”Life is a great and wondrous mystery, and the only thing we know that we have for sure is what is right here right now. Don’t miss it.”
Having a great day may not be totally under your control. Sometimes they just kinda happen. And some days things spin out of your control.
But you can still direct a lot of your day and many of your days towards a better place.
Most of our lives are spent in “normal days”. So why not try to make them better on a consistent basis with a few helpful habits?
Here are a few of my suggestions.
Start preparing on the previous night.
You can always do a few things to improve today before it even begins.
- Visualize your day. Take a few minutes in your most comfy chair or in bed. Close your eyes and visualize how well everything will go tomorrow. How good your breakfast will taste, how easily you’ll get to work (or handle delays if there are any), how you will be effective and not get stuck in busywork in school or at work. And so on. And make sure you don’t just see it in your mind but also hear and feel it. Make it come alive as much as possible.
This may sound a bit corny but visualizing a good next day can really change your mood, heighten your performance and make tasks, meetings and your whole day run smoother. I have found that it is quite a bit of an improvement compared to if you do what a lot of us do; visualizing tomorrow but in a negative way.
Everything that will happen tomorrow may not be as fun as your weekend was. But how you think about your day – what attitude and perspective you choose – certainly changes how you interpret and create it.
- Make your lunch. Pack the leftovers of your dinner in a container and put it in the fridge. Just don’t forget to put it in your bag tomorrow. You may even want make an extra serving so you can quickly heat up dinner when you get home tomorrow. Doing this tonight will save you a bit of time and possibly a bit of money.
- Pack your bag. This very simple habit can alleviate quite a bit of stress in the morning. If you pack your bag tonight you don’t have run around in your house half panicked tomorrow looking for your books or some important papers. On a related note, it’s also useful to check that your keys are hanging where they should hang before you go to bed. Looking for them in the morning – just as your bus is leaving – can create unnecessary stress. Keeping a place where you always hang or put them is an easy way to avoid a lot of keysearches early in the day.
Get enough sleep.
How much that is, well, that’s up to you. And it depends on how much you are affected by the amount of sleep you get. I need about 8 hours. Otherwise I’ll often be foggy for much of the day. And may revert to old behaviour patterns such as negativity and low-level anxiety. It’s important to be careful about these basic things and not go looking for tons of tips to replace them. What you need may just be something as simple and biologically basic as more sleep.
Have a plan. Follow it through.
Now, having a plan for your day is of course important to get things done. But you also have to get those things done. A few tips to increase the likelihood of that are:
- Have 2-3 items on your to-do list. If you have long list of things to do there is a big chance you will get little done since just looking at the list sends you off to Procrastionland. Just choose the 2-3 most important tasks and put them on a to-do note. Then do them.
- Singletask. Do just one task at a time. To get things done quicker and better focus just on what’s in front of you instead of trying to multitask.
- Keep email-checking in check. You can do this by using the Morning Coffe addon for Firefox once or twice a day. Instead of checking your favourite websites and inboxes a ton of times each day.
- Work in a cone of silence. Try to minimize possible distractions. Suggestion for doing that could be to unplug your internet cable, shutting of your phone and closing your door.
Set the context for today.
What you do early in the day often sets the context for your day. We have a tendency to want to be consistent with what we have done before. You can use that your advantage in few ways.
- Do the hardest and/or most important thing first. If you start your day like this then you don’t have to worry about that special task for the rest of the day. It’s done and you can feel good about yourself. Taking this route also makes the day feel easier and you’ll have less inner resistance to getting the rest of the tasks of the day done.
- Work out early in the day. If you work out early in the day you’ll feel energized for the rest of the day. This can be crucial on days when you feel tired and zombielike.
- Set your social frame of mind. If you start your day by feeling social then you’ll feel like being consistent with that for the rest of the day. If you start out by being closed off and feeling guarded then it becomes harder and harder to break out of that shell as your day progresses. You can get yourself off to a good start by for instance assuming rapport. This means that just before a meeting, you just think that you’ll be meeting a good friend. Then you’ll naturally slip into a more comfortable, confident and enjoyable emotional state and frame of mind. This works surprisingly well even if you don’t feel that social in the morning.
Be here now.
Be present. When you are present you are in this moment. Your thoughts aren’t in the past or stuck in the future. Or split between those two places and this moment. You are here now.
Be present when you are doing your 2-3 most important tasks of the day. You will get a better result because you are totally focused on them. Be present when you are with your friends, family or other people. You will enjoy their company a whole lot more if you are really there compared to if you are lost in thinking and worrying about tomorrow. And they will enjoy your company a whole lot more too.
How do you step into the present if you aren’t there right now? Try taking a few dozen belly breaths and only focus on breathing in and out. Or just see and experience what’s right in front of you right now. Here are a few more tips to help you reconnect with the present moment.
Just have fun with friends and/or family.
This may seem stupidly obvious. But it’s important to just have fun with people. Besides it being a lot of fun it’s also a very helpful to release pressure, stress and tension that can come from a hard day’s work. It’s a great form of active relaxation.
Journaling is helpful thing to do for few minutes at the end of your day. I use the Journal by David RM to type down some thoughts about my day. Here are a few reasons why:
- To keep my memories and thoughts for the future. If your memory is anything like mine it’s pretty leaky. A journal is a good way to preserve your thoughts so they don’t get lost somewhere in your mind. It’s also fun way to revisit the past and to see all the good stuff you did or came up with but have forgotten along the way.
- To relieve myself from thoughts and “tell someone” about things. This can bring calmness and clarity to your mind.
- To think things through. Journaling can also give you more structure in life and it’s a way to find focus and to think things through in a better way. It can help you identify patterns in your life that you may not see otherwise. It can help you to find solutions and opportunities in your challenges.
Invest in yourself.
Cut out a bit of TV. Do a bit of reading instead. But be careful with overreading. This is when you have tons of ideas coming at you and you just use them as entertainment. Instead of picking up a few tips and actually putting them to use in your life.
Learn something you can have use for. Take an evening class, read a self-improvement book, learn a language or a dance. This might not change much for tomorrow. But if you have an hour or so over every other night you can make some real progress and in the longer run change your life in radical way.
What is your best tip for building a better day?
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