In the past three years, I’ve had one habit that has worked miracles for me.
It’s easy, repeatable, and pays off every single time I do it. And I probably do it 6 out of 7 days.
I put my clothes out the night before. Doesn’t matter if it’s a Saturday or a Sunday the following day; part of my night-time routine is I quickly pick out what I’m going to wear and put it out on the dresser.
When morning comes, like magic, it’s like little birds have picked out what I’m going to be wearing.
When I’m in a setting where people ask me my favorite strategies with saving time or procrastination, I fire that one off.
I put out my clothes the night before. It reduces my decision fatigue and I’m able to just get going.
Most of time, they reply: “That wouldn’t work for me.” I scratch my head and think: “What is exactly is the clothes situation here? Why wouldn’t this work?” I follow up and they say, “I just don’t have time at night.” Or “ I have to put my kids to bed.” Whatever.
And when it comes to all the advice, the articles (I’ve written a few), there’s this barrier that a lot of people have when it comes to getting their stuff together.
Nothing works for them because their situation is so unique.
Oh, and I’m here to tell you: they are wrong. Your situation around your procrastination, your ADHD, your distracted mind is not unique. And I know that sounds harsh—mean even.
I have the habit of saying that phrase as well:
“Oh a budget doesn’t work for me.”
“Oh, I can’t communicate that well to that person. You don’t understand the situation.”
“I’m afraid I’m just too busy with all the hours of my life gobbled up. You have no idea.”
Unless you are an astronaut on a space station, your days are pretty similar to most. Sure you might have 3 kids or one kid. Maybe you’re married and maybe you’re not. But I’m sure you eat some meals and have a job. You live some place.
We automatically have this defense when we decide we want to change something about ourselves. Steven Pressfield would call it The Resistance. The Resistance hollers at you and says: “You can’t do this. You shouldn’t do this. What a waste of time. Stay the same. This decision you are making is going to rob your happiness.”
And when we knee-jerk with the phrase, “That won’t work for me. . . “ that’s The Resistance talking.
When you’re thinking about a change, developing a new habit, whether it’s something small like putting your clothes out the night before or something big like a new exercise habit, you’ll feel that barrier. It will be this powerful tug of Resistance screaming you shouldn’t move forward.
And here’s how you combat it.
Decide if this is good for you in the long term, not the short term.
Resistance wants to push against you and convince with it’s siren song that you shouldn’t change, but you need to look at the habit you want to start, the goal you want to accomplish or the person you want to become and ask yourself if this is going to benefit you long term?
Can you see yourself getting better at something whether dropping the pizza weight (that’s me) or starting to write. Spend some time working through what it would look like if you accomplished that goal for a month, two months, 6 months or a year. You’ll start to feel more motivation to accomplish the goal.
30 is the Magic Number
When I start a new habit, a new goal, when I’m on a mission, I give myself 30 days to work on it. 30 consecutive days where I’m like, RIDE OR DIE on this habit.
If I hit the skids, if I fail, I don’t throw in the towel and say, “I’ll never be able to get this.” No. I simply start over the next day, make the necessary corrections and keep going.
Commit to 30 days and you’ll have a much easier time establishing and getting used to a new habit.
Create some Bumpers.
You want to hear the howl of a 5 year old, wailing into the abyss of their frustration? Take them bowling. That ball will fall into the gutter, this long line of failure, saying, “You missed. You can’t even hit a pin.”
So what do you do? You get rid of the gutters. You put in bumpers. You make failure literally impossible.
So if you are going to start a new habit, install some bumpers into your routine. If you are planning on working out, come up with all the things that would trip you up and fix them—now. Have your workout plan already done. Have your gym bag packed. Have your post-workout snack ready to go. Whatever it is, install the bumpers. You will not howl into the abyss of frustration anymore.
Put Your Money on the Line
If you want to really to fight Resistance, and this is a bit drastic, is to make a bet with someone about your goal with a penalty that is huge. Write a check (remember those?) to an organization you loathe and give it to the friend. It needs to be an amount of money that is painful. It could be $50 or $500. Whatever burns your britches.
If you don’t accomplish the goal, that check gets SENT. Maybe it’s to finish your novel. Maybe it’s to lose that weight. Want that garage cleaned, this is your motivation. Barring a freak accident or loss of limb, you need to finish that goal.
It’s a TRAP!
The trap of the Resistance is to say, “This won’t work for you. You are just plain stuck.” When a solution is offered, a meaningful piece of advice or a well-defined strategy, take a look at it and if it could work implement it and don’t shrug it off. That’s what Resistance wants; and we want nothing Resistance offers.
About three months ago, I burned out of my job. You might read “burned out” like I suddenly didn’t like my job or my job suddenly frustrated me.
That’s not the case.
Burned out means that you have nothing left to give to the job and you no longer can see the purpose of it. Besides a paycheck no matter how big, you simply do not find any scrap of joy in it,
This doesn’t happen during the course of a day or week. We all have issues when it comes to our job, busy times, hectic paces. Burnout isn’t about being “busy.”
It’s this slow burn, like a savings account being slowly drained, more withdrawals than deposits.
Soon you find yourself in the red and you wonder how you got there.
Burnout is a dangerous place when it comes to your career because most likely it is what is paying the bills. You need the job that you loathe. People might be depending on you to show up, to smile, and just tough it out.
Burnout is this trapped feeling—you’re miserable in a job (that you probably loved) that pays the bills; you hardly have the energy to look for another job because of the weariness, so you seem trapped in an endless cycle. There is no light at the end of the tunnel because to you it seems like an endless loop.
