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!

How can I learn to become more disciplined?

I love this question! And this is why: when it comes to matters of self-discipline, people often treat it as some sort of self-imposed punishment. It sounds uncomfortable, unnecessary, and harsh. In my opinion, it’s just a matter of shifting your mindset. Instead of seeing it in a negative light, think of how it can positively affect your life.

For me, self discipline means two things:

One, it’s a path to achieving mastery over your life.

And two, it gives you freedom to express the best version of yourself.

That is a powerful way of looking at it, don’t you think?

Now let’s take a look at how it can be done.

Here are 7 tips for instilling self-discipline into your life so that you can master the skills you need to, and so you can become the best version of yourself.

Tip 1. Take care of your essentials.

Before you embark on your path toward any type of achievement, it’s important to cover the basics. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, that means meeting the first level of physiological needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. Here is the first opportunity you have to practice self-discipline.

  • Food: Eat not just to be full, but also to stay healthy and maintain your brain’s optimal performance.
  • Exercise: Physical exercise is critical to performing well in every area of your life, so make sure to make it a daily habit.
  • Sleep: When you’re sleep-deprived, you’ll never be able to function at optimal levels, both physically and mentally. Be sure to get enough sleep.

Tip 2. Use your willpower the smart way.

When we wake up and start contemplating the day, we tend to get overwhelmed with the amount of things we need to do, so we end up procrastinating and postponing our tasks. That’s a critical mistake, because we all have a finite amount of willpower that takes us through the day. If you want to focus on priorities, work on them early.

  • Do that task that you’ve been putting off all week before lunchtime. It’s going to take much less time than if you leave if for the evening.
  • Write up a plan for the school or work week ahead of time. That way you won’t panic when a deadline is approaching.
  • Finish up homework you’ve been putting off because you’d rather do something more fun. You won’t need to stay up all night making up for lost time.

Tip 3. Start making commitments to yourself.

Commitments aren’t just promises you make to other people. You can (and should) make them to yourself. A great way to begin is to define a very specific goal you want to achieve in a certain time frame. Here are a few examples of what you can commit to:

  • I am committed to focusing on my studies in the next 30 days so that I can pass all three of my exams with top marks.
  • I am committed to finding a job in 6 months that is both a good fit for my skill set in and is in a company whose values I share and respect.
  • I am committed to building my physical endurance by running 4 times a week for 3 months so that I can be prepared to participate in a 5K race.

Tip 4. Make a new habit stick by keeping it simple.

Every habit we’d like to acquire needs self-discipline, time, and repetition. Does this sound intimidating to you? Maybe so because you positioned it that way: you feel like you “should” be doing something difficult when you’d rather be relaxing. If you are reading this, chances are you feel that it’s time to make some kind of change in your life: start working out, stop eating out so much, get more sleep, find more time to spend with family, watch TV less. To simplify a change you’re trying to make, start with tiny steps:

  • Do a mini-workout at home for 10 minutes this month before you buy that gym membership.
  • Start going to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual to give yourself time to de-stress and relax with a good book or soothing music.
  • Prepare and pack your lunch the night before so you don’t rush in the morning or eat junk food when you get hungry at noon.

Tip 5. Start saying NO more often.

Have you ever found yourself running out of time to do what you need or would like to do? It probably means you’re wasting time and energy on things that are not that important in the long run. Start building up your “no muscle” in small ways each day:

  • Just because there’s leftover cake in the fridge doesn’t mean you should eat a double portion for the next three days. Put it away or freeze it for another week.
  • When you’re in the middle of finishing up a project and a friend calls to invite you to a party, it doesn’t mean you should drop everything and go. It’s okay to politely say no.
  • When you’re in a dilemma about whether to commit to something or someone, think about your priorities. Be aware of what is important to you, so you’re less likely to ignore what is key to your personal and professional growth.

Tip 6. Anticipate that you’ll experience resistance.

When you expect everything to go well all the time, you’re likely to get disappointed every now and then. It’s a much better idea to plan ahead for those moments when you’re lazy, tired, or in a bad mood and nothing seems right.

