I try to give myself major items to complete every day. Beyond a to-do list, these are the items I want to progress on that given day. it may be a goal about how I want to structure my life, a topic I want to end the day having learned about, or a project that, though I have no solid action-items on when I wake up, I can strive towards advancing on as the day goes forward.
It is incredibly important that I do this immediately after I wake up, or else I can get trapped in multitasking throughout the morning, focusing a little bit on work, a little bit on writing, a little bit on leisure, and a little bit on side projects. No, it’s better to go into the day — even if it is multitasking — with a goal and something to which you can strive. It gives the day a forward momentum.
To achieve this, I challenge myself to give each day a major theme immediately after I wake up and get moving (I also make sure I get 8 hours of sleep the night before so that I spend minimal time groggily “waking up”). “Today I want to achieve X,” may sound like a corny, easy task to leave oneself to every day, but it’s actually much harder than one would expect. The temptation to wait for the theme or goal to emerge out of the activities of the day, or to just jump in and get shit done is overwhelming.
This is another part of the difficulty of holding oneself to values and goals and enforcing the proper reaction mechanisms for failure. Nobody else is going to call you out on your BS excuses when you decide you want to squirm your way out of something.
I’ve found a tool that helps me keep myself on track for setting daily themes and goals. It’s a Chrome plugin called Momentum that asks you what your main focus for the day is when you log in. While there is no real enforcement mechanism if you just ignore it (it’s the default page for a new tab), the box will sit there and wait for you to put something in, no matter what time of the day it is.
Even if the focus is as simple as “Get Shit Done,” or “Simplify,” it gives the day an explicit focus and a place to which one can strive in activities. (Side note: one of my favorites is actually just “simplify,” because it forces me to actively confront in my mind all the things which I can do without throughout the day and my life, helping me on the path to minimalism).
Just as we must hold ourselves to transcendent ideals in order to become the best version of ourselves, we must also hold ourselves to daily goals, tasks, and focuses in order to make headway on those ideals. This is one way that I regulate my own behavior.