A fan of my blog recently tweeted me to ask how I spend my day and what a weekly schedule of mine looked like. At first, I thought to just respond with a screenshot of my upcoming week in iCal, but I’ve decided others may actually find it helpful if I shared my recipe for an always interesting life. I’ll be the first to tell you that sinking into a routine can be a very bad thing. Doing the same thing, the same way, day after day will result in complacency with mediocrity. With that said, I have a set of guidelines I try my best to live by daily and I’d like to share them all with you. I don’t like to think of these as rules because, well, mostly I’m not a fan of rules. Besides, everyone knows there’s a time and a place to break all of those. Anyway, here we go…
1. First up – Get organized. With only a handful of naturally extraordinary exceptions, the world’s most successful people didn’t become successful by missing meetings and losing business cards. Take a weekend to really sort out your life – clean off your desk, buy a filing cabinet, clear your virtual desktop, etc. Forcing yourself to stay organized will make a huge difference in your professional efficiency in the long run, I promise. There’s a reason professionals have secretaries. A personal rule of mine is to never, ever leave in the morning without first making my bed. It’s a small task, yes, but it makes a world of difference when I come home to a neat and clean room. Over time, tasks like this will become second nature, and the people around you will notice – in a good way.
2. Get a concrete schedule. Well, it doesn’t actually have to be a pen-to-paper schedule, if you prefer something like iCal. I use a virtual schedule these days, but I used to use a Moleskine weekly planner. The important thing is that you get into a habit of planning out your schedule. I’m talking everything. My friends think I’m being facetious when I say “If it isn’t in my iCal, I’m not doing it,” but I’m so serious that it’s frightening — I even schedule my sleep and my lunch times. Make a place for everything (yes, even the late nights downtown.) Keeping a mental calendar isn’t hard to do when you’re not busy, but when you miss an important meeting, or you forget about a dinner you promised to show up to a few weeks ago – you’ll regret not having a planner. This is the most obvious and elementary of my guidelines, and if you aren’t already doing it, then you need to start. Today.
3. Next up, start wearing a watch. A quality timepiece is a genuine investment for any gentleman or lady. After you’ve made it a habit to schedule your life, make it a habit to be punctual. You don’t need to have a Kors, Movado, or Burberry piece on your wrist to be on time, but I highly suggest you invest in a piece you won’t mind rocking daily. “But my cell phone has a clock on it.” Awesome. Mine too. The problem with this theory is that you have to constantly be checking your phone which is both annoying and rude to those around you. A glance at your wrist is much easier and looks much classier. All of the scheduling in the world won’t help you if you don’t stick to it. Oh, and one more thing: never be late, especially if there is another party waiting on you.
4. Make it a point to look nice daily. I’m not saying to rock a full suit to your English class (although I’m a sucker for a nice suit); I’m just saying that you should be prepared every day to accidentally run into a potential employer. I take this one especially seriously – the last time I left the condo in my “doing laundry” clothes, I met the editor of the style section of The Statesman; I won’t make that mistake twice. At The University of Texas, 90% of sorority girls rock this “tennis shoe, Nike shorts, XXL tee” look that is not flattering on a single one of them, and as a result, I’ll never be able to take any of them seriously. I understand comfortable clothing, but if it’s something you wear to the gym, that should be – in my opinion – the only place you wear it.
5. Read a book. Or a magazine. Or something. Allocate 30 minutes of the time you would spend on Facebook or watching TV and make it a habit to read daily. I’ve found that most of my friends once enjoyed reading before the American testing systems ruined that for them, so make it something you enjoy. Try subscribing to a magazine in which you have interest or picking up a book one of your friends is reading. You can Google just about any combination of “successful,” “people,” and “habits,” and you’ll find “reading” on every page that appears. You’ll end up effortlessly widening your vocabulary and your comprehension of topics that once confused you. For Christmas, my generous uncle unexpectedly gave me a Kindle, which has proven itself as one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. A few of my favorites include GQ, The Great Gatsby, and The Catcher in the Rye. Even if you were once required to read them, try re-reading on your own terms – It makes a huge difference.
There you have it, 5 habits I never intend on breaking. These habits may all seem meticulous and border-line OCD, but those are just the guides I try to live by. This is no foolproof recipe to a movie-worthy schedule. If you are craving the type of adventurous and exciting life I live, there’s only one piece of advice I can offer you - be fearless. Always operate as if you’ll never have a second chance, try something new, be self-pushing, take classes you wouldn’t normally take, go places you’ve never been, get lost, rearrange your schedule last-minute for opportunities that may not come around again. Never let yourself hold you back in fear of the unknown.
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