Have you ever read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin? If you haven’t, let me give you a brief synopsis: the author felt like she was experiencing a lack of happiness in her life and wanted to figure out what she needed to do to inject more creativity, meaning, and connectedness in her relationships to feel more fulfilled. The result was a year-long project that produced some interesting results. I highly recommend the book and there is one quote that has stuck with me since I read it: The days are long but the years are short. Think about that for a moment because the meaning is not immediately clear. But what I take from it is that you may feel like a day is taking forever, but when you look back at your life you wonder where all the time has gone.
What does this have to do with my secret to success? Well, it’s pretty easy. Instead of just trying to get through long days and then looking back 10 years from now and wondering where all that time went, you need to focus on your daily routine. Another of my favorite quotes is from another author, Annie Dillard. She says How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. To really achieve anything in life, you need to stop focusing on big events and monumental goals. Instead, you need to put your full attention on your daily routine and figure out if the little steps you take every day are enough to get you to where you want to go.
When I work with those who want to start a fee-only entrepreneurial business, I always encourage them to have a daily routine that includes the following:
If you don’t make time for daily learning, years will slip by and you’ll realize you’ve not progressed in your thinking. I reserve at least an hour a day to read books, listen to podcasts, and engage in active learning activities. It’s not that hard—just get up an hour earlier or incorporate learning into your lunch break. You’ll be amazed at how quickly this one hour a day adds up.
Do you fit in exercise when you can and discover you haven’t hit the gym or the running path for weeks? If you don’t schedule exercise in your daily routine, it just won’t get done. I truly believe that keeping the body active is essential to keeping the mind healthy. It’s also a great way to model good habits to your clients. Whether it’s a walk around the block or an hour-long sweatfest at the gym, incorporate it into your daily routine.
The financial industry can be a stressful business, especially when the markets take a dive and you have frightened or angry clients calling. You must take care of yourself and your mental health by incorporating stress relief into your schedule. This can come in the form of yoga, meditation, or something as seemingly silly as coloring in one of those adult coloring books. Whatever relaxes you and help you de-stress, plan it in your daily routine.
I find that one of my most effective form of stress release is creating margin in my day. This is a time to step back, reflect, live in the moment, and just take time to be. Your margin may look different from mine. For example, I find workouts, nightly walks with my wife, and reading to be my best use of margin. You may find that meditation, stillness, or long warm showers at the end of the day are yours. Whatever it is, schedule it into your day every day.
Of course, your routine also needs to include client meetings, research, networking, paperwork, returning phone calls, and all of the other necessities of being a business owner, but most of us are already good at that. It’s what we view as small things that often slip under the radar and drop off our schedules that impact us the most. Once you schedule these into your daily routine, you’ll no longer feel like you’re looking back on wasted years and you’ll find your goals are much more attainable.