Make a list, check it twice: Ensure your day counts!

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David Woodley
  • 71st OSS commander
Start now and make today count. That is how I ended my last commentary. Each day is a gift, and we need to ensure we make every day count to the fullest. But with everything else in life, many people do not know how or where to start.

You could buy a book that will "tell" you how to reach the stars, but there are so many written each year that it is difficult to determine which author is legitimate, and if the book is worth the money.

Over the course of my career, I have built a daily checklist -- my book for success -- to keep me focused on getting the most out of each day, which in turn helps me reach my goals, keeps me grounded and enables me to focus on what is important.

My checklist has only five items that are simple to understand but difficult to follow. For it to work, you need to read it each day first thing in the morning then at night review how you did. It is my daily process. I hope it helps you.

Maintain Positive Attitude: Life is not easy and presents us with challenges every day. It does not take much to get beat down and let a negative attitude set in. We start thinking, "I will not pass my test," "I am going to bust my checkride," "I am not going to be promoted," "no matter what I do I will fail," or even "everyone is out to get me." Once those negative thoughts set in, I guarantee that the opposite of what you want to happen will happen.

However, if you think "I will pass this test," "I am going to get promoted," or "I will not fail" then you will be amazed how successful you can be. Also, you will notice that people around you will start having positive attitudes.

Positive and negative attitudes are contagious.

24 Hour Rule: We will all face setbacks, and things will not always go our way. It will happen more than we want.

How do you overcome these obstacles? I use the 24 hour rule.

After a setback give yourself 24 hours to get mad, reflect and accept.

Get mad that it happened. It is ok not to be happy.

Then, reflect on why you had that set back. Maybe you did not study enough for a test, or maybe you should have worked out more before the PT test. Discover what you are going to do to move forward so you do not repeat the same set back.

Finally, accept that it happened, and that there is nothing you can do to change that fact.

Once your 24 hours is up, you move forward and never look back.

Worrying Uses More Energy than Doing: It is very easy to fall into the trap of worrying about events in our past that we cannot change or future events with a significant impact.

Too many people lay awake at night replaying what went wrong. I missed that final shot in a game. I got myself into debt. I was late and missed my testing appointment time.

The past is the past and cannot be changed.

Then you have the polar opposite -- people who lay awake at night worrying about what might happen.

Will I pass my PT test? Will I be good enough to pass my check ride? Do I have what it takes to be a good supervisor?

Just think, if all that energy was used to work and not worry -- you would get even more tasks completed than you believed possible.

Set Goals, But Do Not Focus Only on the Destination: Every New Year so many people set a goal of getting into shape. Then what happens? Come February, gyms are empty, and all those people have given up.

Why? Most set a goal of something like losing 50 pounds. Great goal, but it will not happen overnight. So most people will focus on losing that 50 pounds, and in four weeks, when they only lose eight pounds, they get discouraged and quit.

How can you avoid this?

Instead of focusing on the destination, focus on the path that will lead you there. Each day, set a small goal that will move you forward down that path. If you missed a scheduled trip to the gym, make sure you do something, even as simple as walking for 30 minutes or doing pushups in your office.

You need to make sure that every day you do something that moves you closer to your goal. And before you know it, you will reach your destination.

Do Something For Yourself: We are so busy every day taking care of the mission, going to school, staying late at work to finish that EPR or helping out fellow Airmen, that we forget that we need to do something for ourselves.

I am not talking about a vacation or taking a day off. It is something as simple as picking your kids up from school, going out for a nice dinner, calling a family member just to talk, reading a book or watching a movie.

At a bare minimum, take 30 minutes a day for yourself. If you do not, you will eventually burn out. After you take the time for yourself, you will feel refreshed and ready to give 100 percent.

My kids like to quote Master Oogway from Kung Fun Panda, "Yesterday is history, the future is a mystery and today is a gift, that is why they call it the present".

Each day is a gift and once it is over we will not get it back. This checklist can be a great starting point for you to begin getting the most out of each day, and then you can modify it to suit your needs.