Three Steps To Help You Take The Day As It Comes

At my core, I am a take the day as it comes kind of guy.

I hate to-do lists, and for a long time, I didn’t even really keep a calendar.

Living my life that way gave me a sense of creative freedom and it enabled me to be singularly focused on bringing beautiful things into the world.

My take the day as it comes mentality also caused me to double-book myself, I fell behind on projects, and I was generally not present during times that I needed to be physically and mentally in the room.

Without a plan, I was easily distracted and drawn toward the news of the day or things that were unrelated to me getting my best work done.

If I didn’t have a plan for how to use my time, I wasted it.

Today, there are far more important things in my life than work, like my kids, and my overall health. If I don’t make myself keep a calendar so I can tackle work things in a timely fashion, I end up missing out on opportunities to be with my family and keep myself healthy.

It’s not as though I spend my days wandering around aimlessly. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. If I don’t have a plan, I end up spending my time working on things that do not advance my life and career goals forward.

To combat this, I came up with a very simple plan to chart how I spend my time. This isn’t about productivity as much as it is about being smart with the time I have so that I can get to other things in life as quickly as possible.

Over the next week, try focusing on three things:

  1. Establish a personal morning briefing routine. Just like a CEO of an organization might sit down with their team each morning to start the day, you need to do the same for yourself. When you sit down to work each morning, take five to ten minutes to chart out how you will spend your time during the day. And by chart, I mean actually write it down or block it on your calendar in detail. For example, I no longer write “one-hour work block” on my calendar, instead, I write “One hour to work on the Smith family grant proposal.” Be specific. This simple activity helps me focus on my day. It also helps me set arbitrary deadlines for myself so I know how much time I actually have to spend on a given project.

  2. Track your routine. During the day, chart how you actually spent your time. For example, I’ve given myself a 60-minute working block each morning to write a blog post like the one you’re currently reading. Sometimes I can finish it in about an hour, sometimes, it takes me 2-hours, it just depends on my flow. I won’t actually know how much time I spent unless I chart my time as I go. After you complete each task, go back and adjust the original block of time to reflect how long the task actually took.

  3. Review. Before you set your schedule for the next day, review how everything went the day before to inform your next planning steps. Simplicity is the key.

For those of you who keep online calendars, charting your days this way can also be incredibly helpful as a tool to help you look back at what you were doing months ago in order to chart progress and better understand trends in your workflow.

If this is something you are thinking about implementing into your daily routine, here’s a great post by Tim Urban who simply breaks down his day into a series of 10-minute blocks. If you use android products, someone actually created a little tool so you can block your time each day.

I hope this post helps you think more deeply about how you spend your time. By taking 5–10 minutes at the start of each day to plan, you can take the day as it comes with the knowledge that you are tackling the right things for the right amount of time so that you can get to the important things in your life.


Photo Credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters

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Nate Zeisler is the Dean for Community Initiatives at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. He envisions a world where students majoring in the arts have a clear path to a sustainable career, where creative minds are empowered and inspired to rule the workforce, and where access to the arts is not just for the privileged few, but for all.

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