People were dying all over Europe during summer of 2003, due to one of the worst heat waves ever. Around same time, I was dealing with my heatwave-like internal demons.
I was a naive young man trying to come to terms with life and finding my way in the world. Pretending who I was not, telling lies and mindless action was the recurring theme of my days then. On the surface everything was calm but there were volcanos erupting inside.
When I look back, I find that nothing is permanent. The challenges that mattered then do not matter now.
I also learned that you take nothing on the journey forward except the lessons. Sometimes lessons can also be a burden – your ties to the past. Good to get rid of such lessons and only carry the ones that push you forward into the space of happiness, balance and peace. Only the lessons you need now.
If you are scared of loosing the lessons, make a lesson book and note all your lessons there and review it every six months or so. Otherwise, relying on your memory and body’s in-built intelligence is enough.
Here are the lessons that have helped me move ahead in life and serve me well day after day. Pick the ones that can push you forward and leave rest here. Also, we all fight our own wars, so modify based on where you are in life right now.
1. Understand Your Body’s Energy Flow.
Your body and mind are the tools that you rely on to achieve whatever you want.
Both (body and mind) have their own time and process for warm up and peak performance. To use these two LIVING tools well, you need to find out the best exercise for your body and mind.
If your warm up time for mind or body is long, do not force to shorten it. Instead start a little early and give that extra time.
Identify your peak performance time and perform the most important activity in your life at that time.
Right now stop reading and think what items needs most attention from you. Different answers will come out. Your first answer may not be the best or so you will have to keep thinking once every month of so.
You answer may be,
– I need my body to be in best shape possible.
– I want my salary at work to increase.
– I need customer service at my business to improve.
– I need to take action on ………… (fill in name of your current important project – it can be business, marriage, education).
Whatever comes out as the answer invest your peak performance time for next 21 days on that activity. When your answer changes – change the activity for peak performance time.
For most of us – who are not professional athletes – the daily exercise – should be a part of the body / mind warm up routine.
For those who have family / social life at the centre, at least 2 days a week should be spent with the people who matter during peak peformance time. This is important because if you are tired when with friends or family they will not feel your presence. It like you are there but your energy is not felt. You need to be totally present with them.
Total presence – in mind and body – has a big impact on success of relationships, also at the work we do.
2. Sleep Enough and Don’t Be Lazy.
Understanding your body’s energy rhythm by listening to the signals it provides is the first step. Taking action that these signals suggests us to take comes next.
You can’t be productive at work when you have not slept enough the past night. Yawn after yawns telling you to switching off and you staring at screen thinking that you are doing the work. I know it well; because I found myself doing the same for years.
Laziness caused by sleep deprivation or otherwise is the biggest obstacle in achieving anything big.
As a kid everything was done for me so I turned into a slob. That continued well into teen years. To make it worse when I needed the “take action” advice the most, I turned into a rebel, so I would not listen to anything my parents will tell me. This was the time when I had to be responsible for my actions. Even then because of the inertia that was there I just keep wishing without much action.
On this search to find the right path and later meaning in life all by myself, I noticed things changed quickly for better when I was not lazy.
To avoid sin of sloth, try these simple ideas. Eat your last meal of the day early, sleep enough, move your body in the morning. If you enjoy taking walks then here is a tip: morning walks should brisk and in evening walks should be taken at a leisurely pace.
3. Work to a Schedule.
Every successful person in the world works to a schedule. Without a schedule for creation and doing important work, it is almost impossible to move ahead.
Better if you schedule is not packed. If you have too much to do – batch activities. Have a day each for meetings, reading, runnings errands, meeting friends / social duties. Other important activities like meditation, rest, thinking, putting things back in their place, laughing with family – can be done daily during earlier part of the day or in evening.
When you make a fixed plan for work with about 20% room built in for unseen activities – you make yourself free from taking decisions about what needs to be done on a particular day. This saves important mental energy that is better invested in thinking and doing more important work than scheduling action.
4. Make Lists.
Lists are powerful.
I have been using them for more than a decade now.
Lists are simple so many people make them but not everyone is good at making lists.
At first I struggled with them and made rookie mistakes like having too many items on the to-do list for a day. Even worse I used to push the items not done to next day’s to-do list.