Here are some typical signs of burnout:
You’ve Used All of Your Sick Time
If you are burned out of your job, you have most likely burned through all of your sick time for two reasons. First, you can’t bring yourself to work. The mere thought of getting out of bed and doing that job again has you reaching for the phone, coming up with some excuse.
Two, you are out of sick time because you are actually sick. When you are in a constant stressed state, your immune system buckles and you are constantly down with a cold or flu.
But now you have zero sick time left. You ignore your aches and pains and keep you desk drawer filled with lozenges and over the counter drugs.
You Can’t Answer the Simplest of Questions
When you get home from work and a loved one says, “How was your day?”, you can’t come up with a good answer, or any answer. When someone at works asks you for your opinion about something work related, your brain can’t come up with anything. Your creative juices, your interest in the job has turned to ash.
Your creative spirit has left your body.
You Fantasize About the Escape Route Constantly
When you are burned out—you think about how good it would feel to be in a completely different profession. If you’re an accountant, you dream about being a truck driver. If you’re a salesperson, you wonder what it’s like to be a librarian. This isn’t you wondering if you should start a new career path, this is you trying to find the escape hatch, hoping to get out as soon as you can.
You Get This Question Every Day
“Are you alright?” a coworker will ask you. It’s an innocuous question, but you start to hear it more and more. You wear the burnout on your face and you can’t seem to feel anything but misery. When you first started this job you had some bad days, and then you had more bad days, but those eventually turned into normal days. Now your normal days are just bad days, but you occasionally have worse days. See how that works?
No, you’re not alright.
You Call That a Vacation?
You’ve tried to take a vacation to get away, to take time to refuel, but when the vacation time starts to wane, you feel an anxiety build up. I have to go back. And it crushes you. Vacations aren’t really vacations anymore. They are a way to recover from your job—and they don’t seem to be working.
You Can’t Give Back To Your Family
Every expense is frustrating because it reminds you how much you need your job. When loved ones want to spend time with you, you want to sit on the couch or at worst, stay in bed. You snap. You bristle. And does this sound like depression? It should. Because it is.
Listening to Advice is Difficult
Our friends and family see the pain on your face and will say, (in the most loving way), “Why don’t you just —“ and we nod or we cringe because it isn’t as simple as that. We can barely take our job—much less do something else
Can You Recover From The Burnout While You Still Have a Terrible Job?
I’d argue if you are burnt out—if your job is that brutal, you are not going to be able to fully recover while you are in the job. But there are some ways I’ve found to mitigate the damage.
First, you have to commit to getting out of the job as soon as you can with another job in the best case scenario.
If you have enough savings stored up to make it for 6-9 months, give your two weeks notice and get out.
But that isn’t an option for a lot of us.
So here are some strategies to get out quickly and deal with the burnout.
Recognize the Burnout is There
You can’t start tackling the problem until you acknowledge that you are burned out. It’s a terrible secret to keep and you might feel guilty for some how not being able to cut it; that isn’t the case. You’ve been a square peg trying to fit in the round hole for too long.
You have to say the words—“I’m burnt out of my job.”
It’s not a magic spell. It’s not an incantation, but you will feel better after you say it and accept it.
Right now you might be experiencing cognitive dissonance; you are holding two competing thoughts in your head: “I hate this job and I’m not going to make it.” And “I need to keep going—I’ll make it. Things will change. I’ll eventually feel better.” You are straddling the fence; you aren’t quite dealing with the reality of the situation. You are expending energy to try to keep those two disparate thoughts together and intact.
You’ll feel much better once you accept that you are completely and utterly burned out.
Recognize that Burnout Isn’t a Character Flaw
“Why can’t I cut it? What the hell is wrong with me?”
This was my daily mantra. Daily. I figured I was the crazy one and every one else around me had “grit” or “resilience.” I read article upon article on how to have more grit and just get through the “tough time.”
I looked at my fellow colleagues and sure they were frustrated, but they weren’t in the type of pain I was in.
But just because others are handling the same career well, doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you. It means it’s wrong for you and comparing yourself to everyone else will get you perfectly nowhere. And maybe, just maybe, this no-win comparison game helped get you to this burnout state.
Get a Career Coach Today
When I was desperately job searching, I hired a career coach; an hour of her time wasn’t cheap, but I figured—I had to do something. I was getting rejected over and over for jobs that I should have at least got an interview for, but something was wrong with my resume and cover letter; I just couldn’t see what it was.
When I showed her my resume, she said, “What, um, kind of job are you going for?”
“Trainer. Corporate trainer.” I replied.
She patted my hand and said, “This resume could be for a taxi driver, botanist, or Scrabble champion. It’s too general. The word ‘training’ only shows up twice.”
She showed me how to fashion my resume to fit the exact job I was looking for along with changing my LinkedIn to be more appealing to recruiters. Find a solid career coach because after I did, I received a three interviews in a week.
Use Your Benefits
Check with your HR and see if you can take a leave and receive counseling and if so, for how long. When taking a leave, I’d make an appointment with your doctor and a psychiatrist to let them assess you. (You’ll need it for the paperwork.) Sometimes you can go on disability (mental) and receive pay while you figure out the next steps. Your benefits are there for you—don’t be ashamed or hesitant to use them.
Tell Your Family and Close Friends
There’s an old saying in addiction circles: secrets keep you sick. When you are feeling burnout, one of the worst things you can do is keep it to yourself. Don’t turn to Facebook to vent, but instead share it with your family and close friends. And let your close friends know you are looking for a new job and ask if they have someone in their network that can help. Supply them with your resume and just ask them to look around.
