Change Your Day, Not Your Life: A Realistic Guide to Sustained Motivation, More Productivity, and the Art of Working Well with Andy Core

Listen to the interview.

Want to Change Your Life? First, Change Your Day: How to Break the Work Patterns That Stress You Out…and Get You Nowhere.  Andy Core has 13 Tips from CHANGE YOUR DAY, NOT YOUR LIFE for thriving in a To-Do List-Dominated World that will help you take back your to-do list and become the CEO of your life.

Figure out what’s doable in a day.  In Change Your Day, Core writes about a woman named Janet. She came to him hoping that he could help her find some semblance of balance. She was overworked, overstressed, and overweight. She had no time to exercise or to spend with friends and family. She was constantly on the go and fueled by caffeine, with no chance to recuperate between projects. Not surprisingly, Janet wanted to change her life.

“Initially, Janet was disappointed when I told her that changing her life was just too hard,” Core recalls. “But I explained that turning your whole life around is too big a goal. You can’t sustain that many major changes at once. Instead, I told Janet, I simply wanted her to change her day. I wanted her to reengineer her routine a little bit at a time, one day at a time, cutting out a small stressor here, and adding in a more productive habit there. Our whole strategy was to make small, doable changes that would, over time, create an unstoppable momentum.

“You must do the same,” Core adds. “You must set realistic boundaries. You must create goals that can be accomplished in the space of a day. Remember, nearly all problems, challenges, and needs are best faced if they are brought down to the scale of ‘what can be done right now’ by taking on ‘one small piece’ of a difficult situation.”

Get big things done before 9:00 a.m. (instead of snoozing, procrastinating, and lurking at the water cooler). Ever notice how your morning sets the tone for your whole day? As Sir Isaac Newton famously said, “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion.” So if an object (you) gets a groggy, frustrating start, you’ll probably feel sluggish and behind the eight-ball all day long. However, if you start your day with positive and productive ideas, actions, thoughts, and feelings, you’re likely to gain momentum throughout the day.

“Here’s an example of what I’m talking about,” Core recounts. “I know a top salesman named Barry whose daily pattern involves getting up early, exercising, eating breakfast, spending time with family, and accomplishing several meetings or other work activities before 9:00 a.m. By the time his colleagues are settling into the starting blocks, Barry has already blown through several important tasks on his to-do list, and he’s geared to continue that pace for the next several hours.

“The point here isn’t how early Barry’s alarm rings—it’s that he makes the most of the first several hours of his day instead of snoozing and procrastinating, as so many of us do,” Core  notes. “The truth is this: What you do first matters.”

DO first, then KNOW (not the other way around). Most people believe that the knowledge thatsomething is important should make you want to do it. But in reality, that’s not the case. So, why don’t we do what we know we should do? If we know spending less time on Facebook will make us more productive, why won’t we just commit to spending an hour less on the site each day? If we know setting aside 30 minutes to walk or jog each day will make us healthier, why aren’t we jumping up off the couch right now?

“Study after study shows that knowledge alone usually isn’t enough to impact our desires,” Core shares. “In fact, the opposite is true. First, you must do something—like bite the bullet and put on your workout clothes! If you experience positive feelings, attitudes, and results because of your action, you will learn that whatever you just did is good, and you’ll want to do it again, and again, and again. Over time, you’ll develop a new habit, and you’ll becomean evolved person.

“In other words, you must DO in order to KNOW in order to BE different,” he adds. “Remember, nothing in your life gets better until your daily patterns get better.”

Own up to your junk hours. “Junk hours” are a little like junk food: While they provide short-term pleasure, they contribute to long-term imbalance and exhaustion. For instance, junk hours might include chasing rabbit trails on the Internet, shooting the breeze with colleagues at the water cooler, checking email in order to avoid doing other work, or even attending an unnecessary meeting.

“In order to maximize each day, you need to own up to your junk hours,” Core instructs. “You need to identify when you’re going through the motions of work, versus when real work is being done. Don’t be ashamed that your junk hours exist, because everybody needs to take breaks and shift gears. Your task now is to exchange your low-value ‘junk’ activities for ones that build greater health and value into your workday.

