“Time Machine” is a hard rocker with introspective lyrics about one’s regret over letting time go by. It may be a song about procrastinating — and while that sounds a bit trivial, we know that procrastinating can have dire consequences. You can spend your whole life procrastinating important things, only to come to regret it when you’re running out of time.
Recently I’m trying to institute a ritual, a habit where I wake up and before I get up I write in my journal how I’m going to feel about today at the end of the day. And I’m not talking about what I’m going to get done — I’m focusing on how I feel about the day I just spent. You can imagine that I mostly write down the same statement over and over. It goes something like this:
Today, I’m going to feel proud of how I conducted myself. I balanced productivity vs. relaxing, and decisions I made are consistent with my values and goals.
This is still a new routine in development, but I can tell you that when I identify the goal of the day as making decisions that I later feel good about — it really seems to give me the right focus. I also map out my day to make sure I have the right activities planned and they all fit, but unexpected always comes up. So rather than setting my sights on what I’m going to get done that day, I just simply ensure that I make each decision deliberately and consistently with my values.
Now, feeling proud at the end of the day doesn’t always mean that I feel good throughout the day. I face many unpleasant decisions where I have to choose what I don’t really want to — stuff like choosing to exercise rather than being “easy” on myself, organizing my desk when I’d rather be lazy and leave it messy, and so on. Most of the day ends up being one long battle of wills, because usually the right choices are the less easy ones.
But that doesn’t change whether you identify your end goal or not, and having clarified in my mind how I’m going to feel about my decisions at the end — it helps me to identify the right choices.
Of course, I’ve experienced moments where I did wish I could hop on a time machine, go back in time and do things over. But those are becoming fewer and less often. It’s a daily struggle, but with practice it’s possible gain mastery over your own actions — so you don’t feel out of control.
Then you won’t spend a lot of time wishing for a time machine.