How To Have a Great 2019 (it’s not too late!)

Happy New Year!!  Welcome to 2020!

2019 was a nice respite from political news, and 2020 promises more of the same. 

But seriously, though…

How was 2019 for you? Did you get all of your goals accomplished? No? Well, lucky for you, I met one of my primary goals. I developed a process which can send you back to March 2019 for a sort of do-over. No, I can’t get you the whole way back to January 1. Are you really that greedy?

Anyway, Would you like to go back or not? Yes? Ok, press this button and hold on to something!

My wayback machine…

Whew! I feel a bit nauseous. You ok? Good.

Now, with a little more than nine months left of 2019, how do you make it a great year?

I suggest two things–just two:


Not Immortal Action Step

Since I know I’m not immortal and need to make the most of my time, I will:

  • Set up some micro-habits
  • Find a tribe

Micro-habits

Micro-habits are great because there is just no valid excuse not to do them. They’re just so manageable! If you want to lose weight or change the way your body looks, you may feel overwhelmed by the things you think you need to do. The way to avoid this is to do small things consistently.

There are a lot of days in a year. If you do something every day, it really adds up.

Number of days left in 2019: 275 or so

What if you did one pushup per day? That’s 275 pushups in 2019! How many pushups did you do in 2018?

I recently saw a video where the author’s plan to lose weight was to weigh himself twice daily and do a pushup. That’s it. Seems pretty doable, right?

What if you removed the caloric equivalent of one candy bar from your diet each day? That’s 250 calories per day, or 68,750 calores in the remainder of 2019! Each pound is roughly 3500 calories, so the “skip the Snickers” plan would result in a 20 pound weight loss in 2019.

What if you added in a walk for 20 minutes each day? That’s roughly 100 more calories, and now you’d be down 28 pounds!

Notice I didn’t mention expensive gym memberships, intermittent fasting, or keto.

Micro-habits are great because they’re, well, really small. But they can have a huge impact with the benefit of time.

Find Your Tribe

We all need people. Yes, you too.

When we’re young, there are built-in social structures. School, sports, college, and the like. Once you are in the full throes of adultness, the opportunities to make new connections start to diminish. It’s easy to get lonely and isolated.

The slightly scary but necessary fix for this is to put yourself out there.

Sign up on Meetup.com. Find something and go. Yes, you will stand outside the door or sit in your car and an impulse will tell you to turn and run back to your couch.

Don’t.

Just throw yourself in. I promise you’ll come out completely glad you did.

Perhaps volunteering sounds good. Do that. Another great way to find your people.

Here’s a personal example. I joined a local running club here in the DC area about seven years ago. I remember feeling super apprehensive as I arrived for that first group run. What if I’m the worst runner in the whole club?

All the angst was for nothing. The people were uniformly amazing and I learned there is no such thing as “best runner” and “worst runner”. Just runners.

There is still plenty of time to make 2019 a terrific year. And you’re welcome for the do-over. Don’t squander it!

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20 Minutes to a New Life!

20 Minutes to a New Life!   Sounds like an infomercial, right?

If you act now, we’ll throw in a set of steak knives!  They can cut a tin can, then a tomato!

Who wants a knife that can do that?  What are people cooking?

I got a bit off track…

Ever finish a book or article which has some piece of actionable advice, and you have every intention of incorporating it into your life?  You think to yourself, “I am going to start shampooing with Brussel sprouts daily!”

But you don’t.  You forget.

Me too.

I have found something that is working though.

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Look at all the colors!

The Done app allows me to create micro-habits and easily refer to them each morning. I can “check things off” as I do them. Each time I get an idea of something I want to do more often, I add it in.

Two of the things I am doing stand above the rest, and I wanted to share these specifically.

Meditation
I know what you’re thinking. “I don’t really get the whole meditation thing.”

I felt the same way.

Try this right now.

  • Close your eyes
  • Take one nice big breath in and let it out
  • Now take another and let go of all the tension in your forehead on the exhale (I know, right? Didn’t even notice it, right?)
  • Now take one final big breath and unhunch your shoulders on the exhale.