Assess Your Runway to Find Another Job
Take a look at your savings and your expenses and figure out how much time you would have if you didn’t have a job. Could you go part time instead of full time? Could you simply walk? If you have 6-9 months in savings to cover expenses, then I would simply put in your two weeks.
It Won’t Always Feel Like This
I know it’s hard to hear from someone else much less read it online, but it does get better; another job comes along and it doesn’t have to be the job, but it can be a job where you can breathe, and gather some hope back.
Ryan McRae is the creator of the blog The ADHD NERD and has a free great book called The Best iPhone Apps for Focus. He currently works as a on boarding corporate trainer and loves his job very much. Thanks.
This year I have dedicated myself to bullet journaling. For those of you unaware, bullet journaling is a way to capture everything in one place. Whether it is a list of projects, school information, packing list or gift ideas, it goes into the bullet journal—an analog warehouse of all of your thoughts and ideas in one place.
Now, you might be wondering, but what about that digital life, the Evernote, this APP, that APP?
Think of bullet journaling as your short term and medium term storage. I only look to digital storage if I’m going to keep something forever like tax information or an article I loved on the internet. (I’m not going to be writing an URLs into my bullet journal.
Here’s a great tutorial on how to use the bullet journal:
How to Bullet Journal - YouTube
Now some habits that I had to integrate that aren’t mentioned are:
I had to carry around that book wherever I went. I just had to lug it around. I’ll keep mine in jacket at all times and pull it out when I need to.
I have to look at it and revisit it.
I have to draw straight lines sometimes. Not my bag, really, but hey. I have a ruler. Maybe it’s a fancy one. \
Daily (sometimes 2-4 times a day) I just mind dump into it. And you might, just might think that you don’t have anything to put in there, but oh contrare! There is a ton to dump into there. A ton.
What I have found is that my brain is less and less cluttered. Even though we say, “Make a list” when you want to get something done, you might lose it. You might not look at it. But with a bullet journal I’m able to keep track of so many lists so very well.
I’ve also found that I because it’s analog, I’m using my phone much less often. I’m not getting sucked down the rabbit hole. There’s a clarity that comes with offloading every little thing.
The Collections. . .
Now in bullet journals you have something called collections. This is where you simply make lists and store information that is specialized. So for example I have “trips.”
Under trips, I list the following information:
Airline information: Departure, arrival, airport.
Cash I should bring.
Tentative packing list.
Rental car information.
Now I could build a template in Evernote or a simple text document and store it all there. Or I simply write it out by hand, remember it better and have it there for reference. The bullet journal way is simpler.
If I don’t have the bullet journal in front of me and I need to remember something, I grab a stickie and write it there. When I see my bullet journal, I throw the stickie in there and eventually move it to the bullet journal, crushing the stickie in my hand like a tyrant.
My future dear friend, Matt Ragland, has some stellar videos about creating and using a bullet journal. Check these out. And subscribe to his Youtube channel here! HERE!
How to Set Up Your First Bullet Journal: 2019 Planning & Goal Setting - YouTube
A Minimalist Bullet Journal Week: The 10 Blocks of Time [Productivity Planning 2018] - YouTube
The analog works a different part of your brain, a slower part of your brain so that you can see the big picture and you can reflect. I don’t usually reflect while looking at my smartphone. I want to know what’s happening now; where your journal is something to think about the past with as well as the future. I can plan my travel; I can look at my goals and how I’m progressing.
The Choice is Yours
I know I’ve included some videos here, but I want to emphasize this: there is no wrong way to do the bullet journal if it serves you and serves you well. The videos here are best practices, and trust me, I’ve tried to do it my way and I tend to revert back to what most people have said about bullet journals: have a calendar, have your tasks, collections, etc.
If I start worrying about “if I’m doing it right” then I tend to not use it; it becomes this perfection nightmare and then it doesn’t serve me. I don’t care about scratching stuff out (the horror!) or not using the coolest pen out there.
Where should you start? I’d start with the videos, and just give the bullet journal a try. The more I delve into it, the more there’s a huge payoff for me in terms of organization and even better, peace of mind.
Throw me a line at ryan@theadhdnerd(dot)com. I’d love to hear what you think.
I get a lot of emails about goals—and I mean—a lot. But if I had a the ultimate answer for accomplishing your goals flawlessly, I’d live in a huge mansion.
One of the biggest reasons that I see people fail in their goals is that whatever they want to do, whatever they want to accomplish is just obtuse.
I mean the classic thing people want is to lose weight. I do. Maybe you do.
But when someone only has that goal, nothing is going to happen after the New Year Eve ball drops.
It’s unclear. I mean, clearly you want the number to be lower, but what else? That’s it?
Now you might think that I’m going to talk about SMART goals to accomplish all of your dreams and hopes.
I’m not. No no no no.
Goals are alright; they are a length of tape to run through so you know where the finish line is, but I’m afraid goals aren’t going to help you.
Let me say that again—goals aren’t going to help you.
If you were going on a road-trip, and you wanted to get to San Diego, you wouldn’t stare at the city on the map as you drove. Sure, the goal is San Diego, but no matter what you aim towards, if that becomes your only way you are going to get there, you’re going to be staring at that map in the driveway, far, far away from your destination.
You need a system to get there
My future friend James Clear says, that “You don’t rise to your goals, you fail to your systems.”
You don’t rise to your goals. You don’t look at the 15 lbs weight loss goal you have and say, “Now that I have announced this goal to the world, it shall come to pass.” Nope. A ton of people, literally, want to lose weight. But they don’t all do it. They could have all the good intentions to eat more celery and less cake, but when the next New Year’s Eve party starts, they probably are going to wear the same outfit, and it’s perhaps a little tighter.
