About two months ago I was always stressed. I was killing it at work, moonlighting, having a baby — stuff was always going really well, but my ambition and appetite always far exceeded my ability to fit it all in. When you are stressed, little things become bigger, unforeseen changes become life-altering misfortunes, and even misunderstood words from others can carry a little too much weight. Basically, when you are stressed you can think you’re a victim, which is not great. The opposite of stressed is calm, and Calm.com is a great app that has helped me keep calm and keep pushing forward. Once I was calm I created a simple daily routine that helps me stay ahead of my ambition by helping me maintain better habits, increase awareness, and feel happier than I ever have before. I thought I would share a bit about my routine that has brought about this meteoric ascendance and maybe a few lessons I learned along the way. I hope it helps.
I have no more bad habits. Or, maybe put another way, all of the old bad habits that I knew about, no longer beset me. I have a daily routine that I stick to religiously, and have noticed a few things.
- I guard my time much better. I used to be a yes man. Saying yes opened up a lot of doors for me, so I think it mostly worked out, but when you say yes, it’s one more commitment on your plate. And if you are going to do it justice, that commitment will always take longer than you can foresee and plan for. I started turning down projects and invitations that don’t fit my “brand”, and that won’t get me to where I am trying to go, even if they have some appealing perk. This is vital.
- I default to learning. Did you know that a day on Mercury is actually as long as two years on Mercury? I didn’t, until I found myself with a few spare moments on my hands. I just grabbed a book about astronomy off the shelf and started to read. I find that when I have some free time on my hands, it is never wasted if I am learning something new.
- I have work life harmony (something Jeff Bezos talks about, and something that I now understand). It’s analyzing the different aspects of life and discovering what it takes to be successful in all of them. It’s not about balance because balance implies an equal amount. Harmony is more about doing everything the right amount so it energizes you other areas. Some weeks that might mean work gets the priority. It takes a lot of personal reflection and feels great when you start to think of harmony instead of balance.
- I sit still everyday. One might call it meditation, mindfulness or focused breathing, but whatever it you call it, it has helped immensely. I sit still every morning as long as I can. Use your sitting still time as a time of focused distraction. Focus on not focusing on anything. Observe yourself, and how you react to your surroundings. If you spend more time thinking and planning your day you day will get better. Make sure to take enough time to understand the problems you need to solve.
“Given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes understanding the problem and one minute resolving it.” -Albert Einstein
- I unplug every month. This month I hiked to Lake Angeles in Olympic National Park. It was beautiful. I hiked to the lake at midnight with no coat in the rain with a heavy pack and it was perfect. It was all planned and intentional, a little lesson I learned from Roosevelt on the River of Doubt. I spent the weekend reflecting. I unwound and unplugged. Time away gave me time to be aware.
- I write in a journal — I have always keep paper and pencil on me to sketch ideas or write something down. However, it wasn’t until I formalized a time for writing in a journal that I started to become more aware of how I was doing. It’s a place to track my yearly, weekly, and daily goals and see how I am developing as a person. Every day I check in and see where I have fallen short and where I excel. I used to actually write in a book (circa 2007), but switched to Google Docs for convenience. GDocs is great so long as you are cool with the NSA reading all your stuff ;).
My journal helps me find reasons to be glad. Everyday. The first thing I write in every journal entry is something for which I am grateful. At the end of every night I write reasons why I am awesome, things that went well, and all throughout my planning I kinda write it as if it’s already happened and people have already positively reacted to what I am planning to do, so it’s very upbeat.
- I am happy when I am in control of my life. Journaling helps you take control of your life a little better. It’s a great place to plan. It’s a great place to think out loud, and dream of your ideal life.
- I am happy when I am achieving my goals. Journaling is a simple mechanism of accountability. Dreaming of an ideal life is great and all, but more than that, journaling lets you track progress daily.
- I am happy when I reflect on my blessings. Taking 30 seconds every morning to write down something you are grateful for will improve your life so quickly. If you just write down what you are grateful for I promise you will become happier, more aware of how great your life is, and learn where to spend your time.
Ok, so that’s it! Hope some of these thoughts have helped! If not, you can yell at me in the comments. I challenge you to pick something that jumps out at you and do it! Go for it! Life will get even better!
Pretty Cover Photo: Exotic Hikes