A while ago I came across a quote that inspired and delighted me with its simplicity. The author Annie Dillard wrote: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.”
It’s the power of these words that lays bare a major shortcoming: if our attitude towards our days is reckless and irresponsible, then that’s exactly what our attitude towards our life is. The significance of a daily schedule cannot be overstated: it puts you in control and helps you bring order and diligence to your day.
An ideal day doesn’t begin at 8 or 10 am, no, not even the night before, but in fact last evening. It is futile to talk about what makes a good day if you’ve not slept for eight hours, but those who are masters of their days will tell you that real discipline goes even further.
Plan your day in advance so that you know exactly what you want to achieve out of tomorrow. I personally make lists - things that need to be done the next day - the previous evening. I then prioritise them before I start ticking them off.
Those of us who have the luxury of a desk job are often in execution mode. How about thinking like chefs or pilots who don’t immediately jump into the cockpit. Instead, they follow a process of numerous safety checks and often visualise finishing the task. Using visualisation is a simple, everyday habit that can go a long way in helping you achieve what you want. Start small: visualise waking up early and exercising, or finishing a long-pending task and see what happens.
Advice on waking up early is dime a dozen but what is unique is creating a rhythm for your mornings. I don’t schedule anything before 10 am. My mornings are sacred, I use them to recharge my body through physical exercise, and my mind by spending time with my son. The most creative and successful people have had similar routines. Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, for example, spent the first half hour of his day preparing his mind and body. Charles Darwin went for a walk as did the famous Russian composer Tchaikovsky.
But many of us start our day by responding to messages and emails. Psychologist Ron Friedman has explained why this is a bad idea:
Typically, we have a window of about three hours where we’re really, really focused,” he says. This is usually after we wake up and using this time to respond puts us in a “reactive” mind-set when we should ideally be using it to think, be focused, and get work done.
I have used Friedman’s advice to create cycles of uninterrupted work and, guess what, I use my phone for it. How? There’s one feature in all our phones that is not used as much as it should be. I deliberately put my phone on airplane mode in the middle of the day to block all incoming messages. I use that time to work on things that require my undivided attention, focus, and concentration. It’s a simple switch on my phone and suddenly, I am in control of when I am ready to receive emails.
Uninterrupted work can be tiring and as I have discussed in my previous columns, I am a big believer of the afternoon power nap to recharge. I regularly schedule it into my day as it makes the second half of my day as productive as the first.
And when there are days with uncontrollable, ceaseless amounts of work? I walk away from my desk and phone and put a forcible end to the day. I then step out for the evening and spend time with my family.
The only handheld object allowed after hours, then, is nothing with a screen, but a book.
(This article is from Thrive Global)