A simple guide to creating a highly-productive daily routine

Each day, whether we realize it or not, we endeavor to compete for something; the affection or love of a partner, a promotion in the workplace or, with ourselves, to become bigger, bolder and better people.

Herein, I provide seven steps on how you can build the right routine to live a fulfilling life. As you read these steps, visualize and imagine your personal definition of success. Think about how your definition of success jives with the following habits and principles.

Determine whether you are already incorporating them into your daily routine- or if you can begin introducing them into your day. Most importantly, find what works for you, stick to it and develop consistency.

1. Plan your day the night before

I’m glad that no one keeps a tally of the number of unsuccessful days I’ve lived. Days where I’ve been lazy, procrastinated and frittered the hours away. Frankly, I’m willing to bet we could all agree to that. What I can tell you is, the unsuccessful days have mostly been the ones that I did not plan.

As I have grown over the years in my professional career, I have dramatically reduced those unsuccessful days by following one simple step: I have planned my day the previous night.

I’m not suggesting that you plan out every minute or even every hour of your day. I always recommend that you leave some space for creativity and the unknown. In budget terms, that would be called, “contingency.” That contingency time has proved invaluable for me throughout my life, both on a personal and professional basis.

Personally, it has permitted me time to attend doctor’s visits for my son and plan impromptu lunches with friends and colleagues. Professionally, it’s allowed me the ability to network, develop professionally and to pursue new topics of intellectual curiosity.

I recommend that you list out goals that you aim to accomplish each week. Then, at the more granular level, highlight the tasks that you want to accomplish each day using the Time Management Quadrant below, made famous by Stephen Covey in his bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People (also known as the Eisenhower Matrix).

Source: Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

ou can choose to put these into time slots, depending on whether you use a daily planner or simply a task or milestone list for the day. Once you have something in writing, you’ve made an actionable commitment to getting it done.

Now, you can hold yourself accountable because you have a frame of reference as you navigate through your day. Use this daily planner as your baseline but by no means should you follow it to the letter of the law.

Most importantly, always allow yourself the ability to adapt and change if it’s in your best interest to do so. As the great (if not somewhat crazy) Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Chances are, you won’t need to dodge monster right hooks over the course of your day.

You will, however, encounter adversity and changes that force you to adapt and modify your plan. The highly successful person is always ready to make changes on the fly and is never exclusively wedded to a game plan. Things change. Be prepared!

2. Read your plan out loud in the morning

Reading your plan helps you process the information and store it in your conscious and subconscious mind. This way, you will remember what’s important. No matter how good you think your short or long-term memory is, if you don’t write or read your plan, you will forget some information.

Where that will hurt you, in particular, is in Quadrant II per the chart above. Recognizing new opportunities is a skill that comes to those who have a clear, prepared mind. When you have clutter on your mind, you tend to worry more and get easily distracted. That’s when you end up in Quadrant III.

Reading your plan helps you to visualize what you want to accomplish. When you visualize what you want to do, you have an image in your imagination. Your imagination gives birth to the ideas, goals, and plans that you have. Suddenly, you have a vivid picture of seeing yourself successfully carry out your goals for the day.

As the great Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

3. Strengthen your conviction by believing in yourself (auto-suggestion) and speaking positively over your life

We can speak positively over our lives in two ways:

  1. Actually speaking the words .
  2. Sending the same words from our mind into our subconscious mind via, the “voice inside our heads”.

Both are powerful ways to build faith. Here, I want to focus a little more on the second way. The great Napoleon Hill once wrote:

“Auto-suggestion is the agency of control through which an individual may voluntarily feed his subconscious mind on thoughts of a creative nature, or, by neglect, permit thoughts of a destructive nature to find their way into this rich garden of the mind.”

The key here is to speak positively and to do this throughout the day. Don’t confuse this with ego-stroking or self-aggrandizing behavior. The most successful people practice auto-suggestion to feed their subconscious mind, in an effort to fuel their success. When you mix positive emotions with positive encouragement, you have a winning combination.

4. Take breaks throughout the day to clear your mind

Scientific studies show that taking regular breaks helps you to sharpen your focus increase your ability to perform. Throughout my career, I’ve always built-in time each day to get up, walk around and clear my mind. We weren’t meant to spend our whole day fixated on a computer screen or working nonstop on our feet without a break.

Take some time to chill and relax. Get outside and walk around a bit, fresh air will do you good. The change will give you some perspective and could take the edge off any stress or anxiety you’re dealing with.

5. Remind yourself of your weekly, monthly and long-term goals

A close cousin to number two on this list, number five is an activity that helps you better frame the big picture for what you’re hoping to accomplish. As with all the steps, this could be with tasks in your personal or professional life.

Vision Boards have become very big over the last couple of years. Really, this is simply a tool to get you to plot out your dreams and goals and keep them in a place that you can see every day. There’s an unmistakable correlation here to the concept of planting thoughts in your subconscious mind. This is a visual tool, whereas I touched earlier on verbal reminders and encouragement via the voice inside our head.

Long-term goal planning will help you prioritize what matters to you. It puts your goals within the range of achievement. For longer-term goals, where applicable, attach dates to when you hope to accomplish these things. This allows you to plot out intervals and measure your progress along the way. Once you can start measuring and tracking your progress, the reality becomes clearer.

6. Get feedback where you can

If you want to be great and compete to your maximum ability, you need to operate by measurable criteria and goals. So far, I’ve outlined those for you. You also need to get feedback from others. Please — focus on the positive feedback. There’s a reason for this. University of Auckland researchers found positive feedback can have a profound influence on learning and achievement.

When you take the time to build in moments for reflection throughout your day, you’re able to evaluate yourself. Ask people you can trust to give you the information you need to become a better person. Whether in the workplace from a colleague, at school with a student, or from a family member, friend or mentor, make a list of people you can trust and that you feel comfortable confiding in.

Positive, objective feedback will help you assess the current situation. It will give you the tools you need to bridge the gap between where you are and where you need to be. Every time I’ve improved in my life, either as a student, athlete, business professional or coach, I’ve done so by soliciting feedback from other people, and then integrating these best practices for improvement into my routine.

7. Leave nothing to chance — Always Give 100%

One of my life mantras is:

There are two things you can always control- your attitude and your effort.

Achievement — both your sense of self-worth and that of others — is well within your grasp if you have a positive, determined attitude and you’re willing to work harder than anyone else. You may not always love everything you do. Heaven knows, our days will not be entirely comprised of pursuing our passions and loves all the time.

There are responsibilities and tasks that don’t always bring a smile to our face. Regardless, bring your best effort and attitude to everything that you do. The feeling, the emotional reward that comes with doing so is a brilliant sense of satisfaction to savor.

Rest with confidence, re-charge for the next day

Resting your mind and body is essential for living a successful, competitive life. If we never stop to rest, we’ll eventually burn ourselves out and suffer the consequences. A proper amount of sleep and rest is vital to our health and productivity.

But don’t just take my word for it! I’ll allow the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to point this out: “During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health.”

We all need to re-charge our minds and body every day. Never underestimate your need to shut down, decompress and get some sleep. You’ll be better for it. This all forms a winning, continuous cycle that when followed will make your happier, more successful and fulfilled.

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This article first appeared on Medium.