We all have things we do every single day, whether we pay attention to them or not. But how many of us make sure at least some of these things provide value to our life and time?
The list you are about to read is non exhaustive. It includes things I do everyday because I take a conscious decision to do so. It can inspire you to do the same, or to create your own everyday checklist.
Brushing my teeth, eating, cleaning, are all necessities. They are things that have to be done. But they are not things that enable me to keep getting work done, and to keep the momentum going. They are passive tasks.
The difference between a passive task and an active task is the output value I get from it. If I brush my teeth everyday, I get clean teeth, but that’s only preventive. It is common knowledge for a lot of people. But if I wake up at 6am everyday, it is curative. I consciously make myself do this to make sure I have enough time to spend on things that matter to me.
1. Wake up at 6am
I wake up at 6am everyday before going to the office, primarily because I want to have more time for myself. In the morning, I like to spend an hour for stretching, yoga, breakfast, reading, and an hour for working on my blog.
2. Make my bed
Making your bed in the morning is the first victory of the day. It is so easy to do. It provides a quick and satisfying sense of accomplishment, which can generate momentum for the whole day, the whole week, the whole time.
3. Stretch in the morning
I am lucky enough to have a backyard, and I love stepping on the terrace in the morning to stretch while feeling the fresh morning breeze. I spend 15 to 20 minutes stretching, and I then move on to yoga.
4. Do yoga
Yoga helps me staying grounded and focused on my goals by emptying my mind. It helps me prepare my brain mentally for the day ahead, mainly in acknowledging that I need to stay as calm and positive as possible.
5. Have breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I usually have oatmeal with vanilla soy milk and blueberries, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and sometimes coffee.
I never skip breakfast, even if I have an unusual early morning. I always make sure I grab at least a little something on my way out.
I read at least 10 pages per day. I am not an avid reader, so this is a perfect realistic target for me. I usually read in the morning during my breakfast and a little bit after. If I skip reading to get straight to work on my blog, I will read at night before going to bed.
7. Drink 1.5L of water
Water is essential to the body. I have a glass of water I use at the office, and I make sure to drink at least 4 glasses per day. Given that I am at the office from 9 to 5, including lunch, it’s easy to reach the target.
8. Walk at least 8000 steps
I’m told Fitbits are great, but they’re a bit on the pricey side if you only need a bracelet to count your steps. That’s why I invested in a Mi Band from Xiaomi. It is 4 times cheaper, does a lot of the same things, and if you only need it for one function, it’s perfect. Plus, it looks really nice and won a design award.
8000 steps seems to be the general consensus when it comes to recommendations from Health Organisations across the globe. If I get back from work and my number of steps is below the 8000 mark (which often happens), I either go for a run or for a walk.
I run 4 days a week, always after work except for my Sunday run. When I’m training for a marathon I follow a specific marathon training program.
The great thing about following a program is that it is designed to make you progress more and more. It feels amazing to be able to run 10km flawlessly. Plus, it usually motivates me to get back to work once I get home.
10. Go outside to get some air
As I’m writing this article, summer is just around the corner, the days are getting longer, and the sun shines more and more. It makes walking along the lake a lot more pleasant and relaxing. Depending on where you live, it can be challenging to find a place to get some fresh air with at least a little bit of nature. If you live downtown, you can use public transport or your bike to get to a nature spot a bit further away.
It is always worth it to go for a walk in nature. A lot of people live in the city for most of their life and get completely disconnected from nature, true fresh air, and the basic origins of our world. When I go for a walk, I like to look at the trees and think that they have been on this world for a lot longer than I have. And they will remain on it for a lot longer than I will. We all have an inner need to be connected to nature.
11. Develop gratitude (Smile more than I frown)
It is a lot harder to be happy than to be sad in life. We are constantly tempted by things advertised to us as essential by people who have a lot more (financial) wealth than we do. Consequently, it is really easy to fall in a downard spiral of greed and disappointment for not being able to live up to the standards of our society.
I always remind myself of how lucky I am to have my life. I mostly practice my gratitude during my morning meditation. I think of how lucky I am to make descent money, to not have to worry about food on a daily basis, to not live in a war zone…
The one book I always recommend to cultivate compassion and living a simpler life is The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler.
