We all have those days where we reach the end and think, "Wow, that was an awesome day!" Or maybe it's more like, "Wow, that day really sucked. I'm ready for a fresh start tomorrow." Often, we just move on without asking ourselves what made the day good or bad. We might acknowledge it if something big happened, but we often miss the opportunity to appreciate the small but amazing days. It's important to take note of what made it good or bad, especially on those mundane days. Then, we can try to do more of what made it good and less of what made it bad. Today, I'm going to share an easy hack for more satisfying work days.
I've been having a mix of days with high highs and low lows lately, especially as I'm nearing the end of the first trimester of my pregnancy. But there's this little practice that has been really helpful to me, so I wanted to share it with you. It's a simple hack that involves documenting what feels good and what doesn't in your day, considering that seasons change. Once you've done that, you can make plans and structure your life to have more of what's good and figure out how to avoid what made the day bad. If it sounds simple, it is! But keep reading for more details on how to put this into practice.
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First - sometimes things are out of your control!
Before I dive in, I want to mention that sometimes things are completely out of our control, whether they are good or bad. For instance, you could have a bad day because of a stomach virus, which happened to me a few weeks ago. Or maybe a client cancels a project, or you have a disagreement with a family member. These kinds of things are often unpredictable and not preventable. I know that you might be thinking about your day right now and if there was something that happened which was awful and not your fault, that’s not the kind of thing I’m talking about today.
But sometimes, especially on those mundane days I mentioned earlier, there are things you can do to prevent it from feeling like a bad day or replicate things that will make it feel like a good day. In my experience, it’s usually the small things that can be replicated and slowly accumulate to make a really good day on your regular workday.
Let me give you an example that is true for me. I've noticed that when I get ready for the day in the morning, even though I work from home, I feel better throughout the entire day. Just to give you a little example!
How I Use My iPhone Notes App For More Satisfying Work Days
So I keep a note on my phone, just in that iPhone notes app. I have 627 notes, so yeah, I use it pretty actively. For this hack, basically, I jot down what I think makes a good day, and try to implement more of that. And when I have a not-so-great day (and it's not for some big reason), I take note of what happened and try to do less of it. You can't improve or repeat things if you're not aware, right? That's why I find this practice so helpful, because it keeps me paying attention instead of going through the motions of a day.
High Low Buffalo Exercise
We have a family dinner tradition called "High Low Buffalo" that is both fun and meaningful. I imagine that it's especially fun with older kids, because our two-year-old, Colin, doesn't actively participate yet. During the tradition, we take turns sharing our highs, lows, and buffalos from the day. A high is the best moment, a low is something challenging, and a buffalo is an interesting or random story. For Adam and I as adults, it's a way for us to reflect on our day as a family. It’s also fun to think about what Colin’s high and low would be!
I've found this practice helpful in evaluating what makes a day good or bad. It makes me think about how I can structure my life for more good moments and fewer lows, aiming to have truly amazing days. It’s part of what got me started taking notes!
Making the Most of Mundane Days
So are some examples of what makes my workdays good and bad. Keep in mind that everyone is different, and what energizes me might not work for you. It's important to find what works for you and create your ideal day (or at the very least, makes for a more satisfying work day!)
As you read this list, you'll notice it's all mundane stuff. I'm not interested in the day you won an award or got featured on a podcast (for this hack anyway - obviously those days are amazing!). Those days are not everyday occurrences. So, this is more about the everyday stuff.
Things that make my day great
Here are a few things that I know always make my day better!
Getting ready for the workday: I don't do this every workday, but I'm ready right now. I've put on light makeup and I'm wearing workout clothes. That's my version of getting ready – makeup and a comfortable outfit for the day.
Working out: I don't work out every day, but on the days I do, I feel like it adds a lot to my life. It feels great to fit it in before work, at the end of the day, or even after lunch. I used to have a habit of taking an afternoon workout break, which was really helpful for combating the afternoon slump.
Taking a walking break or reading break: Depending on the weather, even a short 10-minute walk around my house uplifts my day.
Going outside in general: Whether it's sitting on the porch, having lunch outside, or playing with Colin (since being outdoors is all he wants). As long as it's not too hot or cold, it adds joy to my day.
Having a to-do list: When I have a to-do list, I'm more productive and focused compared to just going with the flow and checking my inbox randomly. Some days, like everyone else, I struggle to get things done and wonder what I actually worked on. That's when having a list becomes crucial. Being able to see my progress visually and check off completed tasks gives a satisfying feeling too. It helps me stay motivated and work towards my goals.
