Hack Lifestyle Time Management

Three Steps to Building The Perfect Day

Setting massively audacious goals is fun, but not achieving them is, well, not fun. Sometimes even more granular detail is needed. Sometimes it’s necessary to begin with the fundamental building block of a single day.

Getting Ready For A Hot Summer Day
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kuzeytac

In the past I have written about reducing your training to the basics (Going Commando) and learning to focus on the basic week as a building block (here).

Setting massively audacious goals is fun, but not achieving them is, well, not fun. Sometimes even more granular detail is needed. Sometimes it’s necessary to begin with the fundamental building block of a single day.

Step One: Start Eight Hours Earlier

Summary: The best part of any great day is starting physically and mentally fresh. The best option for this is a great night’s sleep, not a really strong cup of coffee or some fancy supplement.


  1. Focus on Closing: The only way you are going to get to bed at a reasonable hour is putting down the stuff you are watching/reading/doing and closing it out for the day. Nothing, including a race or some kind of final exam, will benefit from you staying up all night to think about it (especially if you have been preparing for some time!).
  2. Use A Ritual: This needs to be a physical one, as just saying you are going to chill out is way easier than doing it. My personal favorite is a shower. This helps me to relax, is a very simple yet soothing task and a place I can’t really bring anything else to do.
  3. Plug Into Another World: It’s hard to deny the power of a great book, one that takes you away from where you are and focuses your attention elsewhere. Studies have shown that the flashing lights and sounds of TV, and even the bright light and familiar face of your laptop can have a stimulating effect on your brain that will prevent easy sleeping.

Step Two: Identify & Frontload the Important

Summary: There are somethings each day that are more important than others. Some you’ll want to do, others you would prefer to never see again. But they need to be done regardless, and the best way to get them done is nice and early.


  1. Keep A Weekly List: Forget trying to plan your work down to specific hours of the day. That works for meetings and appointments, but not for work. Add in all the typical interruptions and unexpected events that make up our daily lives and it’s clear to see your best laid plans are doomed. Instead, keep track of what needs to happen this week, and make it happen by Friday. Done.
  2. Keep Things Black & White: Apply very rigorous standards to what needs to be done. Either it’s critical or it can wait. Put 3-4 critical things on your list and get them done first thing.
  3. Know What Can Wait: While it’s tempting to check email and surf the web for the deal of the day, chances are there’s nothing there that you truly need to execute your most important tasks. This can be really hard to do since we are a culture of multi-taskers, but learning that the world won’t end if you don’t check your inbox every 5 minutes is an important first step.

Step Three: Build In Extra Time

Summary: The hardest part of and day, much less your ideal one, is the fact that it’s not your own. You have a boss, friends, family, competing commuters and forces of God to deal with. And some days it seems like they are all stacked against you.


  1. The Rule of Fives: If you think something is going to take 20 minutes, add 5 minutes on the front and back. This goes for working out, work, travel, etc. Being slightly early means you are relaxed and *gasp* maybe even prepared. Plus it makes you look really good.
  2. Consistently Plan: A well-oiled machine is easy to operate. If you have a good cycle of planning and execution that you review monthly (macro-level stuff) and weekly (the work), you can avoid the need to plan and do at the same time. Ideally, Monday through Friday work hours are for work, not for planning and thinking big picture. I personally save my weekends for the big reviews.
  3. Avoid the Unnecessary: There are lots of things you can simply not do and still be okay. This goes from meaningless meetings at work to food shopping (think Peapod). If it’s not critical to your personal or professional bottom line, assert some authority. It’s hard to argue with someone who is trying to be more effective!

Conclusion: Review & Improve

Many of the things listed above are hard to do. Hard enough that you will most certainly run into difficulty, if not outright fail at your first attempt. If you can expect this from the outset, and plan for some resistance, you’ll be much more likely to succeed. After all, you’ve been operating a certain way for quite a while, and old habits die hard!

Note #1: If you are looking for more similarly scheduled goodness, consider downloading the FitLife eBook which will give you equal parts inspiration and opportunities for action. Get it here.

Note #2: This post was inspired by an article by Chris G over at the AONC blog. Thanks man!


As always, I just wanted to thank you for subscribing. This blog is a success because of you and your support. Here’s to your fitness!

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