What’s the number one thing that motivates you every morning?

 
Easy. It’s this question that I ask myself every morning within the first 5 minutes of waking up:

What is the ONE thing I am committed to completing today?

Here’s an explanation of why it’s so motivating to me, and why it might help you if you’ve often found yourself struggling with getting motivated to do something that is on your to-do list or that is a necessary step in achieving a personal or profession goal.

ONE. Why is this question important to me?

  • It simplifies my life. I don’t overwhelm myself with too many choices I need to make on any given day.
  • It encourages me to think strategically about my life one day at a time.
  • It keeps me focused on my goals instead of getting distracted by other things.
  • It forces me to prioritize what it relevant over everything else that is not.
  • It serves as a personal promise to myself to do what I’ve identified as critical to my personal or professional development.

TWO. How can you incorporate this question into your daily life?

  • Write it down: take a large sheet of paper and write the question in big bold letters.
  • Hang it on your bedroom or bathroom wall so it’s easy to see.
  • Make it part of a unique background for your computer or cell phone.
  • Use it as the main heading at the top of your journal entry for each day.
  • Ask the question aloud as you are brushing your teeth or getting ready.
  • Give an answer on the spot out loud, or write it down in your journal.

THREE. How can this question make a positive impact on your life?

  • You train your brain to focus on what is most important to you, and you don’t waste it on things that are trivial, irrelevant, or distracting in any way.
  • You gain a sense of purpose when you are focused on your personal commitments: it gives your life meaning, helps you understand you have something of value to contribute, and improves the quality of your day-to-day life.
  • You save time when you know in advance the work you need to accomplish, so that you don’t waste hours evaluating multiple priorities throughout the day, which can be exhausting.
  • You help your brain perform more optimally when you’re committed to just ONE thing, so that it becomes freed from cluttered thoughts and it has more space to concentrate on what you consider the most important goal of your day.

How can I avoid distractions while studying?

One thing is for sure: all those distractions you’re experiencing aren’t going to go away, so your best bet is to attack them head on.

Try these 5 tips and change your studying experience so you maximize the time and minimize the distractions.

Tip #1. Minimize digital distractions.

It’s becoming increasingly tough to focus on what we are currently doing because our attention moves to all the devices we own. There’s the computer, the tablet, the phone (and that doesn’t cover the TV!). Let’s be real: technology is great! But you’re better off if you make it work for you, not against you. This means, when you’re getting ready to work, it’s time to shut some things off. Here’s how:

  • Set your phone to Airplane mode when you need to focus. It’s not necessary to receive calls or texts when you’re in the middle of a study session. Whenever your attention shifts to something else, it takes your brain about 20 minutes to refocus.
  • Check your email and social media apps only 2–3 times a day. This can be around midday, later in the afternoon, and evening. Schedule this time during your lunch break, for example, or when you have a cup of coffee or tea.
  • Avoid browsing the Internet or reading the daily news. Leave these activities for later after you’ve completed what you need to do. Close all tabs on your computer that may be tempting you to start browsing.

Tip #2. Become a pro at blocking away noise.

Ideally, we’d all be in a soundproof room whenever we need to focus for an important exam. But real life is far from that! If your home or work environment is not the ideal place for focusing (which goes for most of us), you will need to get more creative with overcoming this challenge. Start with these ideas:

  • Invest in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones. They can be helpful whether you’re at home, in a busy coffee shop, or at university. You can listen to music that can help you relax and improve your focus (it can be classical music or sounds of nature).
  • Get a pair of soft silicone ear plugsThey’re especially good if you prefer to work in silence, and they easily double up as an option for taking a quick nap or if you’re having trouble sleeping throughout the night due to heavy traffic, loud housemates, or construction in your neighborhood.

Tip #3. Train your mind to dive right in.

What really makes a difference in starting your study day the right way is to get your mind on board with what you’re about to do. It helps you stay motivated to do what’s in front of you. For example:

  • Instead of approaching what you’re doing as a chore, turn it into a choice. Don’t tell yourself, All this work I have to complete today is so hard, I don’t feel like doing any of it! Instead say, This is something I really want to learn more about, it will help me improve a skill or master my field of expertise!The benefits? It gives you a greater sense of control about your studies.
  • Remind yourself of the value of your studies with this question: “Why am I doing this?” Make the connection between what’s happening right now and the goals you have set for yourself. It can be to learn a new skill, study for an exam so you can graduate and start your career, solve a particular problem you’re currently dealing with, etc.
  • Visualize what you’re about to do. This is a technique called building a mental model; you imagine in detail what you expect to learn. As you do it, be sure to cover all the steps you will be doing. For example, if you are researching something new, visualize covering a certain amount of material (chapters, paragraphs, sections), taking notes on important concepts, writing down questions to follow up on later. When you tell yourself a story, you train your brain to anticipate next steps you’ll need to take.

