A month of trying to “Enjoy each day”

For 2015, I resolved to “Enjoy each day.” Not to do more fun things necessarily but rather to “see and feel more in every day as it is.” I’m already surprised by the results.

30 days of trying to enjoy each day

What was supposed to happen

In my original New Year’s post, I described three things I would do every day.

Keep a journal. Reflecting on moments throughout the day will help me appreciate them more and increase my sense of fulfillment. Over time, I hope the repeated act of reflecting and writing will train my mind so I’m more aware of the moments as they’re happening.

Practice gratitude. When I wake up and before I go to sleep, I’ll think of things I’m grateful for, including moments throughout the day. I’ve tried this and it’s a simple, pleasant ritual that has made me feel happier.

Chart my progress. Just as Ben Franklin used resolution charts to cultivate 13 virtues, I’ve used them to help me develop new habits. So I’ll put my chart in a place where I’ll be sure to see it before I go to sleep, and each day I’ll track my journaling and gratitude habits and whether I’ve enjoyed the day.”

What happened 

My Enjoy each day journalLooking back, I wrote in my journal on 18 out of 31 days in January. It felt like more. When I missed a day or two, I would go back and recall the highlights from those days, and that allowed me to savor them again. Once, though, the gap was too big and I couldn’t remember much at all.

“Where did those 4 days go?” I wrote. It was as if they never happened and I felt a strong sense of loss. That strengthened my resolve to keep writing.

I fared even better with practicing gratitude when I woke up and went to sleep. Perhaps that’s because I always do it at the same times and in the same place. Often, I’m thankful for simple comforts like a soft bed and warm shelter on a cold night, for my health, or for some moment with my family that day. It’s a lovely practice. Instead of reaching for my phone or running through a todo list in my head, the feeling of gratitude brings a contented smile across my face each time.

My Enjoy each day progress chartMy progress chart was the weakest part of my resolution. The problem might be its location. Although my chart is taped to a wall I pass by often, I don’t have a consistent time for updating it and I simply forget. It’s just not a habit yet. So I’ll take one of the lessons from the best post I ever wrote about habits: “structure your life to help you attain your goals.” I’ll move the chart and make updating it part of some other existing routine.

The biggest surprise

I anticipated that the practice of regularly reflecting and being grateful would change my memory of each day. And that happened. But despite my imperfect habit, I started to experience something even more powerful.

Time slowed down.

Simple moments absorbed my attention. My awareness of them expanded, as if I was in a kind of altered state. It seemed as though the act of reflecting attuned me to look for special moments. So I started to appreciate them not just in hindsight but as they happened.

The feel of my son’s hand in mine as we walk to school.

The first sip of strong, hot coffee. 

The technicolor display in the sky as the sun slowly rises. 

The way my daughter blows a kiss to my wife and I each morning as she heads to the bus.

Before my resolution started, I wrote that “Time has flown because I’ve been careless with it.” That still happens. But sometimes throughout the day, I feel I might understand what Buddhists mean when they say “I have arrived.” I might finally be learning how to handle time like the precious gift it is.

“How’s the book coming along?”

Book coverA difficult conversation with someone who cares about you can help you confront an uncomfortable truth. I’ve been writing a book for the past 18 months. My friends will ask “How’s the book coming along?” I’ll respond with some vague reply and they'll offer encouragement.

Five weeks ago, over morning coffee, my wife asked me the same question. And the ensuing conversation is making it possible for me reach a goal I care very much about.

The adjustments I learned I had to make might help you, too.

The conversation

My wife sees me brooding in front of my laptop for countless hours, so when I told her that the book is going well, she had a few more questions.

“When will it be done?” I don’t know. I really don’t have enough time.

How much more time do you need? I don’t know.

How much time have you spent on it so far? I don’t know.

How much did you work on it last week? Or yesterday even? I don’t know.

A long awkward silence ensued. Inside my head were two other questions. Did Hemingway’s wife ask him these questions? And, more importantly: Am I just kidding myself?

Instead of trying to defend my lack of a meaningful publishing plan, I made 3 adjustments. The first one I made while the coffee was still hot.

Spending time

Hanako's chartI was aware of the irony that, in coaching others, I often help them to better manage their time so they get things done. It was clear to my wife (and now to me) that I wasn’t applying my own advice. 

A few weeks earlier, my wife and daughter came up with a simple chart posted on the refrigerator to motivate us to achieve goals we cared about: more exercise for the parents and more time practicing piano for my daughter. It worked.

IMG_4364So, after the conversation with my wife, I posted another simple chart to track hours spent on the book each day as well as when I shipped something to readers for feedback. 

