How to have a great day

Over the course of the last few weeks I've had several conversations about how I structure my days to make them productive and feel good about what I've accomplished. Here my thoughts about it!

The best great day starts with a question...

Before diving into my habits and rituals regarding what works for me, it is important to ask yourself a question: "What is actually a good day?"

Before you can qualify something as either great or not so great, we have to think about the boundaries: what determines something to be a great/productive day? Without setting these boundaries you will never have one, that's for sure. So in order to have a great day, hit it off with asking yourself what you would like to get done or experience today.

This question can be asked in several forms, my personal favorite: 

If I look back at my day tonight and it was an awesome day, how would it look like?

This question draws me into the stuff that needs to be done and the more personal desires of my heart. The answer is often a combination of work and personal stuff.

I know of people who do this questioning the evening before. That is cool too. But one thing is for sure: if you don't ask this question in one way or another, you are being harder on yourself then necessary. 

Answering the question is as important as asking it

One thing it is, to ask the question on what would make a good day. A whole other thing is answering it. This can be a tricky one! 

β€œMost people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

Bill Gates

Time

Lot's of people have heard of this quote from Bill Gates. In my thinking, I have rewritten it to a smaller time frame: we often overestimate what we can do in one day and underestimate what we can do in a week.

Setting realistic goals is hard, often because we don't have all the parameters completely clear. Some estimation will always be a part of setting goals. I won't be going into the skills of setting goals right now, but we need to understand one thing regarding this: if we want to have a good day, we must be able to feel good about what we have accomplished.

So answering the question on how to have a great day draws us to its limitation: time. Well - that is one way to look at it, as a limitation. We can also choose to view it as a resource. We have x amount of hours this day as a resource to our availability.

Experiencing the sense of being busy is mostly a result of our perception of time in relation to what we can do with it. Viewing time as a resource puts you in a less stressful mode of operation and enhances the overall experience of your day. There is a huge difference between being busy and being productive! A little beyond the scope of this article but a good day to me is rather being productive than being busy ☺️.

Values

Another big part of answering the question next to the resources available (which goes beyond time of course) are your values. Having a good day to me can mean something completely different than it does for you. We all have different priorities - or like I rather name them: values.

You cannot answer this morning question without getting in touch with yourself and your values. They can be personal (relationships, taking care of yourself etc), financial, work related and many more. That's what I like about asking this question on a daily basis: it helps me being in touch with myself. 

Having a great day without being in touch with what is important to you is virtually impossible.

The key to having a good day is being truthful and realistic

As became clear by the above, you cannot have a great day if you are either lying to yourself about what you want to do, or miscalculate the resources available.

If something takes more time (resources) than you can allocate for the task it shouldn't be part of your answer. Rather break it up into smaller chunks. Productivity rule #1.

Also not giving the right value to a task or thing you would like to do sets you up for failing to have great day. Being close to yourself, your inner values and motivations, is therefore of great importance on the ability to have a great day.

So be honest, be realistic and...

Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

Be kind to yourself

If you can not be kind to yourself, you will not have a great day! You may be spoofed into a sense of accomplishment after a long day of hard work, but that doesn't make it great.

The whole thing is that when we do this we are usually borrowing time from another day or aspect of ourselves that we value as well. I am not saying we cannot have days that we mainly work, but we have to take into account we are not robots. We are human beings and our needs are completely different than solely being productive.

So, maybe lower that standards of what you want to achieve and get to a 'feel good' mode first. I have found that I plan my calendar less full but have become a lot more productive. Because when you are capable of finishing your todo-list for today, dopamine and serotonin become your friend to go for an even higher level of achievement 

By being kind to yourself you can increment the sense of 'a great day' over time. Accumulated good days can make a great week!

One of my favorite things to do in being kind to myself is only allowing to plan stuff I can easily get done. Even if I get interrupted, lose an hour due to unscheduled internet outage or whatever. I give myself slack enough to make sure I can get it done. And in the case something happens leading me to have to reschedule some of my plans, great - no problem: I consciously decide that priority or value has shifted and reschedule.

Another way I am being gentle to myself is closing of all notifications in the mornings. That is my time. My focus time. Calls are silenced. Notifications are silenced. Period.

When do I have a good day?

My daily routine is a bit like this:

  • I wake up and get a cup of coffee, wake up the kids and do some light exercise.
  • Then I take a shower, which I start warm and end cold, get dressed and go for a walk with our dog.
  • Time to get to work! For me this means going upstairs most of the days. I sit down with a cup of coffee or tea and just breathe for a few minutes and be quiet.
  • Next up is getting out my journal and writing down 3 to 4 tasks I really need or want to accomplish where they must be easily attainable. Sometimes I also jot down some personal things I'd like to (like spending quality time with my family, or call a friend).
  • Usually the result is a great focus and often my work tasks are completed before or around 13:oo. At that time I will be taking a break for lunch and sometimes when feeling tired a nap.

All the other stuff I do that day is 'more than I set out to do' and feels like a bonus πŸ™‚.

The great thing is that this gives me wiggle room in the afternoon to do some learning, bug fixing for clients or take an added crack at that todo list!

In the evenings I go for a run, call friends, watch some netflix, do some personal projects - that sort of stuff.

Concluding

I think that it is possible to have many great and good days with a little effort. A little time asking ourselves the rights questions and giving it a valid answer. 

If we can be honest about where we are, the resources we have and the values we maintain, we have the possibility of creating a great day. 

Great days are not a given. They are constructed, created. And although not all my days are great, and I am definitely a work in progress as a human being, we have the power within ourselves to take today and make it great!

Have a great day today!