Accomplishing something big that moves the needle forward: For example, I outlined an entire class I'm teaching for Showit designers this week. Getting everything set up for the slides and outlining the class felt incredibly satisfying. It was a project that I had been meaning to tackle, and finally completing it felt amazing!
Hearing positive words from someone I love and care about: This one isn’t something you can really replicate, but anytime it happens, it can completely transform a day.
Having a quiet time in the morning: Finding time to read the Bible, pray, or even enjoy a fun fiction book is important to me. Additionally, waking up before Colin, even if it's just 30 minutes, makes me feel better than on mornings when he acts as my alarm clock. When he was little and still nursing, I never felt like I had a proper start to the day. So being able to wake up earlier has felt like a game-changer.
Having a face-to-face meeting with someone: Whether it's in person or on Zoom, simply conversing with someone while working alone can make the day better!
Leaving the house at all: Just heading out, which sounds funny. There are days when I don't actually leave the house. I might step outside our house and go for a walk but I don’t actually leave because all my work is here at home.
Getting to spend quality time with Adam and Colin or with friends and family: this one’s pretty self explanatory!
Eating a meal I really like: Not feeling rushed at lunch or breakfast during the workday, where I scramble to cook something. Instead, having a prepped and enjoyable meal ready to go.
Creating content: Creating content brings me joy, like when I was recording this episode. I'm confident that by day's end, I'll feel extremely satisfied!
Having a clean workspace and not feeling like my home is a wreck: and to be honest, sometimes that's just the way it is right now. If we were to go down to my kitchen, it would look pretty crazy right now, but in general I have found that having a clean workspace is huge.
Getting a latte: This one is silly but true! Running by Starbucks or another coffee shop and grabbing a special drink while working, or even working outside at a coffee shop, always makes for a great day!
Again, all of those are really boring things, but they make a workday so satisfying. We spend so much of our lives working, we have to ask ourselves, what makes that better? So those are some things for me. I would also add (although not on the list) that I don't work a true eight hours or “9-5” anymore. I typically work more like four or five hours on the days I'm working and spend the rest of the time with Colin and doing other things. So that’s not on the list, but does make my days better!
Things that make my day worse
Again these are things that are only within my control because, remember, that's all I can really prevent. So I did not write down getting sick or having a sick child or having a fight with someone, things like that. These are things within my control.
Feeling like the day never really started because I never got in the zone with my work: Sometimes, I look at the clock and realize it's already two o'clock, and I need to go pick up Colin soon. I feel like I haven't accomplished anything, sitting at my desk all day without leaving.
Having too many meetings: I enjoy having meetings, but sometimes I have too many, leaving me exhausted and without any personal time. Additionally, these frequent meetings hinder my progress on other projects, which can be challenging and draining for me.
Not having ANY meetings and then also not leaving the house or interacting with anyone besides Adam and Colin: This one is the opposite, right? But when I don't have any meetings and also don't leave the house or interact with anyone besides Adam and Colin, sometimes it makes the day feel like I didn't accomplish what I wanted to do or the day just didn’t feel as satisfying.
Spending too much time on social media scrolling: As entrepreneurs, it can be tough for us, right? We spend a lot of our business work time on Instagram. The other day, I spent 45 minutes making a reel, which WAS actual work. But then there are also times when we are just mindlessly scrolling on Instagram, not really working, but feeling like we are because we're sitting at our desks. When I do that, it's detrimental because it really leaves me feeling unsatisfied at the end of the day.
Not having any sort of morning routine before work: This is another opposite, right? But diving in intensely right away to work is not great for me. I like to have more of a morning routine!
Here are some examples from my list. Consider what truly matters to you, what works for you, what contributes to a good or bad day. Jot it down, whether in a journal or on an iPhone app, like I do.
Remember - our lives and businesses are always changing!
One important aspect of this practice is to remember that our lives are constantly changing based on the seasons we're in. The things I may have written five or seven years ago, when I was earlier in my business, might be different from what I’m writing now.
For example, in the newborn phase, simply taking a shower and getting five consecutive hours of sleep can feel like a huge victory (which now feels like a non-negotiable that I don’t even think to mention).
It's important to understand that what works well for us in our workday and personal life right now may change from season to season. So let's be gracious with ourselves and recognize that in some seasons, even the small wins can feel like significant accomplishments and we should try and make the most of them to create more satisfying work days.
Lastly, remember this stuff is about taking the RIGHT action, not MORE action.
As business owners, we're often bombarded with the message of doing more, working more, and constantly seeking external sources of knowledge and inspiration. But let me tell you, it's not just about doing more—it's about taking the right actions, even if they may seem mundane. These actions are what truly lead to results in our lives!
October 31, 2023