How to Do A Life Audit So You Can Have A Great Year

Financial audits are rarely fun, but life audits certainly can be. What most people do when they think about what they want out of life is to beat themselves up for everything they haven’t done and all the things they haven’t accomplished.

If you do that, this journey will not be fun and you’ll only be feeling horrible about yourself when it’s done.

You NEED to take a step back outside yourself and realize that this is not a process that should highlight where you’re failing. Instead, it should provide a road map on how to use your greatest strengths while also showing you where you can improve (and how you can do it).

You have the power to change your life. If you’re reading this post, you probably have some desire to do this process or you never would have ended up reading this. This process isn’t just for people who are miserable, either. Even if you’re wildly happy, you can still receive the benefits of looking at your whole life and tracking things that matter to you.

Before you begin

Your audit should be as unique as you are. For some people, certain habits are excellent and some are a problem. It’s up to you and your gut to determine what’s working and not working in your life.

Ideally, you’ll want to get out your planners, notebooks, or to-do lists (if you have these things), to see how you’ve been spending your time and what you’ve been up to. Don’t worry if you don’t have these things, it won’t prevent you from doing this process.

Let’s begin.

Look at your average day

What does your average day look like? Write it out in detail and be brutally honest.

I’ll start. In 2019 most of my days looked like: wake up (not often on time, drink two extra cups of coffee more than I should, sometimes get right to work but most often just surf around online for an hour or two until I felt good, eat lunch, go workout, walk my dog, surf the internet again while I half-ass worked, and finally go to bed far too late and wonder why I don’t feel like I got anything worthwhile done.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of good days of hustle and adventure in there, but if I had to write out my average day, that’s it. It’s brutal to read but you truly can not do an audit without being real with yourself.

Once you have this, you need to move on to your ideal day.

Write out your ideal day

What do you want to do on your average ideal day?

Now, this is not the time for you to write out what you want an EPIC day to look like. Most of our lives will be comprised of average days, and if you compare a huge, epic day to your day-to-day life, you’re going to feel constantly upset. Even people who travel every other day and are constantly on the go have tons of days where they pay bills and grocery shop. Social media is just a highlight reel, even if it doesn’t seem that way.

Back to your life.

What would make you happy in your life with an average day? Fitting in a hobby? Seeing friends?

If the day is too specific and you don’t have an answer yet, instead, write out your perfect week/month. Do you go out most nights? Are you in a fitness class? Do you fit in a weekly date night? Do you travel every few months?

Once you have this all written out, you can compare the two.

Doing a big life audit

If you get quiet with yourself and think (which is why you should only do an audit somewhere quiet and where you won’t be distracted), you will know the top three areas in your life that are lacking.

Maybe you don’t have enough creativity, maybe you’re sick of your job, maybe you don’t have enough adventure. We all know what we need when we stop lying to ourselves.

Some ideas to ask yourself:

What do you regret not doing over the last decade?
What would you do with more money?
How do you like the city you live in?
What do you daydream about?
What gets you excited to jump out of bed?
What goals did you let slip you by?
How has your life changed for the better or the worse during the past decade?
What do you value and are you living these values?
Where do you want to be in the next decade?
Do you enjoy the people you spend your time with?

What to do when you don’t have answers

If you don’t have answers to an ideal week or to the questions above, that’s okay! So many of us repress our own wants and desires so hard that it’s actually hard to think about what we do want.

Down below I’m going to cover weekly reviews and they’re mandatory if you want to change your life. You might not have the answers now, but as you start to take a hard look at your life every week, you’re going to start finding answers.

Making the plan of attack

Now, I’m not saying you need to set your entire life on fire and start over. However, you do need to look at where you are and where you want to go and pick one thing to start including each week.

You’re going to start with the one that will bring a quick win.

Look through all the things you listed that you want in your ideal week/day. What one thing sticks out to you the most where your gut says, “I NEED this thing!”

That’s the one I want you to include it immediately this week. Put it in your schedule right now and make it non-negotiable.

The thing to keep in mind is that you can’t judge what it is. For me, at the start of this year, I really wanted to improve the number of books I read in a year. My first thought when I thought that was, “But that doesn’t make me more money, I should focus on work goals.”

That’s a toxic mindset and that’s exactly how we all get stuck in ruts.

If your gut says to read some more damn books, read some more damn books.

If your gut says you need time to just sit in the corner and stare at the wall to decompress after a long day, who cares? Do it. Maybe you want to fingerpaint. I don’t know what the thing is, but whatever it is, you need to do it.

Start a weekly and monthly review

There are tons of ways to do weekly and monthly reviews, but you need to start so you can get a good birds-eye view of your life.

For years, I’ve been coasting. I’m actually writing this blog in the middle of the realization that I’ve been living the same days and weeks for years and it’s time to make a change. This blog is as much advice as it is my own plan for how to get out of this rut.

