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7 Alternative Ways to Evaluate Your Life Every Day

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As regular readers know, I’m all about setting goals and working toward big projects over time. When you have a big goal, especially one with a clear end point, it’s easy to know when you’ve achieved it. But most big goals take time, and—as I’ve been learning—our lives consist of more than just a series of work-oriented projects that occupy our time.

No, to truly define success, we need to think of both these long-term goals and the actions we take every day. We also need to ensure our lives are in proper order. The challenge lies in the middle: how do we accomplish all of this?

Therefore, it may be more helpful to create an alternative method of evaluating ourselves as we go along. Here are seven different ideas to consider.


1. At the end of the day, ask yourself, “Did today matter?”

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Sure, you could spend a long time thinking back on your to-do list and reviewing your calendar. And what were all those emails about? But when you ask yourself this question, chances are you’ll know the answer intuitively.

Did today matter? If so, great. Do more things like it tomorrow. Can’t remember anything in particular that made a difference? Well, better change it up.

(Hat tip: Gemma Stone.)


2. Define success at the outset of every day, or (even better) the night before.

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Before you hit the ground running, take a few moments in meditation or thoughtfulness to decide what you’d like to see happen by the end of the day. Again, be sure to prioritize: it would be great to make a ton of progress on everything, but you probably won’t. What’s most important? What is realistic to achieve?

“Man is a success when he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night. And in between, does what he wants.” -Bob Dylan

Making this decision has a side benefit. In addition to helping you focus, when you’re able to hit that definition of success, you have an automatic answer to the question of “Did today matter?” Of course it mattered, because you did what you said you would.


3. Use ActionAlly to remind yourself of your 2-3 priorities.

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My long-time friend and genius developer Nicky Hajal recently created a new tool called ActionAlly, which is software for your Mac (no Windows version yet, sorry) that will remind you throughout the day of the 2-3 things you’ve selected as most important in your life.

ActionAlly is very different from most productivity tools. Instead of helping you do more, it will actually help you do less–but do it better. Whoa, what a concept.

You can get a free 7-day trial and see for yourself.


4. Do that thing that you’ve been putting off.

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Procrastinators, unite! Or on second thought, let’s wait until tomorrow.

There’s one sure-fire way to get that thing done that you’ve been putting off: do it before you do anything else. Don’t let yourself answer any email, begin work on something new, or even—shock and awe—have your first cup of coffee or tea before doing that dreaded thing.

I know, it’s complicated. And when there’s something you’re really avoiding, you very well may want to resist it. But this method works.


5. Create new metrics.

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I use metrics to measure a lot of my business goals. How are product sales going? How’s the blog—who’s reading, and who’s visiting?

When I was going to every country in the world, I had an easy metric: the number of countries I’d visited, cross-referenced against the total number of existing countries (I’m at 193/193 now, which is… fun).

But these metrics, as appropriate as they are to these kinds of goals, aren’t comprehensive for our whole lives. So if you’re seeking harmony or just a different way to stay on track with all aspects of your life, maybe you need some new metrics.

Here’s a new habit for me: “Every day in 2015 I will write or call one friend.” The habit correlates with an easy metric: How many days did I practice this habit?

I started two weeks before the end of 2014, and so far I’m doing great. As with writing 1,000 words a day, I may miss a day once in a while, but the point is that it’s a habit—if I get off track, I’ll find my way back.

I asked on Twitter if anyone else had an unconventional way of measuring daily success. I especially liked these two answers:

 

 


6. Increase your units of momentary happiness.

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I wrote about units of momentary happiness after reading Springboard by G. Richard Shell. The concept is simple, yet valuable: think of those times when you actively felt happy. Do more of them.

How many times did you feel happy today? Where did those moments come from? How can you have more of them?


7. Answer two questions at the outset of every day.

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If the idea of defining success proves elusive, or you just don’t want to think of your top 2-3 priorities, take a different approach and ask yourself these two questions at the start of the day:

  1. How are you feeling?
  2. What do you want?

Take the time to actually write down your answers, even if it’s just a short sentence or two for each or a quick set of words and phrases that make sense to you. Throughout the day, whenever you have a choice of how to spend your time, think back on your answers. Perhaps the best solution will spring to mind, or at least orient you in the right direction.

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What do you think of these ideas? Have anything to add?

Comments here.

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Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

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54 Comments

  • Niall says:

    What you wrote about contacting one friend a day was brilliant. I’m awful atm at keeping in touch with people and I’m gonna try and implement this. Thank you

  • Adam Martin says:

    Great post Chris. I have been thinking a lot about goals lately and how some people get so much more done than other people with the same 24 hours in a day. This really hit home.

    Do you typically plan your day the night before?

  • Melissaa says:

    These are some fantastic ideas. I keep meaning to start my mornings with a short meditation/intention setting but #4 gets me all the time… procrastination. Maybe tomorrow. 😉

  • Susan Shain says:

    Great post, Chris! I love that you mentioned Springboard — what an awesome book!

