“Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment.
Full effort is victory.”
21st century living is busy. Life is full on and time is not on our side. A full-time job, kids and social responsibilities mean that we’re often left with little space and time for ourselves.
It seems like we have little opportunity to grow, right? How do we do it? If we don’t figure it out, before we know it the day, the week and the month will have passed us by and all we’ll have done is…well, got up, gone to work, and fulfilled our responsibilities.
Before we know it we’ll have blinked and fast forwarded 25 years and be left standing in the dust, wondering where all the time went.
“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose”
Lyndon B Johnson
Winning the day by being super productive and motivated immediately upon waking is a message that we’re surrounded by and it’s not a new ideology.
Carpe Diem? We’ve got Horace to thank for that one.
It’s a message that we’re surrounded by for a reason: it’s a truth. And more than that, with a little effort the output can be tenfold the input.
But it’s all well and good being told this: actions speak louder than words.
So let’s take 9am as the average start to a working day and work backwards from there. If you’re an early riser then bonus points to you, but rising early and having a good night’s sleep too might not equate with certain lifestyles so it is necessary to find balance.
We must shape our days with focus and value. If we want to achieve things then we need to understand how best to use the time we have.
First things first:
Like putting on a pair of slippers, sliding into a comfortable routine is easy to do. Most of us have our routines and those routines are most likely to be effortless.
But here’s the secret: we have to put a little effort in. The more effort we put in, the greater the return on our initial investment. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. And to do that we need to lay new foundations.
21st Century Debt & Mission: You
This article is a call to arms.
This is Mission: You, and it’s designed to help cultivate a more fulfilling lifestyle that will eventually become second nature.
Is your downtime spent well? Spent conscientiously? Or, like many of us, have you somehow become accustomed to filling your time with distractions and inconsequential activities? An hour flicking through IG feeds? Youtubing one too many cat videos? Binging on boxsets a bit too often? Fun things, but in the grand scheme of it all…fruitless.
It’s the 21st Century debt. We’re spending more and more of our own time on nonsense and accruing an interest on it that can only be paid back one way: making smarter choices on what we spend the rest of our time on.
But we have to consciously make the decision to switch.
Here’s the truth: we’re all masters of our own destiny.
That means YOU are the master of your destiny. And mastery of one’s destiny begins with mindset.
Believe in You.
Here’s another truth: small changes add up to a big difference.
With new year upon us why not set yourself the small goal of experimenting with making a small change to your comfortable routine? Replace those comfy old slippers that you’ve worn in just how you like them with a new pair and soon you’ll find that you’ve worn them in just the way you like them too. Only, that new pair of slippers will be the 2.0 version. Super slippers worn by a super you.
All it will take is a few hours every morning doing 9 simple things summed up by 9 simple words:
Get 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep [1. Hibernate]
Getting enough sleep is a basic, fundamental need. Our candles are not designed to burn at both ends. Maslow (1943, 1954) identified five tiers of human needs:
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
At the foundation of the hierarchy are our physiological needs: those things that we cannot do without. ‘Food, water, warmth, rest’. These are basic needs.
In the UK, the Royal Society for Public Health has recognised that the population is under-sleeping by an average of almost an hour every night. That would equate to an entire night’s sleep lost every week. That 21st century debt of ours? It’s accruing from the get go.
Under-sleeping has knock-on effects too:
- Poorer dietary choices
- Higher levels of stress
- Loss of focus and concentration
- Higher risk of cancer and strokes
- Increased weight gain
- Reduced immunity
- Reduced libido
- Mood fluctuation
- Substance dependency
- Decreased memory
- Reduced communication, creativity and socialisation
On the other hand, getting enough sleep has a myriad of benefits*:
- Less stress
- Increased creativity, communication and socialisation
- Better metabolism
- Less risk of depression
- Reduced risk of cancer and strokes
- Less weight can and greater muscle gain after exercise
- Improved memory
- Increased immunity
- Less inflammation
- More stable moods
- More likely to have a better diet
- Less impulsive
For adults, we generally need 7-9 hours. Getting enough sleep is fundamental to the success of the 9 steps identified in this post so the key is to work backwards. Do you function better with 7, 8 or 9 hours? Maybe you need less, or more? The point is this: if you want to wake up at 5am to capitalise on those early morning hours then bedding down at 1am isn’t going to cut it.
Remember: recalibrate. If you need 8 hours and want to get started at 5am then it should be lights out at 9pm.
The other thing to note in here is the value of sleeping in the nude. Sleeping butt-nekkid has been proven to be incredibly healthy.
By sleeping naked you can help reduce your body temperature and a lower body temperature leads to much better sleep thanks to lower levels of cortisol. Higher levels of cortisol lead to feeling anxious and unsettled. Cortisol is the stress hormone.
