11 Healthy Ways to Spend Your Free Time

Photo by – luz –

Earlier I wrote about the daily routine that I have created in order to be productive.  If you had a chance to check that out, you noticed that my entire day was NOT scheduled start to finish.  I believe that over scheduling can be just as negative on you as not creating a schedule at all.  Random events are going to come up and you need to have flexibility built in.  I intentionally leave time for the random events.

However, what happens if you don’t fill that open time?

Brian Tracy explained “the primary difference between the 5 percent of people who are wealthy and those who are not, is that the 95 percent focus their attention and extra time on entertainment, while the wealthy 5 percent invest their extra time in education.”

The average American watches  2.8 hours of TV a day.  The New York Times reported that those between the ages of 8 and 18 spend an average of seven and a half hours a day on media devices.

Most people feel that they are giving their minds a rest after a long day when they watch TV.  However, psychologists consider TV to be junk food for the mind.  TV is NOT a neutral state of mind that allows your brain to recover.  It is actually having a negative effect on brain function.

After learning this, I wanted to create a list of healthy ways I could spend my free time.  Here is what I came up with:

1) Reading – Fiction or non-fiction.  Be sure you to mix up your topics.  I tend to read primarily non-fiction, business related books and it’s hard for me to mix that up.  I want to be open minded and informed, but in order to do that, I must expose myself to different ways of thinking.  I try to mix in books on spirituality, philosophy and psychology, as well as biographies of people I admire.  I could use some more fiction though.

I also know people that don’t consider themselves “readers,” but I think reading takes practice.  At least the ability to concentrate on a book for long periods of time takes practice.  You can’t sit down and read for hours when you don’t read often.  You develop this ability over time, the same way that you develop strength by lifting weights.

Here is a great article in Forbes by Ryan Holiday about the importance of stretching yourself with what you read.

2) Exercise – Exercise can take many different forms.  I have a regular weight lifting routine that I do three times a week at my house. Each session only takes 45 minutes.  I also play basketball multiple times a week.   I lose track of time when I am playing basketball and end up exercising a lot longer than I would if it were part of a set program.  Choose an activity that you love and make sure to do it three times a week for 45-60 min. each session.  A healthy amount of exercise doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that. (Note: I do recommend that you do one to two days of strength training per week for long term health.)

Examples: Yoga, Running, Golf, Basketball, Soccer, Ultimate Frisbee, Lifting Weights, Walking, Swimming, Dancing, Biking, Volleyball, Tennis, Frisbee Golf, and many more 

3) Writing – I am working to become a better writer and communicator.  The best way I know to do that, is to write often.  I decided that I might as well share information that is useful to others while improving this skill for myself.  Writing is challenging  for me.  For others it is natural.  Wherever you lie on that spectrum, it is worth practicing on a regular basis, even if it is only a journal that no one else sees.

No matter what profession you are in, you will never move up without the ability to communicate your ideas and results to others.  It is important to write and speak effectively.

4) Walking – What if you took a 30 minute walk every night?  It would improve your health by adding exercise, which will lead to more efficient brain function.  It would improve your relationships by providing you time to share your day with someone you care about, in person or over the phone.  It will also provide you an opportunity to clear your mind if you choose to walk alone.  However, most people choose to spend that same half-hour watching a re-run of whatever show happens to be on (Seinfeld, Big Bang Theory, How I met your Mother, Friends, etc.).  All good shows, but it is important to be aware of what you are giving up by CHOOSING to watch that one episode that you have probably already seen.

5) Talking with friends – There are few better ways to spend your free time than talking with a good group of friends.  However, I would caution you that this is not a time to gossip about people who aren’t there. “Poor minds talk about people. Average minds talk about events. Great minds talk about ideas.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Researchers have found that people are happier when they are with other people than when they are alone (for both introverts and extroverts)

6) Meditate – Sit quietly for at least ten minutes a day.  This is not a time to plan or organize, it is time to sit and do absolutely nothing.  Here is an article by Michael Hyatt about the importance of meditation.

7) Brain Games – Keep your brain sharp by playing games that challenge you.  TV causes your brain to atrophy.  Why not try the opposite?

Ex: Lumosity (9.95/month), Games for the Brain (Free), Sporcle (Free – My favorite)

8) Drinking tea and sitting quietly – Some people use drinking tea as a form of meditation.  Most of our days are filled with self imposed expectations of what needs to be accomplished; however; it is important to give yourself time to do nothing without any guilt.  Even if that is only the amount of time it takes to drink a cup of tea….slowly.

