On 12 October, we kicked off the Good Life Engine course for the fourth time. At the core of the course is the execution of well-being or self-development routines that students choose for themselves. We define routine as a sequence of actions regularly followed. Before our next session on 28 October, students must decide what kind of routines they will execute during the next seven months.
Although our students decide upon their routines based on their individual goals, there are some common starting points in the process of choosing a routine.
First, everyone should think about sleep. Sleep is the base for all productivity. Without regular good sleep, no one can be creative and productive in the long run. Thus, sleep is the first and foremost priority before everything. Below are a few tips for good sleep. I created this summary from the book Why we sleep by Dr. Matt Walker, Aki Hintsa’s recommendations from the book The Core, and the session with our speaker Hanna Ollila:
- Do not look at any screens one hour before going to bed. Screens produce a blue light that keeps our brain alert and makes it hard to relax.
- Create the same routines and rhythms for dinner and sleep. Our body likes rhythms. If you train yourself to eat at the same hour and go to bed at the same time every day, it will be easier for you to fall asleep.
- Take a warm shower before going to bed. The shower will help you to relax.
- If you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall asleep again, get up and do something. Read a book, for example. Once you feel sleepy again, go back to bed. The point here is to avoid staying in bed and worrying about not being able to fall asleep.
- Meditation, just like a shower, is an excellent way to relax your mind and prepare you for sleeping.
Sleep is the base for all productivity. Without regular good sleep, no one can be creative and productive in the long run.
If you are already a good sleeper, we can move forward. Second, you should assess how balanced your body and mind are. That means your daily routines should not consist only of intellectual activities but physical ones as well. If you neglect your body’s needs, your productivity, health, and ability to stay focused will eventually deteriorate. The modern human being is quite used to ignoring the body’s needs and sacrificing everything on the altar of efficiency and achievement. Thus, I am delighted that exercise is usually the most common routine students choose.
A 2021-2022 Good Life Engine course student writes: “Gradually, I increased my frequencies of both exercises as well as combined different exercise programs. These programs include stretching, walking, running, and strength training. Stretching helps improve the flexibility of my muscles which are important for maintaining my ability to perform everyday activities and prevent injuries. Walking and running is an endurance or cardio activity, which helps increase heart rate for an extended period. Strength or resistance training helps maintain and improve the strength of my muscles. Gradually, I felt better and better during physical exercise, not only physically but also emotionally and mentally. During the exercise hours, my blood started flowing faster, and my heart started pounding harder. When I went over things in my head, things started to clear up; where I had confusion, I was gaining clarity. From then on, when I had intense thoughts, I trained. When I was stressed, I trained. Finally, exercise became my coping mechanism in life.”
If you are already doing well in the sleep and exercise departments, there are routines that are exercises for your mind. These include meditation, mindfulness, yoga, positive affirmations and visualization, social media fasting, and reading good books on a chosen topic.
Never underestimate the importance of small steps.
Whatever you choose as your routine, remember to keep executing it, and don’t give up. You need to understand that brain change happens in phases. Thus, never underestimate the importance of small steps. In the beginning, you will often feel that all your efforts are wasted. However, one day a new version of you will emerge. I call it the art of small steps. Here is a quote from a student who learned this art during her routine execution journey: “The best way to tackle this difficulty — or the problem of starting the routine overall — was just to go. Other times, I felt very unmotivated to go to the gym, but the solution was simple — just go. Just by being able to get myself moving, I managed to tackle the greatest difficulties. Even by allowing myself to cheat a little bit on my workout program, it’s still better to go than not to go at all”.
From all previous Good Life Engine courses, I know that staying consistent with your routines is the most challenging part. To help our students on this path, we divide them into groups based on the routine type: meditation group, jogging group, book reading group, and so on. Peer support and the possibility to compare experiences help them keep executing their routines.
As the ancient Chinese adage goes: It doesn’t matter how slow you go as long as you do not stop.