Most nights, I give myself an hour before going to bed. I call it the daily debrief. It’s a way for me to check in with myself to see how I am doing. It gives me the space to take a step back and reflect. Doing the debrief helps me bring closure to my day as well as plan for the following day. The days I’ve missed doing the debrief (for whatever reason) is felt the following morning, when I’ve felt somewhat scattered and unprepared, which in turn has led me to make sub-optimal choices occasionally.
I think of the daily debrief as the latter part of bookending your day where you do something in the am and something you close the day with, regardless of how things might turn out during the day. This is different from doing a weekly review or planning week, both of which I do on the weekend. The daily debrief gives me the space to course-correct and make changes based on what might have transpired during a given day. It also gives me a chance to reflect and learn about myself. Above all, doing this daily practice helps me quieten my mind and helps me sleep. I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.
As part of the debrief, I’ve set up a template, where I ask myself a few questions every day. For instance, one of the questions is what I did that day. The follow up question however, is more important to me, which is how did I do those things? Another set of questions includes what have I been clinging to and what have I been resisting (read my previous writing for context)? I also do gratitude journaling as part of the debrief. Doing all of this might seem like a lot of work, but in practicality, it’s quite smooth and happens quickly because I know what I want to do in that hour and in the order I’m doing them. In fact, the hour goes by before I even know it. I spend about half an hour on writing/reflection and the other half on preparing myself for the following day(s).
One of the benefits of doing this debrief is I’m ready to tackle my day because I know what I’m going to be doing and how I’m going to be spending my time. I’m no longer thinking as to what I’m doing on the day of, which takes energy. It’s about thinking what you’re doing and then you’re doing it, but you aren’t doing it at the same time, because it isn’t ideal. This isn’t to say I have it all scheduled. I like to strike a balance between structure (things I’ve decided to do at a certain time, let’s say) and flexibility (to do things freely including having some ad-hoc time for potentially unexpected events).
I still live my days largely based on what I shared earlier. My work tends to revolve around my life (rather than vice-versa, which is normal for most). It helps me make fewer but better decisions, because I don’t have to think about things I’ve said yes to. It’s only when I know what I’ve said yes to do I have the freedom to say no to almost everything else that comes my way.
Among other things, doing the debrief helps me stay on top of my commitments. It lets me manage (or renegotiate) my agreements with myself. For instance, one of the things I do as part of the debrief is look at my calendar and list manager to see the upcoming events and tasks respectively for the week (and month). I can then decide if I want to do them then or defer it for later or remove it altogether. This is key because you’re making upfront (proactive) choices about what’s coming your way rather than reacting to things in the moment.
Doing this daily practice is part of living a proactive life. When we stop making proactive choices consciously by design, choices are made for us (by life) by default, which isn’t what you want. Things are going to happen anyway and we do those things, but what matters is how you do them, because that makes all the difference. We can either react to things in the moment OR we can respond appropriately to them like the way water responds by creating appropriate ripples when you throw a pebble.