The time was 8.15am, I think.

I had just taken my breakfast and drank the coffee. It’s still early and I’ve a full day ahead. I’d planned the tasks last night, the checklist to be done today.

It should be a wonderful day, I reassured myself. Alone at home, away from the horrible commute to work, away from the distractions in the office. Me, alone, at home. It would be the perfect day in a long, long while.

The time now reads 12.25pm.

In between those four hours, I didn’t accomplish everything I set out to do. Instead, I did some of the things I always do when I put things off. Washing the dishes, vacuuming the floor, surfing mindlessly on the net. Anything but doing the tasks I’m supposed to be doing.

A quick peep at the notebook reveal I’ve written 8 tasks, of which 4 of them are strike off. Not too bad, but I should have accomplished them by now. Given the long hours of focus time, there’s really no excuses for the shabby productivity.

In truth, it’s not that we don’t have enough time. It’s because most of us don’t know how to manage it. I recall vaguely Shawn Blanc said knowing what to do is one thing, setting aside time to do them is another, but actually getting down to work is the hardest.

Why are we not starting? Having set aside the time to do them, and just sitting there letting our minds wander about? That’s quite a waste, isn’t it?

We need to build better defaults, as Shawn Blanc always advocates. When we are low on energy, we tend to do things that doesn’t require much mental reflexes. Things that we are used to. Like switching on the TV and stare at the screen watching the time go by. Before you know it, it’s time for bed and another day has passed. That’s another day without moving the needle towards your goal.

Every day, do something that moves the needle towards your goal.

Having good routines is the key to building good habits. Our days are made up of habits. I’ve been brushing regularly at night for the past 3 years. Initially, it was tough. There were days that I didn’t want to brush when I came home late, or was tired from the day’s exhaustion, or when I just didn’t feel like it. But I see the bigger goal – my teeth are not in the best condition and if I continue to not protect them, I won’t be having enough teeth to last me through the years. It’s a reality check. Each time I don’t feel like brushing up at night, I reminded myself of this fact. Now, no matter how tired I am, there’s no question if I’d even brush. It has become a habit that if I don’t do it, I’d feel strange.

When I went to the dentist last year, she said my teeth and gum are improving. That’s great news, a validation that my hard work has paid off, and farther reinforced that consistent work lead to progress.

If shows that if we put in hard work in anything, results will follow. Some will take longer than the others, but the wheels are in motion, moving the pieces towards your target.

Recently, Shawn Blanc (again), shares his take on buying books and what he gets out of them.

I’ve a problem with book hogging. I’ve more books (and magazines) than I can finish, but the urge to buy them is still as strong. I’m guilty each time I walk pass the bookshelves and see them pristine, some still in their wrapper, waiting to be read. But Shawn’s words assures me that if I can just pick up one thing – just one thing – from the book – then it’s worth it. You don’t even have to finish it. I’ve held on to the notion if you buy a book, the only way you can get full value out of it is by reading it from start to finish.

I’ve seen people giving advices that if a book doesn’t interest you, discard them. Move on. I haven’t been able to put it into practice until now. I no longer feel guilty if I don’t finish a book. I no longer feel bad if I can’t remember anything from it. I no longer feel a need to keep a book clean – I even jot down notes on books now!

It feels good writing this down.

Writing 300 words is one of the tasks for today and I’m happy to strike it off the notebook now.