The production and release of melatonin and growth hormone is also affected by higher temperatures so stripping down will only help that magical growth hormone work its magic in helping to keep you looking, and feeling, more youthful for longer. In fact, HGH is intrinsic to weight loss and muscle gain too.
Other benefits include:
- Increased confidence
- Higher sex drive and improved sex life
- Improved metabolism
- Increased blood circulation
- Healthier skin
At the very, very least you’ll also be less stressed thanks to better, deeper sleep.
A Glass of Water is Your New Best Friend [2. Hydrate]
According to The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the average adult male and female needs an intake of 2.5 and 2.0 litres of water respectively, per day. The Natural Hydration Council provides further, succinct guidance here.
So, once you’ve woken and sprung right up and out of bed, drink a small bottle of water. A 500ml bottle of water consumed first thing in the morning will do a handful of things:
Fire up the metabolism
A study published in the Journal of of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism exploring the effects of Water-Induced Thermogenesis found that ‘drinking 500 ml of water increased metabolic rate by 30%.’
Flush the body of toxins
The kidneys eliminate toxins and waste products from the blood and urine, as well as process water-soluble toxins from the liver. Without proper hydration, the kidneys will not have enough fluid to do their job and so instead of flushing out waste through urine, the body will retain it.
You haven’t taken in any fluids since you went to sleep 7 – 9 hours ago. If you need more proof of dehydration, check out the colour of your urine.
Keep you from eating too much
The logic here is simple: if your stomach is filled with a zero-calorie substance, you’ll be less likely to feel hungry and, thanks to the lack of calories, will also be less likely to put on weight.
Refresh, and improve, brain function
The brain is 75% water and the most fatty organ in the body. Without water you’ll feel lethargic, be less focused and be more prone to mood swings.
The Japanese Water Theory of consuming between 800 – 1.2l of room temperature/lukewarm water upon waking is equally beneficial, if not more so. In addition to the above, it is said to:
- Help clear the colon
- Reduce the risk of headache
- Give the skin a healthy glow
- Rid the body of waste
- Improve immunity
- Help alleviate conditions such as diabetes, kidney stones, asthma and angina.
Our bodies are over 70% water; we’re literally made of the stuff.
Clear Your Mind and Focus [3. Meditate]
Ed Zwick made his first Tom Cruise movie in 2003. Inspired by the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion led by Saigō Takamori, The Last Samurai is a historical epic that follows a United States calvary captain, Nathan Algren (Cruise), as he ventures to Japan to help train Imperial soldiers in the war against the rebelling samurai warriors. During the first conflict he is captured but rather than be treated as he expects to be, Algren is invited to understand the way of the samurai and treated as a guest.
One of his earliest lessons is to clear his mind:
Nobutada: “Please forgive…too many mind.”
Algren: “Too many mind?”
Nobutada: “Hai (yes). Mind the sword, mind the people watch (watching), mind the enemy, too many mind. No mind.”
Algren: “No mind?”
Nobutada: “No mind.”
This exchange between Nobutada, a young samurai warrior, and Algren is a wonderful way to think about meditation. If there are too many things filling your mind, they’re distracting you and destroying your focus. ‘Too many mind’ is distracting – aim for ‘no mind’.
Meditating early in the morning/soon after waking is a great way to cultivate positivity. One way to meditate is to focus on the things that bring you joy and those that you are grateful for.
“Gratitude is an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.”
Beginning the day in a state of gratitude and thankfulness will make you more likely to attract positivity and the best the universe has to offer. Gratitude begets gratitude: it’s magnetic and infectious.
Exercise [4. Activate]
According to the British Heart Foundation’s ‘Physical Inactivity Report 2017‘, around 39% of adults in the UK fail to meet the government recommendations for physical activity. In a population of 65 million, over 20 million people are not active enough.
Put another way, the World Health Organisation ranks sedentary behaviour among the top 10 leading causes of death worldwide.
If you want to increase your health, happiness and productivity then there’s no time to waste: get familiar with a regular exercise routine immediately. This doesn’t mean pulling on the lycra, headlamps and reflective arm bands and setting off for a trail run at 5am in the bleak mid-winter. Get thee to a gym or a pool, or to a morning yoga class. Or maybe stay home, throw on your copy of Insanity and forgo putting on any gym kit.
The key is to get moving.
The benefits of physical activity are endless and need no introduction. But if you need just a little more inspiration, exercising for just 60 minutes in the morning can lead to:
- Less stress
- Greater, and sharper, attention
- Weight loss
- Muscle growth
Sound good? Treat your body well and in return it will treat you better.
