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The Most Important Part of My Day (Part 1)

Published 10/13/2017

In today's episode, we talk about a habit that I believe anyone listening to this can benefit from: a morning/evening journal session.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
What is the most important part of your day? A lot of different answers are valid here. And for example, if you're a parent like I am, you may highly value the time that you spend with your child no matter what time of the day that is. Remember it may be that you very much enjoy the sunset. Particularly valuable to you. There's not really a wrong answer here, but I want to share with you the most important time of my day and why I think that can be important for you too. You're listening to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. My goal is to help you become a better developer. Becoming a better developer sometimes means understanding more about how you spend your time. That's what today's episode is about. And in fact, really at a meta level, what Developer Tea is about. Helping you spend your time effectively, helping you focus, for example, when you are listening to podcast episodes, helping you focus on the right things. And time is such an important topic. Perhaps the one thing that binds all of us together. There are a few other things, of course, but time is certainly something that we share. And the lack of time, more importantly, is something that all of us share. Now of course, there's different versions of this depending on who you are, depending on what your schedule is. But in general, everyone has a constraint of time. And therefore, you have a constraint of what you can do in a given day. And there are many days that unfortunately, despite the fact that you know that your time is limited, if you look back on that day, it feels like it kind of slipped by. Like you didn't take advantage of it. And when you have enough of those kinds of days, if you look back over the course of the last month or so, it's easy to feel like the same is true of that month. But you're not really sure what you accomplished in that month. And you're not really sure where you're headed. And for me, and I would guess for a lot of the people who are listening to this show, this can be kind of anxiety inducing. Not really knowing exactly where you stand. Not really knowing exactly what your efforts and energy and time are going into. This is the worst kind of fear of missing out. It's not missing out because you're doing something else, but it's missing out because you're not really doing anything. And it's not because you're not doing anything, not because you aren't actually going through the motions, but rather because you're not aware of what you're doing. Some of the symptoms for me of this kind of thing is when I open my phone and kind of mindlessly open my email application or I mindlessly open my text messages or mindlessly go to Twitter, if I mindless at any point on my phone or on my computer, or on my phone, or even not on those things. If I'm mindless around my friends or around my coworkers or around my family, these are times that I feel time slipping away. So how can we avoid this mindless kind of waste of time? How can we avoid this feeling that things are moving past us and we're not really taking advantage of the time that we're given in a given day? Here's some advice that you may not hear on another podcast about productivity or your career. It's okay for you to do something that's totally mindless. In fact, sometimes it can even be healthy. The key is to engage intentionally with everything you do. Even if what you're doing is deeply restful or relatively inactive, right? Even if it's not engaging your brain at a deep level, if you aren't necessarily challenged to deeply buy whatever the activity is that you're engaging in, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's off limits. You shouldn't think this because creating those kinds of false boundaries or false standards for yourself is only going to increase that anxiety, right? The important part, this is the most important part of my day. The important part is to engage these things on purpose. To engage mindfully, even if what you're doing is mindless in that moment, right? The most important part of my day, I'm going to tell you more explicitly, specifically, the most important part of my day, is the first 10 minutes where my mind is actively engaged. This is after I've woken up, after I've gone through my morning routine, depending on the time that I wake up, I'm trying to wake up earlier these days. So I wake up early, I make my coffee, and then I'm standing at the counter in our kitchen. This is another one of my work zones, is the counter that it's right at my standing height. It's perfect for me to engage my brain for the first time in the day. I'm standing at that counter, and I'm thinking about how to make the day a success. Sometimes the answer to that is to lay around the house and hang out with my family. Sometimes the answer to that is to get outside and pull some weeds and clean up the yard. Sometimes the answer to that is much more involved. Sometimes it has a significant number of specific milestones that I need to hit for that day. Specific tasks I want to accomplish. Things that I need to get done, I can put that in that. 10 minute window of thinking. But the important part here is to engage intentionally and think about the next eight hours of your energy, or the next 12 hours or even 16 hours, depending on how long you stay up. The next bit of energy that you're going to spend in your day, how can you get on the other side of that and evaluate, we'll talk about that in a second, but evaluate that and say that this was a good day. This is the idea behind daily journaling the five minute journal. There's tons of things that this is not a novel concept. But the thing that I think is so often missed is this simple idea that the mindlessness of not thinking about your day, of kind of going through the motions and getting on the other side of it, that is the key differentiating factor between taking that five minutes to engage it or not. If you don't take the time to intentionally think about, what is getting ready to happen today? What am I actually going to be doing today? And how can I plan this day? How can I intentionally think ahead of time so that when I get on the other side of it, I don't look back and say, man, I have no idea where that day went. Instead I look back on it and I feel very good. I feel accomplished, but beyond that, I'm actually progressing towards my goals. So I challenge you. No matter what form you do this in, you can Google the five minute journal and try the exercise without buying the five minute journal to begin with. See what it does for you. See what it does for your brain. Write down a few things that are going to make today a success for you. This step is only half of the battle. The other part of the battle is the evaluation step. That's what we're going to talk about in the next episode. And this battle, this daily battle, is a part of a bigger war if you want to stick with the metaphor. And we're going to talk about that in the next episode as well, the larger scale war. And how you can take this time, this most important time in your day, how you can take that and really use it to start progressing more readily towards your goals, to actually get on the other side of your days and your weeks and your months and your years and not feel like things are slipping out of your fingers, not feel like time is slipping away. And ultimately, defeat that fear of missing out, the real fear of missing out that is resulting from that daily kind of going through the motions. I want you to stop going through the motions and want you to engage your days. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. This is a challenging episode. This is also a challenging idea to spend time thinking and planning through the things that you want to do, the way you want to spend your energy. But we're all bound by time and we can all benefit from some kind of mindful exercise like this that engages how we are spending our time. Thank you so much for listening to this episode. My name is Jonathan Cutrell again. This has been Developer Tea. If you don't want to miss out on future episodes of Developer Tea. Don't subscribe in whatever podcasting app you use. You'll get the second part of this episode and there's tons of other awesome content that we have planned in the future and we're always generating new content three episodes a week. So if you don't subscribe, you're likely to miss out on something that will interest you. That's the whole idea of the show to give you frequent short episodes. And if you don't like one, that's okay. You can just wait until the next one comes out. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time, enjoy your tea.