Just like my Nike Fuel Band encourages me to move more, the simple and public display of my efforts on the book helped me to write more and ship more.

Focus

Later that same day, I was reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. Two chapters in particular helped me with my problem. “The Low-Information Diet” made me realize that, while I was reading a lot and meeting many interesting people, much of it was only marginally related to the book. If I wanted to actually publish a book, I’d have to be much more focused.

The chapter on “Interrupting Interruption” helped me see that, despite knowing the importance of focus, I was frittering away time and my capacity to pay attention by responding to far too many interruptions. Worse, I’d interrupt myself by impulsively checking my phone. James Altucher referred to it as “The Loop.” You’d check email, then Twitter, then Facebook, then the blog. Before you knew it, I'd wasted spent 10-20 minutes. And I'd do that a few times a day.

I recognized  I somehow had time for books, for “The Loop,” for coffee with people, but not enough time for my most important goal: writing the book.

So I became more ruthless in practicing what I preach. Now I turn off WiFi when I’m writing. I process email and check social media in batches rather than impulsively throughout the day. And I carefully budget the time I spend on things not related to my goal. Having better control of my time and attention made a tremendous difference.

The last adjustment had to do with my motivation. Why was my goal important anyway?

Clarity of purpose

There are so many books. Why bother writing another one? I knew it wasn’t to make money. (Books don’t generate much and I always thought to donate proceeds to donorschoose.org and public education anyway.)

An even worse reason - my original purpose - was to enhance my personal brand. But the idea of marketing my book just so I could sell myself and more copies was grossly unappealing. It felt inauthentic and was perhaps the biggest obstacle to progress.

It was only when I started coaching people that the purpose became clear: I’m writing the book to help people. To help them discover possibilities for making work and life more meaningful and fulfilling.

I see such positive change in the people I coach that I want to coach everyone I meet. People who’ve grown to hate working in dehumanizing corporations. People trying to start their own companies. People of all ages who are struggling to find jobs and, ideally, work that’s more than just a job.

The book, if I get it right, will help people help themselves and help each other. Once I was clear that the book wasn’t about me but about helping others, it was clear I had to work on it.

Thank you

Since that conversation with my wife, I’ve written and shipped more in 5 weeks than in the preceding 75 weeks. Earlier this month, I shipped the first few chapters of Working Out Loud to volunteer reviewers and their feedback has already made the book better. Two days ago, I sent the first half of the book to 15 more reviewers. I’ll keep doing that until I self-publish the book in September. (If you’d like to review a draft, or have any ideas or suggestions for the book, please leave a comment or contact me.)

I’ll use this blog to share more about the book in the coming months. And I hope that sharing the process itself will help you as you work on your own goals that are important to you.

Thank you for your time and your continued encouragement. It all means a lot to me.

“How’s the book coming along?

Book coverA difficult conversation with someone who cares about you can help you confront an uncomfortable truth. I’ve been writing a book for the past 18 months. My friends will ask “How’s the book coming along?” I’ll respond with some vague reply and they'll offer encouragement.

Five weeks ago, over morning coffee, my wife asked me the same question. And the ensuing conversation is making it possible for me reach a goal I care very much about.

The adjustments I learned I had to make might help you, too.

The conversation

My wife sees me brooding in front of my laptop for countless hours, so when I told her that the book is going well, she had a few more questions.

“When will it be done?” I don’t know. I really don’t have enough time.

How much more time do you need? I don’t know.

How much time have you spent on it so far? I don’t know.

How much did you work on it last week? Or yesterday even? I don’t know.

A long awkward silence ensued. Inside my head were two other questions. Did Hemingway’s wife ask him these questions? And, more importantly: Am I just kidding myself?

Instead of trying to defend my lack of a meaningful publishing plan, I made 3 adjustments. The first one I made while the coffee was still hot.

Spending time

Hanako's chartI was aware of the irony that, in coaching others, I often help them to better manage their time so they get things done. It was clear to my wife (and now to me) that I wasn’t applying my own advice. 

A few weeks earlier, my wife and daughter came up with a simple chart posted on the refrigerator to motivate us to achieve goals we cared about: more exercise for the parents and more time practicing piano for my daughter. It worked.

IMG_4364So, after the conversation with my wife, I posted another simple chart to track hours spent on the book each day as well as when I shipped something to readers for feedback. 

Just like my Nike Fuel Band encourages me to move more, the simple and public display of my efforts on the book helped me to write more and ship more.

