitting, sometimes both at once. Frequently, now, these are the first things I do when I wake up. Even on workdays. Especially on workdays. Sometimes I get up earlier so I can do them – it’s the closest I get to the childlike joy of knowing when I open my eyes there will be a treat under the tree. Yes, I know the frog is waiting – maybe a whole pond of them – but it’s so much easier to get out of bed knowing that between the frog and me sits a little slice of pure joy.