Daily Guide to Satisfaction

I’ve always kept a day planner. A portable sidekick, keeper of appointments, social events and reminders to buy almond milk and toilet paper. Though realistically only 40% of what goes into this book is adhered to, it still provides a general sense of purpose and order.

I also keep a running to do list: a scroll of non urgent items that don’t make the day planner cut. Clean out junk drawers, collect the books I’ve lent out, etc. I save these check boxes for rainy days.

Then there are the more enriching activities. Practicing Spanish, dusting off my sewing machine, getting caught up on the business magazines that have been stacking up in my mail pile. The things that don’t get scheduled because they’re not necessarily time sensitive or calendar appropriate. The things that get neglected because they’re not for work, and neither my household or personal life will fall apart if they’re not performed. But these things are important, vital even. They feel good. They add meaning to life. They bring us closer to where we want to be. They should take precedence over the menial daily tasks of putting on underwear or filling up our gas tanks. Yet days pass –  we’ve worked, cleaned, run errands, socialized, bathed – but we’ve probably not allotted enough time to the extra things that will give added meaning to our lives.

You know the saying: A year from now you’ll look back and wish you had started today. Whether finite projects like writing a book, or ongoing goals like traveling the world, you may never start or finish without a little structure. Scheduling these activities is just as important as chores or you time or work. Make a habit of them, like everything else. It may seem like you don’t have another minute in your day to spare, especially on tasks that take more brain power or creativity. But we know that’s bull. Make time.

I love the concept of bucket lists. But a bucket list implies that we have a lifetime to accomplish what’s on it. No rush, great! We don’t have to cross anything off tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day, as long as we knock them out before we die. We assume that everything will fall into place by the loose deadline (of death).

We imagine we’ll get to work on our ultimate life goals when we have more money, or more time, or in retirement, or when life calms down. The truth is, timing isn’t everything. Waiting for timing to be “right” is procrastination. Throw timing to the wind.

I’ve implemented an alternative to do system into my life. A new day planner. It looks suspiciously similar to my regular calendar. Except doctor’s appointments and laundry day are not allowed on this schedule. There’s a big ol’ RESERVED sign for enriching activities only. Playing instruments, learning languages, meditation, practicing yoga, gardening, journaling, learning new recipes. Meaningful stuff.

Keep it simple. Schedule an hour in to listen to your favorite podcast. 30 minutes to free write. 5 minutes of deep breathing. The less overwhelming the daily list, the more likely you are to follow it. I keep a fresh “daily to do” sheet on my desk at home, and write out a couple goals each morning. I don’t carry it around with me during the day, that way it doesn’t feel naggy. I reference it in my early morning or evening idle hours and mark things off at my leisure. I leave a couple lines blank incase I accomplish anything unexpected that I’d like to log. A notebook would be a great way to track daily enriching activities as well. Similar to a gratitude journal, it’s something you can look back at at any time you need a little pick-me-up.

Even if you don’t keep a list, make a point to do a few things every day that bring you real fulfillment. We get so distracted by the day to day grind that we forget the stuff that matters. The stuff that gets us off. The stuff that colors our world. Schedule that stuff. Make it a habit. Laundry shouldn’t always win.

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