One way to do that is to start doing weekly and monthly reviews. When you sit down and truly analyze what’s working and what’s not working, you can see where the weaknesses and strengths are, like a general looking at a battle plan.

You must treat this seriously. Your life is waiting for you to take control and start steering the ship.

Every week and month, you’re going to analyze your:

  • Health (mental and physical)
  • Finances
  • Relationships (friends, family, dating)
  • Spiritual life/service to others (if you care)
  • Habits
  • Productivity
  • Passion projects
  • Work/business/school
  • Energy (physical and mental)
  • Education/learning
  • Personal development
  • Travel/adventure
  • Anything else specific to your goals or that you simply want to track (creativity, leisure time, character, living situation, life goals, fun/relaxation, etc)

Keep in mind, these are just suggested categories. Track what matters to you or even just start with one to build the habit.

Rate them all from 1 to 10 and analyze the data. It might take a few weeks to get a real perspective of how you spend your time, but you’ll start to see insights you didn’t see before. You might notice when you spend more time with friends, you’re happier. Or you might notice that when you’re feeling healthy, you’re more productive.

I can’t tell you how to audit each of these areas every week and month, it’s up to you to determine what’s important and matters most. You might want to focus on output, for something like work, or just an overall feeling.

Once you do the audit, it’s essential to figure out HOW you could fix the areas that are lagging.

Where to begin if you’re overwhelmed

Sometimes we’ve spent so much time going through the motions that it’s hard to even know where to begin.

I’ve been there.

I don’t want you to leave this article feeling overwhelmed and like you can’t do this.

So, if you have a feeling like this is too much, I want you to just pick ONE habit you’re going to implement and ONE new thing to add to your life. Then you’re going to do a weekly review on each of these things.

For example, start making your bed and start reading on Sunday mornings. Then, you’re going to celebrate like crazy if you even made your bed once that whole week. If you were never making your bed and you now made your bed once, that’s a 1/7 improvement rate. The other six days are not a failure. Maybe you only read one page this week. That’s one page you weren’t reading the week before.

The next week, you’re going to aim for 2/7 days of bed making and reading two books.

It sounds dumb, but it’s not. There is so much science behind starting with steps so small you barely even notice them. Read this post on the 1% rule to see what I mean: here.

ANY improvement, no matter how small, is still an improvement. Period.

Bonus idea: time track

Most people do not track their time. They know when they need to work and what they need to do, but they don’t spend any meaningful time figuring out where their time and life go.

When you track your time, you can start to see how you’re actually spending your time instead of guessing. It’s easy to say we have a priority of working out, but then you track your time and realize you’re only going once a week.

Matt Ragland (this is not sponsored by him – I truly like this video), has a great video: click here, on how he uses his bullet journal to track his time. It’s an amazing way to get an idea of your week. Customize it how you need to.

If you did this whole process, let me know how it went in the comments below!

For A Successful 2017, Audit Yourself And Find A Purpose

There is a lot to be said for planning out a year. (If you still need to plan your year: this guide will help.)

At a certain point, though, you can only add so many things into your life before you need to start subtracting to make room for all the new.

One of the best ways to start doing that is to track your time.

Most people think they’re utilizing every single minute of every day, but if you actually track your time you’ll see plenty of holes.

When I spent time tracking what I was doing during every hour of every day, I realized I was wasting a lot of time waiting on responses from people. Once I realized this, I found productive things to do while I wait for edits, responses, or anything else that depends on someone else getting back to me.

So many people claim they don’t have time, yet can tell you every detail of what happened this season on Game of Thrones.

(On a side note: Consuming media isn’t a bad thing, but consuming media at the expense of your goals is where people start to get in trouble.)

Finding A Goal

The first step is to know what goals you want in your life.

If you don’t have goals, you have no idea if you’re using your time well or not and when you have free time, you don’t know what to do.

When you have a vision for your life, or at least an overriding goal for the year, it’s easy to ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now getting me closer or farther from that goal?”

Your time becomes clear.

This is what a lot of “productivity experts” overlook: having something to work toward.

Who cares if you meditate, clean your room, exercise daily, plan your day, or anything else if it’s all meaningless? I’ve seen on a lot of posts on productivity forums along the lines of, “My life is totally in order yet I feel empty inside… why?”

Simple: Because we humans are meant for more than to be tidy.

Being tidy for the sake of looking like you have it together doesn’t make sense. Being tidy because that helps you spend less time on clutter and more time on what matters makes sense.

Having goals, values, a purpose gives meaning to the small tasks.

You might not know what your life’s purpose is, but having literally anything to work toward gives meaning to the day-to-day grind.

Plus, it removes that, “What should I be working on?” feeling when you have downtime.

Track Your Time

There are multiple ways to track your time.

Some prefer digital tools like RescueTime that can track your web activity.

