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To add – or take away?

Before you even read the next paragraph – I want you in 10 seconds or less to draw a small circle. This can be with a pencil or on your phone with your finger. Go.

Ok, is the circle perfect? If you are anything like me, the answer would be no. You can find areas of the circle that need more work. Maybe one side is oval shaped, or the top of the circle is too tall. Maybe there is a harsh line instead of rounded edges. At this point, you have one of two options to improve the circle. You can add to the drawing, or you can take away (erase).

In either case, the circle has the potential to improve both aesthetically and in functionality. Imagine a tire that is imperfect. I don’t care if I have a monster truck tire or the tires on a Prius, as long as they get me from A to B. If the tire needs work like your circle, you won’t be driving anywhere.

Using this circle analogy, I want you to apply this to your life. Grab a sheet of paper or your notebook and jot the following questions with space in between. This will only take a few minutes.

What is something you want to improve?

How will improving this thing create a positive change in your life?

Why do you want to make this change?

Now, explain why you answered what you did to the last question. (Don’t skip this important part)

Once you have these written down, create an ADD/ERASE table on your page. On the left, think of things you may be able to add to your life that can help you towards your goal. On the right, place the things that you could erase. Aim for 3-5 things.

For example, maybe I want to become a “morning person” and wake up earlier. This is exactly what I wanted to do in the beginning of 2020. I used to wake up tired and go to sleep wired. Here is how I changed that.

What is something you want to improve?

“I want to be awake at 5:30am every morning, ready for the day. I don’t want to be tired when I wake up, or look forward to napping later in the day the second I get out of bed.”

How will improving this thing create a positive change in your life?

“By getting up earlier I can get my training done before any of the mid-day distractions and responsibilities. This will also allow me to get done earlier so that I can be ready for bed before 9pm. When I get up in the morning, I can make my coffee and send emails, write programs, and read.”

Why do you want to make this change?

“I am sick of waking up tired and cranky every morning. When I sleep in I feel like I wasted a part of the day and then I rush to get things done. I try to strategize how to sleep until the last possible moment, so that I am not late to appointments, but sleep as much as possible. I treat sleep like people treat sugar nowadays, but inversely. I feel so sensitive to sleep deprivation that If I get up early I will die slowly.”

Now, explain why you answered what you did to the last question. (Don’t skip this important part)

“I have been ignoring this for a long time. I feel like a loser, like I am the same person I was in high school when it comes to being awake, responsible, and productive. I was none of those things. Sleep is crucial, but I don’t see it as a sleep sacrifice to be in bed earlier and awake earlier.”

ADD

  • Cold showers in the morning

  • Journal before bed to clear my head and get things on paper, so they do not stir in my mind.

  • Use battery powered alarm clock – no cellphone

ERASE

  • No screens, lights, or WiFi after 8:30pm.

  • Saying no to students, family, friends when it comes to late night commitments. No class past 8pm, no parties past 9pm.

  • Blackout all lights in bedroom. No TV in bedroom (ever), no phones (catch me tomorrow).

Now, pick the ONE thing you will do. For me, it was cancelling late classes and saying no more often. Next, it was using a battery powered alarm clock. Once that was normal, I erased the tiny lights from the bedroom. We never had a TV in the room, but we took out our phones too. That snowballed into unplugging the WiFi at night. Now, I make a conscious effort to read instead of get screen time at 8:30pm and beyond. By 9pm or earlier, I am in bed. 10 minutes later (max) I am asleep. Today, I took my first cold shower for 30 seconds. It was absolutely horrible. However, now I do feel great. The last thing on my list is the journaling, which I hope to start soon, but guess what? I feel amazing and I have been getting up at 5:30am every single day, weekends included, for this entire year. It all started with that first ERASE.

The results of my experiment were increased productivity which was measurable in my own physical performance as well as professional. My health also improved with the improved sleep. Body fat % decreased slightly, general emotional state improved, and most importantly, way less stress. (Stress is the achiever word for fear – from Tony Robbins. I love this bit.)

My homework for you is to complete the exercise but with your own goals and your own table. Keep in mind, you DO NOT have to do it all at once. This exercise was over the course of a 2 month period, and I am still working at it.

Homework : Answer the 4 questions above. Create an ADD/ERASE table for the things in your life. Start with the one that is easiest to implement and try to be consistent for the week. After 10-14 days, add a second. I find that add/erase/add/erase works well as a general rule of thumb. If all you do is add, it can become overwhelming.

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