  • First, tell yourself that whatever it is you’re feeling, it’s an emotional reaction and it will pass. Don’t give in to the urge to make decisions in that mindset.
  • Second, resist the urge to give up doing something that you know is good for you. Just because it feels uncomfortable now doesn’t mean it won’t have a positive impact on your life.
  • Third, nurture a growth mindset: instead of telling yourself that you are “just not good enough” to take on a new language or start practicing karate, give yourself the time to learn new things. You’ll be surprised how much you can do when you keep an open mind.

Tip 7. Believe in yourself.

It doesn’t matter what stage of life you find yourself in at the moment. You can be a college student, a parent of two, a university graduate looking for a job for the first time, or an entrepreneur embarking on a new venture. Believing in yourself is going to be a critical factor in helping you achieve your goals, no matter how small or big they are.

  • Start thinking about your acts of self-discipline in terms of the big picture of your life. Although it may feel like sacrificing some things right now, what does being disciplined afford you? If you are focused on something, how can it add up a year from now?
  • Put yourself in the driver’s seat of your life journey, instead of letting situations and external factors dictate how you will act. Don’t allow yourself to get carried away for emotional reasons that you lose track of why you started working on a goal to begin with.
  • Most important of all, believe. Believe you can do it. When you do, then self-discipline will become a skill you can apply to many areas of your life: your education, your career, and even your relationships. It will guide you and keep you focused on your future, and everything you want to achieve and become.

What 10 minute daily activity would sharpen my mind over a year?

Here’s one thing you can do in 10 minutes or less that will keep your brain focused, sharp, and working optimally for you.

Ask yourself one powerful question first thing when you wake up: What is the one thing I am committed to completing today?

And here are 5 reasons why it’s good for your brain:

  • It simplifies your decision-making. Our brain functions so much better when it’s not bogged down with evaluating priorities, considering the pros and cons, and going back and forth on small things that can be a huge waste of time. If you have to make a choice on something, you should do it as early in the day as possible.
  • It taps into your willpower bright and early. We all have only a finite amount of willpower that we can distribute on what we want to do each day. It’s not negotiable. So, in order to maximize it, it’s best to have a plan of attack early in the morning so you know exactly where to focus your energies, and why.
  • It encourages strategic thinking. In order to accomplish something that is of value to you, you’ll need to assess what needs to be completed on that particular day. Maybe you know there’s a deadline at work for one project that you can’t delay any longer, and asking the question will push to you think about what you need to do right now.
  • It keeps you focused. Once you ask the question, you’re much less likely to give a frivolous answer, and instead you’ll push yourself to be honest about what’s top priority for you. Maybe you didn’t give it a lot of time or maybe you procrastinated, but that’s over now. The question is out there, and now you have to address it and move on to the next step, which is action.
  • It boosts your critical-thinking skills. By posing the question to yourself, you’ll come up with a few scenarios of what the answer might be. Maybe it’s starting a difficult task, or analyzing a problem you haven’t been able to solve for days, or finishing up an assignment that’s 90% done but needs some fine-tuning. Either way, you’ll need to assess your why and how before you give an answer, and that will keep your brain on its toes. Which is exactly why you want to train it this way in the morning, so it knows how to run smoothly the rest of the day!

If you could teach the world one thing based on your life experiences, what would it be?

Be the engineer and the artist of your mindset: build it, re-create it, and help it grow.

Not only is this possible, it’s also empowering to you as a human being.

Changing your mindset can in many ways set you free, put you in the driver’s seat, and give you a feeling of independence that is incredibly important.

And the best part about it is this: anyone can do it.

But first, the basics.

What is a mindset?

Your mindset is a set of attitudes that you have about the world and primarily about yourself.

Are we born with a certain mindset?

No, but we adopt a certain mindset about our abilities very early in life, due to the environment and messages we receive from our parents, teachers, and others around us. These messages are then “baked in” to our understanding of how we “should” function in the world, what’s “acceptable”and what isn’t, what our strengths and weaknesses are, etc. Then, as we grow up, all these messages begin to shape the view we adopt for ourselves. The result—we develop one of two general types of mindsets: fixed or growth mindset.

