Finish what you start. After overcoming the blank slate, we need to follow up on our intentions and complete what we set out to do. Once we begin, progress is easy. We don’t have much to compare against so we accomplish a large proportion of our overall work. However, when we start making actual progress and we face obstacles in the way of our advancement, we must endure. Do not mistake iterative progress with fully realizing your goal. It is easy to leave your previous work behind and pick up a new task to feel the same sense of early productivity. After all, 80 percent of the results is accomplished with 20 percent of the effort. However, it is the last 20%, 10%, and 1% that counts. It is in these moments when our ideas become realities. Don’t stop when things get difficult. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but when it is ready enough, show the world, take feedback with an open mind, learn from mistakes, stick with it, and be prepared to continue building on what you accomplished.
“We’ve adopted the Google ideal of the mind, which is that you have a question that you can answer quickly: close-ended, well-defined questions. Lost in that conception is that there’s also this open-ended way of thinking where you’re not always trying to answer a question. You’re trying to go where that thought leads you. As a society, we’re saying that that way of thinking isn’t as important anymore. It’s viewed as inefficient.” -Nicholas Carr, The End of Reflection
“Sitting around with nothing to do is a great way to think about things that might not normally come to mind. It’s a time to bounce a ball off the wall or walk around outside looking for “stuff” without knowing what you are looking for. Being bored is what motivates you to take something apart just to see what’s inside, even if you may not get it back together.” – Rhett Allain, It’s Ok to be Bored
Tim Ferriss, author of “books with titles that sound like infomercials”, touts tremendous productivity techniques which can result in 10x’ing your hourly output (thus the 4-hour workweek, 10×4=40). He is slightly controversial in regards to a few of his approaches (who outsources email?), but many are applicable to just about everyone. The questions is, how do people who work 9 to 5 fit these techniques into their lives? Sure someone like Ferriss who only works four hours a week (slight exaggeration) has time to read 2-3 books a week and meditate twice a day, but how can people who spend a large portion of their time at their job work these teachings into their lives? It takes a bit of effort, but it can be done.
Start by retooling your morning. What do you do? Get up after hitting snooze on the alarm one too many times. Check your phone for email and social media updates. Skip breakfast because you need to get out the door.
Even if you are not a morning person, tweaking your morning schedule slightly can be easy and have tremendous benefits. Start by waking up 20 minutes earlier than you would normally (come on, it’s not that bad). The iPhone alarm snoozes for 9 minutes. Say you hit it twice every morning. If you wake up with the first alarm you’re pretty much already there.
- Wake up without hitting snooze (Ryan Holiday and Marcus Aurelius)
- DO NOT CHECK YOUR PHONE (Pretty much everyone on the show)
- Silent meditation for 5-20 minutes (Glitch mob, Ryan Holiday, Tim Ferriss)
- Light exercise and/or stretching to invoke deep breathing and blood flow (Glitch Mob, Diamandis)
- The following are common, but the order is often different:
- Breakfast: eggs (Glitch mob) waffles (Ohanian) sardines!? (Ferriss)
- Journaling (Holiday, Ferriss, Diamandis, Rodriguez)
- Reading (Holiday, Glitch Mob)
- Finally, plug in and get on with your day.
This may seem like quite a bit to accomplish in the morning, but if thought of as part of your daily routine, rather than things which need to get done, you will probably find it all rather easy. Meditate for 5 minutes, do 100 jumping jacks, and write down your thoughts. If you are efficient, you can fit all of this into the time you spend snoozing that alarm. Try it out, tweak the times, and find a schedule that works best for you.
If you take public transit (and can get a seat), the time spent commuting can be used mindfully to accomplish parts of the routine. Instead of sleeping or listening to music, you can write in a journal or read a book. If you drive as part of your morning commute, listen to a podcast which sets your mind in the right place for the rest of the day (it is not condoned to read while driving to work…).
The rest of the day:
Keep the baseline that while you are at work, you are working (and doing so at 10x your usual rate). But what about lunch? If you have an hour for a lunch break, take 10 minutes of that time to meditate and 10 minutes to journal. You still have 40 minutes left for your meal.
On the way back from work, try the morning routine in reverse. Read and journal on public transit, listen to podcasts in the car, meditate upon arriving home to decompress and take count of the days events. Let your work-mind settle and move your thoughts into goals for your personal life. And don’t forget to relax. Even Elon Musk plays video games sometimes.
Carry this schedule into your days off as well. Sure you can sleep in a bit later, but don’t deviate just because it’s a lazy Saturday. Start your day of productively and you will set the tone for the day to align your actions with what you want to achieve.
There are over 150 episodes of the Tim Ferriss Show, so there is bound to be variations to these routines. Everyone is different and you will find some techniques employed by certain people will work better for you than others. As Ryan Holiday mentions, find a person or character you relate to, see what you like about yourself in them, and use it to bring out more of those qualities. Also, see what you don’t like about yourself in them and use it as a cautionary tale to stay away from those qualities. In this regard, find a routine that works for you and fits in with your life goals. Pull from others’ successes, continually tweak your daily regiment, and strive to keep improving.
Tim, how about you interview someone with a 9 to 5? Not everyone has a 4-hour workweek, but we are all trying to become the best versions of ourselves.
I’ve watched every Pixar movie (and short) ever made and a fair chunk of the movies from Disney Animation Studios. These animated movies meet at the intersection of creativity and technology, blending state of the art film techniques with tremendous storylines. Plus, they really stand out for their empowering and timely messages, relevant to both children and adults. Disney Animation’s Zootopia explores prejudice and stereotypes through the eyes of a cute rabbit and sly fox (just don’t call them cute or sly). If you haven’t seen it, it’s definitely worth a watch. Here’s a quote (no spoilers):
“I thought this city would be a perfect place where everyone got along and anyone could be anything. Turns out, life’s a little bit more complicated than a slogan on a bumper sticker. Real life is messy. We all have limitations. We all make mistakes. Which means, hey, glass half full, we all have a lot in common. And the more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each of us will be. But we have to try. So no matter what kind of person you are, I implore you: Try. Try to make the world a better place. Look inside yourself and recognize that change starts with you.” -Judy Hopps, Zootopia
A thoughtful and inspirational message for an animated kids movie, eh?
If you are more of the bookworm type, check out Creativity Inc. to read about the inner working of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, and how John Lasseter and Ed Catmull (and Steve Jobs) shaped the futures of the companies.
And of course sloths! (mild spoilers)
The blank slate. Torture to those who rarely peer upon its emptiness. But the thing is so easily conquered. Just go, do, begin and you have turned a blank slate into a moment of opportunity, unlocking infinite potential. And yet, so many are lost by its prospect out of fear of failure or inability to act. But when we venture out into the unknown, we find things aren’t so unfamiliar. We adapt and inhabit our surroundings with our own qualities and find new traits which meld with our own. As long as we just start, this can all be ours. Once we do, there is no telling how we’ll fill the canvas.
Routine is not something you do once a week. Routine is daily. Routine is a part of you expressed every day. Keep uploading, keep writing, keep pushing yourself. Do not take a day off. Make routine your constant and deviation your off day. Find a schedule which works for your and make it a constant. Want to improve? Accomplish a goal? Make a legacy? Work hard, put yourself out there, change for the better, and keep going.