How do you feel? Better?  You just did the world’s shortest meditation!

I’ve been using an app called Calm. It has a 10-minute daily meditation that is super easy and is very uplifting. Tamara Levitt is the guide and she’s just terrific!

Stretching
I am doing 10 minutes of stretching each morning and the difference is amazing. It feels great and I can definitely feel it if I skip a day or two.

I use an app called Aaptiv for this. Aaptiv is like having a DJ and a personal trainer in my ear. It works for more than just stretching too. It has yoga, treadmill runs, weight training, and a bunch more.

So, with 10 minutes of meditation and 10 minutes of stretching each morning, I can get myself on a better footing for the day ahead.

My list of micro-habits is longer than just those two things, and I don’t always get to everything, but it’s great to have simple reminders from yourself about what you want to do rather than merely react all day to whatever comes up.


Not Immortal Action Step

Since I know I’m not immortal and need to make the most of my time, I will:

  • Create a set of micro-habits and use them to ensure you do the things you want to do.
  • Try stretching for 10 minutes in the morning.
  • Try meditation

Plus, since you’re getting up early now, you can afford the 20 minutes now.

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The Magic of Getting Up On Time

5:00 am.  I intend to get up each day at 5:00 am.

The operative word, unfortunately, is intend.

I succeeded just once over the past week.  That time, I woke up thirsty at 4:40am, and just stayed up. You’d logically think that I was exhausted by the end of that day.

Nope.

I felt energized and successful.

Our self-perception of energy is easily skewed by the narrative we tell ourselves.

“I woke up at 4:40 am!  Man, am I going to be exhausted later tonight!”

Why assume that?

4:40 am sounds noteworthy because it’s uncommon.  Our bodies, however, don’t have a clue about what time it is.

Each time you fall asleep an hour early, do you anticipate an awesome tomorrow? Didn’t think so.

We are much better at creating negative narratives for ourselves.

Screw that.  Get up early.

Here’s what I plan to do, and I invite you to try it with me.


Not Immortal Action Step
Since I know I’m not immortal and need to make the most of my time, I will:

When the alarm goes off:

  • Get up (no snooze button!)
  • Stretch your arms over your head.
  • Stay on your feet for five minutes.
  • If you want to go back to bed after those five minutes, feel free.

I think we won’t though.


We can use this quiet time for the things which enrich you. Meditate, exercise, journal, have a distraction-free cup of coffee–anything which is just for you.

Good luck to you.  Wish me luck as well!

 

 

 

Feel Busy but Nothing Getting Done? It’s Probably Completion Bias

I love to-do lists.  I mean love them. I have the sneaking suspicion they’re not working for me, though.

Why?

There are certain items on the list which have the nasty habit of staying around day after day, week after week, never getting checked off.

I thought I just had too many things on the list and needed to be more judicious about what I do–perhaps say no more often.

But when I look at the list, ready to cut away all the task fat, I can’t quite bring myself to get rid of much.  All the veteran items are pretty good.  They tend to be the important, substantive things.

I was reading an article this morning when I came across a term which precisely identifies my problem.

Completion bias.

I did a bit of research.

“…human brains are wired to seek completion and the pleasure it brings — a tendency we term “completion bias.” Completing simple tasks, such as answering emails or posting updates on your Twitter account, takes little time and allows you to check off items on your to-do list. Our ongoing research (not yet published) has found that checking off items is psychologically rewarding: After you complete a task, being able to literally check a box makes you happier than when you are not given a box to check.”

Source: Harvard Business Review

That is exactly me.  I have literally added something to my list which I’ve just completed–just so I could immediately check it off!

It turns out that this is not necessarily bad.  The research described in the HBR article found that knocking out a couple of easy tasks actually sets us up mentally to succeed at larger, more substantive ones.  The risk is becoming addicted to the easy tasks and only doing those all day.


Not Immortal Action Step
Since I know I’m not immortal and need to make the most of my time, I will:

Build a single-day (or maybe single-week) to-do list from a task backlog.  These smaller lists will have some small items, but also the big guys.  This will prevent cherry-picking all the easy stuff first.