“For instance, I know one woman who, instead of taking an endless string of coffee breaks, sets aside 20 minutes each afternoon to knit. I know another man who decided to spend his lunch hours either with friends or going to the gym, instead of trying to squeeze in more work around bites of a burger. In both instances, these scheduled breaks increased my friends’ energy levels and sense of well-being. They felt less of a need to take low-value breaks and began to experience more productivity.”

Instead of adding to your to-do list, build a new pattern. Maybe you’re thinking, Sure, I’d like to change my day, but the thought of adding a boatload of items to my already out-of-control to-do list makes me want to crawl back into bed. I can’t handle any more tasks and responsibilities! If that sounds familiar, take a deep breath. The changes that build momentum are rooted in decisions, not additional tasks.

“To build a productive new pattern into your life, you usually won’t have to add new tasks to your day,” Core confirms. “Instead, you’ll simply do what you are already doing, or want to do, in a way that becomes habitual. For instance, if you want to wake up an hour earlier so that you can jump-start the day, you simply have to change the time your alarm rings and the time you go to bed. If you want to be more productive at work, you might have to replace aimless procrastination with scheduled breaks. In both cases, you’re changing the way you perform existing tasks, not adding new ones.

“Remember, though, it isn’t sufficient to simply trigger the start of a new behavior,” he adds. “You need to make sure that you have a motivating reason to make this change, as well as the confidence and energy to sustain it so that it becomes a pattern.”

Start with one thing. Then add another. Then another. Losing weight is one of the most commonly made New Year’s resolutions. It’s also one of the most commonly abandoned. Core says that’s because people think of losing weight as a singular change. It’s not. To lose weight, a person will need to eat healthier, eat smaller quantities, and become more physically active. That’s three changes. And each of those sub-changes has many smaller components; for instance, eating healthier might involve drinking more water and less soda, eating more fruits and veggies, reducing refined sugars, etc. That’s a lot of changes to keep track of!

“The point is, don’t take on more than you can handle,” Core says. “Break each goal down to its smallest components, then pick one of them to tackle. Pursue this change until it becomes a habit, then move on to the next one. Start with one thing and don’t add another until you’re ready. Positive motion creates positive emotion.”

Make a big-box checklist. It’s a given that you have a to-do list. Maybe it’s on paper, on your smartphone, or just in your head…but you have one. It’s also highly likely that your list isn’t as useful as it could be. Too often, you get stuck doing the urgent instead of the important. Core has a solution: Make an actual, on-paper checklist each afternoon for the following day or each morning. Put a box by each task—the more important that task is for you to complete that day, the bigger its box should be.

“I focus first on my big-box tasks,” Core explains. “At the end of the day, if most of them have checkmarks, it’s generally been a good day! Yes, prioritizing my daily list by the size of the boxes on it may sound simplistic, but it has made me feel much more accomplished and satisfied with my day. It also has helped me relax in the evenings because it is easier to remember the big boxes I’ve checked off, thereby making it easier to leave work at work. I’m no longer distracted by each shiny ball that rolls by—I’m able to ignore them and train my focus on what’s really important.”

Think about it so you don’t have to think about it. We all have “those” tasks and obligations that eat up a lot of our time, that we find difficult and frustrating, or both. For instance, when you come home at the end of each day, maybe you find yourself standing in the middle of your kitchen with no clue what to cook for dinner. Core recalls that as a hunt-and-peck typist, he was once slowed down and aggravated by the need to produce papers and reports.

“Figure out where these areas are for you and commit to learning a new pattern,” he urges. “For me, that meant buying a book and relearning how to type using a two-hand method. In the cooking example above, that might mean getting into the habit of planning meals and shopping for their ingredients each weekend. Yes, learning new patterns can initially be tedious and laborious. But once they’ve taken hold—often in three weeks or less—they’ll speed up your performance, streamline your effort, and lower your stress. By putting in some thought about ‘problem areas’ now, you’ll save yourself from having to think about them later. Eventually, this method changes once-tedious tasks into automatic, ‘I don’t have to think about it’ behaviors.”

