In addition to setting the right goals, planning your day for success and executing on that plan is absolutely essential if you want to reach your goals. Let’s face it, in a day and age of nearly limitless distractions, it takes a lot of self-discipline to stay on task.
To be at your best you need to have balance in your day. You need to spend some time nourishing your heart, mind, body and soul. Sure you could just spend ten hours per day doing hard physical labor or twelve hours per day at your keyboard banging out that next book but you’re not going to be at your best because you won’t be in balance.
Here are the basic ingredients that, like a balanced diet, make up a balanced day:
Meditation: We all carry around a lot of excess nervous energy in our bodies and meditation helps to relieve you of it. What kind of meditation is not so important so much as that you do something (anything) to calm your mind and body on a regular basis. You can check out guided meditations, bin-aural beats, whatever floats your boat. Just do something meditative at least once a day. Take the time to relax and calm your mind, body and spirit.
Mobility exercises: Even the fittest among us sit around on their asses too much. As we age we loose flexibility, we begin to develop troublesome aches and pains and they become yet another distraction that limits our true potential. To combat this do some mobility exercises every day. Mark’s Daily Apple has a huge library of mobility exercises that is but one of many options. Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong can help with mobility while providing meditative benefits also. If you like having a personal coach, Jake Schuster at Well Traveled Wellness helped me in the past.
Just move: When you’re not engaged in any other particular activity, move, a lot. Change your position frequently. Get a standing or treadmill desk. Never keep the same position for more than 30 minutes if you can avoid it. Take walks, bike rides or hikes whenever possible.
Hard physical exercise: If you don’t understand the importance of hard physical exercise then you need to go back to the remedial class. If not daily, at least 2-4 times per week you should get out and lift heavy weights, do sprints or play sports. Preferably you will mix these activities up and when lifting it will be a full body workout.
Brain exercise: Your brain needs exercise just as much as your body does. Like a muscle, it will atrophy if left unused and like the body the brain has different areas used for different activities. Keep it in peak condition with a balanced brain fitness plan just as you would do for your body. Reading and writing are good activities for the brain but most of us get plenty of those in our daily lives. We need to engage the other areas of the brain as well and to do so on a daily basis. Brain training games like Lumosity are a good thing to work into your daily schedule but even that is not enough. Make sure you engage in something creative. Do you have an artistic hobby or do you play a musical instrument? If not take one up and practice it daily. Besides picking up a cool new skill you will achieve better brain health balance. Do you speak another language? Start studying one, it’s great brain exercise.
Quality time with friends loved ones: Take some time out of your schedule to spend some time with those you care most about without the distractions of televisions, smart phones or other gadgets. Cooking an enjoying a healthy meal together is a good one. If you don’t nourish your relationships, like your brain and your body, they too will atrophy.
Dedicated work time: We all have something that we do that qualifies as “work”, even if we’ve escaped the corporate prison, moved abroad and have no “boss” in any traditional sense. Instead of trying to juggle everything at once carve out dedicated work times and stop fucking around with your smart phone or your Facebook. If you sit down and really focus, a normal cube monkey style work day can easily be accomplished in 2-3 hours instead of 8-10. Especially if you are eating right, exercising right, supplementing right and working without distractions.
Sleep: Sleep is as important as anything else on this list but most people forget about it, especially busy people. Sleep is when your body and mind repair themselves. It is critical that you get enough of it and that you do so regularly and on a regular schedule. Go to bed early, wake up early. Depending on where you live it’s probably not realistic for you to go to bed when the sun sets and rise when the sun rises but you should strive to be as close to that rhythm as practically possible. Although we rely primarily on food and water, sunlight is also significant player in normal body function. For example, the human body synthesizes Vitamin D from sunlight and there are thousands of other processes within our bodies that function based upon circadian rhythms. You probably won’t die if you screw that but you won’t be at your best either. Get 7-9 hours of good, restful sleep every night and try to stick to a regular schedule as much as possible. Maximize your daylight waking hours and minimize your night time waking hours as much as you can. If you have to use a computer after dark, consider using f.lux (or similar) to match your display to the color temperature of the setting sun.
Keep to-do lists: Keep track of what you need to do and when. Keep daily lists, weekly lists and monthly lists. Challenge yourself to bang out your daily list before noon so that you can have the afternoon for leisure and creative projects.
Keep a journal: Track the progress of your longer term goals. Reflect on the successes and failures of your day. Be grateful for what is going right in your life and take the time to write it down. As Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured gets done”, track your goals carefully and ensure that each day you are taking steps toward them, however small.
Set intentions: Take just a few minutes to set some good intentions for your day based upon your daily to do list as well as your longer term goals.
Unfortunately, I cannot credit for hardly any of this. Charlie opened up my eyes to most of it and I’m sure he was standing on the shoulders of many giants that came before him when he did so. To close out this article I will provide a sample day plan, you can mix it up to suit yourself but it works best if you keep your meditative and mobility exercises as the first item on your schedule.
Sample Day Plan
07:30: Wake up. Take 3-5 minutes to set your intentions for the day. Followup with 20 minutes of mobility exercises of your choice. Complete this 30 minute block with another 3-5 minutes of meditation and reaffirm your intentions for the day.
08:00: Eat a healthy breakfast. Have some coffee if that’s your thing.
08:30: Do 30 minutes of brain exercises such as Luminosity, language study or both.
09:00: If it’s an odd numbered day, hit the Gym and do 30-60 minutes of high intensity training of some kind. Mix it up frequently. If it’s an even numbered day, fill this time as you see fit, but don’t fritter it away.
10:00: Take two hours to focus and bang out some work, whatever that means for you. I find I’m at my sharpest and best in the morning after breakfast, exercise and coffee.
12:00: Lunch time, eat healthy.
12:30: Relax, digest your food, fill this time slot with something you enjoy like leisure reading.
13:00: If you finished your work between 10:00-12:00 take some time to practice your chosen creative art(s), otherwise start a second work session.
15:00: Take a break, relax, chill out. We didn’t escape the corporate prison to continue working “normal” 8-10 hour days.
15:15: Assuming you’ve completed your work, take the rest of the time until dinner to complete misc. to-do items, engage in leisure activities, social time, etc.
18:30: Eat a healthy dinner. Include friends, family, loved ones, if possible.
19:30: If you haven’t already spent dedicated social time with your friends, family, wife, girlfriend, etc. fit it in here before bed time. Whatever you choose to do with this time, try to do something that moves you closer to goals rather than just pissing away your time with social media or television.
10:30: Take some time to update your journal, reflect on your day and plan the next. Scratch things off your to-do list and add new ones. Relax, read, wind down.
11:00: Continue whatever relaxing activity you’re in engaged in. If possible, do some relaxing meditation that prepares you for sleep.
11:30: Drift effortlessly off to sleep.