8 Daily Habits That Will Help You Refresh Your Mindset

Meditation - Refresh Your Mindset

Photo by AlicePopkorn (Creative Commons)

In James Altucher’s entertaining book How to be the Luckiest Person Alive, he suggests a daily practice which he claims will dramatically improve your life:

  • Physical – exercise enough to break a sweat for 10 minutes (probably 20-30 minutes of movement a day in total) – he also says it’s essential to sleep for 8 hours (9pm-5am), and suggests no eating after 5:30pm
  • Emotional – cut people out of your life who drag you down, and always be honest (without being hurtful).
  • Mental – exercise the idea muscle – come up with a list of ideas every day
  • Spiritual – at least one of the following: pray, meditate, practice gratitude, practice forgiveness, study spiritual texts.

Altucher says that any time he feels things are going downhill in his life, it’s because he let this practice slip.

I agree with most of what he suggests, but of course we all have our own priorities. So here is my own list of things that help me ‘refresh my mindset’ in the hope that you’ll also find it useful.

Staring Failure in the Face

I don't need a telescope to see where I went wrong

Sunday, 7:30am.

I wake up in unfamiliar surroundings. I realise I can stretch out on the bed, even though she’s here too. It’s a bigger bed than I’m used to. I look up and see sunlight streaming in through the curtains. It feels warm.

Paris! The first morning here. A trip to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. I’m tired. I forget how tiring travelling is.

My third trip abroad in four weeks – an extravangance only possible because I’m not working full-time. I’m not used to the excitement. It has a cumulative effect, making me more tired each day. I feel groggy, but excited to get outside and explore the city.

But.. so tired. She is also stirring beside me, but doesn’t seem very awake. I reset my alarm on my iPhone to 8:30.

(First decision of the day: to fail.)

8:30. Time to wake up properly. She makes us a cup of tea. I get my iPad and wireless keyboard. Time to write. I may not have achieved the 7:30 wake up time, but I can write 1000 words each day that I’m here.

I start typing. This is what I write:

“So here we are en Francais, and I can’t really be bothered with my writing but here we go. I have to do it, right? At least this is highly portable.

But what to write about?”

I put down the keyboard and pick up my cup of tea. That is all I write, the entire trip. All I want to do is enjoy my holiday with my wife. Discover a city I’ve spent less than 24 hours in so far. Relax, and forget. Stop striving for a while.  Fuck it.

(My second decision of the day is to fail.)

Wednesday

We get home to Edinburgh. The rain pours down outside and it’s as dark as dusk, all day.

I look at my to-do list. I sent it to him before we left, with a list of ‘deliverables’. It now seems wildly ambitious. Whilst in Paris I was going to come up with a plan. Instead I shut out the future and the past, apart from the unavoidable one evident from the extravagant architecture around us.

Sunday

I stare at the blank page. I have failed. No way round it. Because I announced the challenge publicly, now I have to admit my failure, publicly. But what to say?

Monday

I wake up, watch a couple of episodes of TV spy drama Nikita. Nonsense, but entertaining. Afterwards, in my mind, I carry out a debriefing, an interrogation, of myself, like it happens in the show.

Why did I fail? Because I chose to, twice.

What can I do? Admit, accept, try again.

I sit down and write – this.

Tuesday

What will my decision be at 7:30am?

 Related:

It’s not surprising I’ve been used as a prime example of the “lazy controller” syndrome by creative consultant Jeffrey Davis (his solution: eat chocolate for breakfast- might have to try that).

Gwyn Michael also talks about “staring down failure” today on the Scoutie Girl blog.

IMG_0690

My Morning Routine FAIL

Back in March I suggested you ‘Spring-Clean Your Routine’. It all sounded great in theory right? But perhaps it was too vague for people to really get their teeth into. I know I struggled to keep focused. I wanted to start the following:

My ideal morning routine

  • 6:30 am – get up – do 20 minutes of yoga
  • 7:00am – write 750 Words
  • 7:30am – breakfast, shower
  • 8:30am leave for work

I completely failed to achieve this.

I did realise that although I thought my behaviour was fairly haphazard, I was actually following a routine of sorts, which is really a series of long established bad habits:

My real morning routine

  • 6:30 – hit snooze. repeat until 7:30am
  • 7:30am turn on iPhone. Read email, Twitter, Facebook, RSS feed. Wait until girlfriend leaves flat (flat is very small so we always get in each other’s way if we’re both trying to get up at the same time)
  • 8:30 get up, put on music loud (Kanye West or Britney Spears), sing along whilst getting ready/showered
  • 9:00 breakfast. Read more blogs. Iron shirt.
  • 9:30/10am Leave for work (I’m on flexi so can usually get away with arriving late)

Of course, to have a successful morning routine, one also needs to have a successful evening routine.