Here is a post by Leo Babauta on Zen Habits about his tea ritual.

9) Ted Talks – As I mentioned before, I want to expose myself to new and different ways of thinking even if it makes me uncomfortable.  It is when you are uncomfortable that you grow.  Ted talks expose you to the brightest minds on the planet discussing the most important issues that we face.

Here are the Ted Talks

10) Music – Listen to different styles.  Use Pandora to expose yourself to different genres. Try out Steromood to listen to songs that match your current mood.

11) Learning a new hobby – Try to learn one new thing every 6 months.  Leading scientists in the field of neuroplasticity have found that learning new skills that require a certain level of intensity can actually help your brain grow.

Here is a list of hobbies to choose from.

I have a few shows (The Newsroom) that I like to watch each week without guilt.  I also like to eat junk food, occasionally. It is when I don’t keep a balance that I start to notice the effects.  Be aware of how you spend your time and find the right balance for you.  Be intentional with your time.

Do you have any other suggestions?

My Daily Routine: How I tripled my productivity

Photo by ToniVC

Over the years I have developed a daily routine that allows me to be extremely productive, while not becoming overwhelmed.  We all have a limited amount of time each day and if you want to accomplish your goals then you will need to have a system.  If you do not create a plan for your day, then the world will create one for you.  I have pulled together a few strategies that I have learned from productivity experts to create a routine that works for me.  Feel free to grab some of these strategies for your daily routine.  I found that this is definitely one area that requires trial and error.

The strategies:

1) Start Positive

2) 3 Critical Tasks

3) Eat that Frog

4) 90 minute cycles

5) Weekly Rhythm Register

Start Positive

I have heard that 90% of our self talk is negative.  That voice in our head is very critical and is always pointing out areas of improvement or where we fall short.  I try and start my day slowly and with positive thoughts.  Here is quick look at my morning routine:

– Wake up at 7:

– Pray for the day

– Review and visualize my goals for the year and for the next 5 years

– Positive affirmations: Repeat something positive about myself 50 times (balance out the negative self talk in a humble but encouraging manner)

– Read for 15 minutes (non-fiction and educational/motivational to wake my brain up)

– High protein breakfast (3 eggs w/meat, carrots, almonds and water)

– Listen to a TED talk while eating breakfast

Note: Total time for morning routine is 1 hour

3 Critical Tasks

Each night before I go to bed, I set three critical tasks that I need to get done the next day.  These are the three most important tasks in moving me closer to my goals for the year.  It is very important that you identify the highest value activities.  It is easy to choose three random tasks that will help you to feel more productive the next day but they are probably not the most important tasks.  Peter Drucker says that “efficiency is worthless until you have identified the most important tasks.”

This is challenging for me because I will receive emails throughout my day that will cause me to switch tasks and respond.  Switching tasks decreases productivity since creative work requires you to enter a flow.

Note: Most of the tasks in our day are split up between creating and responding.  When I say responding, I am talking about email, phone calls etc.  You are not creating any new work or adding value, you are simply answering others questions and completing other peoples tasks.  It is important to respond in a timely manner but responding should not be more important than creating work that will add value.

I also have another section on my daily list for “Extra Tasks.”  These are small additional items that I need to accomplish throughout the day that require less time and are not as important.  If I do not get to all of them, then some minor issues might come up.  It is important to not allow the fear of minor problems occurring to prevent you from working on your major tasks.  Problems happen everyday.  You need to live with the little ones to stay focused on the most important tasks.

Some examples of these would be to return a phone call, send an email, contact a potential media outlet for Thirst Apparel, etc.  These tasks may move up to become critical tasks as they move closer to a deadline, but until then they do not take precedence over the critical tasks.

Here is a look at my simple daily list:

I use Evernote to stay organized and fill this out every night.  I keep it as simple as possible by design.

Eat that Frog

This idea came from the personal development author, Brian Tracy.  He is the top selling author of 70 books and released more than 400 audio and video learning programs.  He has essentially released a new product every month for the last 30 years and understands how to be productive.  He explains that if you were to eat a frog, you wouldn’t wait around and look at it for awhile, you would simply swallow it as quickly as possible to get it over with.  The more you think about it, the worse it becomes.

This is a very strange way of saying that you should take that one task for the day that you are dreading the most and finish it first.  I try and make this my first critical task on the list.  It is almost always something that I don’t want to do but needs to be done.  I then make sure to finish that task before checking email or doing any response work.

