Carpe Diem: How to Make Today Work For You

Carpe Diem.

Most people have probably heard this term before. In Latin, it means “seize the day.” When we rise each morning, we are given the opportunity to start fresh if needed or build upon what we started the day before. The way we use each day is entirely up to us. We hear this quote all the time, but how many people actually take full advantage of each day?

The average American spends about 4 hours daily watching t.v. In other words, most people let each day slip by without anything substantial to show for it. Yet, if you asked these same people if they want to be successful,however they define it, the answer would be a resounding “yes.” It’s very clear that what people say and what people do are in stark contrast. In my opinion, this discrepancy is in large part due to the lack of value placed on a given day. It seems as though we have infinite time on Earth, but the truth is far from it.

In order to build success over time, we need to “seize the day.” This post examines three ways that we can make the most of our days.

Have Good Systems

In his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, Scott Adams describes goals as being for losers, instead placing a strong emphasis on systems. I had to re-read this part of the book a few times before it stuck, but now what he was saying makes perfect sense to me.

If you put systems in place on a daily basis, you are guaranteed to move towards your goal. However, if you have a goal without systems, your goal is just a dream. Let’s say two people are real estate agents looking to find clients. One agent reads about how he can get clients and writes up an elaborate plan. While this is happening,the other agent (let’s call her Jenny) starts making cold calls and canvassing neighborhoods. It’s pretty obvious who’s going to make a sale. From a purely mathematical standpoint, an agent who makes enough “touches” with potential clients is the one who will succeed. They have a proven system for success they can replicate. In the future, this agent can expect the same or better results as she learns to perfect the system.

To achieve any goal, you first have to create a system. Spend some time thinking about an activity that will yield results if done with enough practice. By moving one step closer each day, you are putting yourself in a great position to succeed.

Be Willing to Delay Gratification

Have you ever heard of compound interest?

Albert Einstein famously called compound interest “the 8th wonder of the world.” The reason he viewed compound interest as nothing short of magnificent is because it pays great dividends overtime if you are willing to reinvest your gains. One of my favorite books, The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy does an amazing job of illustrating this. To summarize his point: if you started with a penny and let it double each day for a month, you would be a millionaire.

The same can be said for investing our time into a single purpose regularly. One of my friends is a great chef, but when he started, he was the furthest thing from Gordon Ramsey you can think of. Every day, he would experiment with ingredients, develop knife skills, and study technique (these were his systems). Within a year as a sous chef, he became the head chef at a prestigious restaurant in New York City. At the onset, it probably seemed like he wasn’t making progress because he was working long hours with little reward. Yet, over the course of a year this daily progress led to a life-changing opportunity.

With compound interest, the majority of results come after years and years of investing. The same is true when you invest in yourself. String enough good days together with consistent progress and you will see great returns over time.

Reflect Regularly

One of the best examples of daily reflection I’ve ever seen came from my dog, Skye. At my house, she doesn’t get fed from the table, so she just sleeps when I’m eating dinner. When I brought her to my parents’ house one time, we were eating dinner and I noticed that she was begging. Not only was she begging, she knew to sit next to my father because she observed that he was the most likely person at the table to give her roast beef from the table. Although I was upset that she was begging, I couldn’t help but admire her intelligence. The moral of the story is that we need to collect data from every experience and determine how to get a better outcome based on what we learn. To do this, we need to experiment daily and reflect on the results.

Something I’ve been experimenting with is the time of day that I write blog posts. At first, I began writing at around 6 A.M., close to when I woke up. Since I currently have a day job that starts at 8 A.M., I noticed that I felt rushed and anxious when writing in the morning. My work on those days was a clear reflection of this, so I decided to set a time block after work where there were no interruptions to my writing. Within a few days, I received the Editor’s Choice on Biggerpockets. I hadn’t changed my writing style, but reflecting on the time of day and adjusting my schedule had allowed me to elevate my concentration and in effect, my performance.

Each day, spend some time before bed going over your day. Was it productive? If so, how can you replicate it again? If not, diagnose what went wrong and adjust course. By reflecting regularly, you will become more self aware and more productive.

Final Thoughts

Don’t let another day slip out of your grasp. If you make the most of today, you will have a better life tomorrow.