3 Tips for Making Each Day Count

Recently I heard a great interview with Robert D. Smith, author of 20,000 Days and Counting.

He explained the epiphany he had at 55 years of age when he calculated his years and realized he had lived 20,000 days. In his book, he shares the lessons he has learned along the journey and encourages others to make the most of their time.

image from www.walkarlington.com

During enrollment last year, I addressed a group of 8th graders who would be attending my school. I reminded them that at the high school level, most of them begin their journey here at age 14, having lived approximately 5,000 days.

By the time they have reached 6,500 days or 18 years old, they will graduate from high school–1,500 days to make some of the most important choices that will affect the rest of their lives.

Toward the end of last year, I was talking to a friend who is about twenty years younger than I am; he is experiencing the thrill of building his own business and raising a family. I was talking about life goals I had set for myself at his age.

He then asked me a sensible question that I wasn’t ready for. “So what are your life goals now?”

I found myself stumbling around for an answer, when I finally admitted, “Mostly, I am just trying to survive.”

That conversation haunted me for a while.

At the start of the year, I had the opportunity to spend a weekend in solitude, reflection and prayer. I came face-to-face with the realization of how unfocused my goals were for myself, my work, and my family.

So I began writing down new goals for my coming year. These were more than new year resolutions. They were specific, measurable, written goals. I sat down with my wife and children and shared my goals with them and asked for their input and accountability on our goals as a family.

Like a boat that drifts away when not navigated properly or anchored securely, sometimes we find ourselves simply being pushed along by the current of life’s circumstances.

At other times, survival is inevitable when we are struck by circumstances beyond our control.

Regardless of our circumstances, like Robert Smith, we must see that our days are numbered. Each day is a gift. What are the best ways we can encourage ourselves and those around us to make the most of our time?

Here are some suggestions:

1. Set Bold Personal Goals
Maybe, like me, it has been a while since you set specific, measurable goals for yourself. Don’t settle for easily attainable ones either.

Set bold, audacious goals. If you don’t reach them, just remember at least you have reached higher than you would have with easy goals or no goals at all.

Where do want to see personal growth for yourself by the end of this year? Think through your goals for your family, career, your physical and spiritual health. What are ways to pursue your dreams and passions?

Write them down and find someone to share them with so you have accountability in the journey. It is a lot easier to ask others to push themselves beyond their comfort zone when you are willing to do the same.

2. Model Making the Most of Each Day
When others see us maximizing opportunities, not wasting time, doing excellent work, and enjoying our interactions, we set an example of making the most of each day.

To be really practical, when I am punctual, dress professionally, keep my commitments, avoid working on personal to-do’s during school hours, walk hallways during passing periods, keep my promises–in all these actions, I am setting an example of what I hope to see in those around me.

3. Share Your Failures and Successes
Sharing the ways you have learned from both failure and success gives others a good perspective on their own choices.

One story I share with struggling students is how I failed Algebra I when I was a ninth grader and then made an A+ when I took it the second time. I share with them the lessons I learned about self-discipline and time management.

When I talk to aspiring school leaders, I am quick to tell them of the mistakes I have made with the hopes they can avoid the same pitfalls. It is embarrassing to admit my failures, but I also want to demonstrate how others can learn from them as well as their own.

Perhaps you’ve already surpassed the 20,000 days milestone, or maybe you’re much earlier in the journey. Regardless of the count, refuse to give in to drifting along or just surviving. Set goals for yourself that will maximize the countdown for yourself and for those around you.

Questions: How many days have you lived? What are some bold, audacious, measurable goals you have set for yourself? What are goals are you setting for your students, the team you lead, or those whom you love?

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker