Renew Your Spirit By Spending Time Outside

The older I get, the more I start to understand why parents would push us off technology when we were kids. (I won’t get on a tangent of how more of our parents are addicted to technology than we are now…)

Don’t get me wrong – I love technology. I run my entire business through the internet and it’s been a lifesaver for so many of us.

On the flip side, few people seem to be discussing the problems that come with this incessant stream of information.

Listen, if you don’t have any issues with technology and feel invigorated by spending all your time in front of a screen, this article is not for you. That’s great that you get your source of joy from looking at screens all day.

For a lot of us, though, it’s doing more harm than good. These sites were designed to keep our attention and keep us scrolling for as long as possible. (I work in marketing, so I have intimate knowledge of this phenomenon.)

The more I talk to people, the more I hear about people with anxiety, sleep issues, constantly on edge, wasting time arguing with strangers online… The internet is such a fine line between being the greatest invention and also wildly destructive when not checked.

As someone who spends 10-14 hours a day in front of a screen to run my business, it’s hard to step back. Sometimes I’ll game to relieve stress, and while that helps a little bit, it’s often hard to find relaxation behind even MORE screens. The same goes for scrolling social media, watching movies, or streaming Netflix. It just doesn’t seem to have the same “fill the bucket” feeling as getting outdoors.

Spending time outdoors should be as mandatory as any other health checkups we do in our lives. It’s a way to renew your spirit and change up your routine. At the minimum, an outdoor experience should be a monthly experience in your life.

Built to explore

When you explore your area, you’re finally free from your daily schedule. No Google Calendar to send you a notice of all the things you have to do. As humans, we were built to explore. We were made for climbing mountains and swimming in oceans.

This is why open-world video games do so well. It lets us scratch that itch without actually going outside. Sure, I love Breath of the Wild as much as the next person, but going to explore real wilderness instead of fake wilderness fills my spirit in a different kind of way.

The memories you will always carry from outdoor exploration will far outweigh simulated memories.

You can climb rocks and jump in rivers without your boss breathing down your neck. Instead of only hearing computer-generated sounds and modern living around you, you instead hear the sounds of nature, free from the consumer-driven world.

Our bodies were meant to move and be challenged. Not go from sitting in an office chair all day to sitting in a chair to watch Netflix all night. No wonder we’re all exhausted and drinking caffeine like it holds the secret to life’s energy. We were not built for this.

If you want energy in your life, you must create it through movement. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s how it works. A sedentary life will never bring you the energy you seek.

Focus on what matters

When you’re in the great outdoors, you finally have a chance to get away from your problems at home.

When you’re constantly neck-deep in your problems, it’s incredibly hard to get perspective on them. Often, they can feel like they’re suffocating you.

Recently, after two incredibly stressful weeks, I headed out to a waterfall here in Colorado to get a breather. It wasn’t far, but I didn’t get cell service and although there were a ton of tourists around, it renewed my sprit in a way I couldn’t find in my modern city life back home.

My problems had new perspectives. My brain felt clear for the first time. I slept much easier that night than I had in a long time.

A good book, a small pocket notebook, and some fresh air can put a lot of your problems into a better frame than they did before.

How to change your life – what to do with time off

With more people home than ever before, it’s put a lot of people in the position to start looking at their downtime.

While this blog is not a fan of the “work yourself to death” mentality, it is a believer in the idea that you should be maximizing your time as much as possible.

Time off is essential, but also think of how many times you’ve taken down time and didn’t feel any more relaxed than you did before.

Sometimes, when we truly want different things for our lives, it’s hard to relax. You have big goals and dreams. Not only that, sometimes doing things like active relaxation (getting outdoors, finishing that garage project, building a new piece of furniture) is what your soul needs far above just sitting and playing video games for hours.

This also isn’t to say you should start sacrificing your sleep and become so sleep deprived you’re out of it. That’s not a good place and you can’t mentally make solid choices without a clear head.

If you truly want to change your life and feel better about your days, you must live the strenuous life.

Most of us think we’re relaxing but instead we’re scrolling social media and keeping up with people we don’t even know and barely even like.

On average, people spend two hours scrolling on social media a day. You might feel all high and mighty about not being on Instagram, but if you’re just replacing it with Reddit scrolling, it’s the same thing.

“But I’m learning!” No you’re not. Go DO something.

Yes, this whole shutdown has been traumatic for a lot of people. They’ve lost jobs, they’ve had to isolate, tons of people are dealing with depression, but this is also a golden opportunity for most of us.

If you had an idea for something you wanted to do, now is the time. Yes, work hard and do what you need to do, but channel those hours from gaming or social media into your new hustle.

Those few minutes here and there compounded together creates hundreds of hours over the course of time that gets you closer to where you want to be.

If you’re already happy in life, you don’t need to do any of this. You can simply carry on with what you’re doing. But, if you have big dreams or want to pick up new skills, you need to start taking a hard look at how you use your downtime.

Tracking your time

One way to do this is to start tracking your time. You don’t need fancy time tracking software, just a small pocket notebook will do the trick. Every hour, just jot down what you worked on during that hour.

There is even some computer apps that will give you a daily detailed report on what websites you went to that day. Oh, you don’t have time to work out? Yeah that 4-hour YouTube binge says otherwise.

