One of my objectives while I am spending time in England is to establish some effective routines and to re-examine my daily habits. This got me thinking about the things that I feel should be in place each day in order to make progress in life. I’ve distilled my thoughts down into 6 areas. I believe that if I commit time to each one of these on a DAILY basis, then some good progress can be made.
So here are my six pillars of personal progress…
1) Study and Reflection (Reading, watching, receiving instructions, reflecting)
The input we allow into our lives, both consciously and unconsciously is extremely important. For whatever activity we undertake and whatever goal we want to reach, we will always need some kind of input as a support. The inputs we receive through study, reading, watching, receiving and reflecting form the backbone of all our progressive actions. For instance:
- If we want to learn how to cook, we need to read cookbooks, watch videos etc
- If we want to learn how to market our products, we need to digest blogs, speak to experts, browse forums etc
- If we want to learn to surf, information about tidal movements, rip currents, riding techniques etc are invaluable
Considering their importance, it’s worth thinking about the quality of the input we choose to take on board. Every single input we allow into our mind, conditions us in some way. Is that junk TV programme really going to help us make $10,000 this month? Is that tabloid newspaper article really going to improve your life? Most of the time we are sacrificing long-term solidity for short-term distraction. Our inputs are like the gasoline we put into our car. If we put junk in, we get junk out. Pollute our engines with crap and we will cough and splutter as we drive through life. Simple but true.
My reading list is out of control. There are so many books I need to catch up with. Therefore, every day, I commit to reading for 30-60 mins. Knowledge is power. Knowledge informs our actions. Therefore… Get some knowledge!
Study is enhanced by reflection. Reflection includes discussion, debate, arguments and quiet moments of pondering alone. Even the process of writing helps us to reflect and digest our knowledge. Surround yourself with the type of people who will help you reflect. This will make your inputs stick!
2) Creating (Writing, producing, strategising, artwork, generating ideas)
Having our creative juices flowing is essential for success. Entrepreneurship requires creativity, thinking outside the box and an abundance of ideas. Spending a fixed time every day to allocate to creativity builds these muscles and skills that can then be applied to all areas of life. The best way I can think to achieve this is through writing a blog. Actually, I want to write a book one day. I have no idea what the subject should be but I know I am not yet “someone who can write”. How to become that person? Write. Write lots, write often, write consistently. For me it’s all about discipline. We can do almost anything with the right amount of discipline and focus.
I believe that having a lack of creative actions in our life leads to some kind of mental stagnation. A static kind of feeling where our realms of possibility dwindle and we become stuck within a very narrow mindset. This is fertile breeding ground for fear. Once we become comfortable in our stagnant pond of non-creative existence, we enter a self-reinforcing pattern. We are scared to change and because of that fear, we don’t create anything, we don’t DO anything, we lose our sharpness, we lose our cutting-edge. It is from this position that low self-esteem, low confidence and depressive cycles emerge. Don’t become too comfortable. Comfort is the enemy of the brave!
Creativity gives us sharpness, it provides mental agility, it keeps the ideas flowing, it widens our realms of possibility and broadens our horizons. It increases the sense of what is possible and keeps us lubricated. Mental lubrication is essential if we don’t want our engines to seize.
The bottom line… CREATE. Create something, create anything, create often, stay SHARP!
I intend to form the habit of writing for a minimum of one hour every day, even it is complete garbage.
3) Mind Training (Meditation, habit-building, cultivating positivity and love, stilling the mind, breaking down limiting beliefs)
We live in a fucked up world. Those who choose to opt out of the system know this all too well. We can see how the culture of greed, inhumanity, faceless corporations, war, terror, debt and modern-day slavery are leading to the destruction of the planet. We know, deep down in our core that things should (or could) be different. Our cultural conditioning is so powerful that most people feel unable to step outside the narrow parameters of their own programming. We are programmed to be selfish from birth. We are completely bombarded by information that tells us that greed is good. We are taught that competition is the way to get ahead and that we need to crush our enemies to get to where we want to be. I call bullshit on this entire philosophy. Every single being on this planet strives for the same things at the end of the day.
We all want to escape some type of pain, and…
We all want to gain some kind of happiness.
It’s really that simple. One of the fundamental pillars of rejecting this status quo of society is to train our mind. With such an onslaught of conditioning from outside, it’s important to develop a strong sense of mental vigilance on the inside. One thing that can provide at least a temporary moment of clarity in a fuzzy world is meditation. For the last year or so, I have been trying to establish a regular pattern of meditation. Currently my target is 1 hour in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening. This for me is an extremely hard task but I know the benefits and I know it is essential for me.
