Discipline = Freedom
Jocko Willink (@jockowillink) says this. He is one of the biggest, most intense people I have ever seen, so I want to make sure I give him credit for the quote. He tweets pictures of pools of sweat on the ground from his workouts before I even wake up in the morning, and I get up at 5am.
The dude is a beast.
And more importantly, the dude is right.
Discipline, routine, schedules, they all allow freedom.
It sounds counter-intuitive, I know. I thought the same thing. For years, the more structure, the worse it sounded. I have ADHD. I could feel the walls closing in around me every time I heard the word: structure.
But guess what?
One little thing changed, and like dominoes, the walls fell down.
I had a purpose.
I had a Northern Star.
I had real, true to myself, goals.
And I fell in love with structure.
I think part of the reason we don’t like structure is we don’t give a s*** about what we are doing. Work sucks. If we are more or less productive, who cares? We don’t like work anyways. Why would anyone want to get better at something they hate?
Think about that.
Find a focus you love, then apply everything else in this blog.
Come back later if you need to.
Don’t Reinvent The Wheel
The greatest asset that discipline and structure gives is not having to reinvent the wheel every time you need to be productive. It’s a routine.
Imagine that: productivity and creativity a routine? Meaning, you just do it? YES! You just do it.
I don’t have to wait for inspiration?
Your routine brings you to the doorstep of creativity and productivity. All you have to do is walk in.
Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?
This “wheel” that we are not reinventing every day will not develop overnight. It is a filtering and auditing system that takes out everything in your day that diverts your productivity and leaves, then adds to, things that increase productivity. I have been auditing myself for almost 2 years, and there are always little tweaks I can make to increase productivity, even if it’s just a little bit better, it’s still better than it was before. Everything counts.
There is a concept in the amazing book “The Art Of Learning” called: Making Smaller Circles. This is essentially what we are doing with our “wheel.” The things you need in order to get in to your productivity “space” start out very big. Over time, you are able to whittle them down without compromising your productive and creative output.
Example: My original routine in the morning was: 20 minute meditation, coffee, exercise, warm up writing (usually a Quora answer or two), a couple Italian lessons (I am getting my dual citizenship with the hopes of creating media for companies abroad, giving me a reason to visit more often), then work.
I would start work in a great place mentally and physically, but that is a lot of time needed to get going.
Now, I leave in the meditation as a best practices, and the coffee (mostly because it helps the ol’ bowels get movin’), but I am ready to go in 25 minutes after getting up. In fact, on days when I need to be up at 5am and cranking right away, I can do it, because I have made small enough circles, that just sitting in my work space locks me in to work mode. I can bust out a 1500 word story or blog before breakfast. I mean done, not first draft.
Step One: Environmental Reciprocation
You purposefully create an environment that increases your motivation and creativity, and your environment will reciprocate. You build it up, and it helps build you up. Take control over your environment. Take the time to put things around you that help maximize your creativity. Quotes, pictures, goals, whatever. I have all of my goals on the wall behind my monitor. I have a stimulating wall of CD covers behind me. You can create an environment that allows you to feel like a plasma globe, a ball of energy.
Allow what works for you to be around you.
Step Two: Morning Routines
Start figuring out what works for you. What puts you in the best place mentally to start crushing it? If you are not already meditating, I highly suggest it. I listen to a lot of podcasts with top performers in a variety of disciplines and 90% of them meditate. If you are new to it, apps like Headspace and Calm are a great place to start. I listen to Tara Brach’s guided meditations on iTunes. Whatever works for you, but know that it works.
Mediation: reduces aging in the brain (more gray matter), improves concentration and attention, and reduces anxiety.
I hope so.
What do you eat? It better be healthy. No sugar. That will help you jump up in energy, but it is short lived, causes crashing after a few hours, and in the long run it will make you fat (just speaking the truth). Stick with healthy fats, eggs, veggies, water, and coffee. No artificial sweeteners. It tricks your system in to thinking it is sugar, so even though it doesn’t have the calories, your body reacts like it has sugar in it, so it stores fat regardless. It also breaks down your healthy gut flora in your stomach, which means you are not digesting correctly, which means you are not able to deliver necessary hormones to your system (because they are released in the intestines and colon) like endorphins (which make you happy). Sugar and fake sugar makes you sad and fat, which will then make you even more sad and even fatter. No bueno, all the way around.
Step Three: Rest Of The Day Routines
How do you keep yourself focused?
You are cranking when you start, but how do you take breaks? What things are too distracting? What doesn’t allow you to come back to work in an effective and productive way?
I leave my phone in the other room. It is hard on me, because 50% of my business is creation, and the other 50% is distribution, interaction, etc. But if I want to create content, I need to get that s*** away from me!
I have multiple projects going on at the same time and lists of things I need/can do. That allows me to bounce between projects in case I get stuck on any one thing. It keeps my spirits up and my thoughts clear.
I eat healthy throughout the day and work out in the late afternoon. That is either a great close to my day (not very often) or it is a good break to get the blood flowing, work my body the way my mind has been working all day, and then get back to work.
Step Four: Audit Audit Audit
What is working and what isn’t?
I would love to listen to punk rock, or country, or metal (weird mix I know) all day long, but it is distracting. I can’t write to it. I tried classical, but that is too emotional. Switching to the “Jazz” station on Pandora I found the perfect background music to work to. I have heard others’ use a movie on repeat. Because they are so familiar with the story, it keeps it somewhere in the background mentally, but still in their conscious. It’s funny how sometimes 90% focus is better than 100% on one thing.
Example: I hate cleaning the house, but I have a flood of ideas every time I do. It is similar to running, but I have a pen and pad to write down the ideas unlike running, where I will need to remember the good idea for 5, 6, or 10 miles. They don’t always make it.
Give yourself time. It is simple but not easy (as is everything important in life).
You will know it is something that needs to be remedied when you get mad at yourself for the 30 minutes you wasted. Feel it, embrace it, then change it. It’s as simple as that.
Audit the s*** out of yourself, all the time.
I am going on 24 months of auditing.
There is always something that can be better, more efficient, more productive.
Take the time to find it.
Then start crushing.