All of us claim we are “SO busy”, but I haven’t met a single person who wasn’t shocked at what they learned by tracking their time. It’s amazing how many distractions pop up in the middle of our days and take away from what matters most.

There’s a ton of articles out there on how to improve your focus (Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work, is my favorite resource), but some of the basics include:

  • Turning off notifications. Your friends’ text messages can wait and so can every dumb app that is demanding your attention
  • No email during focused work blocks
  • Ruthlessly protect 90 minutes of focused-work time during the day
  • Stop multitasking (people argue this all the time, and if you can truly focus on multiple things at once, you do you, but most of us would be better with a single focus at a time)

Deal with what you have to deal with in your life, but there comes a time when the excuses have to end and the work must be put in.

When you get new opportunities, you must take them.

This time is unlike any other that we have experienced, and if you want to waste it, that’s perfectly fine. Just don’t complain in 10 years when you’re not where you want to be.

Use your downtime with a purpose

Plus, this isn’t even just thoughts during the pandemic. Most people are wildly inefficient with their time, especially their downtime, on a day to day basis.

Once again, this doesn’t mean you never relax. It just means you use your downtime with a purpose.

There is a huge difference between passively relaxing and actively relaxing.

You’ll know the difference because one fills the bucket and one doesn’t. You come away from it feeling renewed and rejuvenated.

Gaming is an easy thing to give a hard time to (even though I game myself, so know I’m writing this with that in mind), but there are endless things that fall into this category: online shopping, watching other people live their dreams, bickering with energy-draining people, going to happy hour at the local bar every single night…

All of these things are good for a balanced life, but if you’re waking up every morning dreading your work or feel so burned out every Friday that you wanna die, something is severely wrong.

Yes, it can be depression, but sometimes it’s also just a matter of building a life that makes you damn proud to wake up in the morning.

What fills the bucket? What do you want in five years?

These are the questions you need to be asking yourself.

Keep track of what makes you feel good after you do it.

This could be journaling, building a project with your hands, knocking out projects that have been sitting in the back of your mind for months, learning an instrument, visiting a new location, taking an online class, catching up with a friend who inspires you… You need to keep a running list of things you think to yourself, “I should do this more, I feel so great right now.”

Once you have that list, you need to block time to do them in your calendar and treat it like a non-negotiable appointment.

This will get you out of the dread cycle of every single week.

From there, you can start to map out what you want your life to look like in five years. Don’t imagine becoming a millionaire overnight, just imagine what would make your time here more exciting. I cannot answer this for you, you need to find these for yourself.

Keep in mind the same rules apply to this as to the filling your bucket list: You MUST make time for it. If you have an abundance of time now, maximize it. Start filling the bucket and laying the foundation for what you want in the future.

That is how you make a life worth living.

How Theodore Roosevelt Read So Many Books

Few presidents, actually few people, read at the same rate as Theodore Roosevelt. It was said he not only could read a few books a day, but he actually could finish one before breakfast every morning. He is known for reading thousands of books throughout his lifetime, from a wide variety of genres and languages.

Meanwhile, most of us can’t even get through a book a month. Even with all the great improvements in technology, getting through a few books  Reading at all is important to do, but if you want to give your own reading speeds a boost, let’s take a look at how you can possibly speed it up.

One thing to note – he didn’t think we should judge a book by it being the “right” book to read or not. He would consume everything from a ton of genres, which made him able to talk to almost anyone, but he was passionate about people picking books they liked to read.

“If a man or woman is fond of books he or she will naturally seek the books that the mind and soul demand.” – Theodore Roosevelt

You can improve your reading speed and progress, even if you won’t get to the same amount he was reading at any given time.

Make time in your schedule

This sounds ridiculously simple, but is reading in your actual daily schedule? I know that sounds ridiculous, but until you get in the habit of reading every day, you need to schedule it in. Some good time slots are before you go to bed at night (you shouldn’t be looking at your phone or Netflix, anyway), or during your lunch break.

Even if it’s just five minutes, starting the habit is far more important than finishing a ton of books at the start.

Make it accessible

Whether you choose to use ebooks or physical books, you need it around and easy to access. If you have your books hidden far in your closet on the highest shelf, you’re not going to make it an easy habit. Carry your books around or use a Kindle reader (or the Kindle app) and make it right at your fingertips.

Personally, I’m not a fan of using my phone because once I open it up, there are a thousand apps that are more fun than a book.

Just for a fun experiment, look at your phone analytics and see how often you pick up your phone. I’ve seen some stats that show people pick up their phone over 200 times throughout the day. Even if you made a handful of them a book, you’ll be sure to read more.

Use something to navigate your eye

Your eye will skip back to the start of the sentence or the paragraph if you don’t keep it moving forward. Sometimes, you’ll want to reread sentences to fully absorb what the author is saying, but if you’re trying to read faster, you need to navigate your eye to stay on track. You can use your finger or a bookmark to keep your eye focused on the line you’re reading.

Mix up deep reading and quick reads

Some books, like War and Peace, will take forever to get through. Whereas something light like an autobiography, can be much faster. If you’re only reading heavy books, just know you’re going to read slower. It can be good to mix it up to practice your speed skills.

I used to feel bad if I didn’t read every paragraph an author wrote (probably because I intimately understand how hard it is to put words on a page sometimes), but now I don’t feel bad at all for skimming books. This helps me get through so many so much faster. Few books are worth sitting down and absorbing every single line.