Use it or lose it, mi amigo.
Wash Off [5. Invigorate]
Once you’ve got your sweat on, it’s time to get it off. But if you thought exercise was a tough packet of biscuits to open, this one ratchets things up a notch.
Ever spent time in a sauna and then cooled off under a nice, icy cold bucket of wet death? Or ended up midway through washing your hair when the hot water runs out? For an instant, the world ended, right?
But cold showers have been proven to have many positive effects and choosing to embrace the cold for a few moments each morning can actually have a big, positive impact on your wellbeing. They can:
- Build willpower
- Speed muscle recovery
- Relieve depression
- Increase your alertness
- Improve immunity and circulation
- Increase testosterone and boost fertility
- Improve skin and hair
It might take nerves of steel to turn that dial from the red to the blue, but a couple of alternating blasts of cold water will amount to less than a minute. You’ll step out of the shower feeling tingly, energised and ready for the day.
Eat A Healthy Breakfast of Protein, Slow Release Carbs and Good Fat [6. Ingurgitate]
Ok, so I struggled to find a word ending in -ate for this one. I’m talking about refuelling. I’m talking about…
Breakfast is probably the most vulnerable meal of the day. It’s the first fuel we give to our bodies so getting it right can be tough, or boring. Or both. We’re busy people and skipping the Most Important Meal of the Day is easy to do, and certainly easy to neglect.
It’s common knowledge that:
- Sugary cereals.
- Buttery white bread toast.
- Office donuts and a latte.
…are bad. And that:
- Greek yoghurt
…are good. But how do we get the balance right?
There are plenty of studies out there telling us what’s good and what’s bad but as with any meal planning and macro counting, being sure seems to get more and more complicated the more we look into it.
As a rule of thumb Dr. Jacob Wilson, professor and director of the skeletal muscle and sports nutrition laboratory at the Applied Science and Performance Institute in Tampa, Florida, suggests to aim to consume 30-40g of protein, 30g+ of slow release carbs (oatmeal is an easy go to) and 20g of fats (nuts, seeds) at breakfast for a clean, longer lasting source of energy and quality nutrition.
For me, that’s a 5 egg omelette and a small bowl of almond milk cooked oats topped with a spoonful of nut butter. In other words, every day is Christmas.
Listen to Something That Gets You Going [7. Motivate]
Are you partial to an audiobook? A certain podcast? A little bit of ABBA Gold?
Try making the switch to listening to something that is both uplifting as well as educational on your commute to work and you’ll be adding an extra depth to your cognitive stimulation.
If the average length of an audiobook is approximately 11 hours and the average length of a daily commute is 90-120 minutes then getting through a book a week, or just over, is very doable. Over the course of a year you could squeeze in an additional 50+ books.
That’s a valuable acquisition from little input and little inconvenience: time spent waiting is wasted time spent.
What’s more, you’ll feel good: you’ll arrive at work entertained and engaged.
Consider Your Goals [8. Evaluate]
Keep a log of the things you want to achieve, both in the long term and the short. Ideally a 5-15 minute stint of journaling each evening will allow to you assimilate ideas. It will also allow you to highlight the more pressing goals.
Each morning, review them. The few minutes spent reading through them will help to provide the day with purpose and give it a perspective.
What’s more, considering the long term goals on a regular, or daily, basis will encourage you to think about them frequently too. Engaging with them will contribute to the mindset of accomplishing them and propel you towards doing just that.
Carpe Diem [9. Facilitate]
Seize. The. Day.
You worked through the 8 steps to get here and it’s not even 9am yet. You’ve woken, hydrated, meditated, worked out, washed off, eaten a healthy breakfast, reviewed your goals and learnt something. You’ve done the important stuff and you still have a full day ahead of you.
Congratulations, you’ve just won the day. Now, go crush it in those mighty, champion hands of yours and be safe in the knowledge that the seeds you sowed this morning will flower into a beautiful crop.
With all of the above completed, you’ll find you have a sharper focus, a higher degree of productivity and a bounty of motivation to keep you moving forwards. And upwards.
By the time 9am rolls around, think of all you will have achieved before most of your colleagues have even thought about seizing the day. You’ll have laid the foundations for a successful day.
You’ll feel more motivated, work better, exude more positivity and generally be the winner we spoke about earlier.
What’s more, you’ll soon begin to see real change in your life. You’ll attract more of what you want, you’ll do work that stimulates you more and your relationships will become even stronger, deeper and more fulfilling.
The Law of Attraction, which states that the universe manifests the things that we give our energy and focus to, will reward you with greater success and happiness and all it took was the seed of a tiny change to how you start the day.
*For further reading on the benefits of sleep, the RSPH has published an interesting guide here.