Infuse meaning into your work. First, let’s get one thing straight: Doing meaningful work does not mean that you will “love” every second of it. “Meaning” can simply be a recognition of what you enjoy about your work. With that understanding, though, you’ll be more motivated, productive, and satisfied. Core recommends completing the following exercise:

  • Focus on what gives you the greatest joy and meaning at work—be able to define it.
  • Reflect on how you are making a difference at work and through your work—be able to give examples.
  • Reflect on the meaning of your work as it relates to your core values.
  • And then…seek to increase what you enjoy!

“You’ll come to find that the ‘administrivia,’ the mundane and routine chores required of you, and the not-so-exciting aspects of your work become easier to do and get completed more quickly if you have a strong focus on what you do find exciting, rewarding, or fulfilling,” Core promises. “Personally, thinking about how I hope to help people with my next speech, presentation, or coaching session helps me to get through the parts of my workday that I don’t enjoy as much, like paperwork, scheduling, and staff issues.”

Seek to serve, not shine. To some extent, it’s human nature to look out for Number One. We all want to rack up accomplishments, receive accolades, and garner recognition. But in many situations, the desire to shine can cause you to get in your own way. Just think of the overeager salesman whose desire to exceed his quota makes him come off as pushy. Instead of convincing you to buy his product, his self-serving attitude just makes you want to cut the meeting short.

“Ironically, the key to shining is putting others first,” Core explains. “People who channel their efforts toward making others’ lives easier are nearly always respected, included, and considered valuable. When you help others reach their goals and become their best, you’ll usually find that the same things happen to you.”

Fill up your energy bank account so you can make withdrawals when you need them. Throughout life, circumstances arise that are beyond our control. You may experience a major illness, lose a loved one, or be forced to relocate. You may have to occasionally work long days and go without sleep. The list goes on. It’s because of these out-of-our-hands circumstances, says Core, that we must all focus on controlling what we can.

“What I mean is, know your needs and capacities and try not to exceed them on a regular basis,” he says. “In other words, get enough sleep. Eat nutritiously. Exercise when time permits. That way, when you do find yourself needing to push the limits, you’ll have a healthy margin of energy, motivation, or whatever to draw on. Manage what you can manage as often as possible in order to compensate for what you cannot manage.”

Forget the future. (Really!) The future can be an inspiring thing…but it can also be a scary and misleading one. Awfulizing, what-ifs, and doomsday thinking can plunge you into paralyzing anxiety. And making incorrect assumptions can send you down the wrong path. That’s why, aside from setting goals for yourself, Core says you should try not to let your mind wander into future outcomes.

“Thrivers trust in an execution mindset and focus their attention and efforts on the here and now,” he says. “That’s because nobody can predict when or under what conditions the future is going to unfold. The only thing a person truly can do is to focus on the processes of today—and live them out to the max. That’s not only going to produce personal peace in the present tense, it’s going to be the best possible preparation for whatever the future holds. Enjoy the process and take great joy in the rewards!”

Forgive yesterday so you can work on today.Core says most successful, hardworking people are often hard on themselves to an unproductive level. They are their own worst critics and spend valuable time lingering on mistakes and slip-ups. Long after the event—whatever it was—is over, they beat themselves up relentlessly instead of spending their time in a more productive state.

“Treat yourself with the same compassion and generosity you’d extend to another person who’d messed up or fallen short of a goal,” urges Core. “If it helps, follow the two-hour rule I learned from one of my past coaches: When you have a bad performance or make a mistake, you have two hours to pout, scream, cry, wallow, or do whatever you think will help you deal with the disappointment. But when 120 minutes have passed, it’s time to start moving forward again.

“Remember, nobody is perfect,” he adds. “We all make mistakes. What sets Thrivers apart is the fact that after a fall, they forgive themselves faster, get back up, and continue the journey forward.”

“By making small changes in how you approach your day, you can begin to take back your to-do list and accomplish the big goals that will really help you thrive,” Core concludes. “It’s time to stop allowing your quest for success to leave you feeling tired, stressed, and disillusioned. So, how will your tomorrow look different from your today? What is one small change you can make right now to start rewiring the patterns that define your life?”

