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Sometimes the things that add the most value to your day can be among the most simple. 

For me, there are two daily activities that help ensure my brain is switched on and humming along each morning, and help me to unwind and reflect at the end of the day. By committing to these two simple activities each day I establish a couple of ‘quick wins’ to motivate me to get started, and also set up an end to the day after which my time is truly my own.

The New York Times Crossword

I start the day with the New York Times Crossword. When I was working in an office it was how I passed my commute into work and usually – depending on traffic and the difficulty of the puzzle – I could arrive at my desk with all of the small white squares correctly filled.

A crossword is great for building vocabulary and American crosswords, as opposed to their cryptic British cousins, help you to develop lists of synonyms and a knowledge of pop culture that can be hard to come by otherwise. Oh, sure, when you write for an audience you want to use the words that cut through to the reader and not the obscure synonym that really only belongs to the crossword crowd, but having mental access to these words helps to open up possibilities in the prose you type. 

The Times has a daily mini crossword and a longer, full-size grid every day. While the daily mini grids can usually be knocked over in a minute or less, the difficulty of the full size puzzles varies across the week. Monday and Tuesday are easier, Wednesday is about average, Thursday is the most difficult of the week, and Sunday takes the longest because it is a bigger grid with more spaces to fill.

The crossword has proved one of the best ways for me to get my brain into gear in the morning and to start the words flowing. Occasionally I’ll be stumped and return to the grid later in the day to try and finish it off but, most days, I can push through and close out the grid in one sitting.

If you’ve not puzzled out a crossword grid before, I recommend starting with the daily mini and then moving up to a Monday or Tuesday puzzle. Not only is it satisfying to complete a puzzle, it is also one of the small wins that makes taking on the next bigger and more important challenge in your day seem a little less insurmountable.

Day One Journal

A couple of months ago as I was taking the first steps to set up Scriblr I started writing down the work I was doing in a journal on the Day One app. This daily journal fast became a daily routine whereby, at the end of the working day, I would write for about ten minutes or so about what I had done, what I had accomplished, how I felt about the day, and what was coming up next.

As well as the place where I would record what I was doing and why, the act of journaling morphed into a way of closing out the day. Once I had done my journal entry for the day I wouldn’t be working any more and I could concentrate on family or just relaxing. The nightly uncharging worked to place an end point on the day and allow me to mentally put a stop to the work until the next day.

There’s a lot of evidence that daily journaling is a net positive for just about anyone. Benjamin Hardy of The Mission puts it this way:

Journaling daily is the most potent and powerful keystone habit you can acquire. If done correctly, you will show up better in every area of your life — every area!

Day One is a great tool for journaling and has both iOS and Mac applications that sync instantly. The possibility to have multiple journals within the same application is a nice touch and, over time, I’ve added separate journals to keep track of great meals I have eaten (snap a picture, tag with the location, add to the Food journal) and films I have watched (title, movie poster from IMDB, and who I watched it with). 

Daily journaling is a great way to record where you’ve gone and plan where you’re going, and Day One is the best tool I have yet found to make this journaling a cinch to manage.

What are your daily habits?

What are the habits that are part of your daily routine? Is there something that gets you going in the morning, powers you through lunch, or helps you wind down in the evening? 

Drop me a line and let me know what you do and how they help you get things done!


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