My next point of call is understanding how to set myself up in a peak mental state for the day. It’s fine having all these goals, and even the road map, but it is pointless if I’m not actually taking the time to follow through. Even worse would be if I was taking the time to follow through, but just not being effective.
I’m going to discuss two books in this article today. Two very famous books which have a great deal in common, even though they’re targeting different areas of self-improvement. The first book is The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, and the second is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.
I guess the essence of this article is that everyone has a routine that they follow. It can differ day to day, but it is essentially the same. Some might be stricter, such as a certain time they have to be at work and some might be looser, such as what time you wake up in the morning for your wake-and-bake. Your routine will depend on your lifestyle, but every lifestyle has some kind of routine.
I want to optimise my routine to encourage me to continually work towards my goals. I want it to put me in a state of mind where I am success oriented, and every decision I make is effective, efficient and in alignment with my destination.
Sharpen the Saw
I read a book a while ago that provided a perfect metaphor for this. I think it was The Millionaire Fastlane by M J DeMarco. In the book, he talks about two (fictional) ancient Egyptian princes who are tasked with building a pyramid each thanks to their father, the Pharaoh. Whichever brother accomplishes the task first wins all the money he could ever dream of, and the loser gets nothing.
A number of years pass and the eldest brother has had his team design his pyramid. He has plenty of slaves that are working day and night to construct this beast of architecture. The youngest brother hasn’t even laid his foundations at this point.
Years pass once more and the eldest brother is making slow and steady progress. He is nearly halfway complete. Still, the youngest brother hasn’t even started yet. The eldest brother is smug and confident that he is going to win the task.
Again, more years pass and the eldest brothers pyramid is taking shape. It actually looks like a pyramid. Just a few more years and it will be perfect. The youngest brother shows his face.
The oldest brother exclaims, “You can’t win, brother. I have been working day in and day out for the majority of my life to get to this stage. I will win, and I will take the prize.”
“I can see how hard you have worked brother, it has taken its toll on you,” replied his brother. “I have also been working, though…” And from behind him, a number of men manoeuvre a large machine into place.
Easily and effortlessly, the youngest brother begins lifting huge stones and dropping the perfectly into position. By the end of the night, the first layer was complete. By the end of the second night, even more had been complete. In less than a year, the youngest brother claimed the prize for building his pyramid and was able to live a life of fantasy.
While I may not have told the story as fluently as DeMarco does, I think I have demonstrated the basic gist. I have also shown exactly what Covey talks about in his book when he mentions about sharpening his saw. If you’re going to do a job, you can do it most efficiently and most effectively by ensuring you have the right tools that have been kept in the optimum condition. The oldest brother was so close to winning, but he had worked himself to the point of death. The youngest brother spent those years leisurely building his machine, winning with less effort. He worked smarter.
Covey’s metaphor was that you would spend longer trying to saw a tree down with a blunt saw, than you would by sharpening it and then sawing it. I realise I left you in the dark there!
What Should I Take to the Whetstone?
Covey’s blunt tools are practically the same as Elrod’s Life SAVERS. There is one slight difference that I’ll add at the end.
The first tool that you need to keep sharp is your physical health. It is kept sharp by exercising, eating healthily and avoiding unnecessary stress. While I disagree that it is entirely possible to avoid the causes of stress, I think this can also be considered to mean that you must develop powerful coping strategies for stress.
The second tool that might be blunting is your mental health. Covey suggests that you can keep the cogs moving by reading high quality, beneficial books. He also says that you should make time for writing each day, possibly in the form of a diary. The final thing that keeps your mind sharp is by actively planning your future and putting your goals into writing.
Your toolbox should at least be efficient by this point. We’re going to make it effective too by sharpening up our social life and emotional health. Covey is of the opinion that the key a healthy emotional state is a strong social life. As naturally social creatures, I’m inclined to believe that there is something in this, though I wouldn’t have thought it to be the most important thing. He says that you should form an abundance of positive relationships and never let your social needs be neglected.
Finally, you should see to your spiritual health. This includes either praying or meditating, though it should really include any organised silence where you can look within yourself. You should use this time as a source of reflection, confronting your values and ensuring they align with your longer term goals.
Elrod’s Life SAVERS include the same points, but he includes an additional technique and a more rigid structure:
S is Silence (meditation, praying etc)
A is Affirmations (describing an experience to define it within our reality)
V is Visualisation (visualising yourself achieving your goals and living your dreams)
E is for Exercise
R is for Reading
S is for Scribing (writing each day)
Covey does go on to talk about the importance of visualisation later on in the book. However, he suggests that you should visualise a task before attempting it in terms of the engineers saying “Measure twice, cut once.” By running through the task first, you have a better idea of how you should carry it out and therefore you’re more likely to be successful.
Time is Constant
I know what you’re thinking, “There just aren’t enough hours in the day.” Well, there are, so stop whining. Elrod says that you can accomplish all six activities in an hour to achieve a huge deal more success than without them.
The standard timing allocates ten minutes to each activity, but you can mix it up a bit if you feel like your time might be better spent on another activity for longer.
Where can you find that hour? Elrod answers that for you as well. Rather than sitting up until midnight watching reruns of Two and a Half Men on Comedy Central, head to bed earlier. That way, you can get your full nights rest and get up substantially earlier. Go to bed an hour earlier to rise an hour earlier.
The truth is, we become less productive as the day goes on. This is due to a whole number of obvious reasons, with the most notable being that you’ve exhausted yourself with your daily tasks by the time the evening rolls on in.
I know for a fact that if I stay up later I will only spend that time watching television. I don’t have the energy to make meaningful conversation with my partner, nor do I have the energy to practice empathetic listening. My time will solely be spent watching crap on the television.
By going to bed at nine, I can be up and working by three. That gives me between three and four hours before I need to get the bus to school. Though I am trying to increase my sleep time to a full eight hours, but I’d still have two hours spare!
I am going to implement this into my life in a fairly simple way. I will write my six activities down in my progress journal as daily tasks to ensure that I complete them.
I will slowly progress through what Elrod calls Wake Up Motivation Levels (WUML). These are tasks that get slightly more difficult, with the starting task requiring no thought process. Once I have reached a sufficient energy level, I will start by stating all of my positive affirmations that have been pre-prepared. I will then go through my goals list and practice visualisation on each one, both of me achieving the goal and enjoying the process.
I do some meditative exercises as part of my memory training, so I will follow visualisation up with that.
Hopefully, I will have a power rack set up in the garage of my new house, so I will be able to exercise directly after completing my mind workout. If not, this stage will have to come once I’ve arrived at university.
Reading and writing will be completed on my journey home from university. I will read and write during that time in order to make sure it is spent productively. At the end of a long day, I don’t want to study, so most of my journey home before was simply spent wasted.
That’s how I’m going to implement these into my life, but how are you going to do it? Is there anything else you think is truly important to be practising every day?