“Don’t neglect the most important resources, which are neither time nor money, but body and mind.” – Maura Thomas
“You know this, but you’ve been neglectful. Because you’re busy. Because you have important things going on. Because you think you’ve outgrown it. You haven’t. […] Don’t let the crazy demands of work and life make you crazy. Put aside all the momentum and the moment. Tap the brakes. Return to philosophy. Take care of yourself.” – Ryan Holiday
In our fast-paced, results-oriented world, we’re easily attracted to the latest life-hacking productivity or wellness trend. We want to accomplish, do, and create more, and we’re constantly looking for an advantage.
But the best life hacks aren’t hacks at all, they’re simply common sense that has become uncommon.
“We’re overstimulated, overworked, and over stressed,” writes Michael Hyatt. “Can we stop this already—this culture that values accomplishment at the cost of basic human needs like sleep? People have been sleeping since the beginning of time, and yet we think we can go without it. Isn’t it bizarre?”1
It’s time to get back to the basics and honor what we need as living, breathing, growing beings. In doing so, we’re able to perform at higher levels, and become better people, partners, parents, and leaders. After all, it’s not the empty cups that have the most to give, it’s the ones that are overflowing.
Learning It The Hard Way
Since late 2014 I’ve been writing and sharing an article once a week. For a long time, I was committed to publishing them on Tuesdays – often working well into the night in order to make sure each one met my standards of quality.
I consistently got less sleep on those nights, and over time began to notice other behavioral patterns forming. On Wednesdays, I struggled physically – workouts were tougher and I made poorer food choices. On Thursdays, I struggled mentally – I was more likely to take things personally, over-react, and get into an argument.
This cycle repeated countless times before it finally sunk in. In order to be the type of person that I truly want to be, I had to respect my basic needs. When I do that, life tends to go well. When I start to neglect them, it doesn’t.
“All the moral and mental training and fortuitous circumstances in the world are rendered useless if surrounded by bad habits and ill health,” writes Ryan Holiday. “These little things add up to the wrong choices at critical moments – and they have the power to change a life or even history.”
Prioritizing healthy habits means sometimes letting undone tasks remain undone, and that’s OK. Some things are just more important.
You Know What To Do
As CEO of The Energy Project, Tony Schwartz is an expert on helping others replenish their physical and mental energy.
“Many things we’re suggesting are in some ways very simple and on some level are things people already know,” Schwarz says, “but they’re moving at such extraordinary speed that they’ve convinced themselves they’re not capable of those behaviors.”
If jet-setting executives, world-class athletes, and industry moguls can make these behaviors a priority – you can too.
You already know what to do, now it’s time to put it into practice.
Eat, Move, Sleep, and Breathe
For an animal in the wild, life is pretty simple. Every day is spent eating, moving, sleeping, and trying to make sure that it can continue to do those things. While we’re no longer in the wild, those activities are still the foundation of health.
Tom Rath, the author of Eat, Move, Sleep, knows the power of these fundamentals, and how they complement each other to create better and better days. “What I learned from all this research influences my countless daily decisions,” he writes. “I am a more active parent, a better spouse, and more engaged in my work when I eat, move, and sleep well.”
Add conscious breathwork, and we’ve got a prescription for optimizing all of our basic needs.
- Real foods. The fewer ingredients, the better.
- Enough. Not too little, not too much. Goldilocks.
- Mostly plants. Packed with nutrition to make us look and feel great.
Start with: swap out one item at every meal with a better alternative.
- Consistently. 30 minutes a day.
- Starting with what you’ve got. All you need is your body – walk, run, do yoga, or body weight exercises. (Don’t know how? Ask google!)
- With a buddy. It’s more fun, and we’re more likely to show up when we’ve made a commitment to someone else.
- Through play. What did you enjoy as a kid, or have you always wanted to try? “Working out” doesn’t have to be work.
- Earlier in the day. Exercise provides an endorphin boost that lasts up to 12 hours. Do it in the morning to feel the benefits all day long.
Start with: go on a 30-minute walk after lunch or dinner.
- With a routine. Set an alarm at night. When it goes off, avoid stimulating activities and start to wind down. Experiment with a bath, music, or book.
- In the dark. Avoid artificial light after the sun sets, and make your bedroom as dark as possible. If you need to use a screen, take advantage of apps that block blue light. (Night Shift setting on iPhone, f.lux for computers, Twilight on android).
- In the afternoon. Naps sharpen concentration and improve performance on all kinds of tasks, from driving to medical care.2
Start with: head to bed 30 minutes earlier tonight.
- Through your nose. It’s a built-in air filter.
- Slowly and deeply. Belly breaths, like a baby.
- Often. Check-in with and bring attention to the air flowing in and out.
Start with: take 10 deep, belly-filling breaths right now.
Make It Real: Put It On The Calendar
The easiest way to make sure our basic needs are met is to schedule them on the calendar. “Scheduling is everything,” says author Mastin Kipp. “If it’s not scheduled it’s not real. List your priorities first, things like sleep, exercise, meditation, time with your partner, creative time.”
My personal calendar has a recurring event for sleep, and my wife and I start every week by planning our workouts. It’s even the first thing we schedule when taking a trip. As one of my buddies recently commented, “You realize when I asked you about your plans for an NYC trip, you only mentioned workouts?”
Committing time to these practices makes them a priority over the millions of other things that might come up. As the legendary self-esteem guru, Nathaniel Brandon, writes, “A ‘practice’ implies a discipline of acting in a certain way over and over again—consistently. It is a way of operating day by day, in big issues and small, a way of behaving that is also a way of being.”
What Are You Going To Do Today?
The recurring theme of this article is that you already know what to do. But are you practicing?
Resolve to do at least one of these things starting today.
- http://michaelhyatt.com/close-your-laptop.html [↩]
- http://www.journalsleep.org/ViewAbstract.aspx?pid=26415 [↩]