In a recent conversation, a friend of mine used a great metaphor to describe how he’s been feeling lately: as if he is driving a complex spaceship full of levers and buttons and decisions to make, but feeling a desire to switch to an automatic car where all he has to do is steer the wheel and remember to pull the hand break every once in a while.
The next day, a student in one of my courses said that he feels like he is always in “go” mode, always in the element of fire, and he needs more Earth — more grounding, more space to breathe and think.
To be honest, I’ve been feeling similarly recently—like no matter how much I do I’m always falling behind, and like there is so much complexity in my life that I can’t possibly ever organize it or make sense of it.
The problem is not that I have too much to do
Sometimes I feel like I just can’t handle things anymore—the uncertainty in my work, the constant need for creativity and decision making, all the messages to reply to, the constant pressure to “catch up”.
But then I always come back to the same conclusion:
I love my work. I love my life. I believe in what I am doing and I wouldn’t change it for anything else.
The problem is not the amount of things I have to do—the problem is the lack of space in between those things to check-in with myself, recharge, and reconnect.
Here’s is a ridiculously simple way to reduce chaos and come back to balance
Here it is:
For the first 5 minutes of your day, don’t take in any new information.
Don’t reach for your phone or check Twitter or the news first thing in the morning. You’ll have plenty of new things to deal with during the day. Don’t over-stimulate your dopamine receptors as soon as you wake up, because you’ll be setting yourself up for a day of impatience and overwhelm.
Instead, engage in a calm, output-focused, joy inducing, or reflective habit. Here are a few ideas:
- Slowly get up from bed and feel the soles of your feet as they touch the floor.
- Hug your partner and tell them something really nice, or really funny, or really arousing.
- Stretch. I know this is kind of obvious, but how often do you actually do it? It’s a life changer.
- Write down a gratitude list in your journal.
- Write down the 3 main priorities for your day.
- Write about how you are feeling or what you are thinking (or maybe even use this time to create content you’d like to publish, if that’s something you do).
So… How do you know which activity would be the best one for you?
Everyone is different, so what works for me might not work for you.
Some people swear by the power of doing 20 jumping jacks right after they wake up. My personal favorite is drinking a whole bottle with warm lemon water while thinking thoughts. My partner jumps straight into journaling.
Any habit that doesn’t involve throwing information in your face first thing in the morning can potentially do the job. But if you want bonus points, choose a habit that is so good that it will act like a domino piece and make you want to do a bunch of other healthful things after you’re done.
For example, some people love the simple act of making their bed because it’s a really easy small win and it prompts them to keep on winning throughout the day.
It could be meditation—because it literally changes your brain and increases your ability to nail life. Or it could be running, because you feel great and sexy and that makes you crave less junk food and also makes you a nicer person to others and also gives you the energy to do cool things that change the world.
These kind of habits that affect other areas of your life fall into a special category: they’re called keystone habits.
Find the perfect keystone habit for you
I created a quick assessment/reflection exercise to help you find out what is the best keystone habit for your life, your personality, and your individual goals. Check it out!