Focus

Later that same day, I was reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. Two chapters in particular helped me with my problem. “The Low-Information Diet” made me realize that, while I was reading a lot and meeting many interesting people, much of it was only marginally related to the book. If I wanted to actually publish a book, I’d have to be much more focused.

The chapter on “Interrupting Interruption” helped me see that, despite knowing the importance of focus, I was frittering away time and my capacity to pay attention by responding to far too many interruptions. Worse, I’d interrupt myself by impulsively checking my phone. James Altucher referred to it as “The Loop.” You’d check email, then Twitter, then Facebook, then the blog. Before you knew it, I'd wasted spent 10-20 minutes. And I'd do that a few times a day.

I recognized  I somehow had time for books, for “The Loop,” for coffee with people, but not enough time for my most important goal: writing the book.

So I became more ruthless in practicing what I preach. Now I turn off WiFi when I’m writing. I process email and check social media in batches rather than impulsively throughout the day. And I carefully budget the time I spend on things not related to my goal. Having better control of my time and attention made a tremendous difference.

The last adjustment had to do with my motivation. Why was my goal important anyway?

Clarity of purpose

There are so many books. Why bother writing another one? I knew it wasn’t to make money. (Books don’t generate much and I always thought to donate proceeds to donorschoose.org and public education anyway.)

An even worse reason - my original purpose - was to enhance my personal brand. But the idea of marketing my book just so I could sell myself and more copies was grossly unappealing. It felt inauthentic and was perhaps the biggest obstacle to progress.

It was only when I started coaching people that the purpose became clear: I’m writing the book to help people. To help them discover possibilities for making work and life more meaningful and fulfilling.

I see such positive change in the people I coach that I want to coach everyone I meet. People who’ve grown to hate working in dehumanizing corporations. People trying to start their own companies. People of all ages who are struggling to find jobs and, ideally, work that’s more than just a job.

The book, if I get it right, will help people help themselves and help each other. Once I was clear that the book wasn’t about me but about helping others, it was clear I had to work on it.

Thank you

Since that conversation with my wife, I’ve written and shipped more in 5 weeks than in the preceding 75 weeks. Earlier this month, I shipped the first few chapters of Working Out Loud to volunteer reviewers and their feedback has already made the book better. Two days ago, I sent the first half of the book to 15 more reviewers. I’ll keep doing that until I self-publish the book in September. (If you’d like to review a draft, or have any ideas or suggestions for the book, please leave a comment or contact me.)

I’ll use this blog to share more about the book in the coming months. And I hope that sharing the process itself will help you as you work on your own goals that are important to you.

Thank you for your time and your continued encouragement. It all means a lot to me.

The most successful person in Babylon

Babylon mosaicOne of  the biggest barriers to developing yourself and your career - and one of the themes of modern life - is being busy. People simply don’t have the time to do the things they know would be good for them. Recently, I found the cures for this problem in a surprising place - a 71-page, poorly typeset pamphlet published in 1926 called “The Richest Man in Babylon”.

“7 cures for a lean purse”

When one of the smartest people I know recommended the book, I was expecting rich historical fiction or perhaps some stimulating anthropology. Instead, it was about “thrift and financial success, using parables set in Babylon to make each of [the author’s] points.”

Written by George Clason, owner of a map company in Colorado, the parables were distributed by banks and insurance companies to help teach everyday people how to manage their money.

The book opens with “7 cures for a lean purse.” And I was struck by how each one of the cures is also a valuable lesson for managing our most valuable resource - time.

Start thy purse to fattening

The richest man in Babylon’s first and most important lesson was to set aside 10% of your money before spending anything. “A part of all you earn is yours to keep. It should not be less that a tenth no matter how little you earn...Pay yourself first.”

And so with time. Before you schedule your first meeting or take on another responsibility, put aside 10% of your time for investing in yourself.

Control thy expenditures

“What each of us calls our ‘necessary expenses’ will always grow to equal our incomes unless we protest to the contrary.”

Somehow, we all have different jobs and different schedules, and yet no one has time. Every time you say yes to a meeting or a task, you’re saying no to something else that could be much more valuable. Don’t be a profligate spender of time.

Make thy gold multiply & Guard thy treasures from loss

If you’ve saved money, you want to make it work for you so the value compounds. And you want to be careful not to lose it on wasteful ventures.

When it comes to the time you’re investing in yourself, compounding value comes from gradually developing skills. It’s not just another hour writing or presenting or developing a purposeful network, it’s another hour towards greater personal mastery.

Each one of those hours is precious. Don’t fritter them away. The average American spends more than 140 hours a month watching TV on top of 12 hours a month playing video games and 8 hours a month on Facebook. Are these good investments?

Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment

This lesson was about investing in the place where you live, spending your precious money on something important that you need and use every day.

The analog to that is investing in your health. One of the best ways to use the time you've saved is to exercise. It makes you feel better every day while reducing time you might lose to being sick. Importantly, regular exercise is a keystone habit, meaning that it produces other, seemingly unrelated, benefits such as better eating, greater productivity, more patience, and even less financial debt.

Insure a future income & Increase thy ability to earn

The final two lessons are about planning for the future, ensuring you’ll be able to earn more over time and you'll be prepared for when you're older. “As a man perfecteth himself in his calling so doth his ability to earn increase.”

You can buy career insurance, too, by investing your time in developing skills and a network that create more possibilities, that improve the odds:

Career insurance is simply taking control over your visibility – and your access to opportunities – by using social platforms to purposefully shape your online reputation.”

The richest man in Babylon wasn’t the smartest or best-educated man or even the hardest-working. He was the son of a humble merchant. But he applied some simple guidelines in a disciplined way to manage his most precious resource. And that opened up possibilities the other Babylonians dreamed about.

Every one of us has the chance to be the most successful person in Babylon. But to do so, you must “cure your lean purse” and get out of the busy trap. Only then will you have the time to invest in yourself and create the life you want.

The most successful person in Babylon

One of  the biggest barriers to developing yourself and your career - and one of the themes of modern life - is being busy. People simply don’t have the time to do the things they know would be good for them. Recently, I found the cures for this problem in a surprising place - a 71-page, poorly typeset pamphlet published in 1926 called “The Richest Man in Babylon”.

“7 cures for a lean purse”

When one of the smartest people I know recommended the book, I was expecting rich historical fiction or perhaps some stimulating anthropology. Instead, it was about “thrift and financial success, using parables set in Babylon to make each of [the author’s] points.”

Written by George Clason, owner of a map company in Colorado, the parables were distributed by banks and insurance companies to help teach everyday people how to manage their money.

The book opens with “7 cures for a lean purse.” And I was struck by how each one of the cures is also a valuable lesson for managing our most valuable resource - time.

Start thy purse to fattening

The richest man in Babylon’s first and most important lesson was to set aside 10% of your money before spending anything. “A part of all you earn is yours to keep. It should not be less that a tenth no matter how little you earn...Pay yourself first.”

And so with time. Before you schedule your first meeting or take on another responsibility, put aside 10% of your time for investing in yourself.

Control thy expenditures

“What each of us calls our ‘necessary expenses’ will always grow to equal our incomes unless we protest to the contrary.”

Somehow, we all have different jobs and different schedules, and yet no one has time. Every time you say yes to a meeting or a task, you’re saying no to something else that could be much more valuable. Don’t be a profligate spender of time.

Make thy gold multiply & Guard thy treasures from loss

If you’ve saved money, you want to make it work for you so the value compounds. And you want to be careful not to lose it on wasteful ventures.

When it comes to the time you’re investing in yourself, compounding value comes from gradually developing skills. It’s not just another hour writing or presenting or developing a purposeful network, it’s another hour towards greater personal mastery.

Each one of those hours is precious. Don’t fritter them away. The average American spends more than 140 hours a month watching TV on top of 12 hours a month playing video games and 8 hours a month on Facebook. Are these good investments?

Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment

This lesson was about investing in the place where you live, spending your precious money on something important that you need and use every day.

The analog to that is investing in your health. One of the best ways to use the time you've saved is to exercise. It makes you feel better every day while reducing time you might lose to being sick. Importantly, regular exercise is a keystone habit, meaning that it produces other, seemingly unrelated, benefits such as better eating, greater productivity, more patience, and even less financial debt.

Insure a future income & Increase thy ability to earn

The final two lessons are about planning for the future, ensuring you’ll be able to earn more over time and you'll be prepared for when you're older. “As a man perfecteth himself in his calling so doth his ability to earn increase.”

You can buy career insurance, too, by investing your time in developing skills and a network that create more possibilities, that improve the odds:

Career insurance is simply taking control over your visibility – and your access to opportunities – by using social platforms to purposefully shape your online reputation.”

The richest man in Babylon wasn’t the smartest or best-educated man or even the hardest-working. He was the son of a humble merchant. But he applied some simple guidelines in a disciplined way to manage his most precious resource. And that opened up possibilities the other Babylonians dreamed about.

Every one of us has the chance to be the most successful person in Babylon. But to do so, you must “cure your lean purse” and get out of the busy trap. Only then will you have the time to invest in yourself and create the life you want.