NYR 19-12: “Do Better Next Year.” Working Out More, Getting Organized, and Drinking Less.

In January, I tried to Workout More

I learned that working out consistently is easier once it becomes a habit. Developing the  habit was the hard part. That was the part that required… motivation, self-discipline, grit, whatever you want to call it. One way or another, I needed to develop a mental framework where, six days of the week, for 6 months, I had a 30-60 minute window of time where working out was preferable to any other activity available to me at that time.

I think it helped that there were a lot of different things motivating me – progress, vanity, well-being, and most of all the social pressure of telling everyone I was going to do it. Some mornings I wanted to get in the gym to set a personal record – other days I just wanted to get in so I could post about it on Instagram. Other days I just wanted to look better, feel better, and on a few days I swear I actually did it for less self-absorbed reasons – so I can contribute to society a little better, set an example for my kids and all that.

But as the weeks and months went on, the “reasons” I needed to work out faded away. It became a habit, and then it was just a matter of avoiding reasons not to work out. Things like injuries, family sickness, vacations.

And then I reached my goal in July, and everything changed.

If you go back and look at the data, once I reached my goal the wheels came off. I started skipping workouts. Now I’m lucky if I workout once a week. And if I’m going to do better next year, I’ll need to come up with a gameplan, fast. And I’m stressing about it. If I want to workout more, I have to realize that every day I’m either developing the habit of working out, or developing the habit of not working out.

In February, I tried to Get Organized.

I learned that I definitely had too much stuff (and probably still do) but that my relationship with my stuff was a little more complicated than I thought. I learned that the idea of minimalism can be seductive. It sometimes made me feel like I was better than other people, that I had it all figured out, that they were all in this materialistic rat-race chasing down symbols of “status” they thought would make them happy, and that I was above all that.

But when I looked closer, I realized that I wasn’t above the idea of “status” at all – I was simply trying to change it’s definition to suit my own circumstances. 

A clean desk can be a status symbol. An organized closet can be a status symbol. A spreadsheet detailing the pounds of stuff I got rid of can be a status symbol. And I think that’s the reason why my progress was so fleeting, why it didn’t stick. If I’m going to do better next year, I hope I can do so in a way that withholds judgement, and that comes from a deeper understanding of my personal relationship with the material world, as opposed to a trend that I’ve observed and been attracted to.

And as far as keeping a clean house with young kids… I’ve decided that it’s not a black-and-white issue. I can’t draw up a decision-tree that will tell me whether, at any given moment, I should play with my kids or pick up after them (perhaps that’s a false choice – my oldest is starting to actually contribute to cleaning in a meaningful way… fingers crossed!)

In March, I tried to Drink Less

I learned that tracking is everything, and that the DrinkControl App deserves most, if not all, of the credit for my progress in this space over the past three years. The app recently underwent a major update with lots of helpful new features making recordkeeping and data analysis even easier than before. To that end, I recently subscribed as a Patron, donating $.99 a month to support further development.

I learned that a large portion of my annual consumption could be cut out with little to no effect on my social life. I also learned that, as I mentioned earlier in this post, it’s a habit like anything else. Whether I feel like drinking on a particular day is surprisingly dependent on what I’ve done the past few days.

Right now it’s looking like I’m going to close the year having reduced my annual consumption by 20-25%. Did I have 20-25% less fun in 2019? I don’t think I did… but what about next year? Do I try to reduce annual consumption even further? Is there a “right number” for me, or for anyone else for that matter? If I’m going to do better next year, I’m going to have to look inward, really try to understand the nuances of my relationship with alcohol, plan accordingly and stick to the plan.

I have to say, the biggest surprise from writing about Drinking Less was the number of people who reached out to me saying they were trying to do the same thing, asking advice or just thanking me for writing about it. There’s definitely a lot of shame and stigma surrounding this subject, which is why I’m so grateful for Annie Grace and other writers in this space who’ve done such a great job of approaching it in a way that’s so… well… approachable.