What works for me and many others who use lists well is to have only one important item to accomplish for a day along with two or three smaller items. Yesterday my goal was to guide my sister with the direction for her new venture and smaller goals were to write 1000 words. My goals for today – post this article, start with an outline for my new writing project, write first draft of a mail to a developer friend and work on a group project that I am running with close friends in Jan. Total 4 today. Yesterday there were 2. Tomorrow there will be more action on the business side. Because today is the last day – of my self-imposed personal retreat that started in December last year.
On busier days I may put two important items on plate not more. But not more than 1 or 2 items that need deep thinking.
Ticking all 4 to-dos off list is much better that ticking 5 items done and still have 3 more on the list which leaves you feeling that you did not do enough. If you have more than 4-6 items on your to-do list, you are either not delegating or not differentiating between what is important and what is not.
5. Have Fun at the End of the Day.
Switch off. Let people email you or continue work, you don’t have to. It is more important if you work with colleague or customers across time zones. Have an end time to the day and after that until next day no going back to work.
8 hours (which is like 4-5 hours of real work) is enough to accomplish big things.
6. Give More than You Get.
Make this a rule. If you collect good karma, you will find help when you need it. At the very least, it will make you feel good. Feeling good is its own reward.
If you have big goals, help more people. Share ideas to make their life or business better without expecting anything in return.
Help others even if they can’t help you still. It will come back to you if not through them then through someone else.
7. Spread Happiness.
Do not spread hatred. Do not speak ill of others. If you have to talk about others talk good. People you hate or do not like, erase them out of your life. Talking about them is like watching them star in a movie running in your head, where these people are the villains creating pain for the hero (You) till the last scene in the movie. How interesting is this? You get the point. Now stop watching this movie.
Smile with your entire face when you look at someone. Make people smile. You will win.
8. Go after Your Own Goals and Pick Goals Worthy of Your Attention.
No need to set goals because they are fancy. Go after them because you care for them.
9. Dream but Take Action.
Dream when you walk and sleep.
Then take action.
Failure after consistent effort is OK. Failure because of no action is foolish.
10. Know What Needs to Be Taken Care First.
Setting priorities is the more complex way to say this.
For most of us, it will be health. If you do not know where to start, start with deep sleep, good food and moving the body.
11. Discipline Is More Important than You Think.
Thinking and taking action on what you aim to do for 4 days for 48 weeks in a year is much better than 7 days a week for only 4 weeks.
12. Hustle. Reach out, Talk to People.
If you are shy, use email. Write to people who matter.
13. Do Not Spread Yourself Too Thin.
Do not run after too many goals at one go.
14. Pick Goals with Multiple Benefits.
Like improving communication skills which helps you grow as an individual and is useful everywhere.
15. Find Accountability Partners.
They can be your friends who are pursuing similar goals or someone who has been in your shoes.
16. Announce Your Plans – but Do Not Talk Too Much about Them.
Talking too much about your plans will make your brain think that you have already accomplished them. I refrained from calling myself an author until my first book came out. Call me paranoid but i avoided it. This reminds me I still need to update my Twitter profile to reflect this 🙂
17. Aim for Small Incremental Wins.
Big projects need to be broken into parts otherwise you will not achieve them. Little steps to be done everyday.
18. Treat Yourself on Small Wins.
A self massage is a treat. Coffee with your loved ones is a treat. A walk in the park with your spouse is a treat. Anything that makes you happier is a treat.
19. Put Systems in Place.
Anything that helps you do whatever you aim to do efficiently is a system.
Your system can consist of people, paper, machines, and digital tools.
Delegating low value tasks that someone else can do, should be a priority when you establish systems. This will include everything except – thinking, eating, sleeping, shitting and tasks around it, maintenance (of your own body) via massage, moving around and exercise, nurturing very important relationships and hobbies.
Getting professional help and working with mentors can also be part of this system. This helps you be efficient by avoiding pitfalls and bringing mashups of the thinking of other intelligent people into your own thinking. You cannot grow if you only listen to yourself all the time.
Creating fixed blocks of time should be part of this system.
Having a meal plan, work plan and even a place for mindless surfing and exploration should also be a part of the plan. This makes sure that one does not eat into the time for other.
If your work is in the digital domain then try going for multi monitor setup and having two devices – one for creation (disconnected) and one for exploration.
So create efficient systems.
I think it is getting too long now. What was to be said has been said. Now tell me, what is it that you already do? What should I add to it?
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