This year I learned the biggest lesson ever. The importance of each ‘day’ in my life.
All through my adult years, I wanted to start several projects, learn new things, and read a plethora of book but I couldn’t because I didn’t have time.
I thought, one day, in future, I will have a lot of time. Then I will be able to do all these things. I thought that future was when I retire.
Not working will add ten extra hours to my day.
I retired two years ago and I still didn’t have any time to do the things I wanted to do.
The reason was not the lack of will or not knowing the productivity hacks. The reason was, I didn’t understand the importance of a ‘day.’
A day is the single unit of time that is most significant. It has fixed 24 hours which are same for everyone.
Our weeks could be different, our months could be way different and a year is way too long.
But a day has a rhythm about it. Sun goes up, sun goes down.
Anyone can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the battles of those two awful eternities, yesterday and tomorrow, that we break down. It is not the experience of today that drives us mad. It is the remorse or bitterness for something that happened yesterday or the dread of what tomorrow may bring. Let us therefore do our best to live but one day at a time.
— Richard Walker in Twenty-Four Hours A Day
That is why Alcoholic Anonymous has a slogan ‘One Day At a Time.’
How to establish a daily practice of anything?
Whatever you want to do, do it every day. Whether it’s writing, meditation, yoga, or a favorite creative activity, you’ll get so much more from doing it every day.
When you do an activity every day, it become a second nature. Your skill level improve and same task that used to take you hours is done in fraction of time. And you no longer dread it any more.
If you want to write, write every day.
If you want to sketch, sketch every day.
If you want to paint, paint every day.
If you want to sing, sing every day.
Do it every day, until it becomes easy.
Luckily the steps to set the daily practice of anything are the same.
Set the intention.
Everything starts with intention.
If at the start of the year someone had said to me that the only way you will be able to make a mark on Medium is by writing an article a day I would have said, “Thank you very much, I am out of here.”
Yet this is exactly what I did. Mid-April this year, I set myself a challenge to write 100 Articles in 100 Days. This meant writing one article a day.
It started with an intention but the most important thing was ‘why?’
Why I set myself the challenge? I had three very strong reasons for that.
- I wanted to get better at writing.
- I wanted to bring the article writing time down from 5–6 hours to 1–2 hours.
- And I wanted to build a rigorous system to publish online articles.
You can make your intention even stronger, by sharing it. I announced mine by writing an article. However, be careful about talking about it too widely, it can dissipate the energy.
Set time and process to do the task.
Setting intention will get you going, setting a time and process to do the practice will make sure that you keep on doing it.
Once I declared my intention I set a time when I will be writing those articles. I write a handwritten draft in the morning, before breakfast. Between breakfast and lunch I type the article. Then I leave it for a few hours. Then either before dinner or after dinner, I edit and publish it.
I rarely leave the articles for next day (not a good practice) because I know I will run out of steam on the topic and don’t finish it. I like to wake up each morning excited about what I am going to write today.
I have a similar process for watercolour sketches. I do them in the afternoon. I have all the materials at one place. That stops the procrastination. I make a small painting or even an easy one if I have less time. Some days my painting turns up horrible, even then I post it. It is the act that counts not the quality. The quality will come with time.
And should you start to despair at your progress, always keep in mind the words of Harvey Pekar: “Every day is a new deal. Keep working and maybe something will turn up.”
Whatever you are working on make it your most important task of the day and do it no matter what.
Track your progress
The comedian Jerry Seinfeld suggests a calendar method to help keep track of your daily practice. He recommends getting a wall calendar that shows the whole year. Each day, when you’re finished with your work, mark an X in that day’s box.
Every day, instead of just getting work done, your goal is to just fill a box.
“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
I made that calendar in Excel spreadsheet. I use it for my article writing, water colour painting and meditation practice. You are welcome to print it from below.
Submit to a daily practice. Your loyalty to that is a ring at the door. Keep knocking and the joy inside will eventually open a window and look out to see who’s there. — Rumi
To sum up
A day is your most important commodity. Make sure you use it wisely.
If you want to learn something, there is nothing like it to practice it daily.
If you are working on a project, figure out what little daily chunk of work is, and every day, no matter what, make sure it gets done.
Do the work every day. Fill the boxes on your calendar and don’t break the chain.