“What should I do today?”
It’s just four small words … but it’s a bigger question than you might think.
The truth is, we weren’t put on this earth to kill time, we all feel this pull to live purposeful, intentional lives, to do something that has meaning.
If you’re looking for something new to do today, here’s our invitation: think about what would be most productive. (But not in the way you’re thinking!)
Living a productive and profitable life — what it actually means.
Lots of us grew up in a culture where productivity is idolized. The more output you produce, the longer you work, the better. That is NOT what we’re talking about here.
Instead, we see a productive life as one that’s lived on-purpose, where you regularly do the things that are aligned with your reason for being. This has also been called a “profitable life” by entrepreneur Adii Pienaar, who reframed the concept of profitability, moving it away from money, and towards a life that feels valuable to you.
“The cost of doing anything is life because our time, our energy, our attention, all of those things are finite.
Our choice to do anything has a cost, and that cost is our life.”
Even the Mary Oliver quote that’s so often used to goad people into productivity — “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” — is couched in a poem about awareness, rest, and intention.
With all that in mind, our primary invitation here is to think about what your purpose is, your big why as a fully fledged person, and use that to make daily decisions about what you do. Working from intention in this way can help you choose things that are going to be “productive” in terms of building the life you want –– even if what you do turns out to be nothing!
Still Not Sure What to Do Today? Here Are 9 New Things to Try:
1. Do nothing!
There’s a reason we put such an emphasis on purposeful productivity, rather than simple busy-ness or mindless action. Most people are chronically under-rested, and taking the time to stop can be a powerful way to heal. Taking the time to do nothing can be challenging if you’re not used to it — and even scary! If you haven’t built intentional pauses into your life, finally taking the time to rest can bring up a lot of big feelings. It is absolutely worth it though, and has long-lasting benefits for your body, mind, and spirit.
“Breaks are brief cessations to work, physical exertion, or emotional stress. They promote mental health, boost creativity, increase productivity, promote well-being, reduce stress, improve mood, and strengthen relationships.” (Forbes)
2. Try something new with your body.
You know that feeling where you’re hungry, but nothing in the fridge looks good? Sometimes that can happen with action as well. You know you want to do something, but none of your old standards sounds appealing.
If that’s where you are today, then try doing something physical. A lot of times we get caught up in our minds, which makes it easy to fall into ruts. Use your body today to explore new sensations and experiences — cook a new meal, get outside in a new space, whatever. The combination of novelty and movement is fulfilling and enjoyable, and increases your problem-solving abilities by encouraging your brain to make theta waves.
“Theta waves, which increase during sleep and meditation, help us process information and make memories. In this experiment, the theta waves reprogrammed regions of the brain associated with learning and memory, disrupting established connections to prime the brain for flexibility in the face of novelty.” (Columbia University)
3. Cultivate awareness by looking at old scenery with new eyes.
If you can’t (or don’t want to) get out or try something new, reverse that and hyperfocus on the familiar. Look at the things around you as though you were seeing them for the first time, switch up your perspective, zoom in on what’s around you. It’s a powerful exercise in developing awareness and it can also help shake you out of any mental ruts you might be in.
4. Say thanks.
Gratitude makes a huge difference in your mood and health — in fact, deliberate acts of gratitude have been shown to measurably boost your mood for days afterwards!
“In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” (Harvard Health)
If you’ve got some extra time on your hands today, try calling someone up and telling them how grateful you are for them. If you want to push the boat out, then do a gratitude visit, and tell them in person! It’s a wonderful gift to them, and you’ll feel amazing afterwards, too!
5. Try the 60-minute love bomb.
Looking to do something with a partner today? Try what we call the 60-minute love bomb. This is a series of 36 questions that can help you develop intimacy with someone else. It’s been called the 36 questions that make you fall in love, but it works just as well with non-romantic partners, and is a good way to get to know someone else (and yourself!) better. You can find the 36 questions here.
6. Think about what’s next.
Are you looking for something to do today as part of a bigger transition in your life? Maybe you’re finding yourself at odds and ends because you’ve just been through a big life change, and your day-to-day looks different. Or perhaps you’re not enjoying the way your days go now. This can be a good chance to consider whether you’re satisfied with things as they are now, and what a change might look like. If you’re not sure where to start, consider our deep-dive into deciding what to do with your life.
7. Eat a frog.
Maybe you’re not sure what to do because you’re actually procrastinating, and looking for anything else to do. Time for some tough love: it’s not going to get any easier. In fact, you’re going to feel exponentially worse and lose more of your bandwidth to that task you’re avoiding until it finally becomes so painful you can’t not do it.
Charlie Gilkey calls this the dread-to-work ratio:
“Most tasks generally require a fixed minimum amount of work, meaning doing them later won’t make them any easier … The “work” part of the equation stays the same. It’s the “dread” that increases substantially with time … After a while, the distinction between directly working on that task and indirectly working on it [via dread] blurs to the point at which it doesn’t make sense to make the distinction.” (Start Finishing)
Why not skip that process and take care of that task now? (This is called eating the frog in productivity circles, by the way, pulled from the Mark Twain quote: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”)
Choose the worst thing on your to-do list, grit your teeth, and knock it out — you’ll feel way better, and have so much energy freed up to do other things.
8. Plan your legacy.
Many people reach the end of their lives and realize they didn’t do a lot of the things they wanted to do. Days like this can be great for taking the time to pause and put some thought on this, since it typically takes at least one stretch of open-ended noodling time.
Consider taking this open time today to put some thought on your legacy so you can make sure you’re living the life you want to live, and are able to pass down the things you want to pass down. Not sure where to start? We’ve got a guide to walk you through the process!
9. Do that thing you’ve secretly been longing to do.
So many of us put our wants and needs last, but they exist for a reason. Just like a physical craving can be a sign that you need to top up some specific nutrient in your body or that you need to move in a certain way, mental and spiritual cravings are often signs of some need being unmet.
Is there something wild you’ve been craving in your body, mind, or spirit? Follow that thread and see where it goes!
— The question of what to do on any given day sounds small — but it’s actually much bigger than you think. After all, as the quote goes, how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.
— That’s why it’s important to consider what you want, big picture, and let that inform your daily choices. Being productive, or living a profitable life, can be wonderful, as long as you’re actually getting where you want to go.
— Once you’re clear on what your big picture is, you might try any of these suggestions:
— Do nothing!
— Try something new with your body.
— Cultivate awareness by looking at old scenery with new eyes.
— Say thanks.
— Try the 60-minute love bomb.
— Think about what’s next.
— Eat a frog.
— Plan your legacy.
— Do that thing you’ve secretly been longing to do.
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