How can I make every minute of the day count?

Take ownership of your day!

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Of course we own our day, who else would? But if you take a minute and think: once you finish your school or work routine, check Facebook and Twitter throughout the day, spend time on your phone, commute back and forth to where you need to go, and watch your favorite TV shows, what’s really left of your day? More important, what did you do in that 24-hour period that will matter 5, 10, 20 years from now?

It’s a hard question, but you should ask it!

And if you’re not pleased with your answer, then make the effort to change something. Make your minutes matter. That’s what taking ownership of your day is all about.

Now let’s think what can help you get there. Here are two ideas to get you started.

Idea #1. Make your mornings count in 3 ways.

ONE. Create a morning routine to give you more energy.

A routine that helps you start the day means that you become the master of your own time, you can start working on things that are important to you, and you can be more calm knowing in advance what your day will look like. For example:

TWO. Start your day with this question: What is the one thing I am committed to completing today?

  • Why this habit matters: it encourages you to think strategically about your life, it keeps you focused on your goals (both personal and professional), it forces you to prioritize, and it serves as a personal promise to yourself.
  • How you can incorporate this habit into your day: 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 go through the day, make sure you’re working on completing what you’ve identified as your one thing.

THREE. Get your hard work done first.

We don’t function the same early in the morning as when we do at night. Our body and our brain are more likely to function better at certain times of day. It’s all about knowing your biological clock and how it works.

  • Why do hard work first? Because the early hours of the day are the optimal time for your analytical brain to perform the most complex tasks (in the case of studying, for example, these can be reading, comprehension, application, repetition). Some scientists call this time of day the brain’s peak performance time, and it’s about 2-4 hours after we wake up.
  • When exactly should you do it? If you wake up at 6, your peak performance times are between 8 and 10 a.m. Extend this time until lunch so that you cover the most important concepts when your brain is clear, less cluttered by additional tasks, and less likely to be distracted by events happening around you.

Idea #2. Think about the big picture using these 3 approaches.

ONE. Develop your life strategy.

Focus on the work you’ve planned to complete today, but always keep your eye on at least two steps ahead. When you have a strategy in place, everything you do each day will have more purpose. Try this:

  • Rethink your behavior: This applies to what you do each day and how you react to what’s happening around you. Is your behavior geared towards achieving a one-time effect, or will you feel benefits in the long run?
  • Think in terms of active versus passive: As you go about your day, are you merely reacting to events, people, and circumstances, or are you being proactive about them and providing value in some way to yourself and also to other people?

TWO. Set long-term goals for yourself.

This evening, take 30 minutes to write down the following:

  • Identify your top 3 goals. For example: graduate from college, get an advanced degree, find a job that is the best fit for your skill set, develop a skill that you’ve always wanted, get physically fit, relocate to a city or country where you would like to live and work, etc.
  • Under each goal, write down 3 things you can do on a regular basis to make progress. For example: if your goal is to get physically fit, then the things you should focus on can be creating a meal plan for the week to eat healthier, working out regularly, and doing research on YouTube for fun workouts that don’t take up too much time and can be incorporated easily into your day.
  • Then, create a weekly schedule to fit in the activities you’ve identified as important to achieving your goal. Divide each day into hourly increments, then block off time for your responsibilities, commute, meal times. You should still be able to find an hour to fit in 1–2 activities important to your goal. Too busy? Start with a small block of 15 minutes.

THREE. Use the end of the day to dream big.

Evenings are great for strategic thinking because it’s a time for the brain to settle into a different tempo when it can be more creative. If you’re setting goals and strategizing where you want to be in 6 months or a year with your personal development, this is when you can outline your next steps. For example:

  • Ask yourself: Where do you see yourself in the future, who do you want to become, what would be an ideal lifestyle for you?
  • Map out your dreams: Write down in detail what this ideal lifestyle would be like. Cover all areas of your life: what is that dream job, the daily schedule, the people you’d be working with? What does the city look like, the apartment or house you’d be living in, the commute to work? Do you see yourself with a partner, a family, children, with pets? Dedicate some time to describing everything in detail.
  • Make it visual: Get a large sheet of paper, then find photographs (from magazines, for example) that look like a visual representation of what you’d like your ideal lifestyle to be. Add pictures and write down phrases that are powerful and meaningful to you, and that pertain to your goals: your college degree, the perfect job, your ideal and fit self, your dream home, the dog you’d like to have one day, etc.
  • Incorporate it into your day: Put your vision map somewhere where you can see it first thing in the morning: in the bathroom as you’re brushing your teeth or in the bedroom when you’re getting dressed. Look at it often, absorb the pictures, read the words. Make it a daily habit to spend time observing everything you’ve put on your vision map.
  • Make the connection: As you’re looking at your vision map each day, ask yourself what you can do today to get you closer to your dreams. It is only when we are proactive about our life that we can truly make dreams come alive, make them real, make them part of who we want to become.

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