Tip #4. Practice being more mindful.

Let’s face it: studying is like having a full-time job. You’re working for weeks at a time to prep for exams, the assignments seem endless, and you often lose focus or get distracted with just about anything: a noisy street outside your window, a friend calling you to join them for dinner, all those videos you’d rather be watching on YouTube. There’s one way to stay focused and declutter your mind from all the busy thoughts that keep piling up: a simple meditation practice of 10 minutes.

  • The benefits: You can feel less overwhelmed and stressed, you are able to stay calm throughout the day, and you may even start concentrating better on your work.
  • How to begin: First download the Headspace app, which makes meditation easy, fun, and great for beginners. Practice 10 minutes consistently for 10 days. After that, you can opt to increase the time to 15 and later 20 minutes, or you can keep it to 10 if that amount of time works for you.

Tip #5. Don’t allow other people and social media run your day.

Both of these factors can significantly impact your focus by taking your attention away from what’s important in your life. Here’s how to keep social distractions to a minimum:

  • Start by setting expectations with other people. Before you begin your study session, let your family members or roommates know you won’t be available in the next few hours. That way they don’t interrupt you with their requests, questions, or ideas on doing something else that they’ll claim is more fun or interesting. Having to choose between your studying and social activities isn’t fair, so you shouldn’t put yourself in a situation where you’re forced to pick one over the other.
  • Consider eliminating toxic people from your life. Many of them may claim they are your friends, but they are not. Why? Because they don’t support you, they don’t listen to you, and chances are they won’t change just because you want them to. Be very selective who you spend your free time with, and next time a toxic person wants to monopolize your time, just say no. Tell them you’re busy. Don’t engage in negative talk. You’re better off spending free time on your own doing something that makes you relaxed and happy.
  • Don’t get lost in the latest Facebook or Instagram updates. Instead, you’re better off if you take everything you see and hear with a grain of salt. Chances are that the pictures and updates are not your friends’ or other people’s reality; it’s the version of their reality they want you to see. Instead, focus on what you have going for you in your life. Practice gratitude for the little things, stay true to your goals, and don’t let other people’s ideas or priorities sway you from accomplishing what you have set out to do.

What keeps you motivated to learn things?

 

In two words: endless curiosity.

Because that’s what my mind is like. I am curious to know how and why things work, in what ways they can be useful to me, and what potential they have to open up new questions for me to contemplate.

But I don’t turn this into an abstract concept. In fact, I’ve narrowed the motivation thing down to almost a science. I start with the basics: first I figure out the why, then narrow down the what, I create a ritual around the where andwhen, I master my how, and finally I remind myself to stay curious.

When you cover the basics, you can boost your motivation to learn new things much more effectively.

Here are 5 steps to get you there.

#1. Ask your WHY.

Find out what is your purpose and goal to learn a new thing. When you make this connection, you’re more likely to stay motivated to keep learning. Why is that important? Because you should always make sure you’re learning something because you want to, and not because someone else thinks it is important. It is your personal development you should be focused on, not the development of anyone else. To narrow down your why, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why is learning about this topic important to me?
  • Is this something I’ve been interested in for a long time?
  • Am I looking to become an expert in a certain field?
  • Do I want to use this knowledge to better my education or career?
  • Am I looking to develop a skill I will need to live a higher quality of life?

#2. Narrow down the WHAT.

When you find out your why, narrow down what you’re learning. Make sure you identify one field, area, or subject matter so that your learning becomes more focused and targeted. When you do, you’re on the path to becoming a master in that area, as opposed to just dabbling in things here and there, without going in-depth on any particular topic.

  • Why is this important to the learning process in the long run?Identifying one thing means you don’t run the risk of getting distracted and demotivated because you want to achieve too much at the same time. When it comes to absorbing new material, think quality instead of quantity.
  • How does this impact your daily life? It makes absorbing new things easier. When you target one area at a time, you create a daily habit of learning that is simple and straightforward to follow, so that you can be consistent with it for longer periods of time.

