For a while now I have been settled on the four things that I think are valuable and important to do every single day (meditation, exercise, learning and journaling). But, they come with a paradox - they undoubtedly add calm to my life, yet they also add tension until all four have been completed, and when the day isn’t going to plan, that completion can end up being pretty late. Sometimes tension can be a good thing - if isn’t deep-down important to you, why are you so bothered when it doesn’t get done…
Further ReflectionTo give you some background, each day, I mediate for 16 minutes, I learn (read) for at least 30 minutes, my exercise (a brisk walk) takes at least 30 minutes, and then journaling (completing a Daily Intention page) takes around 15-20 minutes.
For a long time, I scheduled my reading for evening time - the logic being that it was a good way to wind down. I was, however, invariably tired by the time I came to read, and what should be an enjoyable experience was often just a chore, with a distracted mind, poor quality reading, and an eye on the clock so that I could close the book and relax. So, at the moment, I am experimenting with rising at no later than 5:30am, with the intention to meditate, read, journal and walk, and be done by 7:30am. I find that it is a great start to the day, and there is an immense satisfaction that comes from knowing that I have already finished my daily improvement practice before I start work.
Of course, there are days when the schedule flies out of the window, and it becomes a day of tension trying to make sure I fit in a quality walk, or a solid block of study, but I try to make those the exception, rather than the rule. There are also days when I like to walk for longer than 30 minutes (I love my daily walks, and find it an incredibly mindful experience), and it might be that I end up doing that at some other point during the day.
Once you add in preparation time, my four daily practices take a minimum of 2 hours to complete - a major time commitment in anyone’s life - but I believe that they are critical both for my well-being, and for me to deliver on my purpose. I am sure that many people will say that they don’t have time to fit all of this in, and that might be true - but that is the point where it all comes down to choice… We all have 24 hours in our day, and to fit in my personal development commitments, I have to get up earlier than most, forgo the usual mindless early morning checking of e-mails and social media profiles, and rush about a bit more than most people would like before I start ‘work’. If I have an early meeting or a day of travel, I sometimes have to get up as early as 4:00am to fit everything in, and I have often found myself reading or walking at 9:00pm after a particularly long day.
Of course, I could let the odd day slide, but I have committed to myself that unless catastrophe strikes, I will complete my practice every single day, and I am currently on an unbroken 55-day streak for all four of them (my meditation and exercise streaks are actually much longer).
You might have a different routine, or you might invest more (or less) time in completely different daily practices. You might think I’m mad (my wife sometimes does), or you might not believe as strongly as I do that any day that we are not moving forward, we are moving backwards, but my daily practice is deep-down important to me, and when it’s that important, there is always a way to get it done…