Last week I wrote a post called “The War Is with Ourselves. Same as It Ever Was.” I exposed some of my fears—my own victimhood—whining—the garbage negativity that holds many of us back. If you are surrounded by negative people right now, raised by negative people, or filled with any self-doubt (and I believe almost every human has some self-doubt, whether they mask it or not), it is a lifelong process to beat it up and beat it back. I’m obsessed with this because the more I’ve gotten a little better at it, bit by bit, the more it has freed me, made my life and relationships better, made my work better, gotten me to people who have lifted me up and taught me about what really matters.
Last week I mentioned some little tricks over the years that have helped me build up my own confidence and get out of my own way. I will continue to dive into each of these deeper in future posts, but here is the biggest thing I have found to save me from my own laziness and excuses—lovingly called THE DISCIPLINE. (Doesn’t sound that loving, does it? Sounds more like a military operation … and some days it is.)
Outside of my wifey/band/charity and the songs, this little chart is the center of my world in many ways. I fill it out every night, and sometimes through the day when I remember to take a damn break and calm myself down :-). This chart is an anchor, a flag in the ground, and a safe house I can always return to, no matter what mood I’m in or whether or not things are rolling my way.
It helps keep me from getting down, from getting sick, from forgetting what matters, and in general trying to use my time to the best of my ability. Despite the look of this graph, anyone who knows me knows I am actually NOT a details person—I’m an over-the-top, dreaming, scheming, big-picture person. So to see something this meticulous out of me would probably make my closest friends laugh. And rightfully so. But I am not going to let time slip by if I can help it. I know some of my strengths (there sure ain’t enough), but I won’t be afraid of my weaknesses, and I will use this life to improve on ’em every step that I can find or MAKE the energy to do so.
Is this thing self-obsessed and self-absorbed? Yeah, maybe, but the end goal is to get better and help others. Also to be grateful for the time we have to use to the best of our ability. Most of us in the western world are so incredibly lucky to even have enough to eat, the time to go at these goals; most of the world doesn’t have even a small percentage of the luxuries we have on a daily basis, and most people throughout history were too busy trying to find enough food and shelter to be this self-absorbed. But if I can conquer some things about myself and make things better for others—if I can write some music that I’m proud of and give something back to those with less than me—then I have used the incredible time to be alive instead of wasting it.
So here we go. Every 10 days—and I have been doing this for many years now—I get a ruler and a pen (analog, buddy…), and I carve out the chart in the back of my journal. This way I can get to the chart quickly, no matter what other goofiness I have written in the book.
Here is what I wrote in the lefthand column of the chart pictured:
1G1V (one guitar one voice rehearsal)
CALLS/MEETINGS (based on GOALS)
Ten is a good number for me because I am no mathematician and it’s so easy to divide out. Did I sleep through the night seven out of 10 times? Did I eat garbage or drink too much alcohol 20 percent of the time? (And food and booze will definitely be coming up in this blog series soon.) Did I write every morning 30 percent of the time? Do I expect to see any results this month or this year only working a third of the time on the thing that matters to me? Did I save any money or did I buy a bunch of crap I don’t need that won’t make me happy and that only gives someone else my power?
Where you put your energy is what comes back to you. What you are willing to focus on, WRITE DOWN, and face up to will teach you how to improve.
At its core, this chart is a way to understand WHERE YOUR TIME GOES. I have done the short-, medium-, and long-term goals, but I don’t have any trouble with big (too big) dreams and plans. What I have to do is make sure that every single day, in some small way, I am chipping away at them. If you have never done this, or if you don’t have some self-awareness of how you spend your time, you are going to be shocked at how much of our days are just plain wasted. There are only so many Netflix shows worth binge-watching. Only so many videogames you can play before your hand cramps. Only so many selfies we can take that our friends with any depth really want to see from us.
Until we get FOCUSED on a set of goals that NO MATTER WHAT we are gonna attack every single day, we are had. There is no changing anything. I know because I was stuck for years and years, and beyond the EXCUSES I talked about last week, time management is a big piece of the puzzle, too.
