One of the biggest things that’s changed in my life since my financial turnaround and subsequent career changes is that I’m constantly involved in a lot more self-evaluation than I used to be. I’m constantly looking at how I do things, looking for ways to improve the quality and value of how I spend my time and energy and money.
Something I’ve noticed quite a lot lately is how much of my life seems to move along with a particular rhythm. I don’t necessarily mean that things are the same day-in and day-out, because they’re not. What I mean is that I go through periods of heightened efficiency and mindfulness. I get ahead on my work. I write lots of posts. I find lots of quality time to spend with my family and for my other hobbies.
How do I fall out of these periods? Usually, it’s a series of unexpected events that triggers a change. One of our kids is sick during the night. I go on a lengthy trip of some kind (more than a few days). Something breaks in our home and I have to repair it. There’s a serious illness or death to someone close to me.
And, boom, the rhythm is interrupted. I feel tired and my mind is cloudy. I have a harder time working. I’m not as mindful of my spending and I make a few awful spending decisions. I get upset with myself – and with others – much easier than before. I’m less productive and less energetic – and it shows in every aspect of my life.
I have a lot of techniques for finding my rhythm again. Usually, it involves spending a couple of days resetting everything. I get my organizing system back in order. I go to bed early a few nights and don’t set the alarm, allowing my body to wake up naturally when it’s rested. I play with my kids a lot. I clean the house. I spend some time with my friends. I directly address any things that are causing ongoing stress, like a relationship that’s not as strong as I’d like it to be.
And, gradually, I get back into the rhythm of things. My productivity and energy go back up. I begin to feel more fulfilled about everything in my life. My spending discipline is stronger than ever. I feel like I’m doing better work in every aspect of my life.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had some conversations with a lot of people in my own life and several readers about this phenomenon – and I’ve found that most people feel the same way, although they don’t articulate it as well. They have a “rhythm” in their life that they’re sometimes in touch with and sometimes out of touch with. The amount of “rhythm” seems to vary from person to person quite a lot, though – some people seem to find it a bit of a rarity, while others seem to rarely find it.
I will say this much: one universal thing that everyone has said is that the times in their life when they’ve found their rhythm are much richer than times where they’re off of their rhythm.
Obviously, I’d like to move in a direction where I’m in touch with my rhythm more than I used to be. I’ve found several techniques for doing this that really seem to work.
Know some sure signs that your rhythm is out of whack. For me, the biggest signs are that my office is messy, my GTD inbox has a buildup of stuff in it, my “article buffer” (articles I have written in advance) is low or depleted, and that I feel tired in the middle of the day. When I see two of these things, I usually take it as a sign that my rhythm is out of whack.
If you see any sign of falling out of your rhythm, stop and recharge as soon as you can. You might not be able to do it immediately, but you should do it as soon as you can. I find that when I force myself to do things when I’m out of sync, I make many more mistakes and am much slower about things than when I’m in a good rhythm. In other words, the time I spend keeping myself in sync pays great dividends over time.
If you don’t feel that you’ve had your rhythm, or have severe difficulty reclaiming it, get a medical checkup. There are a lot of little things that can hold us back from feeling great and knocking it out of the park. Many of them are very simple – a vitamin deficiency or something like that. I have an underactive (bordering on inactive) thyroid and if I miss out on my daily thyroid medication, I can quickly get out of rhythm.
Certain routine activities help me maintain my rhythm. For me, a daily walk of about three miles, a daily 20 minute meditation session (where I try to empty my mind for a while in the quietest room in the house), and a daily gaming session help me keep in my rhythm. I try really hard to accomplish these things every day. A piano practice session seems to be creeping into the picture here, as well.
If you’re out of rhythm, put off buying decisions. I find that, time and time again, my judgment when it comes to purchasing decisions is out of whack when I’m out of rhythm. If I put the decision off until I’m in a better frame of mind, not only do I end up making a better decision over the long haul, I usually have created some additional incentive to focus on what I need to do to get back in the swing of things.