Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, “Today I want to put out fires all day long.” But you probably know what a day like that feels like. I’m talking about those days when you wake up wanting to make meaningful progress on your goals, but you end up being pulled in every direction but the one you want to be going towards. What do you do when that happens?
Listen elsewhere: MP3 | Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Overcast | Google Podcasts
What do you do when you end up getting bogged down by the demands and distractions of others?
What do you do when one buzz, bing or notification leads to another, and before you know it, the day is done and you’re totally drained?
What do you do when you’ve worked hard all day long, but for some reason, still feel like you haven’t really done anything meaningful?
If you’re not sure, you’re not at fault—they don’t teach us how to be intentional in grade school. But if you are ready to start being more intentional about each of your days, let me introduce you to a simple habit that can help you:
I call it the Daily Design.
And it takes less than five minutes a day, but can provide you with just enough intention, inspiration and structure to focus on doing meaningful work—on moving the needle on the things that matter most to you each day.
The Daily Design—what it is.
A Daily Design is a hand-written statement about how you’d like your day to go. It’s done first thing every morning. And it’s written in the past tense, meaning you write down how you’d like your day to go as if it had already happened.
For example, here’s my Daily Design from yesterday:
- Today I woke up with incredible energy and had a phenomenal workout—I deadlifted 275 lbs. six times. F-yeah! At work, I’m grateful to have recorded and published a powerful podcast episode. I interviewed four great candidates for the new marketing position I’m looking to fill between three of my companies, and I found a phenomenal person for the job! I believe she will be productive, honest, and organized. I really connected with my wife today, and we had a fun and positive conversation over family dinner, along with our daughter Nora, who actually stayed in her seat the whole time! We ended our day with a nice walk before going to bed at 9:00 p.m.
As you can see in the example above, I wrote mine out as one long paragraph, jumping from one topic to the next. I left out some stuff on this particular Daily Design, but I wrote what mattered most for me, for the day.
Here’s another one:
- Today will be a phenomenal day. Writing day. Writing day. Writing day. I’ll be focused and productive all day long. I’ll work without distractions and will write with prolific intensity.
My Daily Designs are filled with run-on sentences. Sometimes they’re incoherent and none-sensical to everyone but me. Which, by the way, is all that matters—as long as the Daily Design makes sense to you, you’re good to go. This entire exercise is about designing YOUR day, not anyone else’s. You’re free to write your Daily Designs however you see fit. Keep that in mind.
Why the Daily Design is so powerful.
Here’s why the Daily Design is so powerful:
It forces you to finish your day before it starts.
It puts you in the driver’s seat of your day (right where you belong).
It gives you a brief moment to think about your day. It puts you in control and allows you to decide what you want to accomplish on any given day, rather than letting someone else decide for you.
- Don’t want to complain today? Write it down.
- Want to stay focused and productive all day? Write it down.
- Want to make sure you crush that presentation you’ve got at noon? Write it down.
The Daily Design—how it works.
Here’s how it works:
Every morning, get up and quickly write down how you want your day to go. You can be specific as you want. You can write it down in whichever way you want. All that matters is this: you begin your day by design—by intentionally thinking about, and writing down how you’d like your day to go.
Here are some tips to get you started:
- First, you’ll need a journal. Grab something that feels nice to use and is enjoyable to write with. You’ll be more likely to use it if the tactical experience of writing brings you joy. Personally, I love the feeling of holding my favorite pen and feeling it glide atop the buttery-smooth pages of my notebook. It brings me joy. My handwriting isn’t as pretty as I’d like it to be, but you better believe my tools are on-point.
- Each morning, immediately upon rising, write down how you want your day to go (it helps to keep your journal on your bedside table.)
- Write your Daily Design as if it’s already happened. I had an awesome meeting. I generated X amount of revenue today. I was laser-focused all day. I’m grateful for having made time to connect with my family today. And so on. You get the idea.
- Make it as long, or as short as you want. You can write the Daily Design as one long paragraph, a bullet-style list, or a numbered checklist with little empty boxes next to anything actionable, checking things off as you move about your day. You can be as detailed as you want. You can zoom in, you can zoom out. Experiment until you find what works for you. What matters most is that you write what you want your day to look like. Again: experiment until you hit your stride.
- It doesn’t have to be actionable. You can write about how you’d like to feel. You can write about how you don’t want to feel. You can write what you want or what you don’t want—or both. (For example: “Today I did NOT argue with my wife.”)
- Note: Things won’t always go the way you wrote them out in your Daily Design. Don’t let that discourage you. The purpose is to bring your awareness, attention, and actions together in such a way that you stay focused on what you want to occur over the upcoming day (and ultimately, over the span of your life.)
Now it’s your turn.
If the first thing you do every day is open your email, you’re giving in to the demands of others.
If the first thing you do every day is log in to your favorite social media app, you’re giving in to the demands of others.
If the first thing you do every day is respond to text messages or return phone calls, you are giving in to the demands of other people.
These behaviors are costing you your dreams, your ambitions, and your productivity… Each of them has their place, but it’s not first thing in the morning.
Decrease the demands and distractions of your day by starting every morning with a Daily Design:
- Get a notebook you can dedicate to your Daily Designs. Or create a separate section in your current notebook.
- Each morning, immediately upon rising, simply write down what you want to happen. You can write how you’d like to feel and perform over the upcoming day; or who you want to see. You can list out the desired outcomes of the goals, projects or tasks you’ve got decked up for the day. Whatever matters to you, goes in your Daily Design.
- Run a 30-day trial. Commit to writing your Daily Design each morning for a month. See if it helps you. If it works—wonderful, keep it up. If it doesn’t—well, now you know I’m full of shit.