Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
According to the website Statistic Brain, only 8% of people who make a New Year’s resolution are successful in achieving it. Doesn’t that number strike you as odd? Why do we make resolutions year after year when the failure rate continually exceeds 90%? Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions (or Hallmark holidays). I prefer to ask the question – why do we not consider every day New Year’s Day? If most people stop focusing on goal achievement during the month of January, why do we wait the rest of the year to set new goals? Think about all of the things you could’ve accomplished February through December.
To increase your productivity and make every day the best day of the year, I propose you consider the following ideas for achieving your life’s intent.
1. Establish Guiding Statements – Most of my speaking engagements are focused on helping others set personal intention, ambition, value proposition, and constraints statements. I encourage you to listen to a webinar I recorded for New York City-based Evisors here – Developing and Living Your Personal Brand. By setting these statements, it becomes markedly easier to assess your progress towards long-term goals day-by-day.
2. Prepare for the Next Day – Consider planning out your next day’s lunch and what you’ll wear the night before. You’ll be amazed how something so simple will clear your mind the following morning to focus on more challenging tasks. I encourage you to wake up as early as your body will allow (maybe 3:00am, 4:00am or 5:00am?) and drink two large glasses of water to wake up your brain and digestive system. Take 1 – 2 hours to write down (1) what you remember from your dreams, (2) any creative thoughts you’ve had, and then (3) get your most difficult tasks, the ones that require the most mental energy, done before others awaken.
3. Movement – This seems pretty straightforward, but so few people make time for it. Go for a run. Join a gym. Hike a mountain. Attend a yoga class. Walk the dog. Not only will you be burning calories, fighting off disease, boosting energy, and promoting better sleep, you’ll also be releasing endorphins that reduce stress. If you’re a breakfast person, avoid processed foods and start your day with fruits, vegetables, and proteins.
4. Learn in the Car – I love listening to TED Talks while driving. Perhaps you enjoy listening to audio books, podcasts, inspirational songs, or something else that motivates you. Please do not read the paper, put on your makeup, or tie your tie while driving. Listening to the mainstream media is also an unnecessary distraction.
5. Block Your Calendar – Productivity will be heavily correlated to how well you calendar your to-do list. Do you set aside 2 – 3 times in the day to address your email inbox? One of the best ways to gain time is to not read emails multiple times. Only open them during a designated window when you can respond immediately. Also, do you finish your most important, and hardest to complete, tasks first thing in the morning? Try to load your afternoon with meetings (be selective with the ones you attend) and tasks that require less mental acuity. Remember, there are only 168 hours in any given week. You still need time to attend professional association events, volunteer with your favorite charity, and engage your alma mater’s alumni network.
6. For Lunch, Oscillate – How many times have you eaten in your office, alone? Don’t eat alone at your desk. You’re reducing serendipitous opportunities to build meaningful relationships. Eat last night’s pre-made lunch in a different, open, and light-filled setting… with someone else. Time permitting, go for a brisk walk to de-stress and clear the clutter in your brain.
7. Be Scarce in the Afternoon – After an afternoon of meetings and completing tasks, being productive is much easier if you aren’t available for meetings after 4:30pm. Instead, use this time to answer outstanding emails, wrap up projects, check news headlines, read interesting blogs, and plan out what you’re going to do first thing the next day. It may also be helpful to have an accountability partner, a friend, colleague, or coach, to help you review your day and how well you lived your guiding statements.
8. A Time for Relaxation – Taking a few hours to wind down from a busy day will be extremely helpful. Eat a balanced meal, read a book, spend quality time with family, join a sports league, or enjoy a cup of tea or glass of wine. Go to bed at a consistent time so that your body’s biorhythms can recharge you for the next day.
In summary, set your guiding statements (not New Year’s Resolutions), prepare for the day the night before, exercise multiple times each day, educate yourself during the commute, schedule your day and stick to it, wrap up your work day well, and give your mind and body a chance to recover. If you do the above daily, every day can be the beginning of a productive and meaningful 365 days.
A year from now you may wish you had started today.
Make every day is the best day in the year.