Any process of change, starting a new hobby, picking up new ‘hopefully good’ habits, revamping your lifestyle, reorganizing your work, changing life’s priorities, begins with choices. And these choices aren’t so easy to make, at least not at the start where you are still caught up in the old ways and very much attached to them.
In case of any change, the old just cannot be wiped away with a simple click. Let’s say you are trying to build a productive day schedule for which you are trying to get rid of all the time consuming non-productive activities and pastimes like spending time on the phone, getting lost in the ocean of apps and notifications, throwing all the hours of your day on the internet, watching television shows or YouTube videos, playing video games and doing other umpteen number of things that just suck away all your time.
Now, you won’t just suddenly realize how you have been spending your days away. You won’t suddenly feel the need to do something meaningful, say find your purpose, live your passion, create something beautiful, help out others or work on building a better you (and therefore a better world). You probably already know this. We all know what takes away our valuable time and even though we also know what we should be doing, we let distractions take over our priorities.
So when you finally decide to start off to build a better life for yourself all of these habits you have picked up and developed a strong affinity towards continue to drag you down, like claws and vines that have you entangled, pulling you the slightest chance you give them. We harvest the environment that makes them grow. And they grow very slowly and stealthily. Soon, as we let them be, ignoring them day after day, year after year, they have already grown all over us. So they will not just go away the next day. They have to be brought down with intention, effort and commitment, one at a time.
You won’t start living happily and passionately all of a sudden. You won’t be instantly producing what you want a dream of, just because you decided to. You won’t simply become the best version of yourself just because you feel you can and have dreamed of it happening a hundred times.
All the things that you picked up over the years, they made you into someone you are now and just like you can’t promptly swipe away that someone (not even in today’s touchscreens dominated world), those things just cannot be replaced all at once.
That doesn’t mean change is not possible. Change is possible, but only in small steps. This has been true at least in my experience and based on what I know. And more importantly, when changing habits and building new ones, we can only work with few at a time in order to build them effectively and sustain them in the long run.
To restructure your day is not an easy task, especially for someone who is relatively new to a career choice which could mean a particularly unconventional lifestyle. When starting off from such a point, you are in the dark about what all you need to be ready for and be able to bring into the work you are doing.
For a long time, I knew what I was aspiring for and what goals I had to achieve. But my dreams were quite fancy and vague. As a result, when it came to goal setting and execution, I was a dud. I remained in this vague uncertain indecisive zone for a pretty long time. And I was growing sick of it.
So, gradually my efforts started taking the right direction. I began spending time on reading and understanding things like productivity, workings of the mind in terms of learning new habits and unlearning old ones, internal motivation and independent goal setting. In time I started getting a much clearer idea of what steps I had to take on a daily basis and how much work I had to put in from my side in order to see them through successfully.
For me, coming from a typical routine of – work the week, enjoy the weekend, slog outside, rest and chill inside (at home). The home was a place I returned to only to pass time and restore the energy expended doing work and other things outside. Yes, I had spent hours on academic work like projects and studies, at home. But that too wasn’t with a clear intention in my mind or with a sound strategy and good motivation.
Most of what I did was mainly driven by external motivators like time, obligation, expectations, forced duties. And so coming into this world of openness where you set your goals, you see them through, you set the deadlines, you define the rewards, you create the very product (writing) and you deliver it (publishing) and you also provide the after-sales service (engagement with readers & other writers), was a new space and quite a challenging one.
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Where I was then, away from the former traditional lifestyle, demanded of me everything that was never before required, or at least I hadn’t exercised and experienced for long. I was never self-driven or self-motivated. I always lacked discipline and focus. I never had the right attitude and nor did I back up my goals with the needed commitment.
This new space demanded most of these personal skills, most of which I had never really owned (even though they belonged to me) and put to use unless I was probed and prodded to by someone else – which again was not an effective exercise.
As a result, the seemingly achievable dream became a daunting task that I struggled working on for the initial few years. During that time, I had jumped into this new unconventional path but I was simply slugging along. My days were mostly filled with hours wasted away in distractions, other time procrastinating and delaying tasks, and executing some things on and off. I never put myself wholly into what I did.
I still remained far too attached to my older ways (way of thinking, time-wasting habits etc), and the haughty goals that I had set served no purpose but to demotivate my unprepared self further. And I continued to fall short of reaching those goals and repetitively failed to deliver even half of what I aimed.
But, as I moved forward there was less of older ways, and more of newer productive optimistic and inspiring ways filling my days. I spent time reading books, learning from other bloggers and writers, acquiring useful tips, salvaging some inner inspiration and motivation and understanding of what sort of preparation was needed for me to get what I wanted.
Gradually, with knowledge and awareness, many doors began opening up. Though most of these were internal doors which I had tightly shut myself, they were helpful in allowing me to learn, grown and expand further. And so the choices became easier to make. Actually, they were always easy to make, but what became easier was the next step after the choosing – doing became easier.
I started to see more clearly what I had to do and began learning new ways in which I could do it. So I began doing it. And obviously what I started creating wasn’t perfect, but I began to see that falling short or creating something dissatisfactory, was simply a space that inspired further growth and learning.
That learning and growth mentality helped me to continue moving forward by becoming more productive and improving my writing and other areas of work and life. And, yes, I haven’t reached some heightened level of personal achievement. All of this still seems fleeting at times, as it’s there for one moment and then the next moment it is missing. So I continue to stumble and get caught up in between things. I easily become unhappy with how things have turned out. And I quickly get worked up after seeing what I have created, how it didn’t turn out as I expected. But I have something far more important with me, that promises fewer occurrences of such doubt-filled times, which is resilience and a new perspective.
So I began with my morning routine. I wanted to set up an early rising routine starting from 6 am at first then slowing bringing it to 5 am. This would consist of waking up, meditating, a writing session and some reading and then some exercising. I did build up this habit successfully, to such an extent that even when I slept late and didn’t set an alarm I would automatically wake up at 5 and start doing what I practised doing.
Obviously, it was difficult to sustain it, as my other habits throughout the day changed because of certain other obligations and changes in the level of work. Sleeping early at night shifted further into late hours like 12 and 1 and even 3 at times, and as a result, I lapsed back into the late-rising habit and started waking up at 8,9 and even 10 am. But one thing I learned to preserve was the morning routine, irrespective of the time. I woke up, did my meditation (Isha Kriya), I wrote (my 1000 words practice), after which I began with the day, breakfast, and other work.
The main takeaway from this was not much about the tips, hacks, ways to become more efficient and productive. But how I used them which means how I worked with myself. It was more about making adjustments and going with the flow instead of sitting disappointed worrying and stressing over a setback or a failure to meet a specific goal. It was more about creating more time for myself in order to be able to find the space in which to operate and see through my goals for that moment. It was more about what my strengths were and which ways could be used to leverage those strengths, then about blindly following a specific strategy or trick. It was more about synchronizing myself with my goals, allowing room for unexpected changes, realigning myself, and retrying again to deliver on the next if I did not on the previous.