Time is scarce and can be the most undervalued resource in life. It does not come in tangible form like money; it cannot be gathered like food; it will not be produced in a factory, nor will it be waiting for you to hit the reset button and start fresh. To parade aimlessly with your time is like a cheetah that cannot run fast enough to catch its prey – you become obsolete. When you slow down and stall, you hinder progress; it is the difference between becoming sharp or dull, strong or weak, fast or slow, disciplined or agitated and motivated or repressed. The world’s clock doesn’t give a second chance; it merely gives you opportunity, one day at a time, until it has no more to offer.
The great Roman philosopher Seneca encapsulates a pragmatic thought on how we utilize time in this quote from The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca translated by Moses Hadas.
“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. Life is long enough and our allotted portion generous enough for our most ambitious projects if we invest it all carefully. But when it is squandered through luxury and indifference, and spent for no good end, we realize it has gone, under the pressure of the ultimate necessity, before we were aware it was going.” – Seneca
In this case, we must manage what we cannot change. Productivity habits are skillsets, and should be exercised and practiced each day by using both technology and ubiquitous material to our advantage. There doesn’t have to be a myriad of strategies used, but a few simple ones that help you extract the most out of your day. Thoughtless action disrupts focus, so let’s give it some structure.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Wake Up Earlier
Start waking up before the rest of the world. Wake up at 5am and reap the benefits of getting work done before the day officially starts. It will typically take one to two weeks to fully embody this routine, but eventually it will stick and you’ll start having an abundance of free time. To initiate a good protocol, follow these three strategies:
- Set your alarm away from your bed so that you have to physically get up and turn it off. Do not fall back into bed; realize that your fatigue will diminish after the first hour of waking, so just get going!
- Black out your room completely and turn off electronic devices in the bedroom. The amount of light in a bedroom and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) can affect your sleep quality dramatically. I noticed my quality of sleep improved immediately after implementing both of these strategies.
- If you live in the city, then you know how loud it can get. For deeper sleep, buy some good earplugs to diminish the noisy environment. I use Ohropax earplugs, which are a wax-based plug that forms to the shape of your ear.
Mind, Body and Spirituality
The whole idea of waking up at 5am is to prepare yourself before you go out to successfully accomplish your day. Do not reduce the effectiveness of an early wake up call by checking your email, going on social networks, or any other activity that will drive you into a deep pit of wandering behavior. Here are some key rituals you should partake in first thing in the morning for 15 to 30 minutes each.
- Reading and/or Writing: Ignite your morning with a mental stimulation of reading literature from great minds and authors or start releasing your own ideas onto paper. Doing this will give you a heightened awareness of where you are in your life, where you need to go and how to accomplish it.
- Physical Activity: Spend a good duration of your morning training your body. This could be separate from your regular workout of the day or it can mix in with it. Whatever your goals are, whether its body composition, mobility, strength, endurance, etc., set up a training regime and execute it each morning. Workouts that are done in the morning give you a jolt of energy, strength, and feeling of self-accomplishment that prepare your mind and body as a whole for the day ahead.
- Meditation: I find it surprising that many people gloss over something as simple as sitting on the floor and just being. We spend all this time in a day constantly retrieving an overload of information, but we have no effortless way of relieving it? Sit on a pillow with your legs crossed and eyes shut in a dark room that is quiet. This isn’t a time to problem solve or brainstorm new ideas, although this can happen naturally; they must be evaporated from the mind to gain ultimate clarity. Focus on your breathing while keeping your head light and your back erect. Do this for 15 to 30 minutes every morning. Research Transcendental Meditation for more insight.
Daily Habits, Weekly Benchmarks and Monthly Achievements
The key factors of getting what you want are simple: plan and execute. You can only go so far by doing only one; you must incorporate them both consistently to become a productivity powerhouse. Here is a foundational structure on how to achieve your goals:
- Daily Habits: Set rituals that accelerate your skills and do them every day. Start unlearning bad habits and start internalizing more positive ones. Write out the days plan and give yourself challenges that you will conquer as if it was your last time on earth. Make sure to track your progress and log your experience.
- Weekly Benchmarks: These are basically your mid-term goals. Every week you must get stronger and wiser through the accumulation of your daily habits. What is your whole week leading up to? Make sure to be specific about your benchmarks and, once achieved, replenish yourself with good food, company and sleep, and then swiftly prepare for the upcoming week.
- Monthly Achievements: This is a time to celebrate your endeavors, but more importantly become even more introspective about your accomplishments. When 30 days is up, depending on your plan, maybe it’s not yet time to indulge or wallow in luxury, but to truthfully re-analyze your situation and make adjustments for the larger venture up ahead.
In part two of this article, I will be explaining various resources you can implement to facilitate your productivity for more organized planning, visual structure and motivational accountability as well as guidance.