Be patient

Sometimes, people will get frustrated with their progress and stop reading altogether. I was reminded of this as I started to get through a huge 400+ page book that’s heavy. It seems so daunting that I haven’t made a single dent in any of my reading for almost two months now. That was the inspiration behind this post – I knew I needed to get back on the horse.

What are your tips for reading more? Have you read anything good recently? Leave a comment below!

How to Do A Life Audit So You Can Have A Great Year

Financial audits are rarely fun, but life audits certainly can be. What most people do when they think about what they want out of life is to beat themselves up for everything they haven’t done and all the things they haven’t accomplished.

If you do that, this journey will not be fun and you’ll only be feeling horrible about yourself when it’s done.

You NEED to take a step back outside yourself and realize that this is not a process that should highlight where you’re failing. Instead, it should provide a road map on how to use your greatest strengths while also showing you where you can improve (and how you can do it).

You have the power to change your life. If you’re reading this post, you probably have some desire to do this process or you never would have ended up reading this. This process isn’t just for people who are miserable, either. Even if you’re wildly happy, you can still receive the benefits of looking at your whole life and tracking things that matter to you.

Before you begin

Your audit should be as unique as you are. For some people, certain habits are excellent and some are a problem. It’s up to you and your gut to determine what’s working and not working in your life.

Ideally, you’ll want to get out your planners, notebooks, or to-do lists (if you have these things), to see how you’ve been spending your time and what you’ve been up to. Don’t worry if you don’t have these things, it won’t prevent you from doing this process.

Let’s begin.

Look at your average day

What does your average day look like? Write it out in detail and be brutally honest.

I’ll start. In 2019 most of my days looked like: wake up (not often on time, drink two extra cups of coffee more than I should, sometimes get right to work but most often just surf around online for an hour or two until I felt good, eat lunch, go workout, walk my dog, surf the internet again while I half-ass worked, and finally go to bed far too late and wonder why I don’t feel like I got anything worthwhile done.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of good days of hustle and adventure in there, but if I had to write out my average day, that’s it. It’s brutal to read but you truly can not do an audit without being real with yourself.

Once you have this, you need to move on to your ideal day.

Write out your ideal day

What do you want to do on your average ideal day?

Now, this is not the time for you to write out what you want an EPIC day to look like. Most of our lives will be comprised of average days, and if you compare a huge, epic day to your day-to-day life, you’re going to feel constantly upset. Even people who travel every other day and are constantly on the go have tons of days where they pay bills and grocery shop. Social media is just a highlight reel, even if it doesn’t seem that way.

Back to your life.

What would make you happy in your life with an average day? Fitting in a hobby? Seeing friends?

If the day is too specific and you don’t have an answer yet, instead, write out your perfect week/month. Do you go out most nights? Are you in a fitness class? Do you fit in a weekly date night? Do you travel every few months?

Once you have this all written out, you can compare the two.

Doing a big life audit

If you get quiet with yourself and think (which is why you should only do an audit somewhere quiet and where you won’t be distracted), you will know the top three areas in your life that are lacking.

Maybe you don’t have enough creativity, maybe you’re sick of your job, maybe you don’t have enough adventure. We all know what we need when we stop lying to ourselves.

Some ideas to ask yourself:

What do you regret not doing over the last decade?
What would you do with more money?
How do you like the city you live in?
What do you daydream about?
What gets you excited to jump out of bed?
What goals did you let slip you by?
How has your life changed for the better or the worse during the past decade?
What do you value and are you living these values?
Where do you want to be in the next decade?
Do you enjoy the people you spend your time with?

What to do when you don’t have answers

If you don’t have answers to an ideal week or to the questions above, that’s okay! So many of us repress our own wants and desires so hard that it’s actually hard to think about what we do want.

Down below I’m going to cover weekly reviews and they’re mandatory if you want to change your life. You might not have the answers now, but as you start to take a hard look at your life every week, you’re going to start finding answers.

Making the plan of attack

Now, I’m not saying you need to set your entire life on fire and start over. However, you do need to look at where you are and where you want to go and pick one thing to start including each week.

You’re going to start with the one that will bring a quick win.

Look through all the things you listed that you want in your ideal week/day. What one thing sticks out to you the most where your gut says, “I NEED this thing!”

That’s the one I want you to include it immediately this week. Put it in your schedule right now and make it non-negotiable.

The thing to keep in mind is that you can’t judge what it is. For me, at the start of this year, I really wanted to improve the number of books I read in a year. My first thought when I thought that was, “But that doesn’t make me more money, I should focus on work goals.”

That’s a toxic mindset and that’s exactly how we all get stuck in ruts.

If your gut says to read some more damn books, read some more damn books.

If your gut says you need time to just sit in the corner and stare at the wall to decompress after a long day, who cares? Do it. Maybe you want to fingerpaint. I don’t know what the thing is, but whatever it is, you need to do it.

Start a weekly and monthly review

There are tons of ways to do weekly and monthly reviews, but you need to start so you can get a good birds-eye view of your life.

For years, I’ve been coasting. I’m actually writing this blog in the middle of the realization that I’ve been living the same days and weeks for years and it’s time to make a change. This blog is as much advice as it is my own plan for how to get out of this rut.

