The Daily Process
I have learned a lot in the past couple of years. So much of what I used to accept as true has either turned out to be false, or no longer applies to my life. It has happened so many times that I believe I am more receptive to challenging my perceptions, and even do so proactively (even more than before).
At 2017's KetoCon, I spoke about my personal journey with keto that started on June 12, 2016. Not only did I have to forget about many of the things I learned in graduate school--like the etiology of cardiac pathology, metabolic diseases and so called genetic diseases--but I was opened up to a new world of information that I had never known even existed. As my brain function improved, my productivity improved, and I was able to finally win the Pinnacle Award at work and also secure a spot for my manager (he was one of only 2 managers in the nation to win, and I was 1 of only 15 reps out of nearly 200 sales reps).
With this new found energy, I became obsessed with finding ways to do more--not just at work and in training, but as a husband and father. I ran my first half marathon, fasted, at 220 lbs and ran my first adventure race. I had the great fortune (understatement of the millennium) of meeting Brian and joining the ketogenic athlete podcasr. With the help of some of the books I was reading and listening to, along with some great podcasts I discovered, I began to take what I learned and tried to create a process for myself. I previously had not read or listened to audio books for years, and my podcast choices were mainly guilty pleasures--paranormal stuff and comedy stuff to pass the time as I drove to my customers and hospitals every day.
To add to this, one day, Brian texted me this article and simply said, "We should look into this." Reading that article only emboldened me, and really drove home the importance of focusing on processes vs. goals. Process oriented people are not only successful, but they tend to follow a more direct route to success because of their commitment to constant progress and incremental wins. One example is Nick Saban. After winning his 5th national championship as a head coach (1 at LSU & 4 at Alabama), he knew that the process was particularly important that year. Here is an excerpt from an SEC.com article describing it"
"The Process is simply Saban's core belief that the willingness to prepare in a methodical, daily basis is the key to success. Saban believes those who focus on the result and not the consistent preparation that is necessary to achieve the result are doomed to be disappointed. 'It's about committing yourself to being the best you can be on that particular day,' said Saban. 'Improvement is a steady march and you have to be committed to it.'"
Personally, I have found that focusing on the process relieves anxiety, reduces overthinking and procrastinating, and really just helps me organize all of the things I want to do. This has been an ongoing process for about a year, and I still have not perfected it. It may take several more years to perfect it, or it may constantly change. I just know that being intentional about it, every single day, has really helped me and has even reduced stress.
I tend to want to do everything at once. For decades, I have been aware of the fact that I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew. I will be the first to volunteer for something when it is needed, or take on a new project when I have a full plate. Make no mistake, this is not a humble brag on my part. I have had this come back to bite me several times. I have had to take periods of time off from serving because I was burnt out, or I have had to quit things because the workload became too much for me, or in some cases, deliver a final product that was subpar. So for me, breaking things down to a daily process--one that is as simple as possible and easy to adhere to--is a very effective tool.
The first step in developing your process is to manage your expectations. What is wrong with us as a species that we want everything right now? I'm not sure if it's because of the stories we see of outliers who go viral on social media, or have some meteoric rise to success, but we expect overnight results. We think that because we stuck to a diet or training program for 3 months, that we deserve our reward. It all goes back to what we spoke about on this episode of the ketogenic athlete. It's never over. We are always trying to become a better version of ourselves, and constantly evaluating what is and is not working. If you see it that way, you will be able to switch focus from the end goal to the process.
Next, it's time to start fleshing out what your process looks like in practical terms. This may be different for many of us due to our schedules, relationships, and several other factors. What I have done is try to combine what I have learned from different podcasts, audiobooks and personal experience to create a process that will optimize my spiritual, mental and physical health, my productivity, and my relationships. Within my process, I have a list of 5 priorities that help me keep proper perspective and focus on what is most important. Everything else is just the butter on top of the steak.
I guess you may be curious about what mine looks like. Well, if you are, here it is:
First Thing in the morning
- Drink a glass of water and think of 2 things you're grateful for.
- Coffee (obviously)
- Box breathing and meditation
- Read daily personal devotional and do couple's devotional with Maura
- Read the Daily Stoic.
- Personal mantra - MEMENTO MORI
- Review top 5 priorities and think of TODAY'S top 5. Write them in journal. Today's top 5 directly correspond to my top 5 priorities, so it makes planning my day pretty easy.
End of day - Afternoon review
- Check off what I did, 'X' what I didn't do. Why didn't I do it? Was it not important enough? Is there a way I can make it up?
- Write down my thoughts on the day. What went well? What was challenging? How can I improve on it tomorrow?
That's it in a nutshell. Some days I accomplish everything, some days I don't. I recently had a day where I accomplished none of them. It happens.
Now, my 5 priorities. Before I added these to my daily process, I was basically focusing on certain areas for a month, then switching focus the next month. It wasn't optimal, because I think for the most important things in life, we should never lose focus. Like I said before, everything else is just gravy. This idea of having a top 5 priority list was not of my own genius. It came unexpectedly and I was not prepared for it. Story time. One morning, I was reading my devotional. There was a story about a jar filled with big rocks (you may have heard this one). At first glance, the jar seemed full, but then the narrator was able to fill it with marbles. After that, sand, and lastly, water. The point of the story was that if we fill the jar with the big rocks (top priorities) first, we will not only make sure they are taken care of, but we also may be able to make room for all of the little rocks (smaller priorities). At the end of the reading, it asked me to come up with my top 5 priorities. The first thing I want to say is that these came to me extremely quickly. It was scary how quickly they came to me. It was almost as if...nevermind. The second thing I want to add is that this list is what I think my priorities should be. It is not exactly an accurate depiction of what they are. This is what I strive for. And lastly, I will share that for a few reasons, this whole process was emotional. I was crying alone at my dining room table at 4:30am. It was a powerful experience. I think the reason why it was so powerful is that I realized how important this exercise was and how much it will help me.
My top 5 priorities:
1. Becoming the spiritual leader of my family that God wants me to be.
2. Always prioritizing strengthening my marriage with Maura before anything else. Working at it every day in at least one way.
3. Raising my boys to be courageous, virtuous men with high emotional intelligence and a desire to serve others.
4. Using my passions and gifts to create products and services that will help others and always aiming to provide more value for them than what they pay.
5. Optimizing my health and performance through consistent adherence to my nutrition, training, recovery methods and constant experimentation/tweaks.
This is my process. It's far from perfect, and it's probably going to continue to evolve, but this is what it is for now. What is your process?