Category Archives: Routines

This Year—Write it Down, Track it, Celebrate, Repeat.

Using the Walk Tracker app for the first time this morning, I discovered that it’s actually more than a full kilometer to the next farm down the road. (My car had registered .9 km several years ago when I measured.) And it’s .5 km to the first treeline and 1.51 km from my front porch around the corner to the third telephone pole past the sumac trees. ( and I must check out the great things sumac is good for!)

With all the news about the dangers of sitting down for hours at a time and here’s me, who has to spend hours at the computer or the piano or the art table, and knowing that walking or, exercise, improves blood flow to the brain (and don’t we all need more of THAT!) and knowing that, unless I actually wrote it down on paper and made myself ACCOUNTABLE, I wouldn’t do it….

(drumroll) One of my goals this year, 2013, is to walk 2000 km. Minimum. That’s a bit of a walk, really, when I think about it. That crosses a big chunk of this country. It’s almost the distance from Saskatoon to Barrie, or from Thunder Bay to Kelowna. (and I could walk from London, Ontario to Sackville, New Brunswick and still have a few hundred kilometers to spare!)

And how do I propose to do it? How does one eat an elephant (goes the old adage)? One bite at a time. It works about to a nearly 5.5 km a day.

  • Take a piece of graph paper that already has blocks of 25 squares marked out
  • Mark off every 25 km, working DOWN from 2000, not UP TO 2000 (reasons below)
  • Use different colours each day and colour in the little squares, one for each km you walk.
  • Put a marker or a sticker or something every 25 or 50 km
  • Create small rewards every 50 or 100… or less if you need to keep up the motivation.

I started a day or so before New Year’s and today I passed 75. I’m 3.9 km ahead of schedule. (At 100 km I’m going to splurge on a brand new pair of comfy walking socks!) I’ll post a photo of my chart later (once I find my currently, um, hidden little camera)

The actual goal isn’t important. But these things I know to work:

  • write a goal down and make it specific. Get it out of your head and onto paper.
  • I like START dates better than END dates. It makes the starting of the thing important. End dates make sure it actually ends.
  • track it. Use stickers, colours, paper and pencil.. make it visual. Get it out of your head and mark something down. Remember how much you liked it when your teacher put a sticker on your work?!
  • make up a game and rules about it.
  • reward small wins.
  • be kind to yourself— there will be days!
  • be true to yourself— on ‘those’ days, do the thing anyway. Tell your complaining mind to shut up. Better to do something than nothing.

Some Thoughts:

I count DOWN… because the numbers get smaller. SO!! YAY! I only have 1923 km left rather than YAY! I’ve gone more than 75. Try it either way. Doesn’t matter to me, but isn’t counting down to something more celebratory than counting up?

Rationalizations will get at you. It’s gonna happen. But then, hey… there’s another goal or project or new habit to form! I did that for a month. No excuses. At all. I made some, but having that in mind made sure I picked things up off the floor, put things away, went to the gym even to do SOMETHING.

Here’s a fun game. I’ve done it with meditation practice and mantra meditation practice.

  • Decide on a new habit (it takes from 21-42 days, depending on who you talk to , to create a new habit. With things like mantras, it’s often a 40-day cycle. Just choose.)
  • Repeat every day
  • TRACK and count the repetitions
  • When you miss, start again at one, with the aim of repeating the new habit 40 times in a row.

Think about this. You start today with the aim of walking 1 km a day for 40 days. Everything’s great for about 10 days. You get your little stickers or coloured dots on your calendar and they start to add up. And then you miss a day.

Start again at one. Do this every time you miss a day.

Now, you will be saying, as you miss a day and are wont to start again,  “But, I can’t get to 40 days in a row! Why bother?”

Here’s the thing: you may get to the end of the year and never have hit 40 days in a row. That’s not the point.

You may have missed a day a month or even a couple of days a month. That’s not the point. And YET…

You’ve walked 1 km a day every other day of the year. That could be 300 days that you DID walk! Why focus on the 65 days you missed?

