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How 2 Minutes Can Set You Up for a Successful Day

We all occasionally have hectic, frantic, crazy days. This 2-minute technique can reset your day for success and serenity.


Have you ever had one of those days where everything seems to go wrong and no matter what you do you can’t seem to get it back on track?

You get into the office late because your hairdryer broke, you had only cold water for your shower, and your coffee maker threw up on you. Once you arrive, you’re immediately confronted by that employee who just grates on your nerves (but who is really good at what he does, so you can’t get rid of him) complaining about the 15 fires only you can put out. Then, you find out that your assistant has called in sick–which is great because you don’t have the time to catch her flu, but also terrible, because now you have no gatekeeper to organize your day and keep things running smoothly … and all of this is before 9:30 a.m. Have you had one of those days?

Most of us have had this kind of day before, and if you have, you know once the day starts like this, it’s pretty hard to get it back on track. You end up feeling frazzled, frustrated, and if you’re not pulling your own hair out by lunchtime, you’re pretty ready to pull out someone else’s.

There’s a simple technique I use regularly (and that I teach to pretty much everyone I work with) that helps get those stressful days back on track. It’s called (drumroll, please): breathing. I know, I know … you breathe all the time. But did you know there’s a specific easy technique that anyone can do that can reset your body’s nervous system to make you feel calmer?

Many people talk about meditation and how useful that is for making better decisions, lowering your stress level, lowering your blood pressure, making you feel better, etc. I agree, and research definitely confirms meditation can do all those things and more. But many people who are new to meditation find the idea of it daunting. That’s why I like to go start with the very basics: your breath. (Anyone need a mint? Ha ha ha–yes, bad jokes also help you feel better.)

When you inhale through your nose, you stimulate your sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for stimulating you and giving you energy. When you exhale through your nose, you stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system which helps you feel peaceful and more relaxed (sympathetic stimulating; parasympathetic peaceful).

All you have to do to reset your day is take two minutes to do this mindful breathing exercise. (And by mindful, I simply mean consciously paying attention to doing this one thing and nothing else.) Then, all you do is breathe and count the duration of your inhalations and exhalations. If you want to calm down, make your exhalations slightly longer than your inhalations (to stimulate your parasympathetic [peaceful] nervous system). If you need more energy, do the reverse.


Here are the super-simple directions.

To calm down:

  1. Set your cellphone timer for 2 minutes (and make the alarm something that sounds nice, not jarring!);
  2. Close your eyes or let your focus go soft with your eyelids relaxed;
  3. Breathe in for a count of 3;
  4. Breathe out for a count of 4;
  5. Repeat.

For more energy:

  1. Set your cellphone timer for 2 minutes (and make the alarm something that sounds nice, not jarring!);
  2. Close your eyes or let your focus go soft with your eyelids relaxed;
  3. Breathe in for a count of 4;
  4. Breathe out for a count of 3;
  5. Repeat.

Easy, right?

This technique won’t make your obstacles go away, but it will give you the calm, clear mind you need to deal navigate through those hectic days. Even taking 30 seconds to do this can make a drastic difference. It’s also a great way to start meetings, since it gets everyone centered and focused. And if you can’t remember which way is calming and which is energizing, you have two options: (1) make your inhalations and exhalations equal in duration, and (2) remember that when a sigh involved a prolonged exhalation, and sighing helps you feel relaxed, so a longer exhalation is relaxing. Got it? Great! Now try it!

(You’ll also find that after doing this a few times, it’ll be easy to tell which helps you feel more relaxed and which is energizing.)

It really is that simple to set your day up for success. All you have to be able to do is count and breathe. The difficult part is just remembering to take the time to do it!

This article was originally published on in November 2014.
Ariana Ayu is the author of the Business Mojo column on (a website and magazine geared toward entrepreneurs) which was published between 2014-2016. Ariana is the CEO and founder of several companies, including Ayutopia International, LLC, which develops profitable collaborative corporate cultures, personal celebrity brands, and custom branded websites. Her press and media appearances include USA Today, International Business Times, ABC, CBS, CBS Money Watch, the CW, Eyewitness News, FOX, NBC, Newsday,Virtual-Strategy Magazine, World’s Luxury Guide,, Miami Herald, BlogTalkRadio, and Hollywood Industry, among others.

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