#3. Create a ritual around the WHERE and WHEN.

Don’t wait for nighttime to begin learning something entirely new. If your goal is to absorb new information more effectively, especially if that information is dense, unfamiliar, and includes concepts that will require your analytical mind to take over, read the new material early in the day.

  • Why is it important to learn new things early? Because that’s when your analytical brain is more likely to perform the most complex tasks (in the case of learning new things, these tasks can be reading, comprehension, application, repetition).
  • When should you study? Your brain’s peak performance time is around 2-4 hours after you wake up. So, for example, if you wake up at 6, your peak times for review are between 8 and 10 a.m. To maximize your focus time, extend studying until midday to cover the most important concepts by lunchtime.
  • Where should you study? Create a peaceful and calm space to sit and work undisturbed. It could be your bedroom or a quiet corner at home. But if you live in a noisy environment, you might need to get creative. Try investing in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones to block out noise, or get a pair of soft silicone ear plugs like these so that you can study in silence. Music can help you improve your focus: it can be classical music such as Mozart, Chopin, or Bach, or a playlist of chillout tunes.

#4. Master your HOW.

Now that you’ve dedicated the time and space to learning something new, think how you can best optimize the time. If you think that you should be sitting in one place reading for hours, that’s the wrong approach. Why? Because you’re more likely to lose focus and your motivation, not to mention you’ll get tired fast. Here’s what can help:

  • Use a timer to divide up your study sessions into 30–60 minute increments that will allow your brain to focus in a more targeted and effective way. If you don’t have a lot of time, though, try the Pomodoro technique: study only in 25 minute increments, with a 5 minute break.
  • When you’ve completed one study session, get up and do something completely unrelated to work to give your brain a chance to rest. The benefit? You take advantage of the Zeigarnik effect: it’s a concept developed in psychology that suggests that students who take breaks during which they perform unrelated activities (studying other unrelated subjects, reading a book, working out or performing other physical activities, for example) will remember material better than students who go through longer study sessions without taking a break. So go ahead: get some fresh air, make yourself a sandwich, write a short list of other things you need to do later in the day, make yourself a cup of coffee or tea.

#5. STAY curious by befriending your inner child.

Staying curious is a combination of thinking like a detective, being open to new experiences, and learning new things. It’s very similar to how you processed the world when you were a child. And just because you are now all grown up with adult responsibilities doesn’t mean you should ignore the child that is still in you. Acknowledge it and ask what it wants to find out about the world and why. This will give you some time to explore the things that made you happy and excited before all this grown-up stuff happened. And in turn, it can help you to process and see the world around you differently today. Here’s what you can do:

  • Write down 5 things that your inner child loved to do. It can be anything from playing a game to practicing a sport to spending time vacationing at a favorite destination with your family.
  • From your list, pick items that still speak to you that you may have forgotten. In the rush of finishing school, going through your turbulent teen years, or studying for tough exams at college, what was left behind? Did you have big plans to be a writer, a painter, or a basketball player? When was the last time you did any of those things? How did you feel when you were doing them?
  • Make a plan for the following month to practice one of the items from the list. The key is to start with one so it’s easier to do; you can always try something different later and see how it goes. Start with an hour, maybe two times a week. If it’s painting that you miss doing, buy a sketch pad along with a few brushes and some watercolors, and get creative. If you picked a sport, go to the gym or the nearby park and work on getting more strong and fit.

How do I motivate myself when I am failing at every stage of my life?

I’ll let you in on a secret about failure: no matter how hard you try, you can’t escape it. You may think you have a lot of things going for you, or that you’re on a winning streak, or things just feel really good. And then it happens. Sometimes you get a warning signal, or a bunch of red flags flapping in the wind, but it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes it quietly creeps up on you, and by the time you feel it, it’s too late to change course.

Or is it?

Maybe the solution is in how you train your brain to think about failure.

And maybe, just maybe, it’s not what happens to you in your life that matters, but rather how you react to it that will determine the course of your life.

So how do you train your brain to stay motivated despite all the failures you experienced?

Start with these 7 tips and follow up questions to ask yourself so that you can gain a fresh perspective on what to do differently.

Tip 1. Congratulate yourself for making it this far.