Next week, I’ll take a look back at Learning A New Language, Being More Creative, and Being A Better Parent.

NYR 19-11: “Be More Mindful.” Part 4 – How To Think.

Back when I first came up with the idea for this blog, I tried to assign NYR’s to specific months in ways that were meaningful. “Be a Better Parent” in June for Father’s Day, “Be a Better Spouse” in September for our anniversary, and so on. So why Mindfulness in November?

Gratitude – I’d like to be more grateful, and I do think my meditation practice helps. And what better time to write about gratitude than Thanksgiving?

We’re heading to West Virginia this week to visit my wife’s family. The drive up with small children will be a challenge but hopefully safe and manageable. Last year when we drove up for Christmas, my oldest watched Frosty the Snowman on her iPad.

The entire drive.

Guys it’s about 5 hours to Huntington from our house in Charlotte. And I’m talking about the Jimmy Durante 1969 version of Frosty The Snowman (as if there’s any other), which is… wait for it… 25 minutes long. I think she watched it 11 times.

But it’s always worth the drive, because once we get there we usually find plenty of things to be grateful for.

I love fall weather, and sometimes I get it.

Sometimes I get the first snow of the season – I like that too.

Other times it’s just cold and rainy, but even that provides a pleasant contrast to the warm house, the warm family, the warm couches with warm blankets in a warm den. Warm naps after drifting off to parades or football or dog shows while my in-laws play with the kids for a while.

Warmth is something to be grateful for. I went to a Room At The Inn meeting a few weeks ago during an unusually bad cold snap. Leaving the church that night and walking to the bus station, it was tough not to think about just how much it sucks to be cold. How quickly it messes with your head. As the wind whipped my face and I rocked on my heels to keep warm I tried to imagine what it would be like to have to do this for an hour, for two hours, for an entire night. I buried my face in the front of my jacket.

And in less than an hour my jacket was off – because I was home with my family, wearing pajama pants and a t-shirt. I think I felt gratitude then, at least for a few seconds. It goes away too quickly.

Last week I was rocking my one-year-old in the glider, my wife was taking a bath, and I was starting to get annoyed because I was getting hungry. I wanted to just put my daughter in the crib and let her cry it out. And I started rationalizing that approach: I can’t rock her forever, she’s just being clingy, she needs to learn to take care of herself.

My one-year-old, by the way.

Then I remembered that she was sick. That she’s usually a great sleeper, and that I haven’t rocked her in the glider in weeks which means that pretty soon the days of rocking my girls in the glider might be behind me. I remembered that, even though I was feeling a little hungry now, some nights I’ve come home from work late and forgotten to eat dinner altogether.

Sure I was annoyed that I didn’t have my phone. It meant that I couldn’t go through my emails or scroll through Instagram or write. But it also meant that the outside world couldn’t get us.

Maybe the glider wasn’t a trap, but a shelter.

And maybe instead of thinking about how annoying it was to have to take care of her in that moment, I could have thought about the fact that she was suffering – and that, along with my wife, I’m literally the most qualified person on the entire planet to ease that suffering. That’s kind of amazing, if you think about it.

That’s something to be grateful for.

NYR 19-11: “Be More Mindful.” Part 3 – How to Breathe.

Oh come on! How to breathe? These titles are getting downright insulting.

Not to mention annoying to write – I just spent the first five minutes of this morning’s “writing session” Googling and triple-checking the difference between “breathe” (verb) and “breath” (noun). Fair warning, WordPress doesn’t appear to be catching these. So if a few sentences sneak in there about “how to breath” or “watching your breathe” then apologies in advance – doing my best here.

And why even write about something as simple as breathing? It’s something we just do naturally without thinking about it, right?

Well, sort of.