One way to do that is to start doing weekly and monthly reviews. When you sit down and truly analyze what’s working and what’s not working, you can see where the weaknesses and strengths are, like a general looking at a battle plan.

You must treat this seriously. Your life is waiting for you to take control and start steering the ship.

Every week and month, you’re going to analyze your:

  • Health (mental and physical)
  • Finances
  • Relationships (friends, family, dating)
  • Spiritual life/service to others (if you care)
  • Habits
  • Productivity
  • Passion projects
  • Work/business/school
  • Energy (physical and mental)
  • Education/learning
  • Personal development
  • Travel/adventure
  • Anything else specific to your goals or that you simply want to track (creativity, leisure time, character, living situation, life goals, fun/relaxation, etc)

Keep in mind, these are just suggested categories. Track what matters to you or even just start with one to build the habit.

Rate them all from 1 to 10 and analyze the data. It might take a few weeks to get a real perspective of how you spend your time, but you’ll start to see insights you didn’t see before. You might notice when you spend more time with friends, you’re happier. Or you might notice that when you’re feeling healthy, you’re more productive.

I can’t tell you how to audit each of these areas every week and month, it’s up to you to determine what’s important and matters most. You might want to focus on output, for something like work, or just an overall feeling.

Once you do the audit, it’s essential to figure out HOW you could fix the areas that are lagging.

Where to begin if you’re overwhelmed

Sometimes we’ve spent so much time going through the motions that it’s hard to even know where to begin.

I’ve been there.

I don’t want you to leave this article feeling overwhelmed and like you can’t do this.

So, if you have a feeling like this is too much, I want you to just pick ONE habit you’re going to implement and ONE new thing to add to your life. Then you’re going to do a weekly review on each of these things.

For example, start making your bed and start reading on Sunday mornings. Then, you’re going to celebrate like crazy if you even made your bed once that whole week. If you were never making your bed and you now made your bed once, that’s a 1/7 improvement rate. The other six days are not a failure. Maybe you only read one page this week. That’s one page you weren’t reading the week before.

The next week, you’re going to aim for 2/7 days of bed making and reading two books.

It sounds dumb, but it’s not. There is so much science behind starting with steps so small you barely even notice them. Read this post on the 1% rule to see what I mean: here.

ANY improvement, no matter how small, is still an improvement. Period.

Bonus idea: time track

Most people do not track their time. They know when they need to work and what they need to do, but they don’t spend any meaningful time figuring out where their time and life go.

When you track your time, you can start to see how you’re actually spending your time instead of guessing. It’s easy to say we have a priority of working out, but then you track your time and realize you’re only going once a week.

Matt Ragland (this is not sponsored by him – I truly like this video), has a great video: click here, on how he uses his bullet journal to track his time. It’s an amazing way to get an idea of your week. Customize it how you need to.

If you did this whole process, let me know how it went in the comments below!

Take Action Before Analyzing

The worst thing you could ever do to a goal or dream is to keep planning it forever.

Every month, you get a burst of inspiration, pull out the dry erase boards, and map out all your big plans.

You follow through on them for maybe a day or two. Then, momentum slows down.

You go back to the drawing board and keep reading books and tweaking your plans.

Before you realize it, months, if not years, have gone by and you’re still in the planning and tweaking phase.

I know this because I’ve been there too many times. There are some areas in my life that are incredibly easy to map out a plan and then take action on, and sometimes projects seem to get stuck in development hell until the end of time.

Do you think Theodore Roosevelt sat around, looking at his planners, dreaming of accomplishing things? No. He was a man that focused on action which is why his life was so incredibly full.

The importance of habits

Lately, I’ve been reading Atomic Habits by James Clear and it’s been one of the best books on how important it is to take your goals and turn them into systems.

He poses an important idea in the book: If you were to only follow your system, would you hit your goals anyway?

If not, that means your system and habits aren’t good enough.

For example, lets say your goal is to lose 15 lbs. If you’re not keeping track of your food and going to the gym, you’re not going to hit that goal, no matter how much you want to.

The thing about habits and systems is that they’re also mindless. You should be able to do them with ease and fit them into your schedule.

In my career, the only way I’ve been able to make it as a freelance writer is simply due to the fact that writing is a habit for me. I still get writers block and some days the words don’t flow as easy as others, but sitting down and getting it done is what I’ve trained myself to do.

Outlining your habits and systems

If you’re going to set a goal, you need to break it down into the habits and systems you need in place before hitting the goal.

Continuing with the gym example, I’d go even further and say you need your workout outfit laid out the night before. You need your gym bag packed and your workout routine entered into your phone.

There are action steps and systems within every single goal that can help make the process easier.

If you think your goal doesn’t have a habit or system, you’re wrong. There’s always something you can do to get closer to a goal on a consistent basis.

Even when it came to building my business, there was no set dedicated habit that made it happen, but just getting into the habit of working on it while also building systems to make things easier helped and is one of the key reasons my business is still alive years later.

The thing that keeps people from doing this is that habits aren’t sexy. Dreaming of having a six-pack is much more enticing than thinking about the number of times you’ll have to turn down extra snacks at dinner.

Developing discipline and grit

There are few goals out there that are easy enough to make happen without any effort. However, the idea that we have to power through 24/7 even when it’s hard is just as ridiculous.

