I often find myself referring back to the quote from Annie Dillard, ‘How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.’ It is an excellent reminder that every day is a thread that weaves the fabric of our lives. Each thread is just as important as the next in creating the life we imagined.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t always been obvious to me.
The trouble started when I signed up for Amazon Prime, the online super store’s two-day delivery service. I started out ordering a few books here and there and it was incredibly convenient. I found it amazing that I could order something and it would show up on my porch two days later. It saved time and allowed me to get the things I wanted without even leaving the house.
Eventually, what started out as an occasional convenience became a not so occasional habit. Individually, those small daily purchases didn’t seem like much. Maybe $10 on a book, $15 for a cable, perhaps $50 for a new kitchen gadget every now and then.
With an effortless tap of the 1-click purchase, money flowed out of my bank account while a brown cardboard box was prepared and shipped to my home.
Not even the monthly credit card statements set off any warnings. In the worst months, they were a few hundred dollars at the most. While it was never an issue to pay off, the purchases steadily ate into my income each month.
Whenever an opportunity came to join my family or friends on a trip, I never seemed to be able to go. I loved traveling and spending time with people I care about; it was what I always talked about wanting to do and it puzzled me why I wasn’t able to do it.
Small daily actions can work for us, or against us. It’s up to us to choose which.
One day, I needed to look for an item that I had purchased over a year earlier and in doing so started digging through my Amazon purchase history. At that moment, I decided to download four years of purchase records from the site. The result was shocking.
Years of small daily actions added up to create a massive impact — for me this was quite damaging to my bank account and the lifestyle that I dreamed of.
Over the course of four years I had spent thousands of dollars on various Amazon purchases, most of which I didn’t even remember buying. Those small purchases were the epitome of unintentional living.
On the plus side, I learned something from the experience. I saw how small daily actions create substantial change over time. If the actions are constructive, they will produce fantastic results when the collective impact is tallied.
How to Live Intentionally
If you want to leverage small daily actions for the better, you have the power to do it. When you look back, you’ll see it was the small but consistent actions that made the most significant impact.
You can make considerable progress in your life by addressing these five ways to live more intentionally every day.
1. Consider an ideal day.
If you were able to design your perfect day from beginning to end, what would it look like? Imagine a productive, meaningful way you might spend your time. Working on projects, spending time with loved ones and friends, etc. Take note of the things that are included and more importantly, what wasn’t included? I rarely hear people mention spending time on Facebook during their ideal day.
2. Create a foundation of small daily actions.
Once you have some ideas for your ideal day, create some quick and easy actions that reflect that ideal. While it may sound counter-intuitive, the smaller the action, the better. Whether it’s one minute of meditation, slow breathing, one push-up, or reading a few pages of a book, consistent action is more important than immediate results.
3. Express gratitude every day.
Whether it’s writing down three things you’re grateful for in your notebook, sending a text to a friend, or a letter to a family member, expressing gratitude simply makes us happier. By acting on it daily, you begin to establish an attitude of abundance and gratitude.
4. Make the bed every morning.
While it might seem a bit strange, making the bed every morning can lead to more success throughout the day. This is traditionally known as a keystone habit, done first thing in the morning and can trigger other successful habits to come after it. By making the bed every day after waking up, you establish an early ‘win’ and a pattern of success.
5. Pause and breathe.
Before every action you take there is a moment. In that moment, you have the opportunity to pause and process whether the action you’re about to take is well aligned with your ideals. A two second pause can be the difference between living in alignment or bouncing from impulse to impulse.
Each day is just as important as the next in creating the life we imagined for ourselves. While each day may seem small, years later you’ll find that progress was made one small day at a time. After all, how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.