Let’s compare breathing to, say, your heartbeat. Thankfully, your heart normally keeps beat without any conscious effort. Breathing is similar – if you’re not thinking about it, it just sort of happens on its own. We’ll call this process passive breathing. But, unlike your heart, you can actually exercise a lot of control over your breath. You can hold it (at least for a little while) and otherwise change it’s character (ex. breathing deeper or breathing faster). We’ll call this active breathing.

(If you can’t already tell, I haven’t really done a scientific deep dive here.)

My point is this – breathing is something that you don’t have to think about, but you can if you want to. And when I was first introduced to meditation, I was told to breathe normally. And I got tripped up on this advice. Because the instructions made me feel like I should be doing something consciously, that I should be actively breathing. And I had trouble figuring out what normal actually was.

I mean, how do I actually breathe when I’m not thinking about it? I wasn’t totally sure. And so I tried a couple of different things, eventually landing on a slow rhythm of pretty deep breaths. Deep breaths seemed more healthy, more “zen.” But after a while, it felt like something was wrong. My rhythm felt off, and I felt like I wasn’t getting enough oxygen with each breath. I started to panic. Wait – how do I breathe again? I stood from my seat gasping for air, it felt like I was hyperventilating. Eventually things got back to normal but wow… that was weird.

Weird perhaps, but also common. Turns out lots of people experience the same thing when they first get started.

One thing that helped me get over this was encountering meditating “breathing instructions” which were worded slightly differently, a way that I found much more helpful and which I still think about now. I don’t think about “breathing normally” – I think about “watching my breath.”

Now when I sit down to meditate I try to just look at my passive breathing without interfering with it. I observe it as something outside of myself, and I just try to watch it without expectation or judgement. One thing I noticed is that my normal breathing patters are more shallow and faster than I expected. I started to focus less on the actual function of breathing (the air coming in and out of  my lungs) and more on observable signs of the breath (ex. my chest rising). And I found that the more specific the sign, the more helpful it was as a point of focus – so instead of focusing just on the idea of my chest rising, I might focus on the feeling of the fibers of my shirt stretching around my torso. Instead of focusing on the air coming into my nose, I might focus on the feeling of my nostrils flaring slightly.

It does take practice. The breath is a great anchor for meditating because it’s always with you, but if you’re struggling with it there are other options. One in particular that I enjoy is focusing on the rhythm of my footsteps during a walking meditation, which has the added benefits of getting you outside and active (keep your eyes open for that one, though).

Anyway, this is something I struggled with early on, so I wanted to make sure I covered it in case you ran into the same issue. And if you’re starting to get into meditation and having trouble remembering how to breathe, don’t sweat it… you’re not alone!

NYR 19-11: “Be More Mindful.” Part 2 – How To Sit.

When I thought of the title for this week’s post, I couldn’t help but think about this scene from Family Guy.

How to sit? Really?

I’m hardly an expert when it comes to meditation. I’ve been doing it for a few years, but not long enough to forget the many issues I struggled with in the beginning. And one of those issues was deciding how, exactly, to sit.

Do I sit upright in a chair? I’ve heard of a “lotus pose” I think that’s a thing… I’m gonna Google it. Yikes – that’s not happening. Ok so do I just sit on the ground with my legs crossed? That seems uncomfortable after a while… do I need to sit on a pillow or something? How high should the pillow be? Does my back need to be straight? It’s starting to feel sore… and now my ear is starting to itch. Should I scratch it? Will that break the zen moment and I’ll have to start all over? Should the room be dark, or bright? Should I have candles? incense? Music? Gregorian chanting?

These are all great questions, and there are literally countless others. And for me, the answers come from taking a step back and trying to get a better understanding of what you’re trying to do when you sit to meditate. When you sit to meditate, your goal is to create an enviroment where you can practice being mindful.

To quote Allen Iverson: “We’re talking about practice, not a game.” So don’t put too much pressure on yourself!