  • A fixed mindset
    • It means: You believe that your qualities are set in stone, that you can only have a certain level of intelligence, personality type or moral character.
    • How to recognize the message: You often heard statements such as, “You’re so smart!” or “You’re a genius!” or “You’re good for nothing!” during your childhood.
    • How this mindset translates into your life today: You believe you are only good at pursuing intellectual endeavors, but are really bad at athletics (or vice versa); or that you are “stupid” when it comes to math or learning a new language, so why even try to get a good grade in class.
  • A growth mindset
    • It means: You believe that you can develop your qualities through deliberate and continuous efforts, and that you can change and grow with your life experiences.
    • How to recognize the message: You heard statements such as, “You worked so hard and that’s why you passed the test!” or “You had a tough time at the beginning of the year in that class, but you wanted to learn more and now you’re really good at it!” during your childhood.
    • How this mindset translates into your life today: Even though you had a difficult time in your math class in grade school, you want to get a graduate degree in business which will require math skills, and you won’t let your previous experiences deter you from your plans.

Why is this so important?

Because your mindset can (and will) shape your future. It can influence your day-to-day behavior, the types of goals you set for yourself, what you succeed or fail in, the relationships you pick (partners, circle of friends), the skills you choose to work on for your personal as well as your professional development.

And, if you know how to build and re-create it, it can become a tool that can help you accomplish personal goals, overcome obstacles, communicate better with others, and ultimately lead a high quality of life.

How do you grow your mindset?

There are many ways to grow your mindset. Start with one of these 5 tips and see where it takes you.

  • Stay curious. Curiosity can go a long way. You can nurture your curiosity if you learn something new every day, whether it’s about the history of the world, how things work, which foods and activities keep you healthy, which habits can help you work smarter or faster, or which books you can read that will teach you something valuable. The important thing is make learning a part of your everyday life.
  • Don’t limit your learning experience. Just because it’s not taught in school or at university, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend time learning about it. Go to the library and pick up books on a topic that is interesting to you. Take an online class in the evening, or watch free tutorials on YouTube on how to develop a skill you think would be empowering to you. Don’t give in to the fear because you don’t know anything about a topic. You can always ask someone who’s an expert and who has achieved mastery in a field or a skill you want to develop.
  • Don’t focus on problems, obstacles, or things you do not currently possess. If you do, then you’re constantly putting yourself in reactive mode. Life shouldn’t be about just reacting to what’s happening to (or around) us. It’s much more empowering to be proactive. For example, if we’re facing a problem, it’s better to think of alternative solutions to getting it fixed. Or, if w’re envious of a friend who got a fantastic job they’re happy with, it’s better to map out what we want out of our career and come up with a one or two-year plan to make the next steps towards a job that’s right for us.
  • Make sure that you surround yourself with people who demonstrate a growth mindset. They are the ones with a can-do attitude, who exhibit positive and optimistic behavior, and who are working hard every day on making themselves better people. Conversely, stay away from those who are constantly negative (even if they’re childhood friends), critical in always pointing out what they or others are lacking, and who spend too much time talking about others and not enough time on themselves.
  • Keep your mind open to possibilities. When you’re not sure how to proceed with handling or trying something different, start by asking, “WHAT IF?” What if you conquer something important that you thought you’d never consider a year ago, let alone five? What if, in the process, you open doors that will take your life in a new direction? What if you start working on something and it makes you feel limitless? When you work on developing a growth mindset, you’ll be able to change your view of yourself and your abilities, which can determine your entire future.

Does this topic make you curious to go deeper and find out more about it? If so, grab a copy of the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. Read it to learn from examples, some of which you will most likely identify with your own life experiences, and to find practical suggestions that can help you become more successful in your studies, your professional life, your relationships, and your personal growth. It’s a fantastic resource you can learn so much from!

What motivates you?

For me personally, the answer is this:

I’m curious to see how I evolve as a human being as I’m working on becoming the best version of myself.

