For the past six months or so, I’ve been binging on the writing and podcasts of James Altucher. If you don’t know who he is, go look him up (especially the podcasts). Short version — he’s an eccentric and off beat writer, investor, businessman, and chess prodigy. Right up my alley.
Altucher talks a lot about having a Daily Practice. His practice involves caring for the physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual side of his life. I highly recommend checking out his stuff (he talks about the Daily Practice quite a bit) and can write more about it later for the lazy (er, busy) folks out there.
All along though, I’ve struggled to figure how to actually do some kind of daily practice at this point in my life. I’ve got two small kids, a full time job, and a couple of part time hustles. Really the hardest part (time-wise) is the kiddos because they awaken at or before dawn like roosters and the older one (age 5) manages to stay awake almost every night until 9:30 or 10:00. No, I’m not letting her stay up on purpose, it’s just that she’s smarter than me.
So, how do I find time to grow and care for my mind, soul, body, etc? Well, I’ve set a simple goal for myself. I call it my 10, 20, 30:
10 Minutes of Meditation
20 Pages of Any Book
30 Minutes of Exercise
These three practices take about an hour to complete, sometimes less using a trick I’ll share at the end. That’s just about as much time as I can get to myself these days while still getting 6–7 hours of sleep every night.
So, why these three things? Well, in my study of people who have been able to accomplish some pretty cool things, most are voracious readers and many spend time in meditation every day. Trying these out for myself, I’ve found the first two habits to add tremendous value to my life. Exercise has always been important to me, but since having kids it’s taken a serious hit. Here are some thoughts on why and how I execute the 10, 20, 30.
Meditating. I didn’t know much about meditation before giving it a try. However, over the last six months of trying it out, I’ve found that it adds a clarity and calm that I’ve struggled to find in this crazy season of life. I feel more connected, to myself, to my family, and to God. For me, it helps me be honest with myself, because I can actually stop with all the distractions and just be. Try it. And yes, there’s an app if you need one to do anything in life, like me. Check out Calm.
Reading. As the classic 80s PSA once told me, reading is fundamental. (Wish I were funnier, but that’s all I’ve got) Seriously though, if you want to grow, build something, whatever, it’s been decided by science that you must read. Makes sense though and I have learned quite a bit since committing to reading every day. But sitting down with a book of any length has always felt overwhelming and there are so many books that I started but never finished. But 20 pages feels doable and has been. Add that up over time and you’re reading almost 3 books a month. Take it to the bank. Here are a few books that I’ve been reading lately.
Exercise. As for exercise, I just want to live and apparently exercise is really good for that. Again, I set the bar low — a 30-minute walk totally counts (that’s what I do about 50% of the time). Again, science has decided that even just a short amount of exercise each day has a myriad of benefits including fighting physical and emotional ailments. I’m not sure I’ve felt any kind of miraculous change, but I do feel a sense of strength and confidence when I complete a workout. Long walks have also been really important in gaining clarity and with creative thinking. So many good ideas have come while out on the pavement walking it out. Developing the habit is the most important thing — as time opens up, I know that will pay off.
Shortcuts! Here are a couple of shortcuts if one hour seems like too much of a time commitment or if you’re pressed for time on a given day. Go the gym and walk on the treadmill (or ride a bike) while reading a book. Yes, multitasking is not always ideal and you’ll look like a giant nerd walking on a treadmill with a book. But it gets the job done.
If you can’t find 10 minutes to meditate or that feels like an eternity, break it up into two five minute sessions. Even just five minutes is a great place to start.
I can write more about these things if you’re interested. Just let me know in the comments (or wherever) if you’d like to hear more about taking time for growth as a dad. And please respond with your daily habits or tactics for staying sharp and growing as a human being.