It’s systems that get goals accomplished. Systems. Let me explain.
A system is a repetitive set of small actions that produce the same results.
A recipe is a system—add this—add this—bake at this temperature. Done.
When you start your car—it’s a system. You don’t usually wind up in the back seat of your car, when you want to get some place. (And if you do , you shouldn’t be driving. Another blog for another time.)
Creating small repeatable actions that take the decision making process out of the equation is the secret sauce to getting a goal accomplished.
Let me break some examples down for you.
Let’s go back to losing weight. You can say, “eat right” or “exercise more” when it comes to losing weight, but that isn’t clear enough. It sounds nice, and it’s on the right path, but what would all the decisions look like if they were already decided?
Morning Routine for Weight Loss
Weigh myself every day.
Record weight in MyFitnessPal App.
Grab gym bag.
Eat a breakfast that is mostly fat and protein. OR. Put kale/spinach shake in blender. Drink it. (Exception: fasting that morning. Easy enough.)
Afternoon Routine for Weight Loss
Eat a salad for lunch.
Drink four cups of water by lunch time.
Hit the gym using my workout plan.
Evening Routine for Weight Loss
Drink plenty of water.
Make sure morning shake is ready to go.
Make sure gym bag is packed and done.
Healthy snacks at work. Keep in desk.
Take stairs. All the time.
Have two meetings a week where we walk instead of sit.
When Struggling With Routine.
Call your accountability buddy and discuss why you want to lose the weight.
Review the why of losing weight.
Do not expect to see a single result until 6 months after you start this process. Not a single result. (I have it set in my calendar to check results after 6 months.)
Eat before every social event to avoid grazing.
Don’t keep food in the house you shouldn’t eat.
I know this seems like a lot, and I didn’t incorporate it overnight. I gradually just added things like “take the stairs” and “drinking plenty of water.”
Whatever you want to do—you need a system. If I keep doing these things, having a fall back plan, have it all set up for success, I can’t lose. I just can’t. All of these things lead into success. If I start eating like crap, then my coach is on me. If I start missing my workouts, my accountability partner is going to get on my case.
Sure, I could dismantle it all, but I know that whatever portion I start to dismantle will lead to more weight gain. I’m determined to get rid of this weight so no matter what my goal. 10, 30 or 100 lbs, this system should work. And let’s say it has its flaws, and I’m sure it does, I can plug those as I go along.
I’ve had the feeling of, “I can’t wait to start the new year with this new habit.” Maybe it’s writing. Maybe it’s working out.
What happens after a month? It tends to drift, that commitment, that memory, that motivation.
That motivation doesn’t simply just shut off. It starts to wane. Maybe you miss a day of working out. And then you get back to it. Then you miss two days. Then you get back to it. Then you eat an entire sheet cake and wonder, “What’s the point?” And then you resign yourself to figuring it out later.
Or maybe you are overspending. You buckle down. You white knuckle the compulsion to buy this or that. And then you give in and the Amazon boxes just pour, pour, pour in.
I get it.
I’ve been where you are.
One tactic you might try is this:
You want to literally brainwash yourself into the right way of thinking. You heard me. You want to go full cult on this habit. Let’s get started. Grab your robe and gong.
Here’s step one into brainwashing yourself:
Destroy all the things!
If you are trying to write more—figure out what is sinking your time away from the keyboard or pen. Unless it is a living being, put it away in the closet. Maybe it’s the TV or even your Xbox. Sure, you can be a cowboy on the Xbox, but is it helping you write? Nope. Put it in the closet.
Are you trying to lose weight? Empty your house of all the stuff that goes against that trend. From that half eaten potato chip bag to the cupcakes, trash them.
Because I guarantee—GUARANTEE—when you are tempted, you’ll go for it.
You aren’t that person anymore. You don’t eat chips while you watch Netflix. You eat broccoli now. You eat broccoli.
Take a look around and see what is against your new habit, your new identity and get rid of it. No matter how small.
But what if you spent good earned solid money on it—so what? Give it away. What about people bringing treats over? Announce to the masses that you aren’t doing sugar. (It helped when I said, “Doctor’s orders” and then everybody became supercool about it).
Destroy that old life.
Decide that’s the person you aren’t going to be any longer.
When I’m starting a new habit or skill—I delve into all the information about it. I check on Amazon about the best books on the topic. For example, I used to get schooled at poker. Crushed. I’d love money week after week—and so I wanted to become better at playing poker.
So I ordered the top 3 books on poker and read them.
My poker game improved. Why? Because that’s literally all I read for a month. Poker books. Poker DVDs. Poker blogs. Poker articles. Poker magazines. I engorged myself with poker and of course my play went up astronomically.
That was awhile ago (and I’m still going to take your money at your home game. Just so we are clear.)
Now when I started working out again, I downloaded a ton of podcasts about beginners working out, Crossfit, and nutrition. When I’m in my car I just listen to that.
Why am I listening to that? Cause I’m someone who is conscious about fitness and nutrition. And now when I get in my car, and that plays it’s this reminder that I’m about nutrition. I have books about how to swing a kettlebell better and I flip through it a couple of times a week. I have a kettlebell next to my desk so when something is downloading, I’ll swing it 3 or 4 times.
Why? Because I’m a person who is about fitness and nutrition.
You have to indoctrinate yourself into a new belief and chip away at the programming from before.