Curiosity has always kept me going. It helps me seek out knowledge that will be helpful to me, it keeps me focused on developing skills so that I can get better at doing things, and it boosts my critical thinking as I’m making sense of everything I experience in life.

That said, the question of being (and staying) motivated is not easy. It’s actually hard work. Sometimes we feel stuck in our present circumstances and don’t see a way out. Maybe we think we’re putting in so much energy without seeing the results we want. Or maybe we’re going through an existential crisis of sorts and think to ourselves, what’s the point in doing anything at all?

If there’s one thing that can help us get out of a stagnating mindset when it comes to motivation, it’s to think beyond our daily life. Creating a big picture of what our life is for, and why we are living it, is something that will keep focused on what lies ahead. To be successful at this, it’s critical to keep things simple. Your big picture doesn’t have to include all the colors and details you want it to have ideally (although that’s something to work towards). For now, let’s just think about what it would take to create an outline of the big picture so that we have a blueprint of what we want to do.

Here are 5 ideas for creating your big picture that can help you get motivated and stay motivated, no matter what you choose to do.

Motivational idea #1. Write the important stuff down.

Why?

This technique is useful for several reasons: it trains your mind to focus a few steps ahead, it eliminates the possibility of forgetting something important you need to do, and it sets in motion the act of accomplishing your goals, step by step. When you see an actual plan of what you will be doing in hourly increments, it keeps things simple, and it is less likely you will blow things off because even if you do, you will still have to make up for the time lost.

How can you do this?

  • Identify your top 3 goals. For example: get physically fit, start a home business, increase your network of friends.
  • Under each goal, write down 3 things you will need to 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, doing some form of exercise daily, 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. You should still be able to find a couple of hours where you can do what you set out to do. If you feel you don’t have enough time, then consider incorporating a morning and nighttime routine  to give more structure to your day.

Motivational idea #2. Be laser-focused on making progress by asking this question first thing in the morning: What is the one thing I am committed to completing today?

Why?

This habit matters because 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 can you do this?

  • First, write it down: take a large sheet of paper and write the question in big bold letters with a thick marker.
  • Next, put it somewhere where you’re most likely to look at it: it can be on your bedroom or the bathroom wall, next to the mirror for example.
  • Then, look at the question and ask it out loud as you’re brushing your teeth or getting dressed.
  • Take a minute to think what’s on your agenda for the day, then pick one thing that has top priority for you and give an answer out loud to yourself.

Motivational idea #3. Cultivate a morning routine.

Why?

It’s a great way to stay on top of your game by accomplishing several things early in the day, which in turn, helps you get motivated to be even more productive throughout the rest of the day. A morning routine gives you structure, it breaks down your early hours of the day into smaller chunks so that you feel productive in several areas of your life: personal, professional, health and fitness, etc.

How can you do this?

  • Always have breakfast. It gives you energy and it’s fuel for your brain. A great example is a combination of protein, fruits, and healthy fats (such as nuts): it can be oatmeal or yogurt with granola, fresh fruit, walnuts (an excellent brain booster) and almonds.
  • To wake up your mind and body, pick any type of physical activity. It can be a session at the gym, or it can be something shorter and even more simple: a morning yoga routine, a set of hindu pushups, a 20-minute power walk or a brisk run before hitting the shower. The goal is to be consistent; smaller chunks of activity can give you energy, and you can always supplement them later in the day with another 30 minutes of walking during your lunch break or a workout later in the afternoon.
  • Say thank you. For five minutes each morning, think of 3 things you are grateful for today: it can be something as simple as a roof over your head, food in the fridge, a warm bed, running water, a positive relationship with people you love the most, etc. Practicing gratitude about what we have going for us can restructure our brain to focus on positive things, which sets the tone for the rest of the day, and that can also impact our motivation.

Motivational idea #4. Explore where your unique skills can add value to others.

Why?