Celebrate the 300 days…. then, start again.

Write it down. Track it. Celebrate. Repeat.

Oh…. and be kind to yourself.

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I Think I’ve Broken My Brain—and Invented a New Word

Are you a hyperlearner? Maybe it’s hyper-learner. I think I just made up a new word. Hyperlearner. And it’s not related to “hyperlearning,” which is education made possible by using technology and “hypermedia,” which is a system in which various forms of information  (data, text, graphics, video,audio) are linked together by a hypertext program. And “hypertext”  is… well, never mind. It’s not connected to my definition of ‘hyperlearner.’

So, here it is. Sharon J Little’s official definition of ‘hyperlearner.’

A hyperlearner is someone who constantly crams huge amounts of information into the brain, through various media, such as reading, webinars, teleseminars, CDs. A hyperlearner has an educational CD in the car, has filters in her inbox for each of a dozen or more authors, speakers, coaches, mentors who teach on a wide variety of topics within one larger topic. This hyperlearner tries to read, listen to and watch everything; typically she does NOT have the same kind of filter in her brain as in the inbox. A hyperlearner could be seen to be trying to learn too much on too many things in too little time. A hyperlearner is, by definition, overstimulated, overinvolved, over the top, about learning.

This is not just your typical lifelong learner. That would be a lifelong learner; someone who keeps the brain in gear,

Lifelong Learning

Lifelong Learning (Photo credit: Stephen Downes)

exploring new and interesting things, la de dah … de dah…. de dah….

A hyperlearner absorbs more information than a monster sponge. Holds onto it and then wrings it out in all kinds of ways—speaking, writing, teaching, seminars, workshops. But before the wringing comes the overwrought! The over absorption. The point after which not one more speck of information can be absorbed…. and then, the hyperlearner tries to suck in more.

Raise your hands, hyperlearners.

The sidebar to the constant learning is the inner demand, determination and directedness, which leads the hyperlearner to think that one cannot take a break. Or, rather, that breathing, doing a little nothing, listening to a little music or taking a full day off just to dream and think and sort it all out, is ,well, a waste of time.

Now, I KNOW that it’s OK to take a break. I know about walking, about smelling the roses (or, at this time of year, the composting leaves). I know about tai qi in the morning and having tea. And I do all that.

The problem right now is that I’m so interested and excited about what I’m putting together, that I don’t want to sleep, I don’t want to break. I want to dig in and get all kinds of content written and interviews set up and teleseminar series created….

And I will.

But today, before I launch into concert week and shore up some PR and get the groups focused on the last few things to get together…. I’m giving myself a break.

Not in the “You deserve a break today” (remember that McDonalds tune in the 70’s, which I don’t buy and which I think was a curse of an ad campaign, leading a generation of people to think they “deserve” things. That’s another post…) but in the… “It’s OK. You can take a day off and NOT hyperlearn. It’s not an excuse to let it all go. It’s needed and OK and everything will carry on. Just STOP” kind of way.

And I just bought the domain name… http://www.hyperlearner.com

Don’t go there… there’s nothing. But I’ve got the name. I’m gonna OWN this!

“Sometimes you just need to give yourself a break and do nothing.”   Sharon J Little

Need to Develop a Good Habit? Try stickers!

I used these for my private music students… and now, they motivate, reward and inspire me!

I use stickers, coloured dots and check lists to track my good habit creation. Just like I did with students when we were changing behaviours. Really. I respond to stickers, coloured dots and check lists. I make up games to get them! They are visual. I see them. Day after day. They motivate and reward me. (I’m pretty easy to satisfy. I guess I’m pretty self-directed.)

I DON’T want to see a missed day and eventually, the new habit becomes, well, a habit. I’m a pretty good self-checker.

In my head, at least, consistency is not my strong suit. But I KNOW that repetition is the mother of learning (thanks second year University Russian course—it’s a Russian proverb—and piano practice) and I also KNOW that I get more, better work done when I have my personal practice aligned.

