The Perfect Day Formula

By: Craig Ballantyne



Take a moment and imagine your perfect day. For most of us, a perfect day is one where we accomplish tasks with purpose. On a perfect day, work comes effortlessly and smoothly. Then, you get to have the entire night free to do whatever you want. Now imagine having that every day.

You can. It’s exactly what Craig Ballantyne - the editor of the popular website Early To Rise - shows us how to do in his book The Perfect Day Formula. It’s based on the teachings of the ancient Roman Epictetus. Epictetus practiced a form of philosophy called Stoicism, which focuses on leading a good, moral and productive life.

The formula for the perfect day is built on Three Cs: Control, Conquer, and Concentrate. Learn to control what you can and cope with what you can’t. Learn to conquer the chaos in your life to win your days. Learn to concentrate on what really matters to you.

For the perfect day, apply this to each part of your day: control your mornings, conquer the chaos of your afternoons, and concentrate on what matters in the evenings.

An underlying principle to the formula is “structure = freedom.” It may seem counterintuitive, but in order to gain freedom, you must first have structure so you can achieve the basics. Structure is the key to becoming more productive and less stressed.

Part One: Control the Morning

Habits are powerful. We must harness them and use them to control our mornings. The right routines make the right actions automatic. You cannot control the external world, but you can control your thoughts, words and actions. You control your behaviour. And you can control your success.

The most important ritual in your life is what time you choose to get out of bed. The best decision you can make is to start getting up fifteen minutes earlier. Tackle your biggest priority first thing in the morning, even if you don’t feel like it. It may be difficult at first, but this is how you make BIG progress in your life.

Your morning victories start with preparing properly the night before. You must have a plan for the next morning. The earlier you wake up, the easier it will be to overcome procrastination.

Most people can accomplish three times as much work when they do it in the morning. Research shows that beginning your day with a victory puts you in a positive mood. The morning momentum will lead to success throughout the day.

Commit to this daily practice. Nothing comes easy at first, but anything important is worth fighting for. You must be willing to match your level of desire with a level of action. Creating your rules for living and sticking to them will guide you to a life of success and wisdom. Follow your rules as if they were law.

Make sure your rules align with your goals and dreams. If you want to drink less, make a rule that you will not have more than two drinks. If you want to be smarter, make a rule that you will read one book a week. Rules give you a strong framework for success. They are crucial.

We all follow rules every day. We stop at red lights. We stay out of trouble. Likewise, your personal rules will force you to make the right decisions and make it easy to resist temptation. With rules, you won’t have to rely on willpower. They will guide you to behaviour that is congruent with your goals.

Think of your rules as a way to eliminate your bad habits and replace them with positive routines. Every day we get pressured into decisions that make us feel remorseful and guilty. With rules, it will be easier to make better decisions with less effort.

A to-do list will help you be successful. Break down your to-do list goals into smaller goals that will help you realistically set your schedule. This will help you accomplish what you want. Schedule specific tasks with a beginning and end time, and attack your biggest task immediately in the morning.

To get more done and have a perfect day, you must begin the night before by creating your to-do list. You need a daily schedule. If you know your priorities, you can build a routine and script out tomorrow in order to maximise the outcome.

Your script requires you to set start and end times for all tasks. This prevents time vampires from sucking your schedule dry. Work backwards to plan your day. Your least important tasks should be scripted for the time of day when you have the least mental energy.

A gratitude and achievement journal is highly recommended. Writing down achievements, even small ones, reminds us that we moved closer to our goal. It only takes five minutes and it will bring more fulfillment and happiness to your life.

We are constantly batting temptations. To combat this, have a NOT-to-do list. Be clear about what you will and will not do each day. Add specific items that address your weaknesses and the obstacles that come your way each day. Be strong and follow through. If you want to be successful, you can’t let your worst behaviours become your habits. You have the systems and strength to say no – use it to win your morning.

Procrastination is tempting, but you must avoid it. Action is the simplest way to do so. Do it, even if you don’t want to. Be persistent.

Habits are hard to change. You will likely get off track, but it’s important to have a trigger that reminds you of what you’re doing. Triggers are little tricks that interrupt your bad habits. If you catch yourself in a bad habit, summon the smallest amount of disciple to activate your trigger. Your trigger can be anything that reminds you to get back on track.

There are seven steps to build habits of steel.

Step 1: Figure Out What Matters… and Focus On It

Success requires us to do the first things first. Figure out what really matters to you and then use the rest of the steps to build habits that allow you to focus your time on it.