  • Alison says:

    Thanks for all these helpful tips. I’m at a point where so much feels elusive, so I especially like number 7. Taking a moment be thoughtful so as to guide my day. Thanks again!

  • Fornik Tsai says:

    Slowly find direction in life, to find meaning, to understand why I exist in this world?

  • Sri Raghu Ram K N says:

    Hello, it may not seem connected; but i want to add this.

    NEWTON has answered – “WHAT is DEVELOPMENT?”
    “Development is that; which makes our JOB (what we do for a living – clarification by me) easier; so that we have more free time to RELAX and THINK about HIGHER (science, philosophy, health, right things, etc – clarification by me) things.”

    My opinion is success is “DEVELOPING EVERY MOMENT”.

    Thank u.

  • Love this list! Especially #6: Increase your units of momentary happiness; it’s simple yet profound.

    About 6 months ago I started getting acupuncture treatments a couple times a month; as part of my “treatment,” my acupuncturist asked me to think of three things that made me happy at the end of each day before I dropped off to sleep each night. I already have a daily gratitude practice, so I wondered how this would differ from that. But what I found was that the things I expressed gratitude for at the beginning of each day — things like interesting work, having the time and opportunity to exercise, getting a new client, enjoying a good night’s sleep, etc. — were different from the things that made me happy at the end of each day. The things that actually made me “happy” were simpler pleasures — things like the beautiful fresh blackberries I found at the farmer’s market, the nice teller at the bank who made me smile, a long conversation with a dear friend, etc.

    Identifying where your moments of happiness come from and figuring out how you can have more of them is a very powerful exercise.

  • I thought it said units of Monetary Happine$$ 😉

  • Kristin says:

    Wowie! This post really got to me this morning, Chris (in the best possible ways). Thank you so much. <3

  • Stephen Reed says:

    Hey Chris

    Another valuable post, one that is not too long, but gets all the essential info in there.

    I’ve struggled big time with goal setting, metrics etc, still do. Perhaps I am still not over my procrastination condition, but I have found that using small trigger actions has really helped me to make progress towards some loftier goals.

    I like to set much bigger goals than I am comfortable with, one’s that seem beyond my current reach, hell, no point setting realistic ones er? I don’t like that place they call ‘Reality”.

    I have to pretty much reverse engineer, from the end point, back to the day to day practices that will get me closer to that goal. Then, I pretty much forget it. If my focus is too far ahead, I get overwhelmed and end up screwing up.

    So, for my writing, where I want to write a short 20K word book in a month, my ONLY action that I need to do every day for that to happen, is pack my laptop, and go to my car between 8:45 and 9:00 am. Once that is done, I end up in town, with coffee in a cafe, and 1 1/2 hours later, I always leave with at least 1500 words done.

    Within 15-20 days, the draft is all done, some editing, and publishing to Amazon. If I thought and worried about the completed book, or even the 1500-2K daily target, I’d not get it done.

    So, for me, trigger actions which lead to the desired daily outcomes is important. And when I leave the cafe, I have a metric as well, one that I hit and can tick off the list.

    I try not to set too many daily targets, just take small actions in certain areas of my life and business every day, and bingo, some time down the line, stuff is done.

    Be interested in any trigger actions your readers have used to get them to take action.

    All the best

    -S

  • Scott says:

    Great way to look at each day.

    Everyday I try to do the first few steps, defining priorities the night before and then using those as a guide for what’s important that day.

    Beyond that, I also have a ‘routine’ or several things that I try to do every single day to set me up for success and maintain important areas of my life. These are things like journaling, meditating, spending time cultivating gratitude, and working out.

    If I can handle my routine items and then get my big priorities accomplished…its been a good day.

  • Though I’m a hugh Bob Dylan fan I don’t always agree with him . I measure the value of each day – Did I matter to someone today , large or small way ! Doesn’t matter as long as I did . The most wisest man of all said ” if you want to find your life then give it away ” – life is too short to make it all about me . I love this blog

  • Sahil says:

    Thanks Chris! Love questions to reflect and be more fulfilled/productive during my day. I would re-order these slightly to this to go with how I start and end my day:

    Questions to start day:
    1) How are you feeling? What do you want?
    2) What tasks are most important/urgent?
    3) What is realistic to achieve today? What obstacles might arise and how will I address them?
    4) Why are these important to achieve? How will it help me grow, contribute, and experience what I want?
    5) What are the metrics of success for each important task?
    6) What small steps will help accomplish each of the important tasks?
    7) How will you feel once you’re accomplished them? (Picture and feel it)

    Questions to reflect at end of day:
    1) Did today matter?
    2) How many times did you feel happy? Where did those moments come from? How can you have more of them?
    3) What didn’t go well today? What did I learn? What mistakes do I not want to repeat in behaviour or thought patterns?
    4) What 10 things am I grateful for in myself?
    5) What 10 things am I grateful for in others or about life?
    6) Where can I send some healing love to someone or somewhere in the world?
    7) How can I make tomorrow awesome?