 

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July 3, 2011 Show Details: Danger, Daring, Defining- and Dinner!
Save your Marriage in Five Minutes a Day

50 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do
June 26th show details: cooking, caring -and looking cute at the beach
Summertime Safety Tips

The Gentleman's Bedside Companion with Tom Cutler
June 19th Show Details: It's all about Dad
Brad Meltzer's Heroes for My Son

Bruce Feiler's Council of Dads
Are you wearing the wrong bra? Probably Not.
June 12th Show: We're getting Cleaner, Slimmer, Lighter- and Lifted

May 29th Show: Kicking off Summer
May 22, 2011 Show Details
May 15, 2011 Show Details

Parenting tips from Tom Sturges
The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking
Molly Morgan's Skinny Girl Rules

May 1st, 2011 Show Details
10 Habits of Happy Mothers
Pretty pearls- and a gem of a book

This is not the story you think it is: A season of unlikely happiness
April 24, 2011 Show Details
Who do you think you are? Tracing your family tree

Wear this, Toss that with Amy Goodman
April 3, 2011 Show Details
The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman

How Never to Look Fat Again
Tips to help you prosper from Jean Chatzky
Make your own (Irish) luck!

Wednesday Words: Roald Dahl
Feed Your Face
Halfway to Each Other: How a year in Italy brought our family home

How to: Make a Terrarium
Be the Queen of Your Own Life
Good Dog!

Game Night
The Flavor Bible
Steven Raichlen

98 Things We all Need
Food Jobs with Irena Chalmers
Lisa Lillien, The Hungry Girl

Soups on
Ethan Becker chats about Joy of Cooking
Junk Beautiful

Small Space Living: 10 Design Mistakes to Avoid
Winemaker Paul Draper
The Art of Happiness

The Naked Pint with The Beer Chicks
Tips from the happiest cultures in the world
A poem: The Invitation

The Power of Small
Mom still likes you best
Tips for feeding kids

The Busy Mom's Guide
Talk to me like I'm someone you love
10 things to say to keep the peace

The Dating Optimist
Fight Less Love More
Cosmic Coupling

The Hard Times Happiness Revival
Live More Want Less
Tips for renting just about anything
View AllMost RecentCash & Career

June 22, 2014 Show Details: A Sweet, Savory and Satisfying start to SUMMER!
Change Your Day, Not Your Life: A Realistic Guide to Sustained Motivation, More Productivity, and the Art of Working Well with Andy Core
15 Minutes of Fame: An Ode to Charles Osgood

March 9, 2014 Show Details: Live it to the Max this March
The Way You Do Anything Is the Way You Do Everything
February 2, 2014 Show Details: Love Affair with Food

January 19, 2014 Show Details: New Year, New YOU!
Discover The ONE Amazing Thing You Were Born To Do with Steve Olsher
WOMEN WHO DON’T WAIT IN LINE: Break the Mold, Lead the Way with Reshma Saujani

Real Happiness at Work with Sharon Salzberg
January 5, 2014 Show Details: Out with Old & In with the New Year!
11 Strategies for Enterprising Women from Vickie Milazzo

THE FOUR DOORS: A Guide to Joy, Freedom, and a Meaningful Life
October 27, 2013 Show Details: It's a SPOOKTACULAR Show on Amy's Table!
How to find Work that Works for You with Michelle Martin

City Stories with Courtney Tsitouris
March 31, 2013 Show Details: Good-Bye March, Hello April!
How To Be A Super-Achiever: The 10 Qualities That Matter with Forbes Media reporter Jenna Goudreau

March 24, 2013 Show Details: Put a SPRING in your step!
March 17, 2013 Show Details: Lots-o-Luck
Unconventional/Unexpected (and Fun) Ways to Beat Stress from Kristen Brown, author of The Happy Hour Effect

February 24, 2013 Show Details:Tips, Tricks and Recipes
Cheaper, Better, Faster: Tips and Tricks from Mary Hunt
DESIGN WITH INTENTION - American Accessories Company Empowers, Educates and Employs Nepalese Artisan Women