Of course, that sounds all nicey nicey. Knowing and Doing are two different things. It’s hard to find out what works.

I have apparently stumbled upon the way that works for me. For now. I’m hoping this ‘game’ will let me play into a series of good, productive habits that will allow me to create and produce more… and better.

Right now I have several ‘behaviour projects’ underway. And tracking systems to go with them all!

  1. 40- day Mantras on Abundance and Removing Obstacles (thank you Lakshmi and Ganesha)— sticker in my planner
  2. 30-day post-a-day blogging challenge—pink dot on the tracking page
  3. Morning pages—sticker in the planner
  4. Meditation—ditto
  5. 10 000 steps a day walking goal—green dot on the tracking page
  6. stretch, do qi gong, yoga every day—planner
  7. 30 min/day reading of something intellectually challenging —planner

The morning practice is key.

I’ve had several versions of this for nearly 20 years. In the last years before I left teaching, my practice included biking 20 km to work, going into the gym and doing tai qi, leaving by 4:15 and not taking any work home. When I took the bus, I’d get off one stop early and do tai qi in the park, then walk to school. There are lots of ways to develop a habit. Now that I’m at home every morning and needing to accomplish other things, I have a different practice.

Here’s what I do now.

I get up early, make some hot water and fresh lemon juice and get my body awake. I prefer tai chi/qi gong to yoga on the whole. In the summer, I do a form of qi gong called Tao Yin Fa, outside on the grass. I learned it in the summer, and we were outside. I’m a certified practitioner/teacher. There’s a resonance there.

Last winter, I received a Rodney Yee yoga DVD—Yoga for the A.M. For me it’s more important to do something than to choose the right one. I make things simple. Follow the order. Don’t think, don’t fart around with it. Just get on with it. I’ve now resurrected a Tiger Shamanic Qi Gong DVD and put that in the mix. Doesn’t matter. As long as I do something for 15-20 minutes.

Morning Pages

Julia Cameron coined the phrase. Millions have joined the practice. Three pages, stream of consciousness writing. Sometimes it’s profound. Sometimes it’s a to-do list. Sometimes there are diagrams, a shopping list, a wish list, a what not to do list. Sometimes it’s just scribbles. Literally. Or, when it feels like there aren’t words, I write things like “keep writing” or “blah blah blah” or “pen paper scissors porch marble nightstars chocolate blah.” And then I’m off.

It clears my mind like qi gong clears out the chi-webs that form in the night.

Mantra Meditation

I’m on the third 40- day practice. That’s 40 days in a row. Every day. Without a miss. If I miss, I have to start again. Sometimes I’ve had to do it just before bed. But I do it. And that’s the point.

If I can build these small routines into a consistent positive habit, then I figure I can add larger ones. One step at a time.

I also use an emWave with that. This is a biofeedback device developed by the great folks at the  Institute of HeartMath, who researches stress, emotions, heart intelligence, coherence and more. I play a game. I only repeat the mantram when my heart is in partial or total coherence. This means it takes longer than if I simply repeated the mantra.

Meditation

This active form of meditation focuses my mind on a seedthought and orients me towards that for the day. It’s a method of soul contact and integration and includes the Great Invocation and, often, the Gayatri.

THE GREAT INVOCATION *

From the point of Light within the Mind of God
Let light stream forth into human minds.
Let Light descend on Earth.

From the point of Love within the Heart of God
Let love stream forth into human hearts.
May the Coming One return to Earth.

From the centre where the Will of God is known
Let purpose guide all little human wills –
The purpose which the Masters know and serve.

From the centre which we call the human race
Let the Plan of Love and Light work out
And may it seal the door where evil dwells.

Let Light and Love and Power restore the Plan on Earth.

* adapted version
__________________________________________

This is a slightly adapted wording of the Great Invocation which was given out in 1945. In accordance with the changing consciousness and language of humanity as we enter into the Aquarian age, this “adapted” wording for the Great Invocation is