Every day you wake up, a battle starts.
It’s similar to thousands of battles you’ve lead in your life. And just as any of them, this one offers the opportunity for you to be in charge of the outcome.
As time passes by, this process ends up being habitual and automatic. We don’t even notice how important it is for our lives to take control over how the battle ends in the end of the day.
This is the battle between two sides of your personality.
Let me explain.
One side has a Ph.D. in instant gratification, and its sole purpose is to get as much pleasure as possible, while at the same time doing as little work as possible.
Oh, we have a soft spot for this one, because it never denies us anything.
But, we often forget that this side is prone to rationalizing and it will do whatever it takes to give you the daily dose of pleasure, whatever form it may come in.
However, because it’s driven by primal urges, it’s shackled by short-term thinking and has a low tolerance for pain.
All of the snoozing, sleeping in, binge eating and watching, procrastinating, and different vices stem from this beloved mayor of the tomorrow land.
Also, this part of us often reaches for drastic measures, such as imposing self-doubt, fixed mindset, lack of confidence, whenever we encounter anything that slightly resembles pain and hard work.
Now, you might be thinking is the other side a perfect, do all goodie good?!
Actually, no. It’s just different.
This is your life’s drill sergeant.
Always looking forward, keeping an eye on our goals and the bigger picture, which is often exhausting.
It’s the side of you that will demand discipline, grit, hard work and consistency. Its purpose is to make sure that you do whatever you can to reach your goals and to push you as hard as possible to make sure you stay on track.
This is the part of you that will guilt trip you when you buy an ice cream.
Even though you mostly dislike this side, you know it’s the one that will take you where you want to go in life.
So, now what? How do we solve this issue?
The solution is two-fold.
Let’s start with the mindset first, and then move to the practical method you can use starting from today.
The question to ask here is:
How do we win these daily battles, and with them the war itself?
That’s the thing. I don’t think we can.
Just the notion of fighting internally on a daily basis sounds exhausting, and I will go down the cliche path and say that we should make LOVE, not war.
So, you need to arrange a truce and approach this rationally knowing that one of these sides has a higher return on investment, but also don’t neglect the other side, because it often adds a lot of joy, just to let yourself a bit.
Of course, it depends on who you want to become in life, what goals do you want to achieve, and how much you are willing to sacrifice to achieve these things and evolve into the 2.0 version of yourself.
To be honest, it shouldn’t even be considered a sacrifice, but rather an investment.
Instead of this being horrifying work, think of it as a challenge or an experiment of social nature.
When you switch from thinking about the drill sergeant ais an equivalent of a MONDAY, things will start to get better.
If you are currently placing 30% to the long-term version of yourself, and 70% to the short-term one, don’t make radical shifts and changes.
It’s better to take it one day at the time, and slightly improve the ratio. Even by 1%.
Which brings me to the method itself, which has helped me a lot.
Two List Method
When you get the mindset right, and slowly eliminate that initial resistance, you move onto daily execution.
How do you define what needs to be done?
You will need to think like a bank manager, and all you need are two lists.
Every morning you wake up, imagine as if these two sides of your personality come to ask for resources.
In this case, each one of them wants to do something within the time you have within one day (excluding the time spent sleeping).
You have a choice, how many hours will you allocate to each one of them.
Without a bet, your 100% of the fund should go to the second one.
But since we humans are not perfect, you will always give something to the little fella/gal.
What I’m saying is that you should become aware that you have the control of how much time goes into which side of your personality.
Balance it as much as it suits you. But know that there is a direct proportion between giving more percentage to the second person.
That one has high Return on Investment.
But, on the other hand, you can take the little guy out for a cheat day, and a couple of seasons of your favorite show.
And just remember, the second one has low ROI. It usually leads to mediocrity, averageness and that awful feeling on high school reunions.
You know what I’m talking about.
Nobody wants to be that person who is shackled by the bad choices, hates Mondays, can’t wait for the weekends, their marriage is falling apart, and overall they are pretty f***ing unhappy.
Note that I’m not suggesting that you manically try and use every single minute of your day.
Here are the two lists I was talking about:
1. Green List
These are the activities that raise the quality of your life and bring results in different areas of your life.
They are the defined according to your goals and everyday responsibilities.
Here’s an example of mine:
How does it work?
Well, since the majority of the tasks are kind of repetitive no matter what your goal might be, here you want to put them on the list, and sequence them based on how they come within the day, starting from the morning, all the way until you hit the pillow.
Once you finish an activity, you get to cross it off, and it will give you a sense of accomplishment.
2. Red List
These are the activities or habits that simply do not support any of your goals, and reduce the quality of your life in different areas of your life, and make it challenging to stay true to what you want to achieve.
Here’s an example of mine:
How does this list work?
You can list down anything that you are struggling with your life, anything that you think of as harmful habit or behavior. Unlike the first ones, these are often not in a sequence, but you can also try and put them if you can notice a pattern when you do them within the day.
If you resist doing any of them, you get to tick it off.
Your goal for each day is to mark as many as you can on either list.
Ideally, all of them.
In the beginning, you shouldn’t pressure yourself to exactly this.
But to go one at the time, starting from the ones that can make the biggest difference in your life, and from the ones which once reduced/eliminated, can help you improve a certain area of your life.
Just like the con-artist, you need the play the long game.
To do that, you need to have a constant overview of the big picture, but play on a micro-level — your 24 hours within a day.
Wake up, take a look at each list (adapt them if needed, based on new circumstances), and decide how much time you will allocate in each, and how can you resist doing the ones from the red list.
Tick as many as you can from each list and do better tomorrow.
Remember, it’s not about manically using every single minute of your day, but when you’ve dedicated time to certain things, to do them with 100% focus.
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Originally published at medium.com