Many of us are looking for ways to work meaningfully and productively on a daily basis. Who wouldn’t want to be “in the zone” throughout the day, do work you truly care about, and feel like you are leading your life along the path you want it to go. These five techniques for making the most of your day are both big picture and applicable daily.
1. Live in your Zone of Genius.
Living in your Zone of Genius means doing the things you are great at and feel ‘in the zone’ while doing. The work you do that doesn't feel like work. It's a level above your zones of excellence and competence, which many of us function in daily.
In the book, The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks explains the zones like this:
- The Zone of Incompetence is made up of all of the activities we are not good at.
- In the Zone of Competence, you're competent at the activities but others can do them just as well.
- In the Zone of Excellence are the activities you do extremely well. You make a good living in your Zone of Excellence.
- Your Zone of Genius is the set of activities you are unique sky suited to do. They draw upon your special gifts and strengths.
If you are not sure what is in your Zone of Genius, try asking yourself these questions:
- What do I most love to do? (I love it so much I can do it from ling stretches of time without getting tired or bored.)
- What work do I do that doesn’t seem like work? (I can do it all day long without ever feeling tired or bored.)
- In my work, what produces the highest ratio of abundance and satisfaction to amount of time spent? (Even if I only do ten seconds or a few minutes of it, an idea or deeper connection may soring forth that leads to huge value.)
- What is my unique ability? (There’s a special skill I’m gifted with. This unique ability, fully realized and put to work, can provide enormous benefits to me and any organization I serve.)
- What am I doing when I’m at my best? What exactly is it about that activity that I really enjoy and excel at?
Hendricks advises, in The Big Leap, that it is also important to recognize when we have an “Upper Limit Problem.” Upper limiting ourselves is when we hold ourselves back or self-sabotage in small or large ways, because of a deep-seated belief about how much success, love, and creativity we really deserve.
When we are living each day in our Zone of Genius, and not upper limiting ourselves, we really enable ourselves to shine, take pleasure in what we are doing, and delight in the rewards.
2. Do something that helps you get better at the things you care about most.
Focusing on getting better at the things you care about has multiple benefits. It fulfills the need to be challenged, learn, and improve. And it focuses time and attention on the things that are most meaningful to you.
This technique comes from Todd Rose. In his book, Dark Horse – Achieving Success Through the Pursuit of Fulfillment, Rose says that you don't have to follow a traditional linear path to a preset end goal. Taking the winding road, by focusing on fulfilling your micro-motives and getting better at the things you care about most, will get you where you want to be. You may even find yourself in a more meaningful place than what you were thinking of earlier.
Rose’s techniques start with first knowing what he calls your “micro motives.” These motives are central to who you really are and what you want, need, and don't want. They can be found in the things you are energized by. And in things you are annoyed by, if you dig into what is it that annoys you about the situation and what you wish was different. What desire or trait, of yours, is at the core of it?
Then, know your choices and choose opportunities that activate the greatest number of your micro motives. And know your strategies. According to Rose, your strategies are the methods for getting better at the things you care about and are interested in.
And finally: ignore the destination. The truth is that we can't know where we will end up. Where you will be in 5 years is an impossible question to answer because there are too many unknown factors. This question does not allow space for opportunities or surprises or strategic pivots. So rather than focus on a destination, focus on the next step in the right direction.
Just focusing on your next opportunity and ensuring that it fulfills your deeper core desires, personality traits, and interests will get you closer to what it fulfilling and meaning for you in the long run.
Even if it's just a few minutes each day, doing something to get better at the things you care about will always feel worthwhile.
3. Make your future bigger than your past.
Make your future bigger than your past is my favourite one of the Laws of Lifetime Growth by Dan Sullivan and Catherine Nomura.
The 10 Laws of Lifetime Growth are:
- Law one: Always make your future bigger than your past
- Law two: always make your learning greater than your experience
- Law three: always make your contribution bigger than your reward
- Law four: always make your performance greater than your applause
- Law five: always make your gratitude greater than your success
- Law six: always make your enjoyment greater than your effort
- Law seven: always make your cooperation greater than your status
- Law eight: always make your confidence greater than your comfort
- Law nine: always make your purpose greater than your money
- Law ten: always make your questions bigger than your answers
Especially in times of transition, it can be useful to think: what could I do on a daily basis that would make my future bigger than my past?
4. Lead your life in the direction you want it to go.
It's easy to find ourselves being led from day to day by deadlines and responsibilities. It takes some thought and sometimes restructuring to take the lead - and start leading.
It also means taking an element of control and responsibility for the role of Leader Of Your Life. Structuring each day in a way that addresses your interests, your values, your real priorities, your energy, and your passions.
We often think of leadership in terms of leading employees, or leading a team, or being an industry leader. This leadership often involves elements of vision, communication, encouragement, and steering the small stuff so that you stay on course, on the right path, with the overall direction.
Can you apply the principles of leadership to really leading your life in the direction you want it to go in?
5. Keep moving forward one small step at a time.
The kaizen philosophy is that tiny steps and incremental improvements on a continual basis lead to big results. These are manageable mini-bite-sized things we can do each day that will make tomorrow better.
In One Small Step Can Change Your Life, The Kaizen Way, Dr. Robert Maurer, says “Kaizen and innovation are the two major strategies people use to create change. Where innovation demands shocking and radical reform, all Kaizen asks is that you take small, comfortable steps toward improvement.”
Maurer also notes that kaizen is a highly effective method for building new connections in the brain. The way our brain works, questions are more useful for shaping ideas and solutions than commands. Questions sidestep the fear mechanism in our brains.
Here are a few examples of questions you can ask yourself:
- What is a very small step I might take to improve the situation?
- If ____ were my first priority, what small thing would I do differently tomorrow?
- How can I incorporate just a few more minutes of _____ into my daily routine?
- What are one or two small but important aspects of what would my ideal ____ would be like?
Take small actions. What is the tiniest possible concrete action you could take to move things in the direction you want?
Try this consistently every day for a week and see what happens.