07/31/2013 08:18 pm ET


What's your ideal today? If you could plan your ideal week, what would it look like? Be idealistic, you can live the dream, especially if its simple. I wake up every day with a plan, I have a checklist and I do my best to complete it.

Like so many things, we must be the masters of our own destiny. We can't control the weather, the geo-political climate or the people around us. Our time is ours and we decide to either waste it or make use of it. What we do is the only commodity that we have 100 percent control of.

Prisoners of war often credit their state of mind to their survival. While most of their day was controlled, time stolen and in many cases tortured, survivors have plans. Plans to survive, goals to achieve and things to accomplish. Be a survivor.

The French Philosopher Voltaire wrote, "The good is the enemy of the best." It's easy to rationalize what we are doing because it isn't bad. The real question is, is it the best?

The best options are often shadowed by good options. While its good to read, reading a book instead of being on time for an appointment is not. Don't kid yourself. You know what you need to do. In the timeless words of The Nike ad department "Just do it."

Here are a few ideas that will help you have the very best day possible.

1. Be realistic. Don't take on more than you could possibly accomplish. Watch out for time bandits. Everyone has them. These are the activities that eat up your time and stop you from getting the important stuff on your list done.

Some activities and favors are more than just time bandits; they can be emotionally taxing and exhausting. Picking up a friend at the airport or helping with a home improvement job are the types of things that can be very time sensitive and not a good job for people who don't have a handle on their schedule. It's great to help, but if you offer to help people and are unable to do it at the time you said you would, it would have been better to have not offered in the first place.

As a young man, I wanted to please everyone. I wanted to be liked and I wanted people to feel comfortable around me. As I made promises to my family, friends and neighbors I would often find myself juggling home work, my job, and social commitments to my parents and friends. I always left something undone. When the due date arrived, I scrambled to complete it. Later in life I learned that if I wanted to be the very best version of my self, I could only spend my time on my top priorities, everything else would have to be either forgotten or drastically cut back.

If you find your self in the same sticky, time consuming situations week after week, sit down and identify your time bandits. They might be taking up time and holding you back more than you know. Writing down your pitfalls and reading them aloud will really make a difference.

2. Don't be late. When you are late you illustrate, sometimes without knowing it, that you are not only undependable, but also inconsiderate. Understanding how your actions will make others feel is key.

Despite our best efforts, at some point, we are all late now and then. Life gets busy, things happen. The trick is making it the exception not the rule. Don't make excuses, take responsibility, even if it's embarrassing, people will appreciate your honesty and more often than not identify with you rather than be upset.

No one can make you late. You have to be accountable. Be responsible for your time, own it, be the boss. Don't let time bandits take over your life. If you are headed out the door and your going to be late, stop, make the call before your are actually late, that at least shows an ability to be considerate and that you have developed some basic planning skills, at least for the short term.

3. Plan, Plan, Plan. It's worth repeating. Time is the most valuable asset you have. Those that master it are the best students, employees, athletes, spouses, and entrepreneurs.

Organize your day the night before. Remember to be realistic when making plans. Travel time is the most underestimated part of most people's day. They think that they are only 15 minutes away from an appointment, but they fail to consider variables, traffic, car accidents, searching for parking and the fact that you have to have a few minutes before you go into an appointment to collect your self and prepare.

I have a formula that I use to plan my days. Its very technical and exact: Whatever you think sounds right, double it. Okay... not so sophisticated, but try it, it works. You will arrive at your destination, relaxed, prepared and more often than not, early.

One of the things that I do to help myself get the very most out of my day is by having simple things handled the night before. I fill up my car with gas every night so that in the morning I can get started with out interruptions. If you are fickle about clothing, prepare it and set the complete out fit aside.

I decided after battling for years with clothing to simplify my clothing choices by only buying clothes that work with everything. I only wear black socks, black shoes, and all of my clothes are suited perfectly for those items. I have just enough clothing to get me through an entire week without having to fuss about it. People are much more interested in what you are doing right than what your wearing. Dress to impress, but don't make it your identity.

Life isn't a rehearsal; make the most out of your life. There are no do over's. Time is the most valuable asset you have, once it's gone, it's gone. Ask anyone in the hotel business -- if the room goes vacant, there's no making up for it at the end of the month.

As I have gone through my life, I sometimes look back on the wasted days and weeks I have spent, sometimes chasing meaningless pursuits with guilt and regret. We all must live with our decisions. Now I strive to live life to the fullest and be the very best version of myself. Your ideal today can happen tomorrow. Take inventory, make it happen. Don't have regrets about the future; there's more than enough of that in the past.

For more by Nate Holzapfel, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.