These thoughts started fifteen years ago…perhaps a little longer. At the time an 80-hour week was “below-real-time” and three plane-trips a week were par for the course. Back to back client meetings for days on end… airport-hotel-office-airport was the perpetual loop I followed day in-day out.
Think it’s easy? Try it for a month… see what happens to your mind. By the third week your brain will be scrabbled eggs… you won’t know what city you are in and your nightly sleep will be reduced to 3-4 hours. Your attention span will be almost inverted… your WOFT-radar on high alert (woft= waste of f@%^* time). Anything that lasts longer than 2-3 minutes is a drag…including conversations with family. Your bullshit tolerance is non-existent (especially in business terms) and people (read: 99.9% of all people around you) seem to be moving, speaking and thinking in slow motion. Welcome to the world of the “real” frequent flyer… the busy “man/woman”… the moron who thinks that this is “normal” and it’s everyone else that has a “boring” life. If you rang me right now and told me that I just described your life… I would put on my best “Darth Vader” voice and tell you “welcome to the dark side“.
Now…. take all of the above and stretch it out over 15 years. Impossible you say? It’s not! There are thousands, if not millions of people around the world that live like this for years on end. Some leave a trail of destruction in their personal lives…others leave a trail of destruction in their professional lives. Some others lose the plot completely… falling victims to addiction (alcohol/pills) and others quit and opt for a complete change of lifestyle (usually after 2-3 years at this pace).
The bottom line is that to cope with this kind of pace you need personal discipline. You need to think about the realities of your lifestyle and to try hard to remain “clear” about your life priorities, your objectives and your goals (note: not your dreams… your goals – more on this later). You need to digest the demands made on your brain and your senses. You need to find ways to motivate yourself, to propel yourself, to hold yourself back, to help you focus, to help you create, innovate, lead by example, make decisions on the fly and in doing all this…. remain completely stress free.
Impossible…I hear you say. But it’s not. At least I don’t think it is. In fact I will go further and tell you that you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on “personal development” courses… or attend weekend retreats with motivational gurus charging you the equivalent of your next family holiday. The method I will share with you was developed in the most basic way…using pen and paper during endless flights and/or waiting at airports. It was developed long before the vast majority of today’s “gurus” were self-employed (some were still in kindergarten). You don’t need special gadgets to carry around with you to remind you of things “to do”…. and the only “software” you will need is already prewired in your brain.
It all started by recognising and writing down the ultimate premise to live by… in one word “simplicity”. You have to simplify your life, even if it is wrapped in complexity. The outer layers can be as complex as they like…. but your inner core has to be simplified… it has to be stripped down to it’s primal thread. Your brain needs concise, clear instructions and the simpler they are…the better.
To do this I realised that rather than trying to carry a ton of information relating to tasks, objectives, goals and desired outcomes in your brain, you only need to carry one or perhaps two words. An entire morning’s workload, purpose, objectives…. can be reduced down to simple words. These could be “focus”, “finish”, “start”, “imagine”, “relentless” etc etc etc.
If for example you knew you were going to have 3-4 meetings in one morning and you were already tired or you had too many things in your mind…. then it’s pointless trying to get your brain to think of all the possible things that people may or may not say during these meetings. The real issue…the core issue for you that morning will be your ability to maintain “focus”. If you can manage to do that chances are your brain will be able to deal with all the other issues that arise. So your one word “mantra” that morning is “focus”. That’s it. That’s all you have to keep repeating to yourself.
If you had a morning where you had a several unpleasant tasks that had to be completed before you can do what you really liked doing…. then your one word would be “finish”. Every time you felt like stopping or moving on to something more fun to do… you repeat the one word message to yourself. FINISH !
If all else was failing… nothing seemed to be working and you needed a solution by the end of the day…. then the most obvious message to send to your brain is to stop and “imagine”… create a solution where there wasn’t one before. Tell your brain to “imagine”…. over and over again. Every time it drifts… say the word again… and again. You will be amazed what your brain can do when it has clear instructions.
If procrastination is your problem… then the obvious single-word message to yourself is “start”. That’s 90+ % of the game for a procrastinator. Make a START. That’s the only word you have to think about. Don’t worry about history, don’t worry about opportunities you missed in the past or excuses you managed to get away with (a real speciality of a good procrastinator). Just focus on one word…. START.
You can have a one word message for an hour, a morning or an entire day. Or you can have a day-specific word, as well as word for the week or the month… which keeps you in the direction with your goals for that week/month. You can have a one word message for your brain for a single conversation you are about to have with your boss, your spouse, your client or your teenage dominatrix daughter who is seemingly oblivious to anything you have to say. The situation can be anything at all… the core issue remains the same. You need to give your brain very clear, very concise instructions in order to cope and produce the desired outcomes. The one word message… if selected correctly, will help you stay focused and on track. It will stop your mind from drifting and/or going random. It will bring clarity and precision to your thinking and actions. It will keep you aligned.
I said earlier that you need to stay clear and focused on your goals…not your dreams. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dream. Dream often and dream big…. but if you really want to make your dreams come true then you have to take the start of your dream and turn it into a goal. Take the first step…articulate it and put a date on it. If you do that… then it becomes a goal and once you’ve done that you can use your one word message to make sure you get it done on time and in full.
I know that right now you think that it all sounds too simple…. too easy. But trust me on this. If this method can keep someone with a 6-hour turn around schedule… sane and on track for 15+ years, it can do wonders for a much smarter person who already leads a life of relative moderation (six hour turnaround relates to the amount of hours from the time you finish work to the time you start again).
Simple words…used effectively, can work wonders. Words to bring clarity… words to live by !
PS: clarity brings confidence… which in turn brings self esteem…. which in turn brings positive attitude… which greatly reduces stress. Along with a couple of other techniques… the one word messages can go a very long way to reduce stress in your life (we’ll talk about this in another post soon).
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