Yes, if you hadn’t failed, by now you’d be celebrating the big win. But whatever happened to all the effort you put into it? That doesn’t just disappear. It’s really important to give yourself kudos for every small step you put into it. Why is this important? Your brain doesn’t know the difference between progress and perceived progress, so you’re better off giving praise for the small steps you’ve taken. Watch this TEDx Talk featuring B.J. Fogg, the Director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University, to see why the secret is not in the big wins but in the small ones.

Question to ask yourself:

  • What is one thing I’ve done successfully in the past month: did I finish a big chunk of a project, meet a deadline, learn how to use a tool to do my job better, or finish a semester at school?

Tip 2. Resist getting emotional about it.

Sometimes it’s that voice that you hear saying, I can’t do it! It’s too hard! I’m going to give up! If it is, just chalk it up to the fixed mindset talking. What’s a fixed mindset? It’s your belief that your personality, skill set, and strengths are “fixed” i.e. you have them from birth, and that that’s just how it is. What’s better? Adopting a growth mindset: believing that you can cultivate strengths and skills through your efforts. That is hugely empowering! Read Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success to better understand how you can make lasting change with continuous effort.

Question to ask yourself:

  • Do I say something is difficult because I’ve always found it challenging to do, and how would I change this if I could start all over again?

Tip 3. Tap into the bigger picture.

Ask yourself, Why am I doing this? Whatever you are working on, zoom out of your current situation and connect with the initial reason you started doing it. This will remind you that your actions are directly linked to your personal or professional goals. Maybe you started working on acquiring a new skill such as playing an instrument to fulfill a lifelong dream. Or, you are studying for exams, so that you can get a degree that will open doors for you to embark on an exciting career and gain financial independence. Or maybe you’re looking for a job that is a better fit for your skill set and your career path than the last one you had.

Question to ask yourself:

  • Why is this challenge so important to me? What is at the core? What will I gain from solving it? What will this mean to my life in the long run?

Tip 4. Consider that you could be a victim of self-sabotage.

Maybe it’s not external factors that are making a task impossible, even though you’d like to think so (My manager hates me! or The professor is deliberately making this exam difficult to pass!). Maybe the real reason is you and what you’re doing (or not!) to make it difficult to reach your goal. Is that entirely impossible? Not really. It’s more common than you may think. Check out this article to find out how changing your environment or adhering to the 2-minute rule can break this bad habit.

Question to ask yourself:

  • What is really behind my negative self-talk, am I scared to do something or is there one thing that’s blocking me?

Tip 5. Start anticipating obstacles and prepare for them.

When we are faced with an obstacle, we tend to stop what we’re doing and start reacting: we get emotional, we complain. It’s not fair! It’s impossible to fix! But complaining won’t change a thing. What will make a difference is getting proactive. How? First, start anticipating that there will be obstacles you will encounter on your path. If you prepare yourself psychologically for them, they won’t feel so devastating when they actually do happen. Second, use the opportunity to learn something new, to take a different approach to the problem, to think it through, and to try something different that can yield better results. And third, take advantage of the tough times to achieve mastery in one area so that you can become an expert at it. That way you proactively take advantage of your full potential, and you use your strengths to accomplish what you want to do with your life.

Question to ask yourself:

  • What are 3 things I can do when I am faced with an obstacle? Which solutions can I brainstorm so that I have them ready in case I need them?

Tip 6. Create a peaceful place in your mind.

More important than tidying up your apartment or house, it will benefit you greatly if you regularly work on keeping your mind clean and uncluttered. Why? When it’s not full of jumbled thoughts, confusion and worry, it can work its real magic. And how do you do that? By practicing mindfulness through meditation. This small practice doesn’t require a lot of time, it’s simple to follow, and it has many benefits, including better focus and more concentration. You can try it early in the day so that you prepare your brain for the day ahead, or you can practice it at night so you have more restful and calm sleep. Download the Headspace app to start with a simple 10-minute session.

Question to ask yourself:

  • When can I set aside 10 minutes today to practice mindfulness?

Tip 7. Make the time to take a well-deserved break.

We tend to feel bad about the decisions we made or the things that happened to us when we’re tired and our brain is exhausted from trying so hard to do things successfully. Maybe you’ve spent hours sitting at your desk or working on a challenging task, and your brain needs a break. What are some things you can do? If you don’t have a deadline later in the day, take a few hours off and go outside for a walk or a bike ride. You can take a power nap to get energized to work more later. Or you can find other ways to relax, such as listening to music or reading a chapter or two from a good book.

Question to ask yourself:

  • What is an activity that relaxes me that I can treat myself to doing today?

