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Monday, August 31, 2015

Make a List.... Make a Habit.... Make a Lifestyle

It's no big secret I value Order and Organization in my Life.

Frankly, creating and maintaining Order and Organization in my Life is the basic foundation for the 4th element of a Healthy Lifestyle.... which is Stress Management.

Because, from my experience, if you don't organize your Life, i.e. take control of your schedule, then IT WILL CONTROL YOU!

What are the other elements of a Healthy Lifestyle?  Well - let's just list them all:
  1. Diet and Nutrition
  2. Exercise
  3. Restorative Sleep
  4. Stress Management / Schedule Control / Prioritization

Let me share a little technique I've used for years to help me manage stress and take back control of my life.

The first thing I do in the morning after waking up is.....


Yep, that's Priority 1 and definitely a part of every day's schedule.

The second thing I do is.....


Yep.... I take about 5 - 10 minutes and write down everything I want to get done for the day in roughly chronological order, i.e. the order in which I will do it or in which it will occur that day.

The list will include everything..... Family related events and activities, Work To Do's, Workouts, Grocery Shopping.... You name it.... If I want to get it done or spend any time on it that day, it goes on the list.

It can include thoughts, snippets of information, people I talked to, documentation of events / conversations, whatever.

This Daily To Do List becomes everything from a Daily Planner to a Diary to an Idea List to a Contact List to a Ledger for Important conversations.

I've tried different formats over the years but have settled on these inexpensive little Walmart notebooks.  They are already 3-holed so they will fit easily into a binder when they're full.  And yes, I do keep these for at least a year because as I said, they may contain information on Contacts, Conversations or Important Info that I may forget and have to refer back to.

This little Lifestyle Technique or Approach has gotten more important as I've gotten older, because I don't remember things like I used to.

But there are many other positive things that a Daily To Do List provides:
  • It forces you to write down what you're gonna do.  It's a proven fact that you are much more likely to do or remember to do something and be more motivated to do something..... If you WRITE IT DOWN!
  • It encourages you to THINK THROUGH YOUR DAY and the time it represents and SCHEDULE THE DAY'S EVENTS.  This becomes critical when we're talking about things that are important to you and for you, such as what you're gonna eat and when and how you are gonna exercise.  
  • Because you have written down your Plan of the Day, you will be less likely to let New Events and "Emergencies" interject themselves into your schedule.  One of the most important elements of Stress Control is the ability to say "NO".  Committing a part of your day at the beginning of the day to a specific pre-planned activity is the first step to being able to say "No" and feel guilt free.
  • It gets you mentally, emotionally and physically prepared for the planned events.  Let me give you an example.  If I put on my Daily To Do list that I'm gonna do a CrossFit workout from 5:45 - 7:00 pm, and I look at that "task" on the list a few times during the day, then by about 4:00 pm, I am gonna begin being subconsciously preparing for that.  I will make pre-workout plans like eating a small nutritious snack or drinking a pre-workout drink.  I will also be more "on guard" about letting the rest of the world insert it's own personal emergencies into my schedule.  I may even inform my co-workers that I will be leaving work at 5:00 pm so I can get to my workout.... so they will know my schedule and the importance I place on getting to my workout on time.
  • Making a Daily List implies repetition.... and repetition of anything leads to a Habit.  Behavioral Experts tell us it takes 21 days to form a Habit.  So imagine if you started writing down something on your list and doing it for 21 days..... Hmmmm..... You might lose that 10 lbs or start that Savings Plan or or be on the way to that Promotion or Improve your relationship with your Spouse and Kids.... Hell - you might even start enjoying life a little more.
  • Another thing a Daily To Do List does for you is that it shows you where you're spending your time. When you get to the end of the day and you're exhausted and you can't figure out why, it's kinda rewarding to look down at your list and see the "crossed off or checked" tasks and realize "Oh yeah.... I did this and this and that".... I did get something done today..... or vice versa... maybe your To Do List is scribbled and edited with a lot of shit that came up that you had to handle....that's OK, you wrote it down, gave it its due diligence and accounted for your time....and there's something satisfying and rewarding about that.
Now right now, there may be some people reading this that are rolling their eyes and going "This guy doesn't have a clue how out of control my life is".

Spouses, Kids, Friends, Work, Church, Health Issues..... keep on with the list.... and excuses..... they all have a way of CONSUMING OUR LIFE.

I know that....I'm 53 freaking years old....I've been there and done that and lived that life.  I know there is only so much you can do to control your schedule.

But you have to try.... and you might be amazed how simple it is to gain an hour a day for YOURSELF....

If you begin the day with a List.

This Daily To Do List has longer term and more lasting ramifications / consequences.

Your Daily To Do List can contain specific items / goals / tasks that are part of a Longer Term Goal / Task List.

Yes, I am implying you should have at least a written 1-year, 5-year and perhaps Longer Term Goals and Plans List.

These are longer term Goals and Ambitions such as Completing a College Plan, Saving for a Large Purchase, Retirement Planning, Career Goals, etc.

Each one of those Longer Term Goals will have a specific list of steps to accomplish that Notable Task or Goal.

Those smaller tasks can be incorporated into the Daily To Do List such as "Call Financial Planner and set up College Plan for Amy".

Taking Control of Your Time, Organizing Your Life, Making a Short, Intermediate and Long Term "To Do" List....

These are all things that when repeated over and over will form the habits and foundation of a Happy and Healthy Lifestyle.

Try it and See!

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