I often find myself drawing comparisons between mindfulness training and going to the gym, and describing meditation a sort of gym membership for your mind. So let’s think about things that make for a good gym experience:

  • It’s inviting. Some people seem to be able to just jump right into brutal workout routines. Outdoor trainings, flipping tires, climbing ropes, Tough Mudders, things like that. But for me, I needed to familiarize myself with the gym first. Start with simple exercises and develop confidence in an inviting setting. I approached meditation in the same way – maybe you’d rather sit in a chair than on the floor. Maybe you’d rather stand, or walk or even go for a run. The (rather lofty) goal here is to eventually be mindful during every waking moment of your life. The point of having a meditation practice is to create an environment where it’s a little easier to familiarize yourself with, well, yourself. The only thing I’ll caution against is lying down while meditating – it’s certainly an option, but in my experience falling asleep can be an issue (note: or a huge benefit. Headspace actually has an awesome single on falling asleep that I use pretty frequently).
  • It’s convenient. Having the right equipment, the right pre-workout supplement, the right outfit, the right headphones, the right playlist… all of these things can be very motivating and can help snap you into focus when you go to the gym. But if everything isn’t perfect… are you still going to workout? One time I literally didn’t go to the gym because I couldn’t find my headphones. Unbelieveable. In the same way, when it comes to meditation, music, candles, incense and other bells and whistles are great if they get you in the right mindset, but try not to let them become a barrier to entry.
  • You push yourself. And this part is kind of tricky, and the gym comparison kind breaks down a bit. When you go to the gym, most of the time you can track measurable progress. You’re getting bigger (or smaller), stronger, faster, and you’ve got the stats to prove it. With meditation it’s difficult to come up with ways to measure “progress” without developing unhelpful expectations going into your practice. That being said, I do think you can push yourself in two, concrete ways: 1) by tracking the amount of time you spend practicing meditation or the consistency with which you do it, and 2) by pushing the boundaries of the environment in which you can practice mindfulness.

Imagine that the timeline of your life is like a “connect-the-dots” picture, and your meditation sessions are the dots. If you start meditating once a week in the morning, you might be able to draw a simple picture with the dots. Do it every day, and suddenly the picture starts to look little better. In the evenings too, even better. A few quick sessions on a park bench after lunch, even better. On a noisy bus, even better. The picture starts to become more nuanced. Maybe you’ll start doing walking meditations while you’re getting from point A to point B. Maybe if you do it long enough you’ll start to realize you don’t really need to listen to the guided meditation anymore, that you can just “turn on” mindfulness when you notice yourself getting caught up in your thoughts. Suddenly the dots start to become lines.

Your picture is becoming clearer. Your life is coming into focus because you, yourself, are learning how to focus. You’ve developed this skill by dedicated hours of time in a controlled environment focusing on the simplest thing you can imagine, something you take with you wherever you go, something that serves as your anchor (and also the subject of next week’s post).

The breath.

NYR 19-11: “Be More Mindful.” Part 1 – The Pause.

Years ago I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion before a large audience here in Charlotte. It was my first time speaking at such an event, and I had all the nerves that came with it. But I was friends with the other panelists – I had the material down cold, and I was wearing a suit (rare) so I felt pretty good going in.

The 45 minute session flew by. Before I knew it, complete strangers were standing and clapping and I was awkwardly handing off the microphone as I stepped off the stage.

It felt great to step off the stage. I was fired up, riding the high of delivering what I thought was a decent (perhaps overcaffeinated) speech about a topic I knew well. And my suit was doing an equally decent job of hiding the fact that I’d completely sweated through my shirt at that point (not so rare). So it was with great confidence that I approached a round table of about 9 or 10 people to discuss the topic further in a breakout session following the panel.

I decided to kick things off with a quick icebreaker. I suggested everyone give the typical run-down: name, where you’re from, why you’re here, some sort of fun fact, etc. I took a seat, looked at the girl sitting across from me, and asked her to start. I leaned in as she began to tell me her story.

And it was immediately clear that she had a severe speech impediment.