I coach writers and some will say to me, “I still remember the day that my 3rd grade teacher told me I wasn’t a good writer.”
My reply is, “Who told you that you were a good teacher?” The person lists other teachers and mentors.
I’ll ask them to write down what the 3rd grade teacher said and burn the note (destroy) and I’ll have them write down all the encouraging things and post it up where they can see it all the time.
We have to delete the crap out of our lives, the stuff that holds us back. And then we have need to indoctrinate ourselves to the habits we want to have. Those habits, eventually, become who we are.
I’d heard of habit stacking for awhile. Do this one thing and then it leads you into another thing.
But I just didn’t get it. As someone who is in the “productivity writing niche” you’d think I’d get a brochure in the mail. Nope.
So it wasn’t until I read Atomic Habits to full get a grip on how to habit stack—how to take the things you normally do—and add the things you normally don’t with ease and little if no willpower expended.
Habit Stacking and ADHD - YouTube
But before we get into it, let’s make sure we all know the lingo, shall we?
When I talk about willpower, I talk about the energy expended to do what you don’t want to do. Does it take willpower to eat a cupcake? Not normally? But to resist that Pinterest famous Cookie Monster cupcake, especially when it’s Janice’s birthday and she made them. But you’re on the keto diet and you don’t want to ruin it. You can smell the willpower burning like the smokestack plume from a coal plant.
That’s willpower: the expenditure of energy to do what you don’t want to do. We only have a limited amount of willpower per day. If you’ve burned it out by the time you get home, the refrigerator looks like a buffet table and you’re yelling, “Honey, do we have any more ice cream in the house?”
So securing our willpower, guarding it, is essential for us with an ADHD/distracted mind. Why? Because we have leaks in our willpower bucket. We just do.
So we want to guard our willpower, our precious commodity—so we can spend it elsewhere instead of bouncing this willpower check we write.
Habit stacking does just that.
And before we get into habit stacking—we need to talk about what an actual habit is.
Every. Single. Time. I ask people, “What’s a habit?” They will respond with a “it’s like a goal that you have. It’s like “going to the gym regularly” or “always keeping a clean house.”
Nope. Full stop.
The best definition I’ve seen is from James Clear: A habit is a [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] and will be in [A LOCATION]. So for me, I go to a Crossfit gym on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 9:00 AM in the Crossfit gym. That’s my habit. You know exactly what, when and where.
It’s not vague. It’s not obtuse. It’s specific.
And we have these habits good and bad all over the place.
When I get home from work (time) I will have some ice cream (behavior) in the kitchen above the sink (location).
Now that we’ve got the habit part down—on the to the habit stacking!
Habit stacking is taking a habit that is already established and connecting, chaining or stacking it to another.
When I turn on the pan to cook my eggs, I clean off the counter.
When I turn on the shower, I wipe down the toilet. (I started doing this when I read that in Atomic Habits. You’re going in the shower anyway . . .)
When I grab the back door doorknob, I make sure I have everything that I need for the day.
Here’s something I implemented recently that changed the game:
I usually keep a lot of stuff in my car. It’s not exactly an episode of Hoarders but you know, they might take a second look.
I usually have empty cups and books in there. That’s my life I drink coffee. I read books.
But I couldn’t figure out how to get that stuff out of the car. Sure I could just load it all up in three trips, but I live in a third story apartment, no elevator and I just thought, “I’ll do it later. Much later.” And the books and cups piled up.
So I instituted this habit, “When I arrive home and get out of the car, I’ll grab one thing to take up with me or throw out.”
Now, getting out of the car isn’t a habit per se, everyone gets out of the car, but it triggered the habit of grabbing one thing.
Even if I have groceries, I have to grab one thing—one empty cup, one book on productivity and bring it upstairs.
Lo and behold, my car became more and more empty! Huzzah! Now I falter when I bring stuff into the car, so I have to work on that part, but all and all the improvement works.
James Clear uses a bunch of other examples:
Every year on my birthday, I donate to charity.
After I turn on the shower, I will do five burpees.
After I lay down in bed for the night, I think of one positive thing that happened today.
After I get in my car, I will take three deep breaths.
After I get home from my violin lesson, I will take my violin out of the case and put it on a stand where I can see it.
When I see my water bottle is half empty, I will fill it back up.
When I close the trunk, I will look to see if I am holding the keys.
When I feel stressed or anxious, I will close my eyes and take five deep breaths.
Before I travel on a plane, I pack a healthy snack to take with me.
The key to habit building is first making it incredibly easy. (In other blog posts, I’ll go over the laws of habit building he artfully describes.)
Try it today. Find just ONE thing to add to a habit you already do. Maybe it’s flossing. Maybe it’s taking the garbage out. Maybe it’s donating to charity. Whatever it is—start it today and I’d love to know what you start doing.
In Lord of the Rings, the most corrupt person has to be poor Gollum—corrupted by the One Ring, he desires it more than anything, more than anyone. His counterpart, the actual person he was before, Smeagol, desires the companionship that Frodo (not really Sam) offers. He is the jokester, the riddle-maker.
But I have news.
We have our own personal Gollum. Gollum is this depression-fueled beast, this inverse of our true-self, this corrupt part of ourselves that desires:
Whatever is unhealthy for us.
The impediment of our growth.
To tear apart our relationships.
To ultimately destroy us as we chase after the unattainable.
I make it no secret that I struggle with weapons-grade depression. I have over the years and this past year, Gollum has not only visited my home, but has taken roost, living here in the center of my chest. When you are under depression, you will un-naturally make terrible decision based on what your depression (Gollum) tells you.