Adding value means you bring something to the table that can help to solve a problem other people have. More important, it shifts your mindset from focusing on yourself as an isolated individual with a set of challenges you’re trying to overcome to seeing yourself as an active member of your community. So what could you bring to the table? It can mean anything from using a personal strength or skill (the ability to teach, build furniture, draw someone’s portrait, or negotiate a business agreement) to addressing an immediate problem by asking someone, “How can I help you do that?” Whether the problem is big or small, temporary or long-term, your ability to add value gives you a greater sense of purpose and impacts your big picture.

How can you do this?

  • Start with this question: How can I add value to my circle of friends, family, or coworkers? First, identify areas where you believe others may benefit from your help. Then, consider what are the best ways to offer your time or expertise.
  • Be creative about ways to share what you know. For example, as you are learning and getting better at a particular subject, you can illustrate what you’re learning by drawing charts, diagrams or other ways to present your ideas visually. Or, you can share your notes by posting them online on your blog or by creating instructional YouTube videos describing what you learned to a broader audience.
  • Become an active participant in an online forum such as Quora. Why? It’s a good place to post questions that can motivate others to get involved and respond, and also an opportunity to write answers that can improve someone’s knowledge, give a shortcut to finding a solution, or help in some other way. You never know when one small thing you’ve mastered can become one really big thing to someone else. Sometimes it’s like opening a door to a new world, and that’s where you can add real value to the lives of others.

Motivational idea #5. Treat yourself well.

Why?

A great motivational trick is to give yourself things to look forward to. When you achieve a small goal, give yourself a reward to mark the occasion. Rewards are important to give ourselves the feeling that we deserve a positive outcome because we are putting in hard work and effort to get things done, no matter what those things are—personal goals or career goals, for example.

How can you do this?

What you choose to reward yourself with will depend on your personal interests, your passions, as well as your personality.

  • It can be having an evening out with friends for some live music, or enjoying a tasty bar of Swiss chocolate.
  • If you like to stay active, it can be going for a long bike ride to get some fresh air and exercise, or hiking for a whole day over the weekend.
  • If you just want to chill, it can be soaking in a 30-minute bubble bath with some relaxing music, or watching a movie you’ve been putting of for the day when you have more time. This time, you’re in luck—that day is today!

What are daily activities that can help me become more disciplined?

First, let’s get one thing out of the way. If we’re being completely honest, there’s nothing really attractive about the word disciplined. I don’t know about you, but to me is sounds harsh, almost like a punishment that is imposed by someone or something outside of ourselves. And if we frame this question in such a way, it’s much tougher to actually come up with a solution that is helpful to us.

But here’s a different approach that works for me.

For me, it’s a simple math equation:

Self-discipline = freedom.

Well, what does that mean exactly?

It means that when we are self-disciplined, we allocate our time more optimally so that we can afford to do what is important to us. Yes, this means getting our work and responsibilities done first so that we still can devote energy to doing the things that are important for achieving our personal goals. By being self-disciplined, we give ourselves the freedom to truly express our highest self.

Now back to the original question. Let’s rephrase it so it sounds like this:

What are daily activities that can help me become more disciplined and give me more freedom to do what I believe to be important?

Here are 5 different answers to this question. Try one out today and see how it can help you.

Answer #1. Begin each day by asking yourself this question: “What is the one thing I am committed to completing today?”

This technique trains your brain to focus on which goals are important to you right now, and it forces you to prioritize the goal you believe to be the most relevant in this moment. How do you practice this habit? 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 (for example, as you’re brushing your teeth or getting ready for work or school). Come up with an answer on the spot and answer it out loud. Then follow up by taking action: focus your energy throughout the day to completing your one thing.

Answer #2. Tap into your willpower early.

As soon as you start your day, chances are you’re overwhelmed with the amount of things you need to do, so it’s natural that you procrastinate on some of those things (okay, many!) and postpone them for later. Big mistake. Why? Because we all have a finite amount of willpower that takes us through the day. If you want to focus on priorities, work on them early. Do that task that you’ve been putting off all week before lunchtime. Write up a plan for the school or work week ahead of time. Finish up homework you’ve been putting off because you’d rather do something more fun. You’ll be glad that you did in the evening when it’s time to wind down and relax.