I felt a wave of panic. My heart began to race. How could I have been so insensitive, putting her on the spot like that? What should I do? Well I had to do something. Everyone was looking at her and some of them were looking back at me. They must have wanted me to say something. After all, I was the one who got her into this mess. I needed to help get her out of it. I needed to rescue her.

And who knows, 9 times out of 10 I may have tried to do just that. I would have quickly interrupted her and apologized. But not this time.

This time, I paused.

Have you ever been buying something at a convenience store, looked up to see yourself in the security camera footage, and thought “wow, I’m actually really strange-looking from this angle?” That’s kind of what happened. I suddenly saw the situation from a different angle – the rest of the noise faded into the background of a birds-eye view of just me and her.

And in that moment I realized that I didn’t have to do anything. She didn’t need my help and she didn’t need to be “rescued.” I realized that this part of her story was new to me but not to her, and that the best thing I could give her at that moment was my undivided attention.

And so that’s what I did. I paused, and she spoke. Slowly at first, but after a few seconds very comfortably, and we moved on.

I’ve been meditating for over five years. This year, my New Year’s Resolution was to meditate for 60 total hours using the Headspace App, and to maintain a streak of meditating 180 days in a row.

You can see my progress here. I’ve already accomplished the streak goal:

and I’m only three hours away from meeting my hours goal, which I believe I can do comfortably since I’m averaging 9.2 minutes per session.

I’m not crazy about the structure of the Resolution itself, but tracking hours and sessions is the only way I could think of to hold myself accountable in a measurable way. But I think it misses the point of medidation, for me anyway.

What exactly is the point?

I could tell you that meditation makes me calm. And sometimes it does. But sometimes it doesn’t – especially if I go into my practice with the expectation that it should calm me down, it can often have the opposite effect. Suddenly being faced with the infinite thoughts swimming through my crazy head and feeling powerless to stop them can be downright stressful.

I could tell you that meditation improves my relationships. And sometimes it does. But other times the sense of clarity I reach during a meditation session just makes it that much worse when the zen moment is broken within five minutes of getting up from my seat when I snap at my wife or one of my kids about something dumb.

I could tell you meditation makes me feel closer to God. And sometimes it does. But other times it makes me feel painfully distant (not a particularly helpful or rational feeling, but a feeling nonetheless). FYI, while my approach to the practice is secular, I do feel that the message and the teachings of meditation, things like compassion, kindness and generosity, fit quite neatly into my personal belief system. But I won’t get into that in this series. Maybe later – at the moment, I think it’s a bigger subject than I am a writer.

So why bother meditating? The best answer I can give is this: the real benefits of meditation aren’t found in the ten minutes you sit, but in the rest of your day as you approach it more mindfully, moment to moment.

Like the moment I described earlier. That moment was, for the most part, completely ordinary. I doubt she even remembers it. But I do – I remember it as this one time where, unlike the thousands of other times I’ve screwed up, I exercised a tiny bit of empathy and ended up doing the right thing. Which was (and often is) nothing.

Is 60 hours of sitting worth one, critical pause? We’re going to explore that question this month.

NYR 19-10: “Have A Morning Routine.” Part 4 – Evening Routines.

Not all of us are early risers, and there’s no reason why we can’t apply a few of these habits later in the day. And when it comes to role models for Evening Routines, I can’t help but think of this guy:

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George Banks from Mary Poppins. I mean come on, look at him go! In less than two minutes Mr. Banks goes from marching through his front door to resting in his easy chair, sherry in hand, surrounded by his loving wife and servants. Life goals.

And along the way, he demonstrates several habits that are common denominators among most Evening Routines.

Expressing Gratitude

Expressing Gratitude is all the rage lately, and studies have shown that gratitude journaling can be an effective way to improve sleep and general well-being. But to hell with just journaling – Mr. Banks kicks it up a notch, breaking out into song with “The Life I Lead” as soon as he gets home. Literally an entire song dedicated to how awesome his life is.

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Patriarchy and traditional gender roles aside, you can’t say the guy isn’t grateful. Noblesse oblige.