How do I avoid losing focus on my goals after waking up?

Oh, you’re not the only one who loses focus after waking up.

All of us have experienced this many times. Maybe we start the day with great ideas or big plans of what we want to do. Maybe we get a rush of energy just thinking about these things. And then something happens: we find ourselves rushing in the morning, we are running late on our way to work or school, we forget to bring things along with us, we start feeling overwhelmed with the volume of tasks on our ever-growing list. Or maybe none of those things happen, but we find ourselves procrastinating about getting started with the day, and next thing we know, it’s lunchtime and our focus is just gone—plain and simple.

Sounds familiar, right?

It’s important to keep in mind that there’s a big difference between having an idea and acting on the idea, just as there’s a big difference between beginning the day with good intentions and actually making things happen.

And that, right there, is how you can get out of this situation.

Start making things happen.

Here are 5 ideas that can help you get there.

Idea #1. Confront your procrastination by replacing the words “I can’t do this!” with “Why not try it?”

Hey, we’re all guilty of procrastinating at some point in our life. It doesn’t require a lot of effort, and it’s almost a default reaction to something challenging.

How do you do it?

  • First, ask yourself if there is something else hiding behind procrastination. Maybe it is fear of not being able to do something successfully, not being able to be better at it than other people, or maybe not even understanding why we are doing something to begin with.
  • Next time you feel like procrastinating, rather than immediately reacting with “I can’t do it”, ask yourself where the resistance is coming from. Be honest with yourself. Start with providing an explanation, for example by saying, “I can’t because….” Then you’ll know the source of your resistance.
  • Think of what you gain when you say “Why not?” You win over fear and you start thinking beyond obstacles. There is something powerful when you leave a door open to explore possibilities, instead of shutting that same door in your own face. It’s a subtle change in your attitude that can have a big impact in your life.

Idea #2. Train your brain to focus by asking yourself this question every morning: “What is the one thing I am committed to completing today?”

It’s a simple brain training technique that makes it easy for your brain to focus on goals that are important to you right now. It also boosts your critical thinking skills because it forces you to prioritize what’s most relevant.

How do you do it?

  • 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.
  • Follow up by taking action and by reminding yourself throughout the day about the commitment you made.

Idea #3. Get your brain on board.

Before you start doing anything new, get your brain on board with what you’re about to do. It helps you get motivated to take action and become fully absorbed in whatever is in front of you.

How do you do it?

  • Instead of approaching something as a chore, turn it into a choice. Tell yourself, “This is something I really want to learn more about!” The benefit? It gives you a greater sense of control about what you’re doing. That’s much better than feeling like you’re reacting to things or you’re obligated to do things that are not your idea.
  • Remind yourself of the reason for action with this question: “Why am I doing this?” Make the connection with the initial reasons for working on something to begin with. It can be to learn a new skill, research a topic you’re interested in, study for an exam so you can graduate and start your career, explore a business opportunity, solve a specific problem at work, etc.
  • Visualize what you’re about to do. This is a technique called building a mental model, where you imagine all the steps you’ll be taking. For example, if you are researching something new, visualize covering a certain amount of material, taking notes on important concepts, and writing down what you’ll need to follow up on later. By telling yourself a story, you map out the entire learning process so it’s easier for your brain to understand it.

Idea #4. Make your personal goals a top priority.

Whether you’re a student, working full-time, or taking time off to be a parent or start your own business, you should do whatever is possible to work on your personal development. If you don’t, it will eventually catch up with you and may leave you feeling unhappy or overwhelmed with ordinary daily activities.

How do you do it?

  • Start thinking about the big picture. Ask yourself—where do you want to be 5 or 10 years from now? Who do you want to become? What is a dream scenario for you: a life in a specific city, having a partner to share your life journey with, being surrounded by smart and interesting people who contribute to your personal growth, being fluent in another language? Get specific with the description of your ideal life.
  • Second, narrow it down. Set aside an hour or two one evening to do the following:
    • Write down your top 3 personal goals.
    • Under each, write down 3 things you would need to do on a consistent basis to get you closer to each goal.
    • Then, make a plan for the week ahead so that you can devote blocks of time to making progress in the areas you’ve identified.

Idea #5. Keep learning, keep improving, keep hacking your life.

Now that you’ve started to incorporate some changes into your life to remain focused on things that are your top priority, all you need to do is continue moving forward. Life is not static, and your efforts should also not be static. Think about ways to improve what you’re doing each day.

