Steve Pavlina has posted a very useful article on how to have a productive normal day. I’ve often thought what he expresses - that our culture is geared toward special events (i.e. graduations, holidays, birthday parties, weekends, etc). We seem to give little thought and planning to the present normal daily life.

We tend to let normal days just slip by, always looking forward to the next event. For me, it has been very difficult lately to have any sort of normal day since my son Obadiah died, so I found Steve’s article helpful.

I’m going to summarize his points here - and tell you where I disagree a bit - but I highly recommend you read the original article itself, else you may not fully get what I’m saying here. Steve has been on a metaphysical kick lately, so I was glad to see a bit more focus on real life, rather than telepathy.

Elsewhere on his site, Steve has some tips and articles on how to actually accomplish the things below. These are just my comments to his original ten ideas.

1. Getting an early start. Boy, this is something that I fully believe in, but rarely do - especially lately. But, I can attest that on the days that I have risen early, I have never regretted it - even if I didn’t get enough sleep (like only getting 3-4 hours). The Bible talks about this principle as being key to having success in life - and I imagine that even for a normal day, this could be helpful.

2. Physical exercise. Again, as I’ve written before, exercise is key. Currently, I’m on my water-only diet and purposely forgoing exercise while I re-hydrate my body. I did get some exercise over the weekend playing paintball at a friend’s bachelor party. It wasn’t the kind of exercise I’ll be doing again - the bruises on my body are significant and I’ve been suffering for it. But once my blood pressure drops and I’ve experienced a bit of a weight loss, I’ll be adding this back to my routine.

3. Audio learning. Most people really don’t understand this yet. I first got into this with my first “book on tape” about the Enron scandal called Conspiracy of Fools : A True Story by Kurt Eichenwald. I had read another of his books, but this one I listened to. And I didn’t buy a CD or tape, I downloaded it from onto an MP3 player. More recently, I’ve gotten into listening to podcasts. You can find a podcast on nearly any subject in the world - although not all of them are good (like teachers in high school - you have to hunt for the good ones). I’ve been listening to a friend’s podcast about Healthy Dieting. I don’t even agree with everything he talks about, but he and his wife do an excellent job and each episode is usually less than 15 minutes. If you’ve never heard a podcast before, probably the easiest way to try it out is to go to Yahoo Podcasts and search for subjects you find interesting. You don’t have to have an MP3 player; you can just listen on your computer.

4. Meditation. Well, naturally I’d change this to prayer and Bible study. At this point in the day, Steve hasn’t began actual work yet. He has risen early, exercised vigorously, listened to some audio learning (probably while getting dressed/showered), and now is ready to relax. I’d spend about 30 minutes reading the Bible, praying, something like that.

5. Relaxing workspace. This was very insightful for me to read. Steve talks about making your workspace harmonious. Without getting too much into all the “balance” and “zen” that he promotes, the overall idea of just having a very peaceful, relaxing area to work seemed something I should work on. My workspace now looks like a cross between a genius and a madman. Take your pick. Oh, and a little geek flair thrown in for good measure. What about a tree or plant nearby. What about some nice art?

6. Self-employment. Well, obviously, I’ve been doing this - struggling to some degree - but I think it is the best course for me in the long run. Steve pushes the idea constantly on his website, having only been Other-Employed for about six months of his life.

7. Effective communication management. Definitely something I need to work on. When someone sends me a technical question via email, I tend to reply. I’m an email lover. However, like Steve points out, email can consume your day - and your productivity - and some people will never get what you are trying to say to them. I recently signed up for Skype and it is now very easy to just call that person back right from the computer. I especially like that Skype tracks all my call times in my history so I can better manage my time that way.

8. Reading. Wow. We all do it. But when do you budget time for it. My nightstand has nearly 30 books on it right now. Not counting my Bible and a few mainstays. Ridiculous. What about setting a mid-day break for some reading for about 30-45 minutes?

9. Deep conversation. My wife and I were going to have a set night each week where we review “us” and another set night where we review “them” (that’s the children). It has sort of fallen by the wayside lately since Obadiah died, but I’m going to try and ramp it up again. It is very helpful in staying together on the same track. Normal days can definitely add up to months without real deep communication.

10. Journaling. This is one I don’t know much about. I sort of consider my blog my journal. But Steve talks about it more than that. I’d like to do this, but I hate to hand-write. There are computer journals, but I’m just not good at being super personal with a computer. After all, that is why I married a woman - not a computer - even though some of my friends probably thought I’d go the other way. Read Steve’s ideas and tell me what you think. I think if I had the other 9 things above habitually in a bit more harmony and focus, then journaling would be more natural for me.

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Posted in: Getting Things Done