LOTR The Two Towers - Gollum and Sméagol - YouTube
“Nobody likes you.” You don’t even like yourself.
Don’t tell your friends you’re depressed. You will be a burden.
It will be like this—forever and I mean—forever.
He hisses. He begs. He pleads. But I’ve learned his ways. I’ve learned how depression works in my own soul and heart. I’ve learned how to battle and turn the tide on this slimy little beast. But it has taken years to figure it out, to take my licks. I haven’t pushed Gollum into the volcano just yet, and doubt I will, but I have just four little strategies I walk myself through.
The Strategies I Use to Defeat Depression
Name it. Depression hates to be called out. It hates its name spoken in the light. It isn’t a brand—it isn’t a life sentence. You didn’t earn this or deserve it. It just happens. But the earlier you can recognize it and see it for what it is, you start to see the edges of it. You start the battle.
Rally your friends. When I’m battling, I have a set amount of friends that get notified. I shoot a text (cause man, calling all those people is work, but I’ll get to it) and say, “Hey—just wanted to let you know I’m struggling with depression. If you could check on me this week, I’d appreciate it: call, text, carrier pigeon.” Depression breeds in silence. It breeds when you cut yourself off from people. It breeds.
Pick your battles. When depression hits, I know that I’m not going to have the energy to do chores, cook, and other stuff. I delegate that out as quickly as I can. I eat out a bit more. I shop online and have stuff delivered. I spend my energy on socializing, going to work, and just recently, going back to the gym. When plans with friends become more and more complicated, I simply bow out. Your depression thrives in chaos and it dies in order, at least for me.
Exercise. I’m just learning (ha ha ha ha) that my depression hates working out. It hates the effort and afterwards I feel better. Yes, I’m sore. Yes, I’m tired, but my brain puts out chemicals that detoriate my depression. I feel a little bit of accomplishment and I’m able to get back into the fight. If you can, do something where you don’t have to plan or make decisions. I go to Crossfit because the workout is already done on the board. I just have to obey. Maybe you can go for a walk. Maybe you can simply play some music and dance. But keep moving. Depression convince you to stop caring. Don’t.
Get help for your depression. See your doctor. I recently had a conflict with the medication I was taking and the doctor said, “This might be causing your depression.” OH SNAP. So I figured that out quick. And it started to help.
Gollum hates light, people and truth. Feed your depression that and you might start to see it back off, fade away and never, ever come back.
Here’s what it’s like for introverts to decide to go to a conference:
“Oh, let’s go to a conference where you know no one, expect to mingle and ‘network.’ Up next, getting your teeth drilled by a rabid monkey.”
I get it. I get that you’d rather curl up with a good book or watch some Netflix than walk into a room full of strangers.
But there is a way for introverts to thrive during a conference—it just takes a bit of preparation to endure the bombardment of new people, small talk and constant conversation.
And by the end of this, you might actually envision not only going to a conference, but enjoying it.
Setting the Right Expectations
A conference at its core is designed to bring people together around a topic they love to meet other people and get some great content as well as nighttime outings to see the city.
But if you don’t have the right expectations of what you are going to get out of a conference, it can be a large disappointment.
Asking yourself some key questions can help you have better expectations and spend your time much more wisely. Here are some examples:
What sessions are you going to?
How many outings do you plan on attending?
What are your plans at night?
What is one speaker you want to meet? What question would you ask?
How many connections would you like to make at the conference, someone you would follow up with?
By writing down some expectations, you can have some goals that are worth going after instead of feeling like you got nothing accomplished.
Choosing Your Seating Wisely, Sisters and Brothers
When you are sitting down at the conference, most rookie introverts sit in the back.
Don’t make this mistake. You can sit wherever you want, just make sure you sit in an aisle.
You have an easy escape if you want to relocate or you have some chat-bot sitting next to you.
How to Meet People at the Conference
It’s hard to mingle for introverts; we aren’t the kind of people who just say, ‘Hey, I’m Ryan. What’s going on with you? Tell me about your life. . .your dreams. . . .your regrets.”
It makes us cringe.
Here’s my strategy for meeting people, but not having to do any “small talk.”
Just Like Me
I find people in the mixers and “get to know you”s who are off by themselves. My fellow introverts!
They are eating alone at a stand-up table or at the bar. If they are looking at their phone, I let them be, but if someone is actively looking around, I’ll approach them and say, “Hey, I’m Ryan and I’m new here. Not great at the mingling. How’s it going?”
95% of the time the person engages. They know I’m new, I’m out of place and maybe, just maybe, they feel the same way too.
Go for the C Group
Chase Reeves over at Fizzle talks about the idea when we go to a conference we make the rookie move of trying to meet the “A group”, the speakers, the conference hosts, the A listers. We imagine we will be sitting with them in no time having coffee and becoming lifelong friends.
I’ve seen people do this over and over—and they leave the conference a bit disappointed because everyone is trying to do the same thing.
Even people in the B group, workshop leaders and other people who are much further down the road than you, have enough friends. They have enough contacts. Maybe you can connect with them. Maybe not.
But what I do is I focus on the C group. We are the first time attendees, the ones who are new and figuring out our place. The misfits. The overwhelmed. The ones who don’t know it all or even much. Maybe not a little.
That’s who I hang out with. That’s who I spend my time with. Our beer glasses clink and our laughs are loud.
We make promises we keep—checking in, mentoring, helping out, and loaning out expertise.
Find the C group.
Introverts, Have a Wingperson
If you have a bit of social anxiety, that feeling where a crowd of strangers is pretty much like being the gazelle at the jackal convention, I got you. I understand.