How do you do it?

  • Measure your progress. Find ways to measure how you’re moving forward. Maybe you’ll set aside 30 minutes each day to focus on learning a new skill. If so, add up the hours at the end of the week and see if you can add more time each day, even if it’s just a few more minutes. Then see how many hours you’ve devoted to it in a month.
  • Evaluate how you’re doing. Ask yourself a few questions to understand how you’re keeping up with the goals you’ve set for yourself. For example, did some activities you started doing take more time than you anticipated? What could you have done better? Where can you make adjustments to stay on track?
  • Take time to appreciate the change. Yes, it’s important to make progress, to stay focused, to reach that important goal. But every step of the way in getting there is super important too. So find the time each evening to pause and reflect on what you’re doing, and give yourself some well-deserved praise for all those efforts. It really does feel good to be aware that you’re on the right track!

How can I force myself to have the discipline and motivation to become the best version of myself?

If I were you, I would start by changing the words I use when talking to myself.

We don’t think about it often, but words are powerful. They shape our thoughts, they affect our personal growth, they impact our confidence. And they can be one of the most critical factors to our success in life.

And honestly, I don’t like the word force. When I hear it, I think of aggression, violence, pain, feeling passive and helpless. None of those feelings can get me motivated to do anything. So why would you want to force yourself to do anything? And more importantly, how do you imagine sticking to any action or habit if you force yourself to do it?

I’ll tell you what I like: the words brain training. When I hear them, I think of positive things—discipline, motivation, achievement, mastery, success. Even better: I feel like I have the power to do things and change them. This makes me feel much better about taking action and moving towards becoming the best version of myself.

So let’s go back to the original question and rephrase it:

How can I train my brain to have the discipline and motivation to become the best version of myself?

Much better!

The answer? There are many tips you can practice every day.

Here are 7 tips to get you started.

Tip #1. Build your unique daily routine. This practice will help you become the master of your own time. In addition, you’ll experience a greater sense of calm knowing in advance what your day will look like. It could be a simple morning routine to get you energized and start the day on a positive note, or doing your most complex work early in the day when your brain is well rested, or doing your most creative work late at night when you can be alone and away from distractions. The key is to plan it ahead and then do the same type of activity at the same time each day. You’ll create a routine customized to your specific needs, your goals, and what you believe to be most relevant to you.

Tip #2. Do your deep work early in the day. If you do, it will help you better deal with your procrastination habit. According to scientific research, the brain’s peak performance happens 2-4 hours after we wake up: so if you wake up at 7, your peak times are 9–11 a.m. Doing deep work at this time allows the brain to focus fully on the problem at hand, with fewer distractions, less inputs from our environment, and with a lot of energy that we’ve gained from a restful night. All you have to do is adjust your mornings a little. Stay away from checking emails before noon, leave calls and meetings for the mid to late afternoon, and listen to the news later in the day (while driving and running errands, for example).

Tip #3. Always have a goal to aspire to. When we have specific goals we want to achieve, everything we do in our daily lives will have a greater sense of purpose. It’s what makes the difference between just living life day to day, and living a life that has meaning. To help you focus on your goal, start each day with the question: What is the one thing I am committed to completing today? This question forces you to prioritize, helps your brain focus better, and streamlines the work you need to do on that particular day, so that you don’t feel stressed, tired, or overwhelmed with making too many choices.

Tip #4. Think about the big picture of your life. Focus on the work you’ve planned to complete today, but always keep your eye on at least two steps ahead. Don’t see any action you’re making today as an isolated incident. Think about its implications and potential consequences. Is your behavior geared towards achieving a one-time effect, or will you feel benefits in the long run? Is what you’re doing today going to help you become who you want to be next year, in 5, in 10 years? Become strategic so that you can achieve long term results that your future self can benefit from.

Tip #5. Replace saying “I can’t” with “why not?” whenever you’re faced with a challenge. Much like replacing the phrase, “how can I force myself” with “how can I train my brain”, this is yet another small adjustment in how we speak to ourselves that can have a positive effect on our life in the long term. We’re much better off if we spend a little time figuring out where the resistance is coming from (why do we think we can’t?), rather than give in to it immediately without a fight (“I can’t and that’s that!”). When we replace that phrase with “why not?”, we leave things open-ended. There is something quite powerful when we create that open space because it means we keep our mind open to possibilities, whatever they may be.

