We all know pretty much that great things require great sacrifices and more importantly great planning. If you are pursuing a goal in life that is far bigger than yourself, be it building your own business, becoming a professional in a field or becoming a master at a craft, you need to understand that it requires almost all of your time and energy to manifest it from inside your head and making it a reality. In our previous article on productivity, we have stressed how important it is to plan everything. Planning is the most fundamental step that you need to take if you want to reach a goal. Even by planning your day out you are still miles away from achieving your goals but if you don’t even plan it, the chances of you hitting your goal are almost 0%!
With that said, where do you incorporate planning first so that you can have what you want in life? We really believe that the first step that you need to take to plan for success is to plan your day first. This rings true to us because the most valuable resource that you have with you is time. Once you spend it, you are never ever going to get it back. So, the best way for you to keep an eye on how you spend your time is to set up a daily schedule for yourself.
Well, chances are, you are not. You are most likely running on a program that you are not aware of: and it’s not your fault. Our brains are very efficient at forming connections laterally and determining patterns on a day to day basis so it could spend the least amount of mental energy the next time you do the same action all over again. If you think to yourself “No I do what I want when I want!”, have you ever tried not eating when it’s time for lunch? It will be really hard for you to not to think about food and will require so much willpower for you to skip that meal. That’s why habits are hard to break; they are engrained deep within you as you practice the same thing over and over again across time.
Not convinced yet? Well, consider this: Every time you think of something, you expend some form of mental energy. If you have to think of what you want to do every time before you even do it, you are spending so much of mental energy on something that can be automated with a schedule.
How do you implement the most optimal schedule for yourself? In this article, we are going to lay out things to consider before you draw a successful schedule for yourself that you can stick to and will benefit you and offers the best ROI for your time.
Well, let’s start with the most important item on your list: Sleep! There is no doubt that sleep can do magic to your health, mental clarity, energy levels and even go as far as to improve your lifespan. Studies suggest that you are at a higher mortality risk if you sleep less than 4 hours a day. So the solution might be sleeping longer right? Wrong! The same study found that individuals that sleep more than 10 hours have the same mortality rate as the ones who slept 4 hours or less. Hence, you need to aim at getting the most optimal amount of sleep your body requires to function properly. According to scientists, that’s somewhere around 6.5 hours to 9 hours, and it varies across the board. How do you make sure that you get the amount that’s best for you? That’s where scheduling comes in.
You need to make sure that you go to bed and get out of bed at the same time every single day. Why so? Well, your body has an inner clock that keeps track of your sleep and awake time called the circadian rhythm. Once it’s time to sleep, your brain will produce a chemical called Melatonin that makes you feel sleepy. If you wake up and sleep at the same time every day, you are training that Melatonin to be released according to your schedule. You will get to a point where you can be certain that you will be awake at the same time every single day.
Bonus tip: How do you know you are getting the right amount of sleep? Well, how do you feel after you wake up? If you are still tired after you wake up, it’s either you are getting too much sleep or too little sleep. You can use apps like Sleep Score to track the quality of sleep. Another unconventional way that you can use is by monitoring your dreams. As you complete your last sleep cycle for the night, you will go into a long period of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and your brain will start dreaming. So when you have a dream or vaguely remember dreaming it means that you have reached the optimal amount of sleep. You can use this as a guideline to prevent you from oversleeping too. If you wake up after having a dream, you are very well rested and you shouldn’t be in bed.
As you wake up from sleep, you need to schedule the most important tasks at hand to be taken care of earlier in the day. Why so? Well, you are at your mental peak in the earlier part of the day. As you keep moving towards the end of the day, your mental energy will be expended and you will be drained by the time the day is over. This happens due to the accumulation of adenosine in the cerebral fluid. Adenosine is a by-product of being awake, so to speak and when you sleep every night, your brain will be “washed” by the cerebrospinal fluid and you will wake up refreshed.
The tasks best suited for this period are the ones that require the most amount of mental energy. This includes anything creative, tasks from the previous day that you can’t seem to crack open, or tasks where you are required to make tough decisions. Provided that you are getting the right amount of sleep, you will be at your best in the morning and you should utilise it accordingly. If you are trying to excel in your career, work on the project that will land you a promotion first thing in the morning. If your passion is writing and you want to write a book, work on it the first thing in the morning before you go to work. As you make this into a daily thing, the effort you put in will be compounded and before you know it, you will be at a point where you will still get a considerable amount of work done even on your worst days.
We all know the importance of exercise for our health but exercising gives us more than a healthy heart. By exercising, you are releasing tons of endorphins in your bloodstream and that will prime you for the entire day. Apart from keeping you in shape, exercising helps you learn better by releasing BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). Scientists have said that BDNF is like fertiliser for your brain as it makes it grow.
Another reason why you need to get physical every day is that it trains you to push yourself past your comfort zone. You will get used to discomfort and that will help you to laugh at the face of challenge.. You either can exercise before you start your day or after you end your day, the important thing is that you stick to it consistently.
Apart from exercising, make sure that your diet is on point too as they go hand in hand. Recent research has pointed out that what we eat affects how we feel and how well we can function mentally as most serotonin, a neurochemical that affects mood is produced in the gut. As an added benefit, both of these factors combined make you look good in a suit.
There is a misconception that creating a schedule for yourself is a process where you have to force yourself to do things and is void of freedom and fun. To paraphrase a great motivational speaker, a schedule is not a bloody prison. You can have fun included in your schedule. In fact, you are encouraged to have fun, the only condition being that the time you spend on fun is being accounted for. Most people find it difficult to set up productive days because the schedule they make for themselves is too intense and in turn, looks like a prison.
By including fun in the mix, you will adhere better to your schedule and the best part, you will never feel guilty of having fun. Instead of scrolling through social media mindlessly, why not do it mindfully? See, if fun is properly utilised, it can motivate you to stick to your schedule. Let’s say you find yourself spending too much time on video games. Well, set some conditions where you will allow yourself to play video games at a fixed time for a fixed duration as a start. As you plan out your fun time, you will have a higher chance of adhering to your overall schedule over the long run.
Last but not least, you need to have a rewind ritual where you calm down before you end the day. This is important as you can’t go to bed with the same mental state as you went to work with. During the first half of your day, you were at a position where you were focused and you were getting things done. The second half of the day is where you let go and yield into a state of calmness. After you get all your things done for the day, you need to have a block of time planned where you wind down, reflect and chill.
The key to incorporating a great wind-down ritual is to engage in relaxing activities that are not stressful and are not mentally stimulating. Examples of them are like reading a book, having a chat with family members and meditation. Not only it will prime you for sleep, but it also provides you with a time where you can reflect on your day. You can take advantage of that and journal what happened throughout your productive days as a bonus. Not only it helps you to keep track of where you are, it also helps you to show yourself the progress you have made this far and helps you keep you on track with your goals.
If you can draw out a plan that encompasses all of the aspects mentioned and can stick to it days on end, you will see your self moving slowly towards your goals. The key to achieving goals in life that are larger than yourself is consistency and by incorporating these steps, you will set yourself up in a way that you keep moving closer to your goals without feeling burned out.
Do you agree with us that schedules keep us in track? Do let us know in the comment section below. Are there any other steps that we missed that benefits your day? Do let us know! We would love to see how your day to day schedule looks too to learn from you so please let us know in the comments section.
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