Over the last three months, I’ve had more energy than I’ve had in the previous three years.
The reason is twofold: first, my work schedule is “under control.” I wrote about this a few months ago — Regan (who oversees my calendar) and I spent a lot of time prioritizing the things that need to be prioritized, and we’ve done a great job keeping my schedule in order.
More recently, I realized that my good work schedule is just a good work schedule if everything outside of work is crazy. And, if I’m honest with you, until recently, my schedule, rhythms, and habits outside of work were just that — crazy.
How a Typical Day Used to Look
A typical morning: my youngest daughter would wake me up around 7 am, and we would go downstairs to get her some food. I would head back upstairs to shower and get ready for the day, and would read the news as I got ready and ate breakfast. Some days I would have meditated or journaled, but most days that wasn’t the case. From there, I’d drive to work while on a call or listening to the news, or, in COVID times, start working in the backyard around 8:00 am. By 9:00 am, I would have already had two cups of coffee and started busting through emails and other items that may not have been completed the day before.
Most days, every minute of my work day is packed. You can see the way I’ve organized my calendar here.
And, my typical evenings would look like this: my work day would end around 5:30 pm, and I would immediately either workout or grab a beer or glass of wine. My wife and I usually hop on bikes or go to a playground with the kids before dinner. We would come back to the house, make dinner, and eat around 7:15 pm. At 7:45 pm we head upstairs to get the kids ready for bed, which takes about an hour. Around 8:45 pm, I’m back downstairs looking at my phone for the latest news, texts, and Twitter/Instagram highlights from the day. I would watch a show around 9:15 pm and head upstairs to bed around 10:15 pm, where I would look at the news once more and go to bed around 10:45 pm.
As you can probably see, there is one main issue. My brain was never slowing down. It was regularly being fed information.
All Of This Led To A Foggy Brain
I was on my friend’s boat the other day, and I just felt off. On the boat, the guys were having a great time, laughing a ton, when they asked me why I was so quiet. I just came out and said, “Sorry, guys I’m just tired,” — to which they spent the next 5 minutes making fun of how tired I was.
But this makes sense. My brain had been operating at 100% in and outside of work for months on end so, of course, it’s going to be foggy.
I took a few weeks off this summer, and while I was away, a friend recommended I read The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer. He talks about a similar struggle to my experience, and referenced a quote by John Ortberg —
“For many of us, the great danger …. is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version…We will just skim our lives instead of living them.“
John Mark Comer goes on to say: “We are distancing ourselves into spiritual oblivion.”
I realized that this is what was happening in my life.
Since reading the book, I’ve made some adjustments, even “rules”, for myself. And frankly, the changes have been freeing, life-giving and fun. I’m not doing each of these correctly every week, but most days and weeks I am, which gives me a non-work schedule that I’m loving.
Here’s what my new life looks like:
Reducing News Intake
Reading news is like reading my father-in-law’s medical chart while he was at the hospital dying from cancer. I could see what was going on, but I couldn’t do anything about it. Everything felt out of my control and created anxiety in me with little ability to change the outcome. Some days I would read his chart every couple of hours — which would make anyone feel anxious. The same holds for our news intake. Reading it every couple hours, or as the first or last thing of the day, isn’t great for the mind or body. So, I’m working on reading the news once or twice a day, and not until after I read, journal, and pray.
Reading, Journaling and Praying
I start each day reading, journaling, and praying. It’s centering and calming. Instead of starting my day with the world coming at me, I’m beginning it on “my” terms. But, it’s not really “my” terms. I’m starting the day with something that gets me outside of myself. I’m thinking about things that are much bigger than me. I’m meditating on what the world could look like. And I’m asking a higher power for peace, patience, and wisdom.
New Phone Rules
- I removed every news app from my phone, so I have to intentionally navigate to news sources to read the news, rather than having a constant flow of information coming through my phone like I had previously.
- I updated my iPhone settings so that my screen is grayscale — no color. Our brains love color, and the colorful screen can be addicting. A black and white screen makes us less prone to pick it up our phones and start scrolling.
- I put my phone away at 9 pm. The reason? First of all, the blue light keeps our brains working hard into the night. But, more importantly, I don’t need to consume anything else after 9 pm. I’ve worked a full day. I’ve given my all. And now, it’s time to rest. And, I don’t look at my phone in the morning until after I’m done praying and journaling.
A 24-Hour Rest Period
This is the best part of my week — a blissful 24 hours of life-giving rest and fun.
We start our 24-hour “rest period” by making a fantastic dinner on Fridays, and our Saturdays start with a big breakfast — followed by fun activities as a family, and an afternoon nap.
I’ve been putting away my phone completely from 5 pm on Friday to 5 pm on Saturday. I don’t look at the news or respond to text messages, and I don’t engage with anyone outside of my family and friends I am present with.
Those Friday nights and Saturdays have become the highlights of my week now. It’s a day where I’m not contributing anything to the world other than just being a human “being” instead of a human “doing.”
Calling a Coach or Counselor
I now spend an hour every week with either a coach or a counselor. You can also do the same with a good friend, but I’m looking to spend one hour a week running the excellent and challenging parts of my week by someone outside of my immediate circle. It’s been centering and encouraging.
Monthly + Yearly Rhythms
A One Day Retreat Each Month
One day a month, I’ve been getting away. I leave my house and go somewhere where no one can get in touch with me. Taking a quick amount of time away from my family and work allows me to think creatively about both. I usually do this on a Tuesday when I typically don’t have any other meetings, according to my new work schedule.
A Two Week Vacation Each Year
Americans are obsessed with taking short vacations. And yet, the research shows that taking two weeks off is what we need to recover, rest, and feel energized. So, for the last few years, I’ve been taking two weeks off a year, and the results have been great. I’m coming back laser-focused, ready to work, and ready to love my family and friends well.
These new rhythms and rules are just a start, and it’s what I’m doing today. Of course, they may change over time, but I can tell you this — my energy levels have never been higher, I’ve never been more confident and I’ve never been more able to love my family, friends, and colleagues as a result.
If there are other things you’re doing that I can learn from, or if you want to chat about this more, feel free to shoot me an email. I’d love to hear what you’re up to.