(Best layout of these principles I’ve ever seen is in Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive—I have Erik Logan from OWN network to thank for turning me on to that book many years back.)
Anything on The Discipline is a non-negotiable. It’s something I am actively working toward, improving a little bit day by day, growing and becoming. I have habits that I have built that used to be on here that I don’t have to track anymore because they are set in stone for me. And, of course, some things you can’t put time or a checkmark on—time with a loved one, time jamming on the guitar, being there for a close friend—these things are obviously values and fixed and don’t need to be tracked.
But wherever you want to make a change, try holding yourself accountable. I change the order of things up every few months to see if I can make some little improvements, e.g., working out first thing in the a.m. sets up the whole day for me, gets my mind rolling and blood moving, and gets me into a more positive state of mind.
So many of my days starting out were just putting out little fires from dusk to dawn. And I still fall into the old habit sometimes.
There is so much NOISE. So many of us just chop at whatever weeds are coming out of the ground versus digging down deep and pulling out the roots. So many of us start one thing and open a couple windows and go down the rabbit hole of social media—endless links, depressing news, or whatever problem hits us at the time—whatever call comes in—whatever email wants answered—and especially if you run a small business with no clear answers to every problem, it’s very easy to start thinking every single thing matters. Everything is the ANSWER. There are only so many hours in the day (and a weakness of mine is delegation), but things have to be put in the right order, and some things have to be left behind. “Leave it or burn it” is one of my favorite new things to yell at my poor dogs as they sit on the floor with me making cold calls. One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned (and paid a price for) is if you do things in the wrong order, you lose more time than you can imagine. In reverse, if you fix your biggest issues first (attack “THE WORST FIRST”), several problems tend to go away, momentum grows, and you can start to see more clearly what really matters.
Some days are better than others. Sometimes you have to cut your losses. Start over. Admit failure over and over again. But I am learning to start the day with a hard look inside, figuring out what matters to me and attacking that before ANYTHING else. Granted, that is a lot easier to do now that I finally have some passive income from songwriting and publishing, but I should have been doing this kind of heavy lifting with my time the second I set out to start my own businesses. This chart reminds me of the things that I need to do every day regardless of what little fires come up.
Some of these I will dive into over the coming weeks—stuff that we all have to deal with: Sleep, Diet, Workout, Water, Finance. Taking breaks (some interesting studies on how you get your best ideas when you just play and let your mind wander). But look at your weaknesses—where you want to grow—face up to them and put them down on paper.
I’ll tell you the place I get the most Fs and smiley faces is sleeping through the night. And this chart helps point to those causes of stress, wrong diet, no workout, etc. Trying to teach myself that when I wake up at three a.m. with a head full of bees, I don’t need to eat 43 bowls of cereal or watch some dumb TV show. This is a lot easier to understand if I know what caused me getting up in the first place (and the last thing my wife needs is me banging around the house like an idiot because I have too much restless energy or didn’t face up to a problem I should have during the day).
Will this kind of obsessive mania help you? I don’t know, but it might be worth a try because it has shaped up my life quite a bit. When we write things down, we burn them in. I have filled a ton of journals in my little library with my thoughts, hopes, wishes, fears, and regrets, etc. You got to put it down in pen and ink. You got to get the INSIDE OUTSIDE. Once I write that crap out, maybe I don’t have to carry it around so much.
Let me know what you think of this and what works for you. I check ALL COMMENTS MYSELF. (I didn’t do this for years on the road, and it was stupid. I’m sorry, and I regret it. For all the people who have tried to help us on different sites, I was a moron for not spending the extra hours to find and communicate with you.)
Let me know what things you want me to go into detail on.
Here’s to getting a little better, together. Here’s to figuring ourselves out so we can be more loving and more kind and more giving (and if you think that sounds weak, then you ain’t pushed past your s–t yet). 🙂
I’m early on at this blog writing, so bear with me. I will learn to consolidate and strike at the root more and more. Thanks for checking in. Love your faces, and see you back here every Wednesday and on the road soon.
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