After spending a magical weekend in Utah climbing up a mountain for nearly 30 straight hours, meeting so many incredible friends and pushing my body and mind to the next level, I spent a long flight home pondering the big picture takeaways. So, for over 2 hours, I drank a ton of water, squirmed in an uncomfortable plane seat, thought and wrote everything down. At the end of the flight, I looked at my notes and thought, “Did someone put vodka in my water bottle?” The notes were a mess of words, phrases, two full pages of paragraph form thoughts, pages half blank and a drawing. I put my notes away for a few days and came back to them with a fresh, non-sleep derived body and sea level clear mind. Originally, I was going to summarize my Top Five takeaways from the event in one blog post. That one post was long, really long. Like War and Peace long. So instead, we decided to break up the Top Five into individual posts.
The first takeaway: Blow Up Your Routine
Routines are great, often efficient and really comfortable…and boring. I craved a challenge that would require me to think about my life differently. While I am an avid runner, I was far from hike for 30 hours fit. Furthermore, we live in rural west-central Ohio. For those of you that haven’t visited that region (and flying over doesn’t count), it is flat. Super flat. How was I going to train for an endurance hike at altitude? The short answer, you can’t. The longer answer: I was going to throw everything at it I could think of. I ran up and down a small hill in our backyard for 6 miles (which equates to 5,609,348 trips up and down…more or less), I carried a 40 lb of softener salt while running up and down this hill, I wore a hoodie and stocking cap when it was 85F with over 80% humidity, ran in the dark, ran in the midday sun, did 100 pushups before and after lunch every day for a month, etc. I did any workout that I could think of to work on my mental endurance. My “normal” workout no longer existed and I felt stronger.
I have taken that same philosophy to my work routine. I reviewed my calendar, projects and action item list and changed how I approached my day. I realized there were too many items being prioritized because my routine was so engrained I have been on autopilot. I am rebuilding my daily, weekly, monthly and annual calendar. I have a lot of work left to do, but I can see and feel the positive changes. A few tangible examples of what I have changed from my normal work routine:
1. I broke up with my email inbox. I was/am addicted to checking my email. I disabled all email notifications on my laptop and phone years ago. This was a good first step but it by no means addressed the root cause. I am addicted to the shiny object of new email. It took control of my day and rearranged my priorities. But why? The emails I reacted to in the moment were rarely part of my top priorities of the day. My change: I now schedule two time slots per day to check my inbox and I only allow email to flow to my phone when I travel. I struggle with this still but am improving daily. My mindset for winning this battle is: The most important people in my personal and professional life know how to reach me if they need me, and it’s not through email.
2. Meeting Mania. A year ago, my calendar was always full. Meetings upon meetings. I wore it like a badge of honor. But what was getting accomplished? As it turns out, very little considering the time and human capital invested. My solution: I removed myself from all reoccurring meetings and only added the really important ones back into my calendar. The net result: I just found hours each week of time to spend on the most important priorities. One of the priorities that I am implementing now during the nearly found free time, stop and have a real conversation with our team. Instead of rushing through an agenda so we could head off to another meeting, I get to slow down and intentionally connect with people.
3. Make a 24 hour Schedule. I saved this one for last as it has had the biggest impact on my life. I still don’t do this every day, but I can state emphatically, the days that I do make a 24 hour schedule, I get more done and feel MUCH better. For the last 10+ years, I have been “busy” and seemed to never have enough time to do X, Y or Z (which were usually some of the most important big picture or personal priorities). 24 hour hours is a long time and we are given a new 24 hours each dawning day. My daily goal is to schedule every hour of every day. I start by writing down my top priorities, both personal and professional. I then make a list of the people I want to reach out to and people I want to thank. At this point, the scheduling begins. All 24 hours. Sleep, work outs, time to play with the kids, time to read, soccer practices and all of the excited things you just listed out (priorities, people and gratitude). Now the reality, my schedule gets messed up every single day! So days, my schedule is completed wrecked by 10a. OK, I get over it. Regroup and start again. Perfection is not the goal. Being aware of time and intentional choosing how to use it is the WHY behind my 24 hour schedule. I keep a very full schedule, but I am not busy. I now create time for the most important people, events and objectives in my life. This is a game changer.
Sneak peek of what’s left in the Top Five: Find Time for Nature. Build your Grit Ball. Build a We win. Schedule your More.
Thanks for reading. Happy deconstructing your routine so you can GET OUT. DO MORE.