My buddy Dave is like that. He’s a powerful introvert, but the initial hello is what jams him up.
Do you just go up to people?
Why does small talk everyone feel so small?
What do you say? What’s a good opening line?
By the time you work up the courage, the conference is over and someone is putting away the chairs.
Dave and I met at the World Domination Summit and he enlisted me as his wingman.
Me and my buddy Dr. David Powers. Please note the shirt.
Here’s how our wingman system worked. (Trademark pending.)
He’d hang out in the shadows, the dark shadows and I would meet and greet around the conference. If I was making a connection and having a good time, he would saddle up and I’d introduce him to the group.
We’d chat. Have a good time and then I’d slink away and meet another group.
We wound up meeting a ton of people, making friends, and the following year I had a picture of him on my t-shirt and underneath it read “WINGMAN.”
If you are looking for a wing-person, simply ask a more extroverted friend of yours to attend with you and help them break the ice. It will go much more smoothly.
Break Time is Your Time
If you need to get out and get some air and skip the chit-chat crowd, do so. Grab a bench. Read a book. Have some coffee or tea. You don’t have to grind it. Take a breath.
Be the Batman of the Conference
In my backpack I have a little zipper bag filled with items that some people just forgot: a couple of chargers, a couple of battery packs (the small ones that I’ve received as swag), hand wipes, and other sundries.
Without a doubt, I will hear someone lament about something they forgot. And Batman to the rescue! I’ll hand out the battery pack and charger and strike up a conversation. Huzzah! I’ve saved the day.
A conversation usually happens and they gratefully return the items when they don’t need them anymore!
The Best Journal Practice at a Conference
You want to capture all of the information at a conference; it’s normally the reason you are there. So what’s the best way? There’s going to be a ton of information—a ton.
I’ll watch most people frantically take notes of the speakers’ talk: pen in hand—huge new blank journal—and a frenetic pace.
When I’m taking a notes, I know that I’ll usually get the copy of the presentation. And frankly, I want to enjoy it. I want to be present with the speaker. So I take simple notes around these topics:
What stories did the speaker tell? (1-3 words so I remember)
What missteps did the speaker make?
What recommendations did the speaker make? (Books, movies, etc.)
What action steps should I take in the next 1-3 weeks?
This way I get the most learns out about the conference speakers and remain present. I’ll get the recording later.
Channel Your Inner Jimmy Olsen
If you snap some great photos at your conference, share them! I’ve sent pictures I’ve taken with the conference organizers as well as the speaker. I offer a quick note of thanks, how the conference and talk impacted me and give them the photos. It’s a great way to make a connection.
Volunteering But Not as Tribute
Most conferences have a need to volunteer; it could be doing airport pickups to stuffing swag bags. If you want to meet more people in a less overwhelming fashion, send an email to the conference organizers and offer your assistance.
Do One Thing Out of Your Conference-Comfort Zone
Maybe you join the treasure hunt.
Maybe you step up for karaoke night.
Maybe you decide to meet 5 new people instead of 3.
Whatever it is, step out of that shell a tad and who knows what will happen or who you’ll meet. I’m in my mid (sort of) 40s and my dearest friends are those I’ve met at conferences. I hope you find the same joy I do when I put on my name badge, see the crowds and say to myself, “This is going to be fun.”
I was writing in a coffeeshop, in the flow of what I was working on—getting words on the page, in the zone.
The man was pointing to my AirPods—they had come out a couple of days ago and I managed to snag some.
I explained to him how they work—I can tap on them to summon Siri or play or pause a podcast. I also told him how I wear them religiously—I don’t leave the house without them.
I’m an evangelist for few things, but AirPods—well—I will brag about these forever.
When I finished my technological sermon, he looked at me and said, “It’s a bit much, isn’t? What about just enjoying the moment?”
He walked off and I thought—
He completely missed the point.
I’m all about getting off your phone and watching the sunset. I’m all about putting down your camera at your kids play and watching the actual play (or concert, or what have you.)
But when it comes to productivity—when it comes to simplicity and offloading all the minutiae and noise in my head—I’m all about that.
I recently read an article about how we are becoming Cyborgs—getting so attached to our technology that it becomes this symbiotic relationship.
And here’s the thing—I’m all for it.
I’m Pro-Cyborg—I automate everything that is boring and that doesn’t give me life.
Acorns is a great way to automate your savings. You can simply invest in what you’d like—have your purchases rounded up to the nearest dollar and that change goes right into your account. You can also set up automatic payments from any checking or savings account. If you are looking to start simply putting a little money aside or start investing slowly—this is the way to go.
Stop cleaning your house.
One of my best moves was to get a housekeeper. She comes once a month, does a deep cleaning of my little apartment and it takes the pressure off of me. I’m not a complete slob, but I work a 40 hour job and I write about 15 hours a week for this blog so something had to give.
Sometimes we have this shame of having someone else clean our house, but we don’t have shame of other people cooking our food. Give me a break. Spend a little less time out and get someone to clean. Done.
Use your smartphone in a smarter way.
My phone pings and pings. PINGS. Why? Because I put reminders for nearly everything in there. My calendar is full of “brah—don’t forget this. Now these are things that happen every year, month or week like clockwork; I just want to be ahead of it.
Here are some examples:
Renewing your drivers license and stickers.
Other bills (phone, renters insurance, etc.)
You don’t have to speak them; you can simply type them into your phone. My trick is when I have to pay rent or some annual payment comes up, it reminds me to put in a reminder to be reminder. Welcome to reminder inception.
