Each of us is granted 24 hours a day. No matter who you are, you are given the same number of hours to accomplish anything you want to do as anyone else in this world. Who you are is mainly defined by what you can do in each day. Your thoughts and beliefs are important, but what about your actions, habits and choices? Many of us strive for a life where we are accomplishing our dreams and living a successful life. Unfortunately, some of us are looking for a quick road to success. You might work hard for a few days and give up when you don’t feel immediate returns for your effort. You might live your days based on how you feel. In other words, you feel motivated and you decide to be productive. When you don’t feel motivated, you do nothing. You base each day based on how you feel every morning rather than pushing through and getting things done.
Identify your values. What do you want your days to look like ideally? What is important to you? Let’s say spending time with your family is important. You want to set aside quality time for your wife. The children also need your quality time and attention. Ideally you would like to devote several quality hours to your family every day. Note that I mentioned quality hours. You might be spending time with your family but not present by either checking work emails, doing other chores or anything that takes away the focus from your loved ones. Before you assess how you spend your day, it’s important to identify what is valuable to you. An ideal day for you will not match an ideal day to your neighbour, friends or family members. Try to not be distracted by what other people are doing. It’s easy to look at a friend having fun on social media and mistakenly believing those are your values. Your friend looks to be having fun based on the photos they post, so you mistakenly believe that you also want to be doing those things. This is your life. Don’t focus on how others are spending their time. Focus on your own values. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by the values of others.
How do your values align with the way you spend your day? Take a close look at how you spend your average 24-hour day. Don’t focus on outliers either. You may have done a hard workout yesterday but perhaps you neglected to exercise the other 6 days of the week. Identify the gaps in your day. Maybe you love writing and ideally want to work on a book but realized you haven’t written one sentence in several months. Or maybe you have been neglecting yourself when it comes to sleep. You really need additional rest but notice that you tend to average about 6 hours of sleep per day for the past couple of months. Take note of how you spend your days most of the time.
Try to not confuse being busy with making progress. A huge mistake that any of us can make is confusing a busy day with a productive day. There were times in my life where I was always out, doing stuff and having a packed day. I’d sleep, work, do a hobby after work, eat dinner, socialize with friends, rest for an hour, then the day is pretty much done. To an outsider it might look like I’m busy and having a productive day. My day may have been busy doing things that are not that important to me. Socializing with friends is important, but is this something I’d like to do every day or even most days of the week? Did I make time to focus on my own goals? Was there enough time set aside to relax and even sleep? Was socializing too much getting in the way of my goals to exercise and eat healthy? You might be the type who is always busy but that doesn’t mean you are being productive. A productive day should consistent of doing a mixture of things that are important to you. Yes, there will be things sprinkled in that aren’t high on your priority list or important to you at all. You still need to set aside time for boring tasks or things that you must do but don’t like doing. You will still have time to do other things that you enjoy doing for fun such as socializing, gaming or reading. However, your day should also include things that align with your values and are important to you. The goal is to find a good balance so that overall you are having a productive day.
Reach your peak by not quitting too early. Currently I’m training for a half-marathon in a couple of months and hopefully a marathon next year. Part of my mental training is utilizing techniques that ensure I’m running consistently throughout the week and running enough mileage. I can’t run less days and I must run for very long periods of time. However, I have rules in place to ensure I don’t quit too early. If I’m tired, sore or sleepy, then I still run. No excuses, I run, even if I don’t feel like it. However, if my knee begins to hurt and I feel pain, then I stop because I’m more prone to an injury if I push myself when feeling sharp, physical pain in that area. I decide that I don’t run today but instead do a different exercise that doesn’t work the knees as much. Many of us are prone to quitting far too early. Before things start to take a positive turn in your life, you give up right before you can reap the amazing benefits. Part of the reason we quit is because we don’t prepare for those moments when it’s tough to do something.
It’s impossible to force yourself to feel motivated every day. Many successful people push themselves when they simply aren’t feeling like it. All of us have days where we really don’t want to go to work, would prefer to sleep in or indulge in unhealthy foods all the time. That’s normal to not feel motivated. But you need to push through that feeling and prepare for those moments when you are strongly tempted to not accomplish your goals.
Make sure to have a point where you feel it’s okay to not do something. In my example, knee pain is the main reason I wouldn’t run. Getting an injury could prevent me from running or even walking for long periods of time. The risk is not worth it. Again, I’m not quitting, just saying I’ll take a break from running until my knee feels better. You might have different criteria. For instance, you might eat healthy all week, except on Saturdays, your birthday or during a public holiday. You might be okay with working overtime Monday-Friday but will always keep your weekends free from work. You need to set parameters on when it’s okay, if ever, to get a break from doing something productive and you must stick to those parameters. No excuses. You must keep going.
If you are battling something that you need to stop doing completely such as an addiction or a lifestyle habit that has been destructive to your life, then you need to foster good habits when you feel that temptation coming on. You might get in touch with someone who is designated to support you during these tough times. You might practice meditation to help clear your mind.
Nobody is perfect. Even the most productive person will have the occasional day where they aren’t living their day in accordance with their values. What is most important is consistency. You want a healthy lifestyle so you don’t need to eat healthy and exercise every single day for the rest of your life. However, you want a lifestyle where you are eating healthy foods the majority of the week and exercising most of the week.
How you spend your day is a great predictor of the future. Forming habits only comes from how you consistently spend your day. If you are consistently making excuses, procrastinating and choosing entertainment over activities that you value, then you are forming a negative habit in your life. You are forming habits that are setting you up for failure, regret, disappointment and self-sabotage. Yet if you spend your day focusing on your values, being healthy, spending quality time with loved ones, working on something important to you then you are forming positive habits. You will see progress, you are more likely to succeed, you will be happy with the decisions you are making and you will feel like you are in control. Start today and make your day productive! Remember it’s what you do every single day that creates a successful and positive lifestyle.