Some prefer paper, and what has worked for me is this planner, where I can track each day 15 minutes at a time. Plus, each day is blank so you can track the days you want without wasting paper when you miss some days. I don’t work at my computer all the time, so I had to find something else I could take offline.

Every 60 minutes I go back and write down what I worked on for the past hour.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to keep writing it down and I actually had to set a 60-minute timer to remember to do it, but it’s eye-opening.

When you complain about not having enough time to work on that creative project, but then write down “Facebook” as what you’ve spent the last hour doing, you understand where your time has gone.

Cut, Cut, Cut

Once you have an accurate look at your week and where your time went, this is when you need to re-prioritize.

There are a million reasons our time goes out the window. Not being organized enough, having too many things on our plate, saying “yes” to too many things, falling into time-wasting activities, and so on.

You can’t audit your life until you have an actual overlook at where your time goes.

This is when you can make plans for the time-sucks that eat away at your life.

For example, here are some things I’ve altered:

  1. I made my Facebook password ridiculously complicated and I sign out after being done. Having a complicated password prevents me from signing in at any moment. I also took Facebook, along with some other social media platforms, off my phone so I stopped burning time on those mindless activities.
  2. I meal prep as often as I can. One huge time suck was cooking every single day, so I’ve been working to change that. I don’t want to eat out every day, because that’s a financial drain, but just having things prepared has made everything so much easier.
  3. Stopped multi-tasking. I thought I was getting so much done when I would multi-task, but after tracking my time I discovered this wasn’t true at all. Doing multiple tasks took longer than me focusing and doing one at a time.
  4. I now only consume media I really enjoy. Sometimes we all get sucked in to keeping up with the “hot” things of our time, but that can be such a waste of time. I stopped watching a lot of TV shows for that reason.

Keep Modifying

It’s normal to fall off the wagon when you’re trying to build new habits or shift your focus, but if you keep tracking and trying to improve, you can make your life better with each passing day.

What have you realized was a complete time-suck, and how did you change it? Leave a comment!

The Importance of a Morning and Evening Routine

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Getting your day started and wrapped up on your terms is essential to maximum productivity.

We’ve all been there: You plan to have a productive day, and then the first distraction rolls in. Then the next one starts. Then the one after that.

Before you know it, half the day is already gone and you haven’t done a single thing that matters to you.

The same goes for the evening. When I find myself drifting without a routine, all of a sudden it will be 2 a.m. and I’m still awake doing mindless activities.

If you want to live a better life, you have to get the things done on your to-do list that matter the most.

Of course, there will be days where you have to break the routine, but I find that if I stick to a routine most days of the week, I get more done.

The best part about a morning routine is that most interruptions haven’t entered your life yet, so you can focus on what matters. It’s much easier to go through the day knowing you have made progress toward your ultimate dream instead of feeling resentful that someone else took your time from you.

1. Know what matters most

If you don’t know your ultimate goal, here is a great article from Art of Manliness to help you figure out your goals: Create A Life Plan.

You could also spend time meditating and trying out new things to discover what you feel most passionate about. A lot of people aren’t sure what they want to do with their lives, so they put everything off until “later”, only to realize they’re much older and should have started when they were younger. No matter your age, you can start today to discover your life’s calling.

2. Eliminate all distractions

This is especially important in the morning. If you check your e-mail or your phone first thing in the morning, you’re asking for everyone else to derail your day. Everyone else can wait.

This was a hard one for me at first. Waiting to check e-mail took about 3 months of trying for me to break. I finally had to remove e-mail completely from my phone at night so I couldn’t be tempted to hit that button.

3. Keep tweaking as you go

There are plenty of morning and night routines that might work best for you. Try keeping a journal and taking notes of what went right and what you want to change.

You’ll have days where you miss. Stay focus on what matters to you and get right back on the horse when you can. Don’t let one off day completely ruin your progress.

My morning and night routine:

Morning:

– Wake up at 6:30 and brew some coffee
– NO internet or cell phone under any circumstances.
– Take my dog for a small walk so she’s quiet during my work
– Sit down and start writing for about an hour or two
– Stretch for a little bit (to try and combat all the sitting)
– Plan the rest of the day depending on what I need to get done

Evening:

– Exercise (I’ve always been an evening exercise fan)
– Come back upstairs and review the day
– Brain dump everything on my mind. What’s nagging at the back of my mind? What do I need to do soon? What open loops do I need to close? Getting these out and on paper helps me sleep better
– Plan the next day, especially what I plan to get done first thing in the morning so I can sit down and get right to work.
– What can I set up this evening to make tomorrow immediately successful? Sometimes this consists of preparing the coffee, washing my outfit for the next morning, finding a notebook I need for a writing project, etc.
– Tidy up the important areas: my kitchen counter and desk. Clutter never used to bother me until I realized how nice it was to wake up to a completely decluttered surface area.

Do you have a certain routine? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!