Step 2: Identify Steps to Success and Rules for Your Life

No one will ever be perfect, but creating rules will help you avoid disappointment, guilt and regret of wasted days.

Step 3: Create a Checklist for New Habits

Break down new habits into action items to help you get started.

Step 4: Prepare the Night Before

Prepare your checklist and lay out an easy pathway for success.

Step 5: Remove All Obstacles

Get rid of obstacles, temptations and bad habits as often as you can. This will make it easier for you to make and stick to the right decisions.

Step 6: Take Massive Action

Practice what you preach, and take action on what you teach. So much is in your control. Take action.

Step 7: Learn and Improve

This will be difficult at times. When that happens, learn from your mistakes.

The single most important factor in taking control of your mornings, and thus your day, is to get up fifteen minutes earlier and accomplish your number one priority.

There is a system to help you get up on time. Ten hours before bed, stop drinking caffeine. Three hours before bed, stop eating or drinking. Two hours before bed, stop working. One hour before bed, turn off all phones, TVs and computers. And don’t press snooze at all in the morning.

There are three important rules you need to create your perfect day.

Decide what time you go to bed and wake up each day.

Write down the number one action step you will take each morning that will move you closer to your goals and dreams.

Create a simple health plan.

Identify the habits that you need to support your rules. Once you have those in place, create bigger rules. Make rules for how you will control your schedule, your emails, how you will limit vices and temptations, and how you will deal with the various things that bring stress to your life.?

With these rules and habits, you will control your morning and your life.

Part Two: Conquer the Afternoon

There are five pillars of success that will guide you to achieve your number one priority in life. You need all five of them to succeed. And you must take responsibility for who, what and where you are in life.

The First Pillar: Planning and Preparation

Everything you do either sets you up for success, or puts another obstacle in your way. If you are prepared, you will make the right decisions and do the right things. It will help to remove temptation as much as possible. Plan to avoid them and you will stay on track.

The Second Pillar: Professional Accountability

We all need a coach. In addition to mentoring us, they will hold us accountable. It is also beneficial to become a mentor, if you can. This will help you understand the importance of what you are teaching. Through teaching, you will learn.

The Third Pillar: Social Supports

The positive power of the people around you can lead to your best days ever. Create personal and professional networks that are filled with positive and supportive people. Surround yourself with people who inspire you, who make you better, and who you respect.

The Fourth Pillar: An Incentive

Delayed gratification may be difficult, but it is well worth it. Studies show that those that can delay gratification are more dependable and have better success in life. You can practice to build up your delayed gratification muscle and earn the rewards.

The Fifth Pillar: The Big Deadline

We all have a natural “Big Deadline” in our lives, and understanding that we are all running out of time should be enough to inspire us to take action today. Harness the power of deadlines. The deadline puts urgency into our actions and keeps us going through the tough times.

You can set deadlines in your workday (finish working by 5:30pm, no matter what) and your daily tasks (this phone call will be no longer than fifteen minutes). You should also set a deadline for achieving your goals too. It will push you to take the actions you need.

If you have all five pillars in place, then you will have the foundation to guarantee that you will achieve your number one priority in life. With these pillars, you can conquer the chaos of the afternoon.

Part Three: Concentrate on What Counts

With your success foundation firmly in place, you need to create a vision for your life. Decide what matters to you and concentrate on that. Take actions that align with this vision.

You may feel like you aren’t where you want to be in life. That’s because you don’t have a clear vision. Without this, your hard work gets misdirected. Having a vision will keep you focused and help you avoid temptations.

Take an hour to write about where you want your life to be three to five years from now. Then, share your first draft with those that can help you achieve it. Make sure they are trusted and supportive. Now, set specific goals to achieve that vision.

To avoid getting too ambitious, limit yourself to four goals. Make one for health, wealth, social self and personal enrichment. Once you have made goals, create several smaller goals within each one that will move you toward them. Determine what actions are needed to achieve the end result.

Share these goals with positive people that will support you. You can find them in an online community or people you know in real life. Whoever they are, they will help you reach your goals simply by being there.

Stay strong. Continuously move closer to your goals. Accept that your life is your personal responsibility. It is up to YOU to capture your perfect day.

Your success starts in the morning. Plan your day. Wake up early. Work on your biggest priority before anything else. Add more structure to your day.

Control what you can, cope with what you can’t, and concentrate on what counts.