Consistency

“Consistent is the life I lead.” I talked about this in last week’s post. Consistency and specificity make routines easier to follow and more fun. Mr. Banks has his routine timed down to the minute “At 6:01, I march through my door…”

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I like to think that Mr. Banks going through this entire routine every single day when he comes home from work.

Changing Uniform

My slippers sherry and pipe are due at 6:02.” Changing clothes right when you get home can be an effective way to transition from work life to home life.

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I try to get into casual wear as soon as I walk in the door. In addition to the comfort and physical health benefits, there’s definitely a psychological boost and I feel like I’m more likely to play with my kids.

Of course, as much as I love Mr. Banks’s routine, it isn’t perfect. It’s missing a couple of key ingredients, most notably awareness. It isn’t until after he’s finished his number that he realizes the nanny just quit and his children are missing.

And we have to bring some degree of awareness to our routines. Because at the end of the day, a routine is about more than just going through the motions. Routines, ultimately, are about control.

It’s about controlling some aspect of your life, however small, among the chaos that you have to face throughout the rest of the day. And it hasn’t been easy to write about. These past few days I’ve felt like a hypocrite – I wrote an entire post about my splendid morning routine, but I need to be honest with you guys:

  • One (or both) of my girls has woken up six of the past seven nights between 2:30 and 4 a.m.
  • Work has been busy, and I’ve been going to bed after 10:30 most nights.
  • I recently listened to a podcast series with Dr. Peter Attia (one of my favorite podcasters) and Dr. Matthew Walker (author of Why We Sleep) which has me freaking out about how much sleep I get.

So when my girls wake up in the middle of the night, I’ve been pushing my alarm out 30 minutes, sometimes an hour, to get more sleep. And I’ve averaged almost 20 minutes of (worthless) snooze time on top of that. The meditation goes from 10 minutes to 3 minutes. The workout goes from 30 minutes to 10, then to nothing at all. A lot of days I’ve caught the late bus, tired and irritable and frustrated knowing that I’m not going to get an hour, just one hour, to myself that day.

But some days I do.

Some days I get that hour and then some. And if you’re trying to get that hour, I feel you. It’s hard, and some days it’s just not going to happen. That’s ok. We’re not looking for perfection, we’re looking for improvement.

And this week… there’s hope.

Because this Sunday, November 3rd, just before 2:00 a.m., most of our clocks are going to magically turn back to 1:00 a.m. And that hour is all yours.

That hour is literally the most unaccounted for hour of the entire year. Nobody can get you. Maybe you need to catch up on sleep. Maybe you’re overdue for a night out, and need to have a morning where you can sleep in a little later. Maybe you want to start an exercise regimine, a podcast, a business, or a blog. To me, it doesn’t matter so much what you do – what makes that hour yours is that you do something purposefully.

So, what are you going to do with your hour?

NYR 19-10: “Have A Morning Routine.” Part 3 – In With The New.

This is a long post, but I wanted to give a complete run-down of what, exactly, my Morning Routine currently looks like. The routine is based on three principles:

  1. Don’t do in the morning what you can do the night before. I’m trying to create a block of time that I can dedicate to myself. If blocked off appropriately, an hour or so every morning can yield powerful results, so the ROI for those minutes in the morning can be pretty high. By comparison, in the evenings I’m not terribly efficient. The idea is to take on some of the more mundane tasks in the evening to sort of “wind down” so that they don’t waste my precious morning minutes. Some examples: showering, shaving, doing the dishes, and packing the girls’ lunches.
  2. Do the simple stuff first. And work your way up toward tasks that require more thought.
  3. Be irrationally specific. The reality is that most of the details here don’t matter all that much. But specificity itself is important – it’s a bit counterintuitive, but the more specific I am with the details of my routine, the more likely I am to adhere to them. It’s also more fun in a weird way, and helps prevent one of the biggest time killers in the morning: decision making.

