In the Age of Distraction and in a turbulent period of disruption and change and learning - sorta like your life, I expect - I’ve found a few steps, routines that sustain my focus through the day. I share them in the hopes they might help you, too.
Well Begun is Half Done.
Eat a Light Dinner; Eat It Early
I try to eat my lightest meal at dinner. And I eat it early. Nothing like trying to go to sleep on a fully stomach. It doesn’t work when you’re 59.
I plan the following day before I go to bed. Before I go to bed, I plan the next day.
- Three to-do's. I list three things I want/need to get done in as much detail as I need. Usually, these are bullet points. I list them in order of priority, so that when in the morning, I only need to look at this list to start working. No fumbling papers, looking around, wondering what’s next.
- Three lessons. I list three lessons I learned that day. It’s interesting to see the same lessons being learned. But, hey, I’m learning them and writing them down helps reinforce my awareness of those lessons being learned that day and the following.
- Three gratitudes. I list three things for which I am grateful. More on that later. But it’s a simple habit to end each day on a positive note and it reinforces the discipline to look for the positive. Key in these turbulent times.
Calendarize the Following Day.
I schedule these three to-do's on my calendar. I schedule everything on my calendar, well not EVERYTHING, but everything important that needs its own reminders. I set up text alerts to remind me to move along to the next one. This helps reinforce their priority and supports those quiet moments of mental preparation around each one. Those quiet moments come as I fall asleep or shower or walk/exercise.
Early to Bed - Early to Rise
I go to bed early. I find I sleep better when I go to bed early. That’s tough in the summer. But rising early on a summer morning, when it’s cool and sweet and quiet, is worth missing a summer rerun.
Keep the TV Off
This was a big habit to break. I liked TV, until I saw how much time I wasted watching it and getting nothing from it. Every so often I scan through the channels and find nothing’s on. Okay, True Detective was great. And come college basketball season it will be a challenge. But not watching TV gives me an extra hour or two to work, to read, to visit, to go to bed early.
Once a week, I may watch a movie on NetFlix.
Early to Rise.
The earlier I get up, the more productive I am.
Robin Sharma calls this the holy hour and he recommends getting up at 5 AM. I recommend going to bed early and getting up when you wake up.
Then I meditate. I have practiced TM and the TM-Sidhi program for ... 40 years. I started in 1974. Wow, that’s a long time. I find it’s a great way to start the day and end the day.
There are many spiritual practices. All roads lead to Rome; all paths lead to God. Find one. Practice it.
Biggest, bestest, meal of the day. Since I eat dinner early, it’s often 12 - 14 hours before I eat breakfast. I’m hungry by then. My breakfast is a power shake of yogurt, fruit, whey protein and yeast (ooodles of B vitamins.) And espresso. I start each day with two double espressos. This may not sound earthshaking. It is for me who once loved McDonald’s biscuits not too long ago.
But the breakfast, all organic, gives me the right fuel to power me through the morning. I am clear and energized and focused.
I start each day writing a list of 10 things for which I am grateful. Bullet points. These are anything from my health, to my latest workout, to the work I accomplished the previous day, family members and friends, breakfast, espresso, the weather (big impact in Iowa), music, anything.
I am ‘addicted’ to this step. It just sets my mental focus right at the start of the day. That focus on the positive stays stronger through the day. It’s a mental discipine, it’s not a denial of challenges but the discipline, reinforced every day, to give attention to that for which I owe gratitude.
Skip the News; Find the Inspiration
I start each morning with inspirational lessons, reminders, news. It works in tandem with my morning meditation, my gratitude, and my breakfast.
I still struggle to minimize my news consumption. I’ve always read newspapers, since I was a kid. These stories fascinate me.
Also, I find it irresponsible to be uninformed.
On the other hand, it’s finding balance between getting things done that matter and reading the news. A work in process.
Work in 90 Minute Blocks.
In between these 90-minute blocks, I run errands, do situps or pushups or stretch, make calls, check the rest of the day, etc. I make sure my phone is far away and the alerts are muted.
Fueled and Hydrated
I eat clean and healthy, that includes ... yes, raw vegetables. No more junk food, no desserts, candy bars, pastries, fried food, minimal carbs. I choose organic. Yes it’s more expensive. But I see it as an investment in my health, fitness and productivity.
I notice when I don’t, I’m not as focused and clear and productive. We don’t have time to be unproductive.
I drink ten to twelve cups of water.
Post My Goals
I write them, print them and stick on the 'fridge so I can see them every day.
I use them. I say them on breaks between tasks and calendar items. Not obsessively, but two or three times a day. There's no ceremony, no candles lit or incense burned. I don't chant them. I say them. Boom, done. Move on. It improves the self-talk and like the morning gratitude list recalibrates my thinking towards goals and next-steps rather than fears and anxieties or aggravations. I see it helping create a more favorable response from my social connections, too.
Stay off Social Media
I hit it and leave. I target one day a week for in-depth comments, not just likes, on LinkedIn and G+. I spend 30 minutes, usually over lunch, scheduling my tweets and G+.
But this is a whole 'nuther discussion. But bottomline, do it and do it consistently and set goals and work towards them. A personal trainer, even for 90 days and twice a week, boosts the results.
CONSISTENCY IS KEY
Being consistent with these steps brings consistent results and progress towards my goal. That's accomplished with minimal stress, duress. A proper perspective is maintained through which the daily challenges and interruptions are managed.
I heard somewhere that each day is our life in miniature. I figure that each moment, each 90-minute block is my day in miniature. String enough productive, meaningful, rewarding, moments together and you have that kind of day. String enough of those kinds of days and you have a meaningful, productive, rewarding day that leaves a legacy worth remembering.
I haven't seen anything to contradict this assumption. The evidence keeps piling up that supports it.
That’s it. I hope it helps you. It’s helped me a tremendous amount.
These ideas are not original. You'll see them around.
I shared them here because it's important that 'everyday' people share what works, put it in our words, integrate it, make it their own and take it out of the hands of 'experts.' Own it.
I hope it helps.