It is an amazing feeling when you accomplish that difficult first thing in the day.  You have a boost of energy for the rest of the day.  It is no longer sitting in the back of your mind as you do a thousand other minor tasks to look busy and put it off.  The rest of the day seems downhill.  Your energy level increases and you are far more productive for the rest of your day.  This is still a challenge for me and I have not quite made it a habit yet.  However, on the days that I do take this approach, I tend to accomplish almost twice as much (no exaggeration).  Procrastination runs your day when you do not swallow the frog first.

Continue reading “My Daily Routine: How I tripled my productivity”

The advice we give others, is the advice that we ourselves need

“The advice we give others, is the advice that we ourselves need.” – Gian-Carlo Rota

There are times when it is extremely easy to pick out the faults or issues of another person.  We look at their decisions in life and we go straight to their core to figure out why they do it.  I think this is probably because we can relate to the person in that area, which makes it easy to identify their faults.  We naturally look for similarities. We quickly identify ourselves in others.

I once heard this same idea described in terms of frustrations.  The things that frustrate us about others are the things that we often don’t like about ourselves.  We struggle with correcting the issue ourselves so it is reassuring to see the same fault in someone else.  The funny thing is that we don’t use this as a way to connect with others.  We rarely bond with another over the qualities that we don’t like about ourselves.  Instead, like the quote says, we give them the advice that we wish we could follow ourselves.  We allow ourselves to feel better about the issue by recognizing it in another.

I used to think that the source of all the major issues in the world came back to insecurities.  I essentially thought that all the worlds problems were created because certain individuals had allowed their insecurities to lead them into bad decisions that affected others.  I think there is some truth to this, but the reason I had come to this conclusion was because all the issues in my life at the time were due to my own insecurities.  I was projecting them on others.  How insecure of me to project my insecurities…

I guess my question is, should we give advice that we need ourselves or are we better off remaining quiet?  I don’t really know.  There is value in both.  However, when you do give advice, be humble, because you probably need to hear it yourself.

Warren Buffett: How to Create a Fair Social System

photo by trackrecord

With the increasing analysis of the differences between President Obama’s policies and those of Mitt Romney, I felt that these wise thoughts by Warren Buffet would be very timely.  Mr. Buffet gives a brief and entertaining explanation of how difficult it actually is to create a fair social system.  I feel like we have all become very good at critiquing our politicians but when it comes down to actually coming up with creative solutions ourselves, it is a real challenge.

Here is Mr. Buffet:

Let’s just say, Sandy, that it was 24 hours before you were born, and a genie appeared, and said “Sandy, you look like a winner.  I have enormous confidence in you, and what I’m going to do is let you set the rules of the society into which you will be born.  You can set the economic rules, the social rules, and whatever rules you set will apply during your lifetime, and your children’s lifetimes.”

And you’ll say, “Well, that’s nice, but what’s the catch?”

And the genie says, “Here’s the catch.  You don’t know if you’re going to be born rich or poor, white or black, male or female, able-bodied or infirm, intelligent or retarded.  All you know is that you’re going to get one ball our of a barrel with, say, 5.8 billion balls in it.”  You’re going to participate in what I call the Ovarian Lottery.  And it’s the most important thing that will happen to you in your life, but you have no control over it.  It’s going to determine far more than your grades in school or anything else that happens to you.

Now, what rules do you want to have?  I’m not going to tell you the rules, and nobody will tell you; you have to make them up for yourself.  But they will affect how you think about what you do in your will and things of that sort.  That’s because you’re going to want to have a system that turns out great quantities of good and services, so that your kids can live better than you did, and so that your grandchildren can live better than your kids.  You’re going to want a system that keeps Bill Gates and Andy Grove and Jack Welch working long, long after they don’t need to work.  You’re going to want the most able people working more than 12 hours a day.  So you’ve got to have a system that incentives them, and that turns out goods.  But you’re also going to want a system that takes care of the bad balls, the ones that aren’t lucky.  If you have a system that is turning out enough goods and services, you can take care of them.  You want a system where people are free of fear to some extent.  You don’t want people worrying about being sick in their old age, or fearful about going home at night.  So you’ll try to design something, assuming you have the goods and services to solve that sort of thing.  You’ll want equality of opportunity – a good school system – to make you feel that every piece of talent out there will get the same shot at contributing.  And your tax system will follow from your reasoning on that.  And what you do with the money you make is another thing to think about.  As you work though that, everybody comes up with something a little different.  I just suggest you play that little game. (Warren Buffet, “Buffet & Gates on Success,” KCTS/Seattle, May 1998, transcript p.12)

Seneca: On the Shortness of Life

photo by h.koppdelaney

It has been awhile since I have posted on here.  Sorry for the delay but hopefully I will pick it up and be more consistent.

