This is a guest post by Nathan Agin of Nonstop Awesomeness.
Does your day start, or do you start your day?
Taking a shower and eating breakfast can be necessary parts of your morning, but what about activities that allow you to live your strongest days, preparing you to tackle all your creative work and whatever life might throw your way?
As a multipotentialite, you probably know all too well (as I do) what it’s like to juggle about 1000 different things (give or take a couple) at the same time. The only way I can focus on all my creative goals is to set myself up for the greatest day possible, and that means readying my mind and body to operate at its highest level. Think about activities that you know will give you a powerful mindset for the day ahead. These don’t have to be huge life-altering changes; I’ll illustrate how the smallest actions can make huge improvements to your creativity and energy.
Let’s move from rushing around in the morning with barely enough time for the essentials to practicing the activities that support and develop us on a daily basis!
This might include:
- Exercise and stretching
- Journaling, goal setting, and creative writing
- Telling someone you love them
- Even smiling at everyone you meet!
It’s all about bringing more consciousness and focus into your life. If you want to make progress on all of your interests and avoid the pitfall of distraction, it’s time to take an active role in creating your days, instead of just rolling along with the rest of the pack.
Skip the Email
As soon as you wake up, what do you do? Are you heading right for the computer or Blackberry just to “take a quick look at email?” Then an hour later, you’re still hovered over the screen, attempting to put out other people’s fires or reading that blog post you won’t remember five minutes later.
What if, right upon waking up – before you even left your bed – you choose five things you’re grateful for? Bam – right off the bat, you’re placing your brain into a positive place. If there’s someone next to you in the morning, perhaps you could share five things you most admire about him or her. I guarantee there’ll be smiles all around.
We’re talking about expressing gratitude here, and it’s important stuff. Like, seriously crucial. There have even been studies done on people who keep a gratitude journal that have shown increased levels of happiness!
Take five seconds right now to think of one thing you’re truly grateful for… got it?
Cool – any chance you feel even slightly happier than you did 10 seconds ago? :-)
Master the Monkey
Your mind is restless, constantly jumping from idea to idea, always coming up with new projects, new things to learn, and it never seems to end. Picture this: our brain is like a crazy, drunk, scorpion-stung monkey, swinging recklessly from vine to vine. That’s what we’re working with in our head, and it’s time to tame that little guy or gal.
Take a deep breath and exhale, as we check out from the hustle of life and into meditation. We need a time in our day to silence all the noise (internal and external), to unplug from the rest of the world, and to check in with what is going on inside of us. I’ve heard it said that if prayer is talking, meditation is listening – it’s a quiet space to “hear” the answers we’re searching for.
If you’re brand new to this practice, I recommend starting with a small amount – set yourself up for success! Pick either 30 or 60 seconds (whichever sounds less ridiculous), and here’s what you do: close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Feel your body going through that process. Bring all of your attention to that event. As thoughts naturally start to appear, and you begin writing that email response or planning your next meal, acknowledge the thoughts (with no judgment), allow them to drift away, and come back to your breathing. That’s it! You’re on your way to much more powerful focus in your life!
Right now, close your eyes for 30 seconds and focus on your breath. Don’t worry – no one is watching. :-)
How’d that feel? Was anything stressing you out before? Is that tension still there? Any chance you feel more relaxed?
Take the Break
Whether you’re working from home or heading off to an office, taking care of kids, paperwork, or animals, there is much to do and you need a way to sustain your energy.
I know the common practice is to work an eight-hour day filled with calls, meetings and emails, taking a short break and a lunch at some point, but that system doesn’t work, and it’s not how we are designed to operate. There are natural rhythms in life, ebbs and flows, and it’s the same with our body and mind. So, we need to find focused, uninterrupted blocks of time if we really want to be productive. Turn off your phone and your email, and no Facebook!
The mind works best when it has a single task to concentrate on. Did you know that multitasking is actually severely unproductive, as it requires our brain to shift gears from project to project? It may only be milliseconds, but those add up, and restrict us from reaching momentum with our work.
Now the other part to sustained energy and concentration is rejuvenation. After a block of time – no more than 90 minutes or two hours max – go for a walk, do a quick workout, take a nap, or eat – anything to take your mind off work and to give your body and brain a chance to rest and recuperate. Besides, when do you get your best ideas? Chances are they don’t come when you’re sitting at your desk! ;-)
With a system of focused blocks, broken up by strategic recovery periods, you’ll have more energy throughout the day, will be more productive, and will feel more rested at the end of it.
Stop reading this article right now and go for a walk. No, seriously. It could be around your house or the office floor, or out to get the mail. Something short and simple. We’ll be here when you get back. I promise.
How was that? Feel more refreshed or alert? For an added bonus: was there actual human interaction while on your stroll? :-)
Let’s do this!
What’s important to you?
Have you been saying something is important yet keep telling yourself that you don’t have the time right now to fit it into your life? Or maybe you don’t think you know enough to dive in: “I’m not a good cook, I don’t know what exercises to do, etc.” Whatever the reason, know that it’s just your mind resisting the change.
Our brain likes to keep everything status quo, because in some cases, that keeps us safe (a big part of our evolutionary survival). When it comes to personal growth, however, that part of our brain is not helping. It’s time, with baby steps, to move past that comfort zone.
Can you get up 15 minutes earlier tomorrow to fit in a quick bit of yoga, prepare a nutritious breakfast, spend some quality time with your loved ones, or read an inspiring passage?
That’s all it takes: one small step. Just start doing it and keep doing it. Stay accountable – whether you have your own system or you check in with a friend, it’s important to cultivate that discipline in your life. Eventually the new habit will become a natural part to your day, creating momentum in your life and leading to even more wonderful changes!
So I ask again: how will you start your day? :-)
I’d love to hear your thoughts on daily practices – have you tried anything suggested above? What has been your experience? What other daily habits do you use?
Thanks to Brian Johnson (with PhilosophersNotes) for the monkey description.
In addition to meditation and gratitude, Nathan Agin practices and believes in a life of Nonstop Awesomeness, that life is always awesome when we bring our best to each moment. He spent many years in Los Angeles as an actor (he did get paid!) until he decided to get rid of everything and begin traveling full-time. He writes for his own blog, consults on how to travel for free, coaches on reaching goals, lives life to the fullest, and searches out passionate people to interview. He’s currently traveling to and living in different cities around the United States..