So, here’s what I do:

  • Wake up at 5:30, with zero snooze time. And immediately put on workout clothes which are next to the bed. If you look at the data, you’ll notice that very rarely do I snooze for just a minute or two. It’s usually all or nothing. Which means that those first few seconds are incredibly important – the idea that I’ll just rest for a little bit, or finish a thought before getting out of bed, is a dangerous one. Recently I’ve noticed that dreams have even been a culprit. I’ll wake up in the middle of a weird dream, and even after realizing that it was just a dream I’ll ponder it for a while and then slowly drift off… at one point I even tried having my alarm show this message when I woke up:

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(not my most inspiring work)

  • Bathroom. Including (but not exclusive to…): brushing teeth, tongue scraping, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash. In that order, every time. The order in which you should perform these tasks is actually a fiery issue in online forums. I don’t think it really matters, but again it helps to be specific. Also, I hyperlinked tongue scraping because I didn’t know what it was until about a year ago and now I’m a huge fan. Once that’s done I put on some deoderant and drink a glass of tap water. Yes, tap water – because it’s right there, it’s easy, I live in America and room temperature water might be marginally better for you as a pre-workout. Zero time spent on my hair – I shaved my head recently, which means no more doing this in the morning.
  • Workout. Right now, I’m trying a new at-home workout called The Happy Body Program. This is still in the early research stages, but I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s sort of like yoga with dumbells – a sweatless workout that I do in thirty minutes, performing the same 18 exercises every day. I ran into some injury issues with the Brad Pitt workout earlier this year, and while I think I’ll end up supplementing this with something in the evenings (lifting/swimming/boxing) right now I’m just sticking with the Happy Body.
  • Meditate. 10 minutes using the Headspace app. I’ll get into this more in a later series on Meditation, but I love this app and have used it for years. I’ve gone through most of the “packs” and lately I’ve been doing the “Everyday Headspace,” which starts each session with a sort of “thought for the day” from the guide, Andy Puddicombe.
  • Get dressed for work. In an outfit I picked out the night before. I used to put off getting dressed for work until the last possible moment so I could enjoy being comfortable at home. The problem is that I don’t always budget enough time to get out the door, something always comes up and suddenly I’m in a rush to get ready. The reality is that my work clothes aren’t all that uncomfortable, and I can approach the rest of the morning with ease knowing that I’m ready to head out the door at a moment’s notice.
  • Drink coffee. Notice I didn’t say “make coffee.” I prepped the night before, and programmed our $20 Mr. Coffee maker to start brewing at 6:00. If you guys are looking for one, simple hack to get a win early in the day, look no further. Nothing makes you feel like you’ve got it together quite like your coffee maker starting to brew midway through your at-home workout. I don’t eat breakfast, as I mentioned in last week’s post.
  • Plan my day. Using the methodology I described in detail in the August series on being more productive. I used to wait until I got into the office to do this – the idea being that it would jump-start my productivity right when I got in. But I’ve come to realize that the earlier I do this process, the better, so now I try to do it at home.
  • Do whatever I want. Until it’s time to catch my bus. The 6:56 usually gets to my stop around 7:00. The rest of my routine takes less than an hour, so I usually have a good 30 minutes to read, write, outline, or just drink coffee on the balcony.
  • Ride the bus. This is kind of an important one – in addition to saving money/the environment, riding the bus is a time that I actually look forward to because it’s a time I’ve dedicated to reading. I’ve averaged two books per month since I first started tracking this four months ago. I listen to podcasts from my house to the bus stop and from the bus station to work. Some of the most common complaints I hear from friends and family concern their commutes – reframing helps.

And that’s it – I get into the office at 7:45, having already gotten in a 30 minute workout, 30 minute reading session, 10 minute meditation session and 20+ minutes to do whatever else I want to do.

Again, this is best case scenario – either one of my daughters could easily throw a hand grenade into the whole process (and very often do). The point here is to have a default setting, and on the days when I pull this off, I feel amazing.