A checklist to better manage your Chimp

As I’ve blogged about here, the book The Chimp Paradox is a revelation. If you haven’t already, I suggest you read that post so you know what I mean by “The Chimp”. But once you’ve understood the fact you’ve got a monkey in your head, how do you go about taming that damned beast?!

From much experimentation I’ve settled on a checklist of activities — mostly in the morning — that help me keep my Chimp in its box. The checklist is very simple and easy to do. You just have to do it every day. Little and often. And you don’t have to do all these things, just some, and if you skip a day — just get back on it quick.

Disclaimer: I’m no expert, just a bloke with depression, a powerful Chimp, and a few things that work well for me…


I use a guided meditation app called Headspace & try and do 15 minutes every morning, after I wake (I’m told that Calm is good too). And in case you’re wondering I never ever want to meditate, and my mind wanders all the way through the 15 minutes.

This man literally speaks to me every morning

The reason I stick with Meditation is I usually wake with my mind racing. Your Chimp is alive at night, as your Human brain sleeps. This why when you wake at 3am all your problems feel insurmountable, yet don’t in the cold light of day. A bit of time slowing down lets those choppy thoughts subside. This gifts you a more settled start to the day.


Those thoughts you wake with? The churning ideas, worries, grudges, arguments, inspirations? Write them down. Get them on paper. It’s therapy.

Tim Ferriss emptying his head

I got nudged to do this by Tim Ferriss who says:

“Could bitching and moaning on paper for five minutes each morning change your life? As crazy as it might seem, I believe the answer is yes.”

Get a decent small book you can fit in your bag and let it all pour out of you. Seriously, it’s so simple yet so effective.

Then if you’re really smart, spend a few hours each month reviewing your notes and turning them into actions (an idea I picked up from Jim Rohn, the bloke that taught Tony Robbins his trade).


Arguably this could be a part of Journalling, but I use an app called 5 Minute Journal to maintain a gratitude practice, which is a really wanky way of saying “focusing on things you’re thankful for”.

5 Minute Journal allows you to jot down 3 things you’re grateful for, 3 things you’re going to do that day, and a simple affirmation. Why? I’ll let Tony Robbins explain why he does it every morning:

I focus on three moments in my life that I’m grateful for, because gratitude is the antidote to the things that mess us up. You can’t be angry and grateful simultaneously. You can’t be fearful and grateful simultaneously. So, gratitude is the solution to both anger and fear, and instead of just acting grateful, I think of specific situations that I’m grateful for, little ones and big ones.

Working out

I aim to work out every day. Of course I never do because I’m tired or travelling, or can’t be bothered. But if I say I am going to do it every day then the intention carries me over the line 3 or 4 times a week.

Yeah he’d kick your ass

Like meditation, I generally NEVER want to go to the gym, or run, or cycle ride (my Chimp wants to stay snuggled in bed). But I ALWAYS feel better afterwards so I suck it up!

I find a great motivator is Jocko Willink. Read his book “Discipline Equals Freedom” and you won’t be sat on the sofa munching your Crunchy Nut Cornflakes for long.

You don’t need a gym. Just do burpees in your bedroom, or hotel room, or wherever, until you feel sick (which doesn’t take long). That’s your morning work out done.

And all your excuses are lies.

Looking at your To Do List before your email

Email, Slack, Social Media. It’s all the same. Notifications from other people who aren’t working to your agenda. Sure we need to use these apps, but most people let their notifications direct their day. You don’t NEED to be responsive in real time, even though it feels really good.

People piling into your to do list

Slow it down, spend 30 minutes at the start of your work-day looking at your To Do List (and if you haven’t got a To Do List, then write one). Work out your priorities before people dump a bunch of other stuff — their stuff — on you.

Of course you still have to deal with crises, BS and urgent requests from clients / The Boss. But at least you’ve given yourself the time to first focus on what you want to do.

Positive focus

At the end of the day you’re likely feeling stressed and tired. Your day job can often feel like a series of bruising encounters. We have a habit of focusing on the things that go wrong, the conflicts, the disappointments. Often the things that go well go un-noticed, or feel inevitable.

Acknowledge the good stuff

5 Minute Journal allows you to record 3 things that went well on the same page as your morning gratitude. I also use an app called Winstreak from Strategic Coach, which lets you write down a whole bunch more. It’s often extremely surprising how much good stuff happens that you completely forget about come home-time.

Spending a little time focusing on the positive means that you finish on a “high”. This doesn’t mean living in La La Land if your day has been a catastrophe. It means not letting any knocks knock you out for the count.

Remember, your mindset “is your most important asset”.

Put your phone away

I’m addicted to my phone (there I said it). Specifically, social media. So in order to try and actually have a Relationship With My Wife & Kids I now put my phone on airplane-mode and put it in a cupboard circa 7pm (which doesn’t always happen you’ll be pleased to know).

I’m a cool dad, it’s my thang

The squirt of Cortisol you get when you receive a notification is messing up your relationships. At the end of the day, better to focus on your family, friends and recuperation.

What do you think?

Let me know at www.twitter.com/thedankirby

Dan Kirby 
Creator & Co-Founder Getahead Festival

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