I wrote this post on 25th March – lockdown was supposed to be for three or four weeks – I had at that time called it the 21 day challenge – assuming we would be done with this virus in that much time. I was quite wrong – but what I wrote then, helped me and so many people I know through these trying times. For a lot of us who were blessed to really remain at home and not need to move out at all, this was indeed a golden time. I learned so many things I would never have had the time to learn otherwise. I got into shape. I reclaimed my health. I learned new music on the piano. I figure out how to create websites. I finished the coaching hours I required to get my coaching certification… The list goes on and on.
I have a lot to yet accomplish in my bucket – and I have seen over the last few months when I follow my own advice from this piece I wrote, things are so much easier and faster to get done. And now, here is what I wrote what seems to be an eternity ago…
All these years you went out to work. You laboured day in and day out. Each day, you longed fondly to get back home. To your place. Your Space.
A crisis has now forced everyone to remain indoors.
Let’s assume there was no crisis, but you just decided to give yourself a much-needed break. It was your decision to stay home and do all the things you had been always wanting to do at home but simply didn’t have the time or the energy to get around to actually doing it. You took 21 days off from work. Miraculously the boss said yes!
Now, you are home.
And don’t know where to start
Here is what to do –
Take the next half an hour to list all the things you have wanted to do sitting at home. No need to prioritize. Just write what comes in your head. You have to write out at least 30 things. Here are some to get you started –
Declutter the house
Clean up the kitchen
Start learning the guitar (You have got one with all the intentions of learning it… it never came out of its cover)
Learn 10 new recipes
Answer all pending email
Do yoga and meditation
Learn how to use LinkedIn
Finish that presentation of the new workshop
Take your time and write out at least 30. Not 29. You have to have 30 or more. Even if it takes an hour to do it. Don’t go to Step 2 unless you have finished Step 1.
Give numbers to this list – now prioritize. If two things are the same priority for you, force rank them. Think like this – you can only do one of them, which one would you do? This takes a bit of thinking so give yourself enough time to do this.
Your list now reads something like this –
- Clean the kitchen
- Declutter the house
- Do Yoga and Meditation
- Learn how to use LinkedIn
- Finish the presentation
- Learn the guitar
- Learn 10 new recipes
- Answer email
And so on.
Go over your list and ensure you have set the priorities right. Move things around if you wish to. Proceed to Step 3 only when you are sure you have got everything in the order you want.
There is something called “Action Addiction”. Our brain releases a powerful chemical called Dopamine every time we get something done. Checked Whatsapp messages – done – dopamine. Went to Facebook, checked all stories – done – another dose of Dopamine. Watched the headlines of news today – done – more dopamine.
Dopamine gives you a high comparable to the one you could get with cocaine. It’s the brain’s way of rewarding you when you finish doing something. Unfortunately, and obviously, we become addicted to it. We then go through the entire day doing one small inconsequential thing after another to get those little squirts of Dopamine – This is Action Addiction. But, when we actually review the day, we find we have accomplished almost nothing, though we have been busy almost all the time.
This Dopamine addiction blinds us from the bigger picture. We get so caught up in doing these small, little things that we lose sight of the greater goals of our lives. We end up frustrated, angry and tired – I am doing so much, yet I don’t seem to be going anywhere.
To break this Dopamine Addiction, we created our prioritized list. Now we KNOW what is truly important for us and what is not. 80% of your “working” time needs to be spent solely on getting the first 5 things on the list done. You will not touch the rest of the stuff on your list until those 5 are sorted. The other 20% of your time is yours – to goof off or do whatever you wish with it. Once those 5 are done, take a bit of time to reassess the list. Repeat Steps 1 and 2 if required. Then take on the next 5.
It’s a good idea to set work timings every day. Decide, I will finish my exercise/yoga/meditation before 9 am. Then, I will “work” from 9 am to 12 noon and then I will cook food and have lunch. I will rest till 3:30 pm and start “work” again from 3:30 pm to 6:00 pm. Then I will cook and have dinner. The evening is for whatever comes up, chilling, relaxing, talking to friends, reading…
Set a bedtime as well and zealously follow it. I will go to bed by 11 pm. Lights out and hit the bed. Don’t set an alarm. There is nowhere you need to go. Waking up naturally each day is one of the best things you can do for your health. A ringing alarm spikes blood pressure as your body rouses itself from deep slumber to wakefulness almost instantly – a process that should take at least 20 minutes or so. When you are stressed and things are not working well, in the worst-case scenario this could actually cause a heart attack. Get rid of those alarms. The timings you set for yourself can be adjusted a little bit here and there. Give yourself that bit of flexibility.
If there is one thing that’s critical during this time, it is rest. Give yourself all the time that you require to sleep and meditate. The second most important thing is exercise. For every 45 minutes you are sitting, get up and move about for 10-15 minutes. Do some stretches. Ensure you are having good healthy food. Avoid processed foods and anything remotely non-vegetarian.
Get off sugar. When I took my flight from Dehradun to Bangalore, I saw a man wearing gloves, having a mask on, drinking a fizzy drink. For the next few hours his immunity would be compromised because of the tons of sugar in that drink. No mask or gloves would be able to help his immune system.
All these will greatly build up your strength and more importantly your immunity.
By the way, Dopamine can be used in a really cool way. Each of those first 5 things you have chosen to do can be broken down into smaller segments. For example, if Declutter the house is one of your things to be done on a priority, then it can be broken into Declutter the bedroom, then the attic, then the dining room and so on. When those subheadings are added under each heading and you deal with each of those subheadings one at a time, every time you finish a subheading, you will get your squirt of Dopamine. This makes you feel wonderful about yourself and keeps you going with greater motivation and enthusiasm.
You will be using Action Addiction to your advantage. You are still doing small things – only this time, these small things are adding up to one of the bigger things that you want done in your life.
Follow these steps and I guarantee that you will come out of this time of crisis as a winner.
Finally, it would be a great idea to set aside some of this time to think about what you truly want in your life. Make another list just like before and then give it numbers. You will be amazed that when you take the time to think it through, perhaps having a lot of money in the bank is not as high on your list as spending time with someone you care for, or going on a vacation with the family.
Then, you can begin to realign your actions, so that the things that are truly important get done and you are not spending your time doing a lot and getting nothing done. When you have this list sorted, you know you will be able to prioritize and get exactly what needs to be done when we all finally become social once again.
For now – Stay home, Stay Safe
Wash your hands
Don’t forget to be happy!
PS – If you wish to learn more about sleep, exercise and food among many other topics that can greatly optimize your life, refer to our book Happiness Express – A Journey to Everyday Well-Being. If you are starting out to learn something new after a long time, or simply want to make the enhance your learning experience, read our book Ready Study Go! – Smart Ways to Learn.
PPS If you are interested in personal coaching from Dinesh and me – drop a comment below with your email in it, and we will get back to you. Note that there will be significant monetary investment required for coaching with us.