We have a horrible concept of time.
I’m not talking physics, but our perception of time and how much time we have. Humans typically only firmly realize how short life is - or appears to be - when we’re about to die. ‘You have no idea how fast time goes,” my Poppa told me in his late 80’s.
I believed him, I heard him, but I couldn’t fully grasp the weight of what he was saying.
I still don’t think I can nor do.
This concept of time affects our urgency in how we use time. We can allow a rut, a decline in energy and output and effort and enthusiasm and motivation, to last for days, weeks, even months, and sometimes years.
We simply can’t afford to do this. Not if we have any ounce of ambition or desire to live a good life, but especially if we believe we’re here to see just how great we can become (to reach our potential).
You can’t do this, and I can’t do this. And we both need frequent reminders that there is real urgency to life, to a year, a day, even a minute. That our time here on earth, when it’s all said and done, will feel painfully brief. We’ll likely feel that we wasted most of it, that we didn’t accomplish what we set out to achieve, that we didn’t enjoy each moment, each season, nor the people or even pets, within each.
We can’t afford a rut, a lull in productivity or energy or aliveness. When one comes, we have to do everything we can to end it and to turn it around immediately.
When one comes, you need energy and urgency. Both can be manufactured and created by how we think. The most powerful source of energy I’ve found is excitement. If I’m excited about something I’m working on, time doesn’t exist, I forget to eat, the hours of sleep I had the night before matters little. When there’s a deadline to said project, the energy only becomes greater.
The Anatomy of a Rut
I used to think burnout was a must, a natural way of things. Until I decided that it wasn’t. Granted, I’ll still work until I ‘burnout’, but a burnout isn’t a day or two or a week or whatever, where I’m unmotivated and worn out, it’s a half day where I realize I need rest, recovery, and even more importantly, planning and thinking.
So I’ll work for 10 days, hit a wall, spend a half day thinking, dreaming, and planning, and hit the ground running the following day.
What used to be a rut is now a half-day recharge.
When we have a rut we’re missing energy, urgency, excitement. We don’t feel like doing anything, which is a horrible way to operate. If great men only did what they felt like doing we would never see their greatness, it would never be brought to earth but remain in their minds.
If a rut is devoid of action, urgency, and everything mentioned thus far, how do we not only climb out of one, but burst out of one into action?
Here’s what I’ve found works absolutely best. Don’t just do one thing. Do them all. Throw the kitchen sink at this little bastard and get back on track.
Plan Big and Long Term
Get excited. Long-term planning helps with this because short term planning is more focused on tasks and projects you have to get done. Set a massive 5-year goal, then really think about the best way to achieve it.
Have that massive goal hanging over the daily tasks you have to get done in order to get there.
Identify Your Feelings, Then Fight Them
Feeling lazy isn’t a valid reason to not do something. What I’ve found is that when I feel like doing nothing, feel lazy and unmotivated, if I start doing the thing I ought to do, I end up gaining motivation as a result of action.
I create my own motivation. Act, regardless of how you feel.
Don’t think. Just act. You’ve already thought. You have something that you’ve set out to do, don’t wait around and let laziness convince you that it can be done tomorrow. Do it now.
The faster you get between thought and action, the less of an impact a rut or a lack of motivation or urgency will have on what you actually do. The reality is, a rut shouldn’t influence what you actually get done. Acting right away prevents that interference.
One Thing Is All That Matters
We all have a lot to do. It’s so important to focus on one thing at a time and remove all distractions while you’re doing that one thing. You know what your distractions are, get rid of them. Focus on one thing.
Set a timer for even 20-minutes. Work your way up to 120 minutes of pure focus. This is one of the most powerful and important practices I’ve adopted. You end up getting more done in 120 minutes of pure focus than you would in a full day with divided attention.
Practice Impulse Control
Impulse control is just a fancy way of saying discipline, but it’s more descriptive. You can recognize those brief impulses to check your social media accounts, emails, phone for anything, turn on the TV, even pick up a book when it’s not what you ought to be doing.
The better you become at controlling those impulses, controlling your desire to do things that are not productive, the easier it ends up becoming. You end up being a productivity machine. You end up loving your work more because you’re so focused on it. You even end up happier because you’re checking off the boxes and actually achieving things in the run of a day.
The same tactic as above, setting a timer, is a powerful way to train this kind of control. Only check the phone after the timer goes off. Only do work on a single task while that timer is going.
Prime Your Body and Your Brain
When you get a good sleep, the only thing preventing you from having a great, rut-free day, is focus. When you don’t have a good sleep, focus becomes a challenge. Your attention span is limited, your drive is dampened, and you’re less likely to thrive.
Set a sleep schedule - go to bed at the same time every night.
No screens an hour before bed.
Keep a cool room.
Make sure the room you sleep in is completely black.
Oddly enough, don’t take sleeping pills or melatonin. Both negatively impact your sleep quality long term. I created a sleep supplement with natural ingredients called Man Sleep, that help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep for a deeper, higher quality sleep.
I didn’t include melatonin because of some recent studies on what it may do to your ability to sleep long term.
Get uncomfortable, early
I love cold mornings. I stand outside in -30 degree Celsius weather for 5-10 minutes. The real benefits are helping you manage stress, so keep a calm mind while you’re shivering your ass off. But it also jolts you out of your slumber.
I don’t have the luxury of being exposed to sunlight here during winter. I get up around 4am, and the sun won’t rise until 8am or so. If you do wake up close to sunrise, spend 10-30 minutes outside in the sun. It’ll do wonders for your energy levels.
I used to wait until my day was over to workout. I’d give every minute of my early morning to work. Which can be great. I’ve found that an early morning workout, however, wakes you up, but it also is an achievement.
Achieving things, especially difficult things that we may not feel like doing gives us confidence and energy, and drive. Completing that 5am workout checks off a box that would otherwise be hanging over me for the remainder of the day.
Use Stimulants Mid Day
Coffee can be great for energy and focus. Don’t drink it right away. Give it an hour or two before you consume it. Use it in the late morning and early afternoon.
You also don’t want to use it 6 hours before bed or sooner. Which is why I created DRIVE, a stimulant-free energy booster that’s okay to use later in the day and along with your coffee to give it an extra jolt.
Getting Out of a Rut
You move out of a rut. You work your way out of a rut. You get out of a rut by not allowing that rut to happen in the first place.
Earlier I mentioned those half days I take to think, plan, and dream. It’s a half-day of burnout that ends up being used to refocus and motivate.
If you are experiencing burnout, don’t put your head down and keep working. Take a half day to think and dream and plan. Calm your mind while also inspiring it to chase those often frightening goals that we may not fully believe we can achieve.
Which brings up another point: forget about odds!
Just get after it. Aim for the highest thing you can think. Someone’s achieved it before. They’re no different than you other than the fact that they may have believed in themselves just a little bit more. So forget about belief. Just aim at it and work your ass off in your quest to claim it.
Forget about odds. They’re misleading and they don’t take into account what you’re willing to do in order to get something that matters to you.