Building habits is definitely hard, but the more you do them the easier they become.

You’ve probably heard of Jerry Seinfeld’s calendar for habit building. Although the story is disputed whether he actually said that, the gist is that he took a big monthly wall calendar and put a big X on the days when he wrote. After a while, he had a chain of X’s and he didn’t want to break it.

You can also approach your goals with time-blocking. Setting apart one dedicated chunk of time to getting things done and focusing with full intensity, like Roosevelt did.

Expect failure

If you’re not a person who follows a schedule or is particularly disciplined when it comes to your life, it’s going to take a learning curve.

Expecting yourself to execute on your habits perfectly every time is not realistic and is just going to lead to you beating yourself up and falling harder off the wagon.

When you expect failure, you can plan to get around it. “Oh I missed twice this week, great, that was expected!” as if failure was part of the plan all along.

Sitting around beating yourself up is a waste of everyone’s time. I know a ton of people who beat themselves up every second of every day and instead of it motivating them it just ruins their confidence slowly but surely.

Some days life gets in the way, but if you’re working hard to keep yourself accountable, that’s all you can ask from yourself.

On the days we feel motivated, it’s easy to take on extra work and crush it. However, on our bad days we simply fall into our habits. If your habits are video games and sleeping all day, that’s what you’re going to fall back to.

If your habits help you and progress you toward your goals, even in the smallest way, you’ve done an excellent job.

The people around you who seem to continue to progress year after year probably have rock-solid habits and systems to help them grow.

They are in the habit of going to the gym. They have a system to network with people who can help their career. They make a habit of going on a set number of dates each week so they can meet someone they want to be in a relationship with.

Taking action steps first

The next time you feel the urge to bust out the planners and map out your big goals, start by taking action. Just take action on anything small you possibly can.

Want a goal of getting in shape? Go to the sink and chug water.

This seems silly, but in the long run, it’s going to train your mind to value taking action on an idea as soon as it’s in your mind.

Action will always beat out naval gazing, and with the right system and habits hitting your goals will quickly become second nature.

Be Able to Look Yourself in the Mirror

There is nothing better than looking in the mirror at the end of the day and being able to respect the person looking back at you.

Most people are living their lives in two different ways: being deceitful to themselves, and being deceitful to others.

Lying to yourself about who you are and what you want can have disastrous consequences. This leads to people not being able to look at themselves because they know they’re not living up to their potential in the world – that they’re avoiding what they should be doing. They’re not pursuing the dreams they know they should be hunting down.

Lying to others means hiding who you really are or knowing you’re hurting them intentionally. This can be as big as hiding an affair or as small as wanting to tell your partner you want to take up painting as a hobby.

Either of these situations can lead to personal struggle; to feeling that something is off in your body and refusing to confront it. This makes you unable to look yourself in the eye at the end of the day, because you can feel that inner turmoil.

There’s also an inner turmoil when you know you’re actually being deceitful and hurting people intentionally. There’s no pleasure in the world that is better than being able to look yourself in the eye at the end of the day.

You can’t hide from yourself in the mirror. You know when you’re feeling one way or another about how you’re living your life and your days.

Not only does avoiding your truth lead to mental discomfort, but it will show up in different areas of your life. You’ll be dating people who aren’t a good fit, you’ll end up in jobs you don’t really like, and you’ll live in places that don’t make you excited.

Be real with yourself and be ready to live in your truth so you can look yourself in the eye at night. It won’t always be easy, but at least you’ll have a life worth living.

Add MORE to Your Plate to Combat Stress

screen shot 2019-01-24 at 10.37.07 amIn times of overwhelm, the common thought is to cut back.

To remove things from your life.

To start saying “no” to things.

That’s not always the best way to deal with stress.

The truth is, most of us are living far under our potential. We’re way under the level of stress, focus, and productivity we could endure.

There’s a common theme that you might have heard about, the 40% rule. The general idea behind is that when you’re saying you’re done, you’re only 40% done. You can handle 60% more, you just think you can’t.

For years, I took the other advice. When I was overwhelmed with work, personal issues, etc., I started cutting things out. I’d cut until there were just the bare bones left.

Did I feel relaxed? Fully zen? Stress-free?

Fuck no.

This wasn’t just once or twice in my life. It was quite a few times where I’d do this expecting to feel all this relief, and instead, it just produced more anxiety.

That’s the paradox to this situation. We’re told to relax when everything feels tough, but sometimes the answer is to do more.

Yes, sometimes you truly need to cut back, especially when it comes to most of us and our possessions.

Anyone reading this blog probably wants a bigger, successful, fulfilling life.  This doesn’t mean materialistic success, this means true, deep fulfillment.

And to hit that fulfillment, you need more. You’re hiding from your true potential.

Start adding in more hobbies. Ones that make you happy and ones that challenge you.
Take on more work responsibilities.
Expand your friend group.
Try a new exercise routine that pushes you.

As soon as you do, you’ll hit a wall. You’ll whine. You’ll want to take things off your plate because you’re “overwhelmed”.

You’re not overwhelmed. You’re adjusting.

Think of your life like a body. When you start to work out, you’re sore and generally miserable for a bit. Then, one day you wake up and realize your body is craving being active.