12. Keep my goals in check
I have a list of my short-term and medium-term goals up on the wall facing my desk, next to a list of healthy habits I try to implement in my life. It’s a good way to remind myself of what I want in life, and what my values are. I also keep track of my goals in my journal, where I write about my progress and the potential obstacles I run into.
Keeping my goals in check is also a prioritisation exercise on a daily basis. Temptation to spend time on irrelevant things is everywhere. Every time I get asked to go for a drink, a soccer game, or any form of social activities, I weigh the pros and cons.
- Is this the best us of my time?
- Did I not already go out 3 days ago, and was that not enough?
- Where am I on my personal timeline?
- How much work do I have left for the week?
- Do I really want to go out after all?
Journaling is helpful in keeping my goals in check, but that’s not all it is about. I also write quotes I heard throughout the day, random thoughts I had, ideas, drawings…
I have 2 notepads. One that is the size of half an A4, which I keep at home. And one much smaller which I keep in my inside pocket jacket.
Having a notepad with you at all times helps create the habit of journaling, because you can write any time you want. I bring it with me everywhere I go, and as soon as I think of something I want to remember, I pull it out and write. At the end of the day, I sometimes copy the best bits of my small notepad to the bigger one at home, but I don’t always do that.
14. Turn on Self-control
This is both figurative and literal. I start working on my computer around 7:30am, and the first thing I do is turn on SelfControl.
SelfControl is a program that allows you to completely block access to distracting websites such as Facebook, Instagram, or Netflix. For me, the biggest problem I have is Youtube, so I block it first thing in the morning for the next 24 hours. All I have to do is turn on my computer, commit to clicking on a button, and I’m safe for the day.
15. Wind down with an evening routine
If I end my day by going to bed straight after a long period of screen time, I will have a hard time falling asleep. An evening routine is a great way to end your day. It tires you down a little bit, all the while preparing the necessities for the next day. This way, you don’t have to waste time and/or energy looking for things at in the morning.
It gives you a sense of accomplishment, knowing that your place will be nice, clean and ready when you wake up the next day.
Here is a summary of my evening routine, in chronological order. It takes me about 20 mins from start to finish.
- Clean the dinner table
- Put the dishes in the dishwasher
- Clean the kitchen counters, the living room table, and the living room coffee table
- Prepare my overnight oats and put them in the fridge
- Iron my clothes for the next day and get them ready on a chair
- Brush my teeth
- Maybe read a bit
- Go to sleep
16. Dress for success
I really dislike spending time deciding what to wear, or taking care of my clothes. My wardrobe is simple and inexpensive. I wear colors that always go together (blue, gray, beige, black, white) and I only wear solid colors (no patterns).
I have 3 pairs of pants (beige, blue jeans, black), and 3 pairs of shoes (black, blue and brown). I maximise the use of fit t-shirts and sweaters. They go with everything, look great, and are super easy to take care of.
The advantage of buying inexpensive (or at least not overpriced) clothes is that when they start fading out or I start getting sick of them, I can buy the same item again without breaking the bank.
17. Watch my sugar
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons (24 grams) of added sugar per day for women, and 9 teaspoons (36 grams) for men. When I started paying attention to my daily intakes by reading food packages, I realised I was way above that threshold.
Ever since then, I make conscious food choices. While it is hard to avoid sugar when you exercise a lot, eating healthy is always possible, and getting rid of processed foods is always a good idea.
18. Train my brain
I don’t use my phone a lot. I text from my laptop with WhatsApp (my only texting app, my phone usually sits at the bottom of my backpack.
When I do use my phone, I am either having a break from the day, or using the bathroom, and I take this opportunity to train my brain with fun apps. My favorite apps are memory trainers and geography quizzes.
Another way I try to keep my brain sharp is by having fun with 3D combination puzzles. That is Rubik’s cube inspired ones. There is a multitude of them, and learning how to solve each one only takes a week at most when training everyday after work. It’s fun and good for the brain.
19. Groom and shower
A 5-minute shower is all I need in the morning, along with a quick shave. I only use an electric razor. It is faster, cleaner, and more efficient. I top it all off with a refreshing facial cream, and I am ready for the day.
20. Relaxation (downtime)
In the middle of it all, everybody needs time to relax. During the week, my downtime will consist of reading/watching content I enjoy. I really try to keep the focus on content that provides value, and to remove the noise (news and useless videos).
During the weekend, my downtime will consist of time with friends and family, a long bike ride in nature, a walk in the forest…
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