I recently finished a book called Seeking Wisdom by Peter Bevelin.  I think it just became my new favorite.  That is not saying much because that changes pretty consistently for me.  It is definitely at the top though.  Bevelin essentially analyzed great philosophers and thinkers to discover how to gain wisdom.  He spends a lot of time studying Charlie Munger (Warren Buffet’s partner at Berkshire Hathaway) because he has developed a simplicity and clarity to analyzing any situation.  I will definitely have to reread it a few times in the future.  It is pretty expensive but will definitely bring more value to your life than the cost of the book.

Bevelin ends the book with part of an essay from Lucius Seneca about how short life is.  It left me sitting and thinking in silence for probably ten minutes.  I’ll let you read it and come to your own conclusions.  Hope you enjoy it…

Seneca:

Why do we complain of Nature?  She has shown herself kindly; life, if you know how to use it, is long.  But one man is possessed by an avarice that is insatiable, another by a toilsome devotion to tasks that are useless; one man is besotted with wine, another is paralyzed by sloth; one man is exhausted by an ambition that always hangs upon the decision of others, another driven by the greed of the trader, is led over all lands and all seas by the hope of gain…many are kept busy either in the pursuit of another mens fortune or in complaining of their own; many, following no fixed aim, shifting and inconstant and dissatisfied, are plunged by their fickleness into plans that are ever new; some have not fixed principle by which to direct their course, but Fate takes them unawares while they loll and yawn – so surely does it happen that I cannot doubt the truth of that utterance which the greatest of poets delivered with all the seeming of an oracle: “The part of life we really live is small.”  For all the best of existence is not life, but merely time.

You live as if you were destined to live forever, no though of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed.

You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last.  You have all the fears of mortals and all the desires of immortals.  You will hear many men saying: “After my fiftieth year I shall retire into leisure, my sixtieth year shall release me from public duties.”  And what guarantee, pray, have you that your life will last longer?  Who will suffer your course to be just as you plan it?  Are you not ashamed to reserve for yourself only the remnant of life, and to set apart for wisdom only that time which cannot be devoted to any business?  How late it is to begin to live just when we must cease to live!  What foolish forgetfulness of mortality to postpone wholesome plans to the fiftieth and sixtieth year, and to intend to begin life at a point to which few have attained!

How to Live a Fulfilled Life

I have always read that if you want to be successful, you need to find what you are passionate about and pursue it.  I think this is great advice.  I believe that this wisdom often gets tossed aside because it doesn’t seem very practical.

However, if you are willing to be patient, you will see the practicality of it.

Pursuing Money:

You will always work harder on something that you truly care about than you will for money.  The common thought is that the relationship between money and motivation will remain linear.  For example, your  motivation to move from $20,000 a year to $70,000 will be the same as your motivation to move from $70,000 to $120,000. In reality, your level of motivation is NOT linear and will actually decrease as your earnings increase.

Once you obtain a certain amount of money, your motivation for the job will decrease drastically.  You will have reached a point where you can pay your bills and live comfortably.  Earning money will become less important.  At this point, you will start to look for fulfillment in other places.  You are essentially working along Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:  Continue reading “How to Live a Fulfilled Life”

Lessons from Toms Shoes

Toms Shoes is a great example of Social Entrepreneurship.  The business model is based on the idea of one for one.  For every pair of shoes that you buy, they will give a pair of shoes to a child in need.  They have recently expanded into a second area of giving with glasses.  For every pair of glasses that you buy, they will give a pair of glasses to a person in need.  Pretty awesome right?

This got me thinking about what it would be like if every business was formatted in this way.  What if every time you bought something, a second one of that same item would be given to a person in need?  It would definitely promote giving, which I am all for; however, I don’t think that profit driven businesses would be up for making this shift.  However, what if we did it on our own?  What if you made the choice that whenever you bought something, you would buy two of them and give one away?

What would the social implications of this commitment be?

1) Buy less and save more – If you knew that when you bought something that you had to buy two of them, you would think long and hard about whether you really needed it or not.  I think this would prevent people from buying unnecessary items and force them to only purchase the things that they truly need.  We are a culture of consumption but we also want things cheap.  If every time you looked at the price of something you had to double it, you probably wouldn’t buy anything that wasn’t essential. Continue reading “Lessons from Toms Shoes”