Tip #6. Improve your relationship with your mistakes. There’s a lot of truth in the statement: you either learn to fail or fail to learn. Making mistakes is a normal part of life. It’s how you approach them that matters. Try a different strategy of viewing your past by forgiving yourself for mistakes that you made. Reflect on them, learn from them, but don’t hold on to them. This applies to your relationships, your career, your education, and other areas of your life in which you feel you didn’t achieve what you wanted or underperformed in some way. By changing how you relate to mistakes, you will give yourself more freedom to manage your future more successfully.

Tip #7. Always, always be persistent. The writer Seth Godin said, “Never quit something with great long-term potential just because you can’t deal with the stress of the moment.” How true! What this means is that you should do your best to fight the urge to give up whenever things get tough, hard, or even ugly. Know the difference between what feels hard to do right now and what’s good for you in the long run. And let’s face it: nothing really big and truly amazing happens in one day or even a month. So next time you fail or fall, do your best to get up, dust yourself off, and keep going.

What are some tips & hacks to save time and get more out of my day?

A quick piece of advice?

Recalibrate your day.

Sure, you’ll still have the same 24 hours at your disposal, just like the rest of us. But if you hack your day and figure out the shortcuts, you’ll feel that you will have much more time on your hands.

Try out any of these 7 hacks to get the most out of your day.

Hack #1. Find out how your brain works.

There is a way to work smarter (which will take you less time) rather than harder (which usually takes longer): optimize your brain performance. For one week, keep a log of all mental activities you perform in the morning, midday, afternoon and evening. You will notice a pattern in how your brain works at a certain time of day. Then, adjust your schedule to accommodate the activities depending on what’s right for your brain and when. For example:

  • Mornings can be great for doing deep work, i.e. work that requires a lot of your concentration. Some scientists call this the brain’s peak performance time, and it’s roughly 2-4 hours after we wake up. So, for example, if you wake up at 6, your peak times are between 8 and 10 a.m. Block this time off for your analytical brain to perform the most complex tasks that require a lot of focus.
  • Early afternoons are great for collaborating. This covers the 12-4 p.m. time range, when you take a lunch break and the few hours after, when you are more likely to socialize. It’s a good time of day to schedule meetings, brainstorm ideas with others, work together on projects, or just hang out and catch up.
  • Evenings, usually after 6 p.m., can be scheduled for strategic thinking. This is when the brain eases into a different tempo when it can be more creative. If you’re focused on your goals and strategizing where you want to be in 6 months or even a year with your personal development or career, this is when you can outline your next steps. It’s a great time for contemplating the big picture.

Hack #2. Train your brain to focus on what’s relevant.

When you have something specific you want to achieve, you are less likely to waste time on things that are not related to that thing. And it gets even better: everything you do starts feeling like it has purpose. To help you focus better on what’s relevant to you, try this technique:

  • Start each day by asking yourself this question: What is the ONE THING I am committed to completing today? It forces you to prioritize, boosts your critical thinking skills, helps your brain focus better, and also streamlines the work you need to do on that particular day, so that you don’t feel stressed and overwhelmed with having to make too many choices.

Hack #3. Prepare, prepare, prepare.

Don’t wait until the last minute to get everything ready for whatever you need on any given day. When you prep things in advance, you won’t waste time looking for them or run out of time to get everything ready before you leave home.

  • Gather all materials the night before so that you don’t waste time in the morning looking for them. This applies to whatever you need to get work done: your laptop, notebook, reference materials, a checklist of tasks you need to complete, etc.
  • Pick out whatever you’ll be wearing so you don’t have to rush in the morning.
  • Don’t forget to bring some food with you, maybe a breakfast-to-go or a packed lunch, along with a bottle of water and an energy snack.

Hack #4. Start using a timer.

Why would you waste hours at your desk working but not really being as productive as you could be? A timer can give your workday a total makeover.

  • If you need to study or focus on a project at work, use a timer to divide up your hours into manageable increments that will allow your brain to focus in a more targeted and effective way. You can set the timer to 30 or 60 minute increments to maximize concentration.
  • If you want to train your brain to focus in even shorter increments, try the Pomodoro technique which consists of 25 minute blocks of time, followed by 5 minute breaks. When you’re done with one segment, step away from your desk and do something completely unrelated to work to give your brain a chance to rest: take a 5-minute walk or make yourself a cup of coffee or tea.