What this does for your mind

When you view yourself as someone who welcomes more and welcomes a full plate, you’ll be magnetic to the people around you. Not to get all woo-woo on you, but this is the mentality of people who view life through an abundant lens.

If you’re like most people and you want more friends, more connections, a bigger network, more dates, becoming someone who views the world and their life as abundantly as possible is a rare trait.

Experiencing many things and opening your mind up to possibilities adds more joy to your life and will cut your stress.

Dealing with stress is all about perspective, anyway. There are millions of people who would kill for the stress you complain about every day because their situation is worse.

How this changes your stress

When you have more things on your plate, you’re able to handle more stress once you get through the initial “suck” period.

If you don’t have much on your plate, your partner fighting with you or your boss yelling at you is enough to ruin your week, because those things are all you have in your life. Your threshold is a lot lower because you don’t have enough stress.

It’s like someone who works out a lot: a 20 lb weight is nothing to someone strong, but it is too much for someone weak. It’s just a 20 lb weight. Same weight, different reactions.

The same goes for the stress in your life. Your boss yelling at you will destroy you if that’s all you do with your time. However, if your boss yells at you and then you have kickboxing followed by a hot date that night, you’ll care a lot less.

This doesn’t mean you fill your plate up so much that you never have time to process things, leaving you an emotionless human. It just means you’re able to put your stress into better perspective because you have other things going on.

Life is something you have to experience

You can’t think about having a full life. You have to go LIVE it.

Enough reading.
Enough planning.
It’s 2019, it’s go time.

How to Plan and Dominate 2019

This site is about the pleasure that comes from putting in hard work and focusing on leaving a legacy.

This journey isn’t for most people. It’s one I find myself continually struggling with: the ease of comfort instead of the worthwhile journey of effort.

2018 is over. You can’t go back. Spend zero time feeling bad about any unaccomplished goals and instead focus on the year ahead.

After browsing around the internet, I realized that most of the conversation about the new year has a thick layer of sarcasm about setting goals. People say that the only thing that changed is the date on the calendar. I disagree.

At any point in time, you can choose a different life. You can quit that bad habit, start going to the gym, get organized, get off the couch, donate your tv, start dressing better, laugh more, delete people from your life, change your sleeping schedule… Anything you want as long as you decide and commit.

Success is as simple as a decision.

Every “guru” out there wants you to believe you can’t simply change your life with a decision. You need the new gadget, a perfect plan, their program, their book, or whatever else the world is constantly trying to sell you.

If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month. – Theodore Roosevelt

All you need is the right frame of mind, some goals, and a strategic plan.

From there, it’s the values of discipline and tenacity that will make them come true.

This year will be your best year if you decide it will be. When you put in the hard work day in and day out, you’ll find yourself closer to your goals at every step.

Most people want the success now, even though they were lazy all throughout 2018. Success comes after you’ve put in the hard work, not any time sooner.

Doing what needs to be done isn’t always fun. That’s all I’m asking from myself and from you this year: Know that it won’t always be sunshine and rainbows, but it will be worth it in the end.

Here’s a behind the scenes look at my own planning process:

1. Write out all the categories.

While it can be good to focus on three main areas of life, I tend to go a little overboard to keep all the areas of my life in balance.

In the past when I focused only on three things, I found myself out of balance because other areas were neglected.

Here are some of the areas I have listed:

  • Financial
  • Fitness/Health
  • All of the websites I write for (broken into separate categories)
  • Freelance writing and clients
  • Writing (passion projects)
  • My dog
  • Fun and travel
  • Business
  • Family, friends, social
  • Personal development
  • Home
  • Service to others

It might seem like a lot, but keeping all of these continually moving forward and not letting them slip through the cracks removes about 99% of useless stress.

I carry a small notebook with me everywhere, and at the end of each day I filter my “to-do’s” and ideas into each category in my Trello account. Here is my Trello home page:

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 11.40.10 AM

For some people, that’s insanely chaotic. For me, it’s incredible and I rarely miss anything I have to do. When I need to plan something out or remember it, I know exactly where to put it.

However, if simple categories work for you, do it! There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” system. Your categories will be different, but feel free to test my system to see if it works for you.

I used to have general areas, but then I would miss really important events and things in my life. This way, I have a handle on everything.

2. Set goals for each category.

You might not have goals for every single category, and that’s perfectly fine.

Here’s a huge secret to goal setting: Set goals that focus on your own effort instead of a goal outside of your control. If you want a six-pack, focus on going to the gym 300 out of the 365 days this year.

Too many people set goals that depend on outside circumstances such as landing a book deal, finding a relationship, or buying a house instead of focusing on their own efforts.

For example, when I was a full-time freelance writer, I always wrote down that I wanted to hit certain financial goals each month.

However, in the world of freelancing some months are awesome, some months are horrible I’d be hard on myself when I didn’t hit my goals even though I was working relentlessly to make it happen. Instead, if I had focused on sending out a certain number of pitches, I could focus on my own efforts day in and day out instead of feeling like a failure constantly. Putting my feelings of accomplishments into other people’s hands and waiting for their “approval” was a bad idea.

Do not overlook the importance of feeling good with your hard work. Hating yourself for not achieving your goals means you’ve set the wrong goals, not that there’s something wrong with you. You should go to bed with satisfaction knowing you put everything you have into your day instead of with bad feelings because the world didn’t give you what you want.

