Now that I have defined my two goals and I dropped the search for a BIG life purpose out of the way, I am ready to pick the tools I want to work with. Here are the first two: Life Coaching which I previously wrote about and my Empowerment Ritual.
People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them. – George Bernard Shaw
The key is to put effort every day, even if it’s not my best, or I don’t feel like it. It almost becomes a habit. It gives me a small dose of satisfaction (I did something today, I did a small step in the right direction today) that fuels my day and helps me continue the next day.
If I sum up all the little pieces of work done over a month, a year – I can get really far. I am open and sensitive to any clues, any connections, any resources I can put to work to help me.
Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years. – Bill Gates
Step 1: Sleep a.k.a “Winter is coming”
As winter approached, and the winter in Berlin is not particularly cold or snowy but rather persistent, long, dark and monotonous, I don’t see the sun for days, sometimes weeks. My inner clock, my innate mammal body turns into hibernation mode. 7 hours of sleep are not enough, and no matter how early I go to bed, I’d need at least 8-9-sometimes 10 hours of sleep.
At first, I fought it. I wanted to go back to my usual 7 hours of sleep so I’d have more of the fresh morning hours. I would apply tricks, try to go to bed early, try to wake up early, put my alarm away from reach so I can’t snooze it. The struggle went for weeks. With no result. I just felt guilty of spending so much time sleeping.
As part of my coaching sessions assignments, I was exercising embracing myself (a sleepy, lazy person), accepting (that I need more sleep in winter) and letting go (my idea of 7 hours of sleep). So, I dropped my resistance, and let go.
I didn’t count how many hours I slept. I didn’t punish myself for waking up late. I just accepted it. No fucks given.
All this energy I’ve been using to discipline myself into sleeping less was now available to me. It wasn’t long until I started to wake up on my own, without an alarm, even when it was pitch dark outside. I don’t even know how many hours I sleep now. The sleeping is not an issue anymore.
As spring approaches, I expect it to become even better.
Step 2: Know your highs
The most productive hours of the day vary from a person to a person. I’m definitely at my best in the hours after I wake (no matter if this is 7 am or 10 am). I keep my phone off, I do a stretching exercise, followed by breakfast and a coffee, and I’m ready to sit and work. It’s when my mind is least distracted, most focused and most capable. These are my golden hours. I protect them fiercely.
Ideally, the night before I decide what I want to get done – draft a blog post, program a feature, research, tackle something I’ve been procrastinating for a while (taxes). I have the least resistance, so I get it done relatively quickly and effectively. My inner critic hasn’t fully
I try to stretch these hours until midday. This is when I reward myself with lunch. I often work from home, so the reward is double – I cook the lunch and I eat lunch.
After lunch, my energy levels and concentration are visibly lower. I use the remaining hours for less demanding tasks – meetings, emails. This is when I turn my phone on, and the messages flood me. My brain goes euphoric, all over the place, and I know the productive, creative work is over. I try to delay this moment as much as possible.
I keep the least demanding activities for later in the afternoon and the evening – shopping, housekeeping, sometimes reading, watching Netflix, catching up on podcasts.
By the late afternoon, I’m already mentally exhausted, so I go to the gym.
Step 3: Exercise
By this time of the day, I’m exhausted mentally. My life energy is sucked out of me – I can’t concentrate on anything. My work is mostly done sitting on a computer – project management, writing, programming. I need to get out of my mind and sport is the happy place I go to.
It had to be easy, fast to reach, and enjoyable. This is when I discovered the gym close-by, only 5min away. I prefer the classes that require complete focus, like the Zumba or the Body Combat (aerobics +
Some days I do Pilates and yoga – and if you’ve been to a German gym, you’d know these are not relaxing either. Many times I was sore after a yoga class.
Step 4: The edge cases
Not every day goes as planned. Not every day I manage to keep the balance.
A few times I’ve slipped off, like when I intended to share a link on Facebook EyesOnTheGoal group and I found myself hours later scrolling the timeline or sucked into some Facebook page.
Don’t go into social media in your golden hours! It’s too precious time to waste on social media.
Other times, I don’t feel inspired, I don’t feel like it or I have some physical discomfort. These are the days when I learn to be easy on myself and do a 30-60min of work. It still counts, it’s still a step forward. Usually, by the time I’m done with the 60min, I’ve started to enjoy the thing that’s shaping in front of me, and I keep working for another hour or so. The trick is to sit down and write the first sentence/line of code.
It’s a few months now that I have been tweaking this ritual/regime/schedule. The ultimate test was over the Christmas holidays. This year I didn’t fly home so I had 11days in Berlin without any big plans.
Usually, I’d get restless, and I’d need action and external stimulation after just a couple of days. But this time it was different – I’d do my morning brain lifting, then I’d do my afternoon exercise, I’d go out for a social event (if I had anything planned for the day). The next day I’d repeat it. It was sustainable.
So here I am, stabilizing my Empowerment Ritual – it’s feature complete, and I’m in the maturation phase (if I look at my schedule as a piece of software).
How is it for you? What works best? How are you overcoming your inner critic?