This is my top 10 to-do list for this month.
1. Run daily
2. Listen to understand
3. Eat slower
4. Minimize judgement
5. Read before bed – no gadgets
6. Be more inclusive
7. Start writing
9. Curse less
10. Be kind to me
I am having trouble with the last item because I typically only achieve a few of these items each week, which leads me to be disappointed in myself.
For the record, I have had killer weeks when I crush everything on my list!
In some cases, I have even turned one of the tasks into a lifestyle change. For example, I have run two marathons in the past two years. I have made cycling my main mode of transport since 2016. I meditated for 100 days straight during the pandemic and I also started writing.
However, I have more than one instance where I have peaked and then fallen off the plan. What I mean by that is, I run and run until I complete a marathon and then feel like I have checked the box with regards to running. I then add other things to my list and in turn, running drops off my list. We cannot do everything at once, and there will be items that are more cyclical or replaceable in nature, but consistency is key and that is something I struggle with.
What is the answer? Well, it differs for everyone. I am sure many folks do not require lists for their well being. However, I am 100 percent a list person. I maintain lists for home, for work and for my well-being.
Let us try this again. What is the answer for me?
A few weeks ago, at a corporate event where Arianna Huffington of Thrive Global was the keynote speaker, I heard about the concept of micro steps. Arianna introduced the concept and spoke of the importance of taking 60 seconds to do something for your well-being. And it clicked for me. Why? Because it is simple, quick and easily integrated into my routine.
Think about it – it can be applied to anything. Something for yourself, your family, your work, or even a team. One minute to change the energy in the room, to think about whether you really want that cookie or cake (probably still yes for me), to close your eyes and just breathe, to step outside to feel the sun, rain, snow, city traffic, to get you to just be and then back to what you were doing. Honestly, I have tried this and it works.
It also works for my son; I have witnessed it at his soccer games. Anytime there is a time-out or his team is waiting for their opponents to get on the field, they congregate into a circle and huddle. When I asked why they do that; my son answered, “We shout motivational phrases at each other; those few seconds psych us up to play our best and remember that we are one team.” This is a great example of micro steps at work.
I asked Arianna, how do I sustain momentum and not just treat it as a checklist exercise as I have done in the past? I want more successes and fewer failures. Her suggestions were excellent. One particularly helpful suggestion was to embark on a micro step with someone – accountability is an incredible motivator. She shared another example through a personal story. Arianna did not have enough time to watch some of the popular shows her friends were discussing so she decided to watch one of them while using the treadmill. Apparently, it ended on a cliff hanger yet she could only watch more if she kept running! The key point is to start, keep it simple, pick something to help sustain the step and reward yourself.
You may argue that one minute is not enough to meditate, run, eat slowly or curse less. That is true, but what it will do is help us be aware; it will help us start something; it will initiate a reset; it will motivate us to achieve… just for one minute. We can then either continue or revisit the item later on. In my case, the next time I eat quickly, I will try to be aware and savor the bite. Alternatively, when I am running and feel tired, I can push myself to run for one more minute to finish the song I am listening to, which typically results in the next few songs and maybe another mile. By taking one or all items on my list and breaking them down into micro steps, I can accomplish more and feel successful.
Success is taking conscious actions – “Microsteps” – in just one minute, which may result in:
• Starting something
• Being in the moment
• Picking up my pen to write
• Connecting with my team
• Taking a breath
• Asking someone their opinion
This in turn allows me to incorporate more items into my daily routine without thinking about them as chores, which enables me to check number 10 off my original list and that is a good day.