ONE. Start your morning with this question:
What is the one thing I am committed to completing today?
- Why it matters: This question sets the tone to your day. It encourages you to think strategically about your life, it keeps you focused on your goals, it forces you to prioritize, and it serves as a personal promise to yourself.
- How to use it daily: Put it in writing. Write it in big bold letters on a sheet of paper and hang it on your bedroom or bathroom wall. Read it out loud as you start your day, and come up with an answer on the spot. Then, as you follow your daily schedule, make sure that you are doing what you need to do so that you complete the one thing you’ve identified as important to you for that day.
TWO. Create a morning routine to give you energy for the day ahead.
- Why it matters: A morning routine makes you feel super productive at the start of the day, gives you focus, and provides you with a sense of achievement early, so that you already feel you’ve made progress.
- How to use it daily: The night before, go to sleep a little earlier so that you can get up a little earlier too. Write a plan for what you will do the following day so that you can structure your time and not waste hours doing things that are not relevant to your personal and professional goals. Be smart about how you use your cell phone in the morning: instead of checking your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media feed, adjust your phone setting to Airplane mode when you are working, so that you don’t get distracted. For more ideas on setting up a morning routine, check out my post .
THREE. Do your hard work early.
- Why it matters: According to scientific research, the brain’s peak performance happens 2-4 hours after we wake up. Early work allows the brain to focus fully on the problem at hand, with fewer distractions, less inputs from our environment, and with fresh energy that we’ve gained from a restful night.
- How to use it daily: Adjust your morning schedule so that you don’t waste your peak hours doing things that don’t require your complete focus: stay away from checking emails before noon, schedule or request that your meetings are moved to the mid to late afternoon, make phone calls after lunch, listen to the news later in the day (while driving, for example) instead of first thing when you wake up. This will free up your peak time to do your deep work first – anything that requires the most concentration, such as reading, writing, and problem solving.
FOUR. Be smart with your commute.
- Why it matters: Whether you are walking, taking the bus or train, or driving to school or work, all that time adds up. Your commute can be an hour or more each way, which adds up to maybe 3 hours total in one day – and that can mean 15 hours per week, or 60 hours per month. That’s a LOT of time! Why not plan ahead so that you can maximize it in ways that can grow your imagination, help you learn new things, get strategic about how to achieve the goals that are important to you?
- How to use it daily: Instead of listening to the news or stressing out because you’re stuck in traffic, queue up some podcasts to keep you alert, focused, and entertained. Pick topics that you care most about and that are useful for achieving your personal or professional goals. Here are a few podcast ideas:
- Optimize with Brian Johnson (condensed big ideas from the best books on optimal living and also micro classes on how to apply these ideas)
- Achieve Your Goals with Hal Elrod (creator of The Miracle Morning, provides ideas to cultivate a morning routine and be productive early in the day)
- Happier With Gretchen Rubin (a fun show led by bestselling author of “The Happiness Project” with small ideas you can apply to your life to exercise your happiness muscle)
- Intelligence Squared (forum for debate and intelligent discussion on a variety of topics ranging from world politics to art to economics)
- Planet Money ( stories about smart people, economics, politics)
- Radiolab (show about curiosity, interesting ideas, science, philosophy)
- The Inquiry (a debate on a controversial topic in the news and 4 experts challenging each other with 2 views, for and against the topic)
- Ask Altucher (Q&A sessions with entrepreneur/investor/writer where he responds to questions from listeners on a variety of topics)
- Question of the Day (a show for people short on time and long on curiosity, with a lot of good humor in trying to answer the question at hand)
FIVE. Take ownership of your free time.
- Why it matters: Let’s face it – at some point in our lives we have all let television, commercials, mass media, or social media control the way we spend the little free time that we have in the evenings. Instead of just giving in to passive forms of entertainment and then finding ourselves hours later wondering where the time went, why not plan what we want to do with our free time?
- How to use it daily: Reclaim your evening hours to do what’s important to you. Here’s what evenings can be great for:
- Use an hour after dinner to do some strategic thinking. Since this is the time of day when the brain slows down and is freed from the deadlines you impose on it earlier in the day, use the time for creative thinking. For example, if you’re thinking of setting a particular goal for yourself, outline the steps you’ll need to take so that you can get there in 6 months or a year. If you’re working on a creative activity such as writing, composing music, painting, or on developing another craft, this is a great time for being bold, dreaming, and letting your creative mind take over.
- Watch documentaries on the ancient worlds. YouTube is full of them (use “BBC documentaries” and “History Channel documentaries” to search the topics that interest you). To get started, check out British historian Bettany Hughes and her series called to learn about everyday life in ancient Alexandria, Rome, Athens, and about the way society was organized among Minoans, Spartans, and the Moors. Another excellent 3-part series by the BBC is .
- Read books. It doesn’t matter if they’re fiction or non-fiction. What’s important is that you feed your brain, learn new things, time travel, and absorb the life experiences of other people. If they’re excellent storytellers, you will soon be drawn into their world so that you cannot put the book down. To start, check out recommendations on on Quora. Or download the to get recommendations, add books to your bookshelf, and track your reading progress.