3 Ways to Make Life Better and More Productive
My life, like yours, is full of constant distractions and interruptions both in my professional and personal life. These distractions and interruptions can quickly drive me to feelings of frustration, inadequacy, and exhaustion.
A few weeks ago after I finished up work, I was exhausted and very short and cold with my kids that evening. After putting them to bed and finally getting to have some quiet time with my wife my thoughts returned to my impatience with my kids. My family and my role as a husband and father is extremely important to me and my behavior towards my kids that night was picking at me from the inside.
The following is not a magic formula but has helped me to focus on those things that matter most. As it turns out, I’m more productive at work and in my church service and I also have more energy and time to spend with the people I care about most, my beautiful wife and children.
This seems to be a hot topic in the business world today so I won’t belabor the point here. Meditation simply put is becoming mindful of where you are among everything that is around you. For me it is about remembering what matters most in my life and making sure my actions are still in line with what matters most to me and my family.
The first thing I do in the morning is meditate. Typically this is anywhere between 10–30 minutes. What centers me and brings me the most peace is scripture study and prayer. The doctrines of Jesus Christ are foundational to all things that matter most to me. I learn and become familiar with those doctrines in the scriptures. Prayer is a way I can communicate with God and align my goals and desires with His. I seek His counsel for challenges and hard problems I face and I receive a tremendous amount of peace as a result of my daily communication with Deity.
Regardless of whether or not you believe in God you can still mediate. For me scripture study and prayer reminds me what matters most. For others the practice may be different. Find something that helps you remember what matters most and then do it.
This should not be intimidating. Take 5–20 minutes each day after your mediation and write out what you want to accomplish that day. I’m a firm believer in the Pareto principle commonly known as the 80/20 rule. The principle states that roughly 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort. When I plan out my day I write down things that I believe are in the 20% of things that will yield 80% of the results. The days meditation and my professional goals will guide my decisions on what actions reside in the 20% bucket.
Writing these down in a visible place is extremely important. In my home office I have a whiteboard where I write down my list of things to do for the day. Throughout the day I get great satisfaction of erasing the items as I complete them. Where ever you decide to record your daily planning make sure it is visible throughout the day. For me burying my plans in my OneNote, while recorded and organized, doesn’t help me execute throughout the day.
Most of the time when planning out my day I’m not sure what will have the most impact or if a particular item will in fact be in that 20% bucket. This is why I rely heavily on experiments. The inspiration behind my experiments is Eric Ries’ book The Lean Startup. In one area of the book he stresses validated learning, learning that impacts the success of your business. My experiments are designed to impact the success of my life.
I’m not sure whether I have a hard time with commitment or just get intimidated by making changes that I feel are permanent but my brain doesn’t handle long term commitments well. That is why I love experiments, they are short. I can do anything for 1–2 weeks, or even a month. As I collect data along the way I can then use that data to make a decision on whether or not I should keep up with the experiment another week or dump it for something else.
Here are some experiments I’m in the middle of
- Same breakfast every day — a bowl of oatmeal to get me started with good energy
- No email prior to 9am — minimize distractions in the morning
- Schedule (in my calendar) time to exercise — so I can have more energy
- Schedule (in my calendar) time to spend on something that is personally fulfilling. — create small wins and increase my happiness
By doing these experiments it is reducing my cognitive brain power necessary to sustain habits I believe will yield better productivity and a happier life with my wife and kids. Since I give myself permission to stop the experiment whenever I want, I don’t feel like I’m tied to these for the rest of my life. This helps me to see them as an opportunity for growth and not view them as a chore.
Your meditation, daily planning and experiments are sure to look different than mine. That’s okay and a good thing. I promise you, if you take this seriously and try to implement these three things into your life you will see a change. You will have a smile on your face a little more often. You’ll enjoy your work a little bit more. You’ll find more happiness in those things that matter most to you.
I’d love to hear about what you do to improve your happiness and productivity. I’m always looking for new experiments!