Do what you need to do, and pay no mind to if the world responds.

A strange phenomenon usually happens when you focus on your own efforts: the world responds accordingly. You will be pleasantly surprised, but only if you stay focused on your work and feeling positive.

The world might not cooperate with the goals you have for yourself, but you can always put forth your own effort.

Devote yourself to the PROCESS, to the hard work, instead of the outside circumstances.

A study done at the University of California found that people were 42% more likely to achieve their goals when they wrote them down. Take the time to go through each area of your life and write down what you want.

Also, the stronger the reason “why” you can tie to each goal, the greater the chances of it happening.

3. Break those goals down.

Take each goal and break it down by quarter or month.

What is vital to the overall goal?
What has to be set in motion over the next one to three months?
Which goals can wait?

From there, break everything down by week.

Weekly planning is HUGE, by the way. Out of all the things you do, investing an hour or two on Sunday to mapping out the week ahead will change your life if you haven’t started this practice already.

It’s up to you how detailed you want your break down to become. Personally, I break goals down by: 3 years, 1 year, quarterly, and monthly. Then, I have a monthly planning session each month to see where I’m at and break it down by week.

There is no doubt it’s a lot of work, but even doing this for one area of your life you care about the most will change everything.

4. Set a schedule and reminders.

Look at your goals and get right into your planner.

Dreaming is great, but doing is where the magic happens. Write down when and where you will accomplish your tasks throughout the week.

It’s up to you how detailed you want your schedule to become and how you choose to map it all out. Some people use digital planners, some use paper, some just use one sheet of paper… Feel free to try a wide variety of options and see what works best for you.

However, do not jump from one to another at lightning speed. Too many people are addicted to trying the newest planning software. Stick with one for at least a month to see if it works for you.

Never forget that it’s more about getting the important things done than having the fanciest system. Theodore Roosevelt accomplished more than 99% of people and he did not have an iPhone or the internet. He focused on getting things DONE.

Although I use digital trackers like Trello to keep all my paperwork and to-do’s in order, for my day to day planning I still use a paper planner. I’ve had far too many times where technology failed me and I couldn’t access my task lists, so I still have my paper planner. Crossing through something on paper seems to also be more satisfying than clicking a button.

Commit every single morning to your goals and your mission. Create a morning and evening routine that get you set up and focused for the day.

5. Set yourself up to succeed.

I mentioned earlier that achieving goals requires discipline and tenacity. Understand that life will get in the way. Understand that you will be challenged. Understand that it takes time to build willpower.

One tip to combatting these outside forces is to be BRUTALLY honest about what distracts you. For example, I know I’m a GIANT sucker for ice cream. Few things ruin my willpower like ice cream. My solution? I never, ever buy any unless it’s for a cheat day.

Studies have shown time and time again that willpower is a depleting force throughout the day. Even the strongest people can crack after a tough day.

Go through all your goals and list the possible things that will knock you off track of your goals, then make a list of what you will do to combat these forces.

When generals plan to go to war, they don’t just say, “This plan will go perfect and nothing will happen.” NO. They say, “Here’s our plan, but if the enemy does x, y, and z, we will do this to combat that.”

Plan your life in the same way. Adjust as you go. Every day start fresh no matter what happened the day before and if you fell off the wagon. Just keep on keeping on.

Another idea is to also plan in fun. My working day has had much better success by scheduling in the internet browsing for fun. Instead of feeling like I’m missing out on good YouTube videos, I know I’ll have time to binge this afternoon after I come home from the gym.

Don’t completely deprive yourself of what you enjoy, just put it in the schedule at the right time instead of letting it distract you from what you need to focus on right now.

That’s my planning system, and I’d love to hear about any goals you have this year. Leave a comment below or Tweet me: @SLManifesto!

How to Break Free From Technology and Cell Phone Addiction

If you’ve ever browsed /r/NoSurf or been on the internet for any length of time, you realize how common technology addiction is. The problem is that it’s so addicting as other types of addictions, but society doesn’t see it that way.

We see “no smoking” signs everywhere, there are laws about alcohol across the world, most drugs are illegal, but there are no rules or regulations when it comes to technology (except in some countries where it’s outlawed or regulated completely… but that’s a different topic).

Actually, if you’re on your tech devices all the time, people think you’re a hard worker or that you’re hip to new technology. (However, your significant other and family members will hate it.) While that may be the impression externally, what you deal with internally is a whole other battle.

If you’ve ever read Deep Work by Cal Newport, you’d understand the dangers of allowing technology to run rampant in your life.

The whole premise of the book is that you need to regularly dive deep into the thing that matter most in your career. He’s an excellent example of this theory because his writing is so deep and thought-provoking. It’s a must-read for any creative.

In there, he makes the point that people who are interrupted all the time or who multitask are mental wrecks. They can’t filter out irrelevancy. We know the dangers of technology addiction and how much it can wreck your mind and productivity. If you’re reading this blog, there’s a chance you want more out of life than endlessly scrolling through social media, so let’s take a look at how you can combat this addiction and get your life back.

And no, this won’t include a “digital detox” because I don’t believe it’s realistic in today’s world. If you want to delete social media, that’s fine, but I already tried that experiment and for me, it didn’t work so I don’t believe in it.

