On a popular blog, Nancy Daley wrote about how to think of your day once it’s over and measure your success or effectiveness for that day. Nancy says:
Most of us will measure our day by what we did. We will reflect back and count the things on the to-do list we were able to check off. The more check marks, the better.
Measuring your day based on what you do, can force you into a dark hole where success becomes what you do, and then when you don’t or can’t ‘do,’ you see yourself as failing that day — and even worse, as being a failure.
We can’t always be ON. Some days we achieve very little at all in terms of actual tasks, but simultaneously achieve a lot through deep thinking, reflection and realizations. Your progress in life is about more than tasks and to-do lists.
Life is about who you become and the way you grow as a human in order to achieve that future self. This goal goes well and truly beyond physical tasks.
Robots and machines do tasks and complete checklists and you’re a human that has far more potential than that.
Maybe you hit inbox zero on your email. Does that make today a success?
Maybe you earned heaps of money for yourself or your employer. Does that matter in the context of your life and will you remember it?
Maybe you wrote four articles today and posted them up on Medium. Does publishing articles make you feel successful?
In my case, completing tasks leaves me feeling pretty empty at the end of the day. If all I did was stick to my calendar and complete tasks in-between the blocks of highlighted space in my calendar, well, that’s not success to me anymore.
Measuring my day in the traditional sense feels empty. I’ve lived that life for so long. First, it was other peoples to-do lists and then it was my own to-do list. The second form of to-do list was supposed to lead to the hustler, entrepreneur, digital nomad life that I thought I wanted. When I finally got a taste of that life, I realized I had to find another way to measure my day.
So, now, I measure my day with two questions:
1. Did I learn one new thing today?
Learning is repetitive and challenging because it pushes you to acquire a skill or piece of knowledge that you didn’t have before.
Most people avoid learning every day and replace the habit with entertainment or other forms of distraction. Because learning is hard and often tedious, most people don’t do it.
The reason I now measure my day based on whether I learned something new is that I don’t want my days on Earth to be easy.
There’s no sense of fulfillment when something is easier.
You don’t feel like you owned your day when it was easy.
Learning pushes me in directions I’d never thought to explore and it builds muscles in my mind that help me when life deals me an unlucky card.
A to-do list is based on completing tasks, whereas learning is about developing skills that help you uncover opportunities that you would never have seen otherwise.
In a way, learning is like giving a blind person a pair of brand new eyes so that they can enjoy the pleasure of sight once again. Nothing compares.
2. Did I help or inspire one person?
When we understand that our life is about more than our own survival, we unlock a different way to measure our day.
To complete tasks that serve your own selfish goals is Level 1.
Level 10 is thriving in life and that comes from helping or inspiring other people through what you do each day.
It’s about measuring your day and how successful it was through impact rather than tasks. Impact is what is measured far beyond the days you have on Earth. Your to-do list won’t be remembered in one-hundred years time, but the impact you had on the lives of your fellow human beings will be remembered beyond your physical existence.
It sounds like a cliche way to measure your day. That is, until you try it for yourself. Finish a day doing to-do lists and then finish a different day, having helped one person feel inspired not to give up.
Both days will feel entirely different. One will be a clear winner.
From this point on and for the rest of my life, I’m going to measure my day based on these two questions. If I can honestly answer that I completed both questions, then my day is a success.