Vote Charlie!

What do you try to do every day?

Posted at age 28.

I haven’t been very social this year, spending most of my time at home. While spending some time with a friend, I pondered posting a question to Facebook and seeing if anyone would respond. I wrote:

For those who want to get to know each other and have the time, please answer:
What do you try to do every day?

Some replies

Web developer and one time travel bud

The two answers that immediately popped to mind are 1) spend some time with [my wife and son], and 2) make, build, or do something with my hands. Item 2 is broad but brings a great balance to working at the computer.


Several things…

  1. go for a walk
  2. think of something good that happened in the past 24 hrs
  3. (lately) practice guitar at least 30 mins

Imaginary person associated with college newspaper


Mother’s childhood friend


Gay friend from hometown

Foam roll & get outside my comfort zone


Pray for my children and their siblings.

Male high school friend

Eat an apple.



Gay friend from SF

have fun

Owner of gay bar in hometown

I try to not react negatively. I imagine someone is going through a tough time in some way and that is why they are being difficult or rude. I try to make a difference in the cycle.

Former coworker in Japan

I try to get my daily jog in.

Gay friend met online 15 years ago

Sex/Run/Cook Organically

Male high school friend


Female high school friend

Drink enough water and spend time playing with my kids outside

Uncle’s wife

Pray for others

Guy who cared for my dog since move to Japan

Not make it my last. So far I’m nailing this goal.

Gay former vendor when ran mom’s stores

Compliment someone i don’t know.

Gay friend in Argentina

get out of bed, i’ve achieved a steady 70% success rate.

Guy I am seeing

Mind my own business.

Gay friend in SF

Be happy

Male high school friend

my taxes…. blagh

Some thoughts

I of course had to answer the question myself. When I first wrote it, I was thinking perhaps it would be progression of questions, like:

  1. What do you try to do every day?
  2. What do you actually do every day?
  3. Why do you not succeed every day?

But I was more trying to get at why we don’t do what we really want to do. I hoped for an open ended question that would beg that further question. So I thought about writing it like this:

  1. What do you do every day?
  2. What do you want to do every day?

The third question would hopefully then not even need to be asked: “Why am I not doing what I really want to do in life?”

But I thought that might be a bit too much for Facebook. I was already going to be pushing it with the simple question I asked, and if you go too deep with people you don’t know that well, they might think you’re crazy.

So I reassessed, and thought it would be insight enough to simply discuss basic things we try to do. I have my own set of things, but I’m sure most people I know don’t try to do the things I do. And those things change over time for me, surely for others as well. We have different values, and they are what makes us all interesting. It therefore seemed reasonable to try to get to know my friends better by asking.

For my part, I wrote this:

Thanks guys; some nice insights. I will expand a bit:

Most of what I try to do is rather mundane.

Before I sleep, I take a melatonin, and whatever remains of the many supplements in my pill organizer. Were it not for that device, I would forget to take anything most days. I try to record a slew of body measurements: temperature, blood pressure and weight. Heart rate and steps are measured mindlessly thanks to my Fitbit, unless I forget to charge the battery. I try to drink plenty of water, be efficient, control my room’s chaos.

That’s really about it.

Keeping with the mundane, in the past I would go through my email inbox daily, constantly, ensuring I handled important things. I tried to reach out to friends. Now my incoming streams number more than just email, and I find staying on top of them all to be less compelling and fulfilling.

There is much I want to do in general, but to say I try to do them every day would be a lie. I want to be kind, run more, eat better, have good posture, learn everything, make others happy, make myself happy. But I cannot claim I consciously try to do these things every day. And I certainly cannot claim I actually do them every day. They happen when I think of them, when I feel motivated, when I have time.

Perhaps I need to write a list and force myself to do these things daily, and then I can say I really try. But if I am only kind because I wrote a list, is that meaningful? I suppose the effort at least means something.

My brother followed up with some comments about willpower efficiency, habit forming and list making.

[COLLAPSE=Brother’s comments]

In large part, we do things in response to how our environment shows up to us. Your examples illustrate this. It’s also the logic behind “out of sight, out of mind.” If there are things you really want to do, then you should arrange your environment in such a way that encourages you to do them. For instance, I wanted to play the guitar every day, so I got a stand to keep it out and visible at all times. Guess how much more frequently I practice now than before, when I kept it in its case.

Like Casey says, too, once you build something into a habit, you may not need the explicit environmental reminder… Instead, the habit compels you to do it. Now that I’ve been starting each morning with a short walk and thought exercise (and more recently a cold shower), it’s automatic.

For me, I can only really fit in one or two big things to do in a day. But somehow, the habituated things don’t count. So because I’ve built in so many “productive” habits, it appears to a lot of people that I get a lot done. But it doesn’t feel to me like I’m that busy.

A final practice that’s helped me tremendously that you might adapt is making each day’s to-do list before the day begins. I keep a running to-do list that includes broad goals for the coming years/months, and the goals get more specific as they get closer. Every week or so, I organize few-hour-sized tasks into the coming days (one per day). Then every night, I spend 5-10 mins organizing what I’ll do the next day, based on the major task and the little things that came up. The result is I have a more-or-less concrete to-do list every day when I wake up. This helps me resist checking my email right away; we tend to check email because we don’t know what else to do, so having clear things to do forestalls that.


I’ve read quite a bit about his points, and since we share an audiobook library, I often don’t know if he got things from my books or vice versa and if he thinks he is teaching something or just reminding me of something. But basic as they might seem, I can’t say I have mastered actually implementing it all. My organization has changed over time, largely having to do with my jobs. Now that everything is in my control, I have the extra battle of trying to do things now even though nothing is forcing me to. And there is so much I want to do, adding to the problem.

A big goal of starting the 12 week year program earlier this year was to solidify some habits so I’d have more mental energy to do other things. I probably tried to do too many new things at once, and it collapsed a bit a couple of months ago when I chose to dedicate a lot of time to a friend’s mental health issues and a bunch of family issues, including a trip home for almost a month.

Anyway, I’ve been only slightly down on myself for not getting more done. Generally I’m quite content and know things will turn out fine eventually, and I might as well enjoy the time I have while I have it.