Confront the real problems

I know at least half of you (or more) are going to click off here. This step is real and heavy. Instead of feeding you some BS about “oh just install some social media blockers and you’re cured!”, we’re going to go deeper than that.

Technology addiction is a bandaid to something real going on, just like most addictions.

Maybe you’re lonely.
Maybe you’re going through a breakup.
Maybe you hate your job.
Maybe you know you need a divorce.
Maybe you haven’t overcome abuse from your childhood.

Whatever the issues are, you have to acknowledge it.

Yes, technology is designed to be addictive, but the fact is that there’s something more going on.

You don’t have to change your life overnight, and I’m not going to pretend like it’s just that easy. You have to start by acknowledging what’s going on. This will give you perspective on your life. Instead of beating yourself up and thinking, “I’m a loser because I can’t stop scrolling Reddit,” it gives you the power to switch it to, “I can’t stop scrolling because I picked the wrong college major and I don’t want to confront it.”

Start scheduling blocks of no technology

Even if it’s 5 minutes a day, schedule blocks of time where you don’t use any technology at all. No phone, no tablet, no computer, no gaming, no iPod.

Do anything else in its place. Clean your place, walk around outside, go grocery shopping, or do anything else that keep you away from your devices.

Do one mindful activity a day

Mindfulness basically means giving your full attention to something. Pick one thing a day where you’re going to sit and focus on that activity.

One of my favorite ways to practice mindfulness is when I eat. Get away from technology, stop scrolling through Twiter, don’t play your favorite tv show, just sit and focus on your food. Pick whatever activity works for you.

This is a form of meditation because every time your brain starts to stray away from what you’re doing, pull it back.

If you’re truly deep in a tech addiction, you probably can’t pick your work yet for your mindfulness activity. It usually takes too many hours and you need to build up your stamina. This is why you need to be careful committing to something huge. Going from zero focus to wanting to play an instrument for an hour a day when your focus is destroyed will only end in disappointment and hurt your confidence.

Start to measure

Most iPhones now have a screen time measurement in Settings. There are also a ton of computer apps for tracking how much time you spend online. Get these numbers and start measuring.

Find quiet places

Silence these days seems non-existent. From constant notifications, emails, roommates, partners, children, etc., we’re left with no quiet time to think.

Most of us go to coffee shops to think, but have you ever noticed how insanely loud coffee shops are too.

You need silence, WITHOUT music. Yes, without music. You can introduce music back into your routine down the line, but for now, you need to treat yourself like you’re in recovery. You need to retrain your mind.

Use technology to fight technology

If you’re looking to use technology to fight technology.

Here are some articles to help with that:

How to Quit Mindlessly Surfing the Internet and Actually Get Stuff Done

How To Apply A Minimalist Mindset To Your Screen Time Without The FOMO

The Complete Guide to Breaking Your Smartphone Habit

Podcast #168: The Value of Deep Work in the Age of Distraction

How To Overcome Internet Addiction and Build Deep Work Habits

There are some incredibly valuable nuggets of wisdom in there to combat your internet and cellphone addictions.

Get to know pen and paper

I don’t even need to go over the benefits of carrying pen and paper. You can get a notebook for $1, and start carrying it around. You’ll see the benefits.

Start doing your to-dos offline

So many tasks require technology to finish them. Unless you have incredible discipline, it’s too easy to start browsing in the middle of when you should be productive.

Start batching your to-do’s by internet to-dos and offline to-do’s. For example, I wrote this whole post on paper first, and although it’s time-consuming to have to type it, I was able to write far more than usual.

Schedule in your mindless browsing

The last thing to do to start to combat your endless scrolling, you need to schedule in time for you to mindlessly browse. Don’t pretend like you’re going to go cold turkey, because you’re not. It’s easier to work hard when you know at 5 PM you can freely browse for an hour that evening.

These tactics won’t guarantee you’ll beat it overnight, but with baby steps, you’ll be able to start to conquer it.

Rise to the Challenge in Front of You

In your life right now, there’s a challenge you’re avoiding.

Actually, there’s probably a lot of challenges you’re avoiding.

Day-to-day life can feel exhausting. Work, obligations, home duties, friends, relationships, family, hobbies, kids… The list of things to do each day is a mile long.

However, for every single person who has so much to do, there was someone out there who overcame the daily grind and still pursued their dreams.

Being busy has become a band-aid term for not pursuing dreams.

It’s a constant excuse that makes us feel validated in our whining. We get to avoid the pain of realizing we’re not putting enough effort in.

Of course, there are a million difficult things that can get in the way of what you want.

Cancer, death, paralyzing fears, car accidents, natural disasters…

But the truth is that things will always keep happening. There is never a time of perfect circumstances or where the “time is right”.

Theodore Roosevelt lost his mother and his wife on the same day, and he managed to overcome it. It doesn’t mean it was easy to get through. It means he looked the challenge in the face and took on the emotional pain, woke up every day, and kept putting one foot in front of the other.

There has to be a point where you start chasing your fears instead of running away from them.

There will always be a lot going on, but you need to decide what matters most to you and make time for it.

 

Sometimes the challenges are small, such as finally cleaning out your garage. Sometimes they’re big challenges, such as finally moving across the country.

Whatever it is, it’s time to tackle it on.

 

Make a plan of action and start today.

Your life is waiting.

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