Hack #5. Maximize your commute.

Whether you’re walking, taking the bus or train, or driving to school or work every day, all that time adds up. Why not plan ahead to make the most of your commute to learn new things and get strategic about achieving goals that are important to you? An excellent option is to listen to podcasts. They help to feed your brain, keep you alert and focused, and boost your curiosity. Try some of these podcast ideas:

  • Optimize with Brian Johnson. This podcast feels like getting an education in how to live smarter. It’s about gaining more wisdom in less time to help you live your greatest life. Brian condenses big ideas from the best books on optimal living and micro classes on how to apply these ideas.
    • Episode ideas: Look for The Power of WOOP, based on brain training research by Gabriele Oettingen, PhD; Create Zen Habits with Leo Babauta; and Do the Work by Steven Pressfield. Then check out his micro classes on a variety of topics, from overcoming procrastination to how to train to be a hero.
  • The Model Health Show with Shawn Stevenson. Shawn is an author, nutritionist, and coach and he hosts a fantastic educational show on many interesting topics related to health, fitness, and personal growth. He does a ton of research to prepare for each episode.
    • Episode ideas: Look for tips on how to learn faster and increase focus with memory expert Jim Kwik (#197), how to embrace change and become emotionally agile with Dr. Susan David (#185), how to exercise your “NO” muscle with Michael Hyatt (#206), and how to stop the stress cycle with Dr. Pedram Shojai (#142).
  • The Tim Ferriss Show. You probably know him for his book The 4-Hour Workweek, but this entrepreneur powerhouse is the author of many more—my favorite is Tools of Titans. His podcast is full of interviews with smart people, useful tips on living a high quality life, and excellent advice on everything from important life lessons we can learn from Warren Buffett and Bobby Fischer, to deconstructing concepts such as meditation, mastery, and mindset.
    • Episode ideas: Look for Testing the Impossible: 17 Questions that Saved My Life (#206), How to Design a Life – interview with Debbie Millman (#214), Seth Godin on How to Think Small to Go Big (#177), the Canvas Strategy (#165), and On Zero-to-Hero Transformations (#155).

Hack #6. Ignore distractions like a real pro.

Distractions can easily make you slip from the work you are focusing on, and can waste your time without you even noticing. A great example is reading email and constantly checking your Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter feed. Not only does this multitasking prevent you from focusing, it also can make you feel overwhelmed. Make a conscious effort to avoid distractions as much as possible.

  • Set your phone to Airplane mode when you need to focus without any disturbances.
  • Set expectations with others by letting them know you won’t be available in the next few hours, so they don’t interrupt you.
  • Try checking email and social media 2–3 times a day (around lunchtime, later in the afternoon, and evening).
  • Avoid browsing the Internet or reading the daily news; leave these activities for later after you’ve completed what you set out to do.

Hack #7. Get smart about your entertainment.

Watching a TV show you like to follow is one thing. But often that hour goes by, and you find yourself channel surfing, finding another show, then another, then maybe a movie. Next thing you know, it’s four hours later and you realize you should have been in bed fast asleep by now. Instead of doing the same thing every single evening, try a different source of entertainment.

  • Finding Joe: It’s a documentary about the professor and writer of mythology, Joseph Campbell, and the concept of the hero’s journey: why the myth of the hero is still important to us, how we can discover what excites us and gives us greater purpose, and what we can do to apply these ideas to the personal journeys in our lives.
  • YouTube FightMediocrity channel. It is a channel dedicated to fighting mediocrity through big ideas, using self-improvement books and animated important concepts that are in short video format.
  • BBC documentary series The Ancient Worlds. British historian Bettany Hughes shares her passion for ancient societies and talks about everyday life in ancient Alexandria, Rome, and Athens. She gives an in-depth look into the way society was organized among Minoans, Spartans, and the Moors.
  • BBC travelogue in 3 parts Ibn Battuta: The Man Who Walked Across the World. This show is about a 14th Century scholar who covered 75,000 miles, 40 countries and three continents in a 30-year odyssey.
  • Books. Reading them is the equivalent of living multiple lives; it can stimulate your imagination, utilize your critical thinking skills, and ultimately, it will give you food for thought. The books you select can be fiction or non-fiction, but that time you spend reading will take you on a journey to learn about other people and their lifestyles, delve deeper into the human psyche, reveal details on topics you may find fascinating, and best of all—it will help you grow as a human being. And nothing beats that!