Meditation doesn’t stop at the cushion though. The Tibetan word for meditation translates as “To become familiar with”. So the practice of meditation is to get to know our mind and its ongoing habits. It’s important to cultivate the mind on a consistent basis. Taking regular “reality checks” is very important. Am I self absorbed? Is this activity benefiting myself or another? Am I forming the correct mental habits? Am I being lazy? Am I being jealous? Proud? Competitive? Is any of this helpful? The point is, to stop being on auto-pilot and start being in control. If we ARE what we regularly DO, then what we DO is a result of what we THINK. Everything begins and ends with the mind. Habits come from action, action comes from intention, intention comes from the mind. Do we want to CONDITION the world or BE CONDITIONED by it? Think.
4) Activity (Project work, making money, altruistic activity)
These are the tasks that move our goals forward. This will most likely be the bulk of your daily action. This is basic, good old-fashioned elbow-grease. When its time to work, we should single-mindedly focus. Close Facebook, close Twitter. Be focused, be productive. Have clear goals and a clear objective for your work session. Make sure at the very least, that you get your single most important task (MIT) out of the way during your work session. I’ve recently started working by using the pomodoro technique and it’s helping me tremendously. The timer is ticking away right now as I write this in fact.
It’s worthwhile to reflect on your intentions. What do you really want to achieve during your time on this earth? Reflect on death. You ARE definitely going to die. Maybe even this year, this month or this week! When we die we can’t take a single cent with us. Nothing we have accumulated will mean anything at this time so it’s important that we balance our activity between SELFISH and SELFLESS goals. Once again, this comes down to balance. I think that too much work for selfish motivations can very easily lead to problems such as burn-out, or the feeling that we have an empty unfulfilled life.
Donate some of your working hours to charitable causes. Give some free consultation to a worthy cause. If you really can’t give any of your time away (really? not even 2 hours per month to jump on a call?), then at the very minimum try to give some of your income away. For those of us who earn our cash in dollars or pounds, even $50 can go an incredibly long way in a developing country. For instance, I sponsor a child to go through school in Nepal and it costs a measly $180 per year. A small loss to me… a huge, life-changing gain to her. Think about it.
5) Structure and Networks (Platforms, procedures, supports, systems)
This is the time where we keep ourselves mean and lean and functioning as we should be. This is where we work on our systems and supports that enable us (and our businesses) to exist in this modern world. Example of tasks that are in this category are:
- Clearing out and organising a drawer, or a bookshelf
- Sort through your Google contacts and clear the dead wood
- Conduct a financial review and reconcile your bank accounts
- Clear your PC desktop, organise your files and folders
- Contact with old friends and associates, rekindle those flames
- Review your life goals. Are they relevant? Are they in line with your values?
- Conduct business masterminds or accountability partner meetings
- Refining your daily schedule and checklists
I plan to spend 15-30 minutes every single day on this type of activity. Through these types of actions, we will very quickly notice a compounded effect whereby we become more efficient, more organised, more reliable, more trustworthy, more connected, more resourceful… the list goes on.
6) Rejuvenation (Play, exercise, sleep, balance, hobbies)
Sometimes we think that the only way to get ahead is to keep ploughing through our task lists, to keep striving for ever-increasing levels of efficiency. In case you haven’t figured it out by now, our to-do lists don’t ever end. They are, by definition, impossible to complete. For every task we complete there will ALWAYS be 10 more to swoop in and take its place. Sometimes the answer is not to do MORE, it is to do less.
I am willing to bet that the most successful entrepreneurs out there have managed to learn how to switch off. To be able to put our projects down, close the laptop and do something different is a skill in itself. For me, this is one of my biggest weaknesses by far. It is oh so easy to underestimate the value of play and relaxation. When we are sucked into the endless chase for gain and fame, its incredibly easy for work to encroach on our play-time. One more email, one more task, one more call, one more pomodoro session. Just STOP already… you know there is always going to be “one more”.
Go out and play, keep up with your hobbies, have something different to do. I can guarantee you’ll feel more rounded, more complete and less likely to burn out.
This turned into a way bigger essay than I planned. If you made it this far, then you deserve a big pat on the back. Please leave a comment and let me know if you want more of this kind of thing.