January 13, 2013 Show Details: Fuel Saving Tips for your Car, your Wardrobe and your Body
15 Habits That Will Lead To Extraordinary Things
Mary Hunt prepared listeners to debt-proof their kids

August 26, 2012 show details: Back to school, back to your yard and window boxes for WOW curb appeal
Job search tips with Career Consultant Julie Bauke
August 19, 2012 Show details: From Picky Eaters and Lunch Wars to Raising an Engaging Child

August 5, 2012 Show details: Sun, Fun, Style and Raising Kids
July 22, 2012 show details: Color, style and Food Trucks
July 8, 2012 show details: Quickies, Flips and GF Treats

How to Score a High Profile Mentor, from Laurel House, the QuickieChick
July 1, 2012 show details: Road trips, Marrakesh style, Spirited Cooking- and Cookies
July 24, 2012 show details: Get charisma, cook with soul, read a great book and be a Green Bride!

June 10th show details: Parties, Pure food, Purposeful Kids and Perfect Bathing Suits
May 27th show details: Detox, Declutter, Delight
The Charisma Myth with Olivia Fox Cabane

May 20th show details: Skinny chefs, better junk food, more money- and your psychic abilities
15 Ways to Keep Good Financial Habits with Eric Tyson
April 29th show details: Wayne Dyer, Ellen Whitehurst and Emily Maynard

Feng Shui Cleaning Tips from Better Living Expert Ellen Whitehurst
April 22, 2012 show details: Asian, Alison, Anderson and Alpha B*tch
Taming your Alpha B*tch with Christy Whitman

The Five Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me with Richard Paul Evans
April 15, 2012 show details: Sweet! Pie, Cookies and Cash!
April 8, 2012 show details: Slow cooking meals, long lasting husbands, the (new) richer sex and staying safe

The Richer Sex with Liza Mundy
Money tips with Leslie Greenman
The Impostor Syndrome

February 12, 2012 Show Details: Love, Money, Friendship....and Dessert!
How to: Organizing important papers
Take Control of Your Financial Future with 7 Money Rules for Life

January 22 show details: Chinese New Year, Champagne and Truffles
Women, Work & the Art of Savoir Faire with Mireille Guiliano
The New York Times 2012 Obits with William McDonald

Holiday Tipping Guide
Gifts you "do"
November 27, 2011 Show Details: Gifts, Crafts and Goodies

The great debate: Stay at home or working Mom
November 20, 2011: Dragons, Man Myths....and Mom Demons
October 30, 2011 Show: Spooky, Spirited.....Inspired!

Wicked Success with Vickie Milazzo
Working Mother's 100 Best Companies for 2011
October 23, 2011 Show Details: The habits and careers of marvelous Moms

The Myth of Work/Life Balance: Seven Ways to Rethink Your Approach to the Daily Grind (and Get Happier in the Process!)
October 16, 2011 Show: Sweet dreams- and dreamy casseroles
September 18, 2011: Celebrating Bad Girls, Great Careers and Dynamite Dining

Candace Klein, founder of Bad Girl Ventures
September 11, 2011 Show: Beauty, Bounty and Boy R Dee
7 Secrets to Looking Good for Less from Candace Corey

September 4, 2011 Show: Color, Cooking for a Crowd, Cheap Eats and Classrooms
Top 10 Tips from the Frugalista
Raising Philanthropic Kids

July 31st Show: Feng Shui, Fish, and Good Things in Town
July 17th Show: Junk, Love, Food and the Power of Small
July 10th, 2011 Show: Confidence, Love & Vegetables

Non-stop Confidence in 6 1/2 Steps
July 3, 2011 Show Details: Danger, Daring, Defining- and Dinner!
June 12th Show: We're getting Cleaner, Slimmer, Lighter- and Lifted

Living your Career with Intent
Tips to help you prosper from Jean Chatzky
Food Jobs with Irena Chalmers

The Power of Small
Holiday Tipping Guide
Who's (really) got your back?

How to save on groceries
Keep or toss? A paperwork primer
Attitude Adjustment 101

Tips for renting just about anything
Wills, Living Wills & Health Care Power of Attorney
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