My ideal evening routine

  • 8-9pm prepare for next day (iron shirt, plan to-do list etc)
  • 9-10pm read
  • 10pm go to sleep

But what can I say?

The reality: No routine whatsoever

Several times I went out and got drunk instead, or stayed up too late watching TV. Ensuring that the morning routine was NEVER going to happen.

So now I’m aware of the problem. I need to change my bad habits. But I also want some kind of social life.. hmmm a tricky dilemma..

What about you? Do you have a morning/evening routine? Are there any habits you want to change? What do you recommend to help me improve my self-discipline?

Let me know in the comments!

PLEASE NOTE: Next week I’m attending a local music festival,the weekend after I get married, and after that I’ll be on honeymoon in New York. So posting on this blog will continue to be irregular during May – I’ll try and post once a week but it may be less frequent up until the beginning of June.

Spring-Clean Your Routine

Spring Cleaning by √oхέƒx™

Congratulations to everyone who completed the Four for Feb challenge (the downloadable PDF memorabilia thingy will be posted soon), and even if you didn’t quite make it but managed to do something creative during the month, it’s a great achievement. Why? Because NONE OF US HAVE ENOUGH TIME.

The demands on our time and attention only increase as we get older and our lives become more complex (unless you’re already retired or independently wealthy  in which case congratulations!).

Most of us work full-time. Some of us do extra freelance or other creative work on top of that. Some people have children, some are in long-term relationships. Most have daily, weekly and monthly chores to get done. Some people have people to care for, or their own illnesses and other issues and problems to deal with.

And most of us like to have a bit of a social life and have fun every now and again to0. It’s important t0 get some downtime,  to properly rest and relax. And we like to keep up with what’s going on in the world, through a variety of sources, the news, blogs, magazines, TV.

So for most of us, are lives are already full. We have packed our days to capacity with endless activities, and I for one find it overwhelming at times.

So the next challenge I’m suggesting is one where you sit down and actually work out how you can free up some space in your schedule.

Leo Babauta, one of the most successful bloggers on the planet, wrote a brilliant post about how you need to create time to make serious changes in your life. This is what I did for myself when I gave up writing about local music and recording my monthly podcasts, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed doing, because I knew they were not sustainable activities in the long run because neither earned me any money.

Does that mean I won’t do things for free that I enjoy in the future? Not at all. But by giving up those things I was able to get experience doing other things, and spend some time working out what I wanted to do next, and actually earn some money doing other freelance writing/web work. Last year I also missed out on blogging for a few months, and didn’t socialise very much, all because I was focused on trying to get work I enjoyed.

So you do need to prioritise and decide what’s most important to focus on. Seth Godin’s book The Dip is all about the difficult period in any project or activity when your enthusiasm wanes, difficulty levels increase and you need a lot of self-discipline just to continue. His point is that in some cases it’s extremely important to get through the dip to the other side, but in some cases it’s not worth it because they are dead-ends. You need to decide which of your activities is which, and stop the ones that are getting you nowhere.

But even then, you might struggle to find any free time, because you lack the basic awareness of how you’re behaving throughout the day. I know I can be in denial sometimes about my procrastination, but spending an hour reading blogs when I could be writing my own is probably not the best use of that one hour each day that I can keep free to myself. Laura Vanderkam’s book 168 Hours is all about this topic, and she suggests tracking how you’re spending your time. You can download a free time management spreadsheet from her site which will help you do this.

As we’ve seen from many of the Clear-Minded Creative Type interviews so far, a strict routine can be the best way to stick to get creative work done, whether it be managing your projects along with your caffeine intake like Hande Zapsu Watt, or getting up ridiculously early each morning like Thom Chambers. Here it’s impossible not to mention Leo Babauta again as his book The Power of Less talks about setting morning and evening routines which allow you to be creative, or get regular exercise, or even just to get some quiet time to yourself to read a book.

So the challenge for March/April is to “spring-clean your routine” and find at least one regular time-wasting activity that is no longer of value to you and no longer contributes to your goals to eliminate from your life.

In March I suggest you try and become aware of how you’re spending your time. Spring starts on 21st March so see if you can identify by then what you’re going to stop doing and make a plan for how you’re going to do it.

Then in April you can start to establish a new routine to allow you to achieve your creative goals. Imagine how freeing it will be to have that extra space in your life to achieve what you really want. I guarantee you will feel more clear-minded as a result :)

Photo credit: √oхέƒx™ Note: all book links are part of Amazon.com’s affiliate scheme. Because I need the money to buy Apple products.