I also look for stuff that’s bugging me. Maybe I’m waiting to hear back from an interview, but I won’t hear back until Thursday. You think my brain is going to put me at peace until Thursday? NOPE.
So I put in a reminder: “Worry about the interview on Thursday.” The minute my brain knows I have a reminder, the anxiety stops. Instantly.
Now if you are looking for next level stuff. . .
Autopay your life.
First, direct deposit your check, but I shouldn’t have to tell you that. C’mon. Check the calendar. Second, have your bills on autopay. I get it; some of us are not financially savvy, but having all of my bills go to autopay has been a dream come true. I know two payments I have to make: car and rent. Every month.
So I have half of my car payment and rent come out of my pay check each month. I get paid twice a month so at the end of the month, boom, my bank sends a check to another bank for my car payment and my landlord. Everything else come to me. (I plan on having my insurance and all of that paid automatically as well.) Now I know I won’t get my car repo-ed or be homeless. Success!
What iPhone Apps HELP you Focus?
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I thought this mindfulness craze was a bunch of malarky to be honest. Mindfulness? Come on. It wasn’t until I started using 10% Happier, a great app to practice mediation. I’ve done it for 30 days in a row and found myself to be calmer and have more clarity. It times your meditations and I’ve found it to be great for 10-15 minutes of serenity.
I’m not going to go into a rant about how we buy too much stuff. I’m not that guy (today), but I loathe and hear me sisters and brothers, loathe, going into Target or Walmart. The crowds—the lines—you gotta be kidding me. It’s such a time sink that I can’t handle it. So what do I do, I order online all of the time—then I pick that stuff up. I pop in—show some ID—and I’m out of there. I’m not sucked into sales or the dollar section. I’m not going to impulse buy.
Have an everyday carry.
I have certain objects I carry with me regardless of where I go: wallet, AirPods, phone, Field Notes notebook, pencil. End of list. This way I can capture thoughts and listen to podcasts or music wherever I go. I’m not putting in my brain to hold on to—I have to write it down. When I get home, I offload all of it right inside my place. I throw everything on a charger if need be.
If you repeat any action, write it down.
If you have a system, but you keep it in your head, that’s an issue and a cause for failure. You’re inviting chaos into the system. A misstep. Create a checklist. Something you refer to. Travel often? Make a list of bleeping everything you have to bring. Whether it’s shopping, posting a blog or practicing guitar—make a checklist.
Being a cyborg is about moving the mundane into the world of the automatic. You don’t have to spend time worrying about if that bill got paid or if you have enough money in your account for rent. You can offload the boring tasks to spend more time on the exciting and worthwhile tasks and even your loved ones.
Know someone who needs to become a cyborg as well, so we can have a cyborg army? Slap the share buttons on the left hand side!
We have heard the long yarn of “a habit takes 24 days to create.” I think that’s bunk.
I think it takes about 30 days or more to have a habit. Every single day. For me, it just takes that amount of time to get a handle on it, to see the benefits.
We’ve all tried to do something for a week, but then something derails us and we throw up our hands and say, “Oh well. Next time.” We might feel we don’t have it in us to start working out or journaling consistently.
We see everyone around us doing it (hint: they are not) and we wonder what is wrong with us? (Hint: nothing.)
But a 30 day challenge, a time where we do one thing to benefit us for 30 days might be the kick in the pants we need.
What could we try for 30 days. Here’s a quick list I thought of:
Give up Starbucks and/or fast food.
Get out of bed at 6:30 AM
Be in bed by 10:00 PM
Bring lunch to work.
Write 1000 words.
Send out 2 resumes.
Spend one hour learning a foreign language.
Throw away/donate two things.
Write in a journal.
We can do anything every day for 30 days.
But to pick something to do for 30 days every single day sounds tough for a lot of reasons:
What if we miss a day? Isn’t it ruined?
NOPE. Nothing is “ruined.” These are just made up rules and thins weird kind of self-development legalism that doesn’t work at all.
Which one should I pick?
Pick the one that benefits you the most. If you’ve always wanted to start that novel—choose writing. If you want to start making your own coffee–choose the Starbucks one.
What if I hate it after 3 days? 1 day? 10 minutes?
Keep going. You are getting out of a rut and that always takes energy—you want to keep going. You probably want to partner up with someone—maybe they could join you on this little quest.
What if I get sick and I can’t do it?
Put it on pause and then pick it up after that. Most of those things you can do while being sick.
How can I track it?
I’d simply use a notes app in your phone. Maybe a piece of paper you keep folded up or a Fields Notes Notebook. Just have some checkboxes. Nothing complicated. If you miss a day, just don’t miss the next.
Do I have start on the first of the month?
Nope. That’s your weird rule.
How many 30 day challenges should I do?
ONE! If it’s completely foreign to you, only do one. If you are getting back to something you are used to do like writing or working out, then perhaps, just perhaps you could accomplish two of them. But no more than two.
I bet I could do three or more!
Your willpower is going to be consumed quickly because you are trying a new habit. It might not seem like it on the first or second day, but on day fifteen, you might hit the wall and it all comes down. You’ll never exercise again. You’ll never pick up that pencil again. Don’t do it.
What happens after the 30 day experiment is over?
You can either continue or pick something else up. Maybe you’ve integrated that habit so well that you can keep going with minimal effort and you see the benefits. Maybe you want to try something completely different.
It’s up to you. No right. No wrong. No judgment. 30 days to better yourself.
It’s just 30 days.
It’s an experiment.
Write me at theadhdnerd(AT)gmail(dot)com. I’d love to know what you pick.