Perhaps the most important learning practice I use with clients is one I term “Completing Your Day.” This practice takes about 30 minutes daily. Completing my day supports me as a learner, coach, teacher, and human being in ways large and small.
The primary responsibility is to “take measure” of ourselves, to become aware of our deepest concerns, and to fulfill those concerns – to add meaning to our existence.
Meaning-making, making our lives meaningful, is a critical goal of our lives. Individuals must take their lives into account by observing their choices. Accomplishing this requires a reliable practice. “Completing Your Day” is that practice, and it requires these basic items:
- A capture tool where you can place items during the day: promises, requests, agreements, and commitments. This can be a notepad, an online app, or other recording devices.
- A digital calendar that allows for scheduling recurring items and for attaching items needed for any event.
- A reflection document/journal to document insights and discoveries.
- A dedicated daily time slot of between 20 and 30 minutes.
With this practice, time then becomes the ultimate mirror of one’s life: the measure of who we are, what we care about, and how we make choices and approach life.
How we spend time discloses the way we choose, predict, and plan, as well as how we learn from our choices. Using time in this way, we become aware of our attention and our alignment to reveal what we really care about.
Begin with Being Complete
“Completing Your Day” begins with a commitment to Being Complete as a state of mind to offer freedom, space, and possibility.
What most impedes being complete are all the concerns we carry in our minds, the way we hold these concerns in our body, and how we ruminate on them even as we go to (or fail to) sleep.
To be complete is to release any concern from our minds by either 1) declaring it complete and letting it go, 2) scheduling it to be handled, or 3) scheduling conversation to discuss it with those that matter.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This practice is designed to complete concerns so that letting go and rest is now possible, enabling you to awake fresh the next morning. The practice brings awareness to the choices and events in your life. However, the practice does not replace any mindfulness or wind-down ritual; this practice can offer the mental space to engage such rituals as part of your nightly winding down if you so choose.
Awareness: To Focus My Attention
In this part of our practice, we become aware of the attention we give to our choices, what we care about, and what we focus on.
First, begin by setting a 30-minute recurring event (in your calendar) to complete your day.
Determine the preferred quiet-time of day, given your patterns, routines, and what you know about yourself. For some, the end of the workday, around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m., works best. For others, after dinner, about 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. works well. And for others, just before bedtime, between 9:00 and 11:00 p.m., suffices.
Second, go back and frame this recurring daily event so that it is worth accomplishing.
A calendar event is more than a transaction; it is a meaningful intention for your time, an occasion for you. The event might be something like: “I have peace of mind because today is complete” or “I’m setting up for a powerful day tomorrow.” Keep working with framing it until it calls to you. Make this time sacred, a ritual that serves you.
Alignment: To Predict and Plan
Completing the day supports your ability to plan, predict, and coordinate action with others. Here, we pay attention to 1) how we frame the items that we engage and 2) how accurate we scope out promises to deliver agreements, projects, or commitments. By reviewing our calendar, we notice how well we engage events and predict our time.
These routines will support this part of your practice:
- Empty your capture tool (notepad) into your calendar by placing each item as an event in time. Every item takes time; make sure these are located on your calendar.
- Notice any conflicts and either email requests or schedule time tomorrow to manage these. Placing items on your calendar will empty concerns from your mind.
- Review your calendar for tomorrow, next week, and beyond the next week, when possible. Does the calendar still work, given the frequency of change in life? If not, what changes can you make?
- Review this larger question: are the items on your calendar worth your time? Are my events for tomorrow compelling? Do they call me to participate fully? If not, reframe them. These events are on your calendar; make them yours, rather than something you are doing for someone else. For instance, reframe “Attend meeting with boss about project X,” as “Meet with boss to create project X.”
- Synchronize your calendar with other platforms or apps.
- Review the calendar for space: Input “space in-between” larger events to center yourself and become whole. This is important (see our blog) for creating space in life. Author Tim Ferriss calls this “slack time.”
- Ensure you have sufficient slack time for new things to emerge and for restoring yourself after meetings, long conversations, or back-to-back events.
Reflections: To Reveal My Authentic Self
As we complete the day, we become present and can reflect on the day’s experiences and choices. With stillness and silence, we can learn who we are and what we care about by identifying where we spent our time. Place any insights in a reflection journal (emptying your mind).
As you reflect, first notice any disappointments and accomplishments. If you’re like most humans, as you review your day, you will find disappointments. Why not complete those disappointments?
— Pause and declare: “I am complete with this disappointment.” In other words, you reviewed it and, if possible, left it behind.
— If that’s not possible, schedule action to address any disappointment or to communicate any undelivered concern.
— Place any insights in your journal. Avoid dragging disappointments into your sleep or your next day.
Second, consider accomplishments as a context for viewing your life. Every day accomplishes something. Become aware of what you accomplished.
— Again, pause and declare: “I’ve experienced these accomplishments today.” Whether planned or not, you’ve achieved accomplishments. These need not be grandiose. For instance, you “took a full lunch hour” or “stayed present in a long meeting” or “gave difficult feedback to a colleague.”
— Capture these accomplishments in language and then experience them. Though it may not match what you set out to accomplish, just acknowledging what you did accomplish can make a world of difference in your day being complete.
— Place any insights in your journal.
We live our life in language, derive meaning from how we interpret events, and then upon reflection decide how we did and what we can let go.
“Completing Your Day” is a solid structure to ensure you are framing your experiences, and letting go of concerns to be complete.
Tony Zampella is the learning specialist at Zampella Group, which serves Learning & Development Professionals. As an instructor, researcher, and designer of learning programs and contemplative practices, his work develops mindsets for growing a culture of servant leaders.