  • Suzanne says:

    I am happy I took the moment(s) to read this article. Thank you. Yes, today will matter… because, just because.

  • discussing contracts with customers I usually say: “I am not here to earn money. I am here to create value.” So my evening question is since some months: What are the three ways I created value today and for whom exactly?
    cheers, Nadja

  • Jason B says:

    Dope article. I need to print this out and read it monthly.

  • jesse says:

    Awesome! Great tips that I plan on using immediately. This post really hit me in the head/chest.
    THANK YOU

  • Lukas says:

    Chris, this post is just great! thank you.

  • Lash says:

    Hey Chris,

    Thanks for all these great ideas. I love how you’re continually searching for new ways to grow, improve & succeed and then implement ones that work for you. And, of course, thanks for sharing with all of us, too! 🙂

    To be honest, what really caught my attention was the entry in your Journal Goals:
    1. Be creative & myself.

    Wow, I rarely think of making creativity a goal! But what a fantastic way to boost your mental capacity, ideas, projects and ideas on ways to achieve goals. Nice one!

    I’m also very happy to find an article here on your site where we can leave comments and contribute. I often can’t find these opportunities here on AON, which often I find frustrating.

    thanks for letting us share our thoughts & comments.

    cheers, Lash

  • Excellent article Chris! I too love how you constantly think and share philosophy with practical applications and development for creating a fulfilling and happy life. This post is especially excellent for us. We are now retired from jobs that we felt were important; we fulfilled a life-long dream of traveling through Europe of 6 months, and now are putting together systems to make every day as awesome as the days were when traveling. Our pre-retirement planning really set us up well, but these ideas will definitely enhance our days. Thank you!

  • Franca says:

    Great post and ideas, plenty to motivate my day to day productivity 🙂

  • Incorporating some of these into my daily 750 words. Definitely gives me a good framework for reflection when I’m getting stuck!

  • Janelle Komorowski says:

    Chris, I’ve tried numerous times to download Action Ally to my Mac, but nothing happens. I tried to email the Action Ally support email listed on the download and it takes me to a broken link. How can I get this app?

  • Bibi says:

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post. It is so right on and to the point!

  • Susan Hall says:

    I took an early out retirement in September 2014 at age 56 and moved from California to Pennsylvania. I’m surprised at how much I’m struggling with the lack of structure due to being retired (work + commute + overtime = 60 hours per week).

    I am consciously adding routine/structure but it’s been slow going. I write every morning (750 words aka morning pages) and have been doing that for years. I just ordered the Stabilicers Sport running cleats for ice and snow to try to get my daily running routine back on track. The big plus is that I have the luxury of being able to go out to dinner with my son every Thursday after living across the country from him for ten + years.

    I’ve created a mini “what my life will be like” spreadsheet for one week at a time to make it more manageable with a weekly review on Sundays.

  • Cara says:

    I loved this post and all the great and helpful comments. I am very goal-oriented as well, and tend to put goals ahead of relationships. So creating a goal about relationships is brilliant! I suppose maybe when I am using my left brain relationships are fluid and untrackable…I guess I never quite know where I’m at. 🙂

    Stephen Reed, I loved your comment about being overwhelmed if you think about the big picture too much and then finding a way to screw yourself over. I love setting goals, but sometimes I get overzealous and end up self-sabotaging. I like your method of, I only need to do one thing today. Pack my laptop with me and get in my car (the rest will take care of itself).

    Love these discussions!

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  • Adding momentarily happiness to your day. I take a different route on my way home from the city just so I can see an overlook of one of my favorite views. Looking at things that you like to look at helps tremendously. This is why we keep photos! So to give myself some happiness medicine I will always start flipping through photos or go out of my way to look at something that makes me smile.

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  • What a fabulous post – I love the idea of asking myself “Did today matter?” I’ll have to give Action Ally a try.

  • Nice and great tips. But I am pretty sure we can do even more than those 7 🙂

  • Hi Chris.
    Great post. I like it!
    I love point #2 and #3 about you have written.
    They are great!
    Thank u so much.

  • I was feeling rather blah today, nothing really wrong but nothing really right. A vague sense of unease. I came to your blog, as I so often do, knowing I would find something that would resonate, something that would pierce my finely honed armor of malaise.

    This post, and several others today, cheered me enough to finish my current project and remember that it’s not just nice to be a freelancer — it’s GREAT. And my happiness is up to me.

    Thank you, Chris. You have no idea how much happiness you spread just by being in this world. Peace to you, Chris. Keep fighting the good fight.

  • Cristóbal says:

    To make the most out of your daily routine, I recommend “THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE”

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