Answer #3. Train yourself to start the day with a quick yet effective morning routine.

There are many benefits to having a morning routine. It can make you feel super productive at the start of the day, it can give you focus, it can provide you with a sense of achievement early in the day, and it can even give those 24 hours your life more purpose. In addition to all of that, a morning routine gives you time (that precious commodity we all seem to be running out of!) to do what you consider important to your personal development, and gets you closer to achieving your goals.

Answer #4. Take care of your essentials.

Self-discipline is not something that is externally given to us. It is a choice we make every single moment of every day, and we become responsible for the choice (or choices) that we make. We are disciplined when we take care of the essentials: we know how to eat what’s healthy to give our body enough energy and optimize our brain’s performance, we make physical exercise a daily habit, and we practice a nighttime routine to help us unwind in the most relaxing way so we get the sleep that we need.

Answer #5. 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.

How do I stay calm and focused?

To get any kind of work done, it always helps to have a game plan.

When you do, you won’t be wasting time throughout the day trying to figure out what’s important, what you should ignore, and what you need to do if you run into a problem.

A game plan in your pocket is something that will instill more calm in your mind simply because you know it’s there. No guesswork needed. You have it covered.

So what’s a simple game plan to start with?

Here are 5 things you can practice every day to boost your focus and remain calm, whether you’re working from home, studying for exams, or holding down a job with a long commute.

#1. Give yourself a chance to start the day mindfully.

Instead of jumping out of bed as soon as you realize you’ve hit the snooze button one too many times, you’ll benefit from one small practice that will calm you before the day actually begins. That practice is meditation. It does not take a lot of time to do, it’s simple to follow, and it can be beneficial by improving your focus, decluttering your mind, and helping you to feel more relaxed and positive about your life. Start with just 10 minutes with an app called Headspace. It is a guided meditation that helps you breathe deeply and manage your thoughts better.

#2. Get your mind focused by asking yourself one question as soon as you get out of bed: What is the one thing I am committed to completing today?

There are many benefits of asking this question: you’ll start prioritizing what really needs to be done, stay focused on your goals, and you will make a promise to yourself to finish one thing that’s important to you. How can you ask this question? Write it down on a large sheet of paper, then hang it somewhere on a wall so you see it first thing (in the bathroom or bedroom, for example). You can even add some photos to your question; they can be of things that you find inspiring and beautiful, which can boost your motivation. Then ask the question out loud, and come up with an answer quickly.

#3. Create a short 10–15 minute workout as part of your morning routine.

Why would you do any physical activity in the morning? Because it will help you wake up faster, it likely to boost your mood, and can actually help you with your work or studies. It’s not necessarily a long or tedious routine, and to do it you might not even need to leave the house. For example, before you shower and make breakfast, start the day with some morning yoga, a set of sun salutation poses, go for a short run in your neighborhood, or just crank up the volume on your hip-hop playlist and dance in your room. It will give you energy for the rest of the day.

#4. Work on the most mentally challenging tasks first.

Why? Because we all have only a finite amount of willpower to last us through the day, so putting the important stuff off for later won’t necessarily mean you’ll get to it later (or get it done). You’re better off by doing deep work as early in the day as possible—the focused, uninterrupted, analytical thinking that requires you to be in the “flow”, allowing you to concentrate on what’s right in front of you and nothing else. It could be reading, taking notes, coding or problem-solving. When is the ideal time to do it? The sooner the better; research shows that our analytical brain starts functioning optimally around 2–4 hours after we wake up.

#5. Make sure that you turn off all distractions.

All those things that distract you don’t just take away your time to focus on getting work done. They can also make you feel overwhelmed, anxious, and even get you in a bad mood. Instead of going through your email or scrolling through your Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter feed in the morning, try setting your phone to Airplane mode. Check your email and social media apps only 2–3 times a day, maybe once every two hours or during your lunch break. Avoid browsing the Internet or reading the news. Get a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones which will help regardless of where you’re working: at home, in a busy office or coffee shop, or at university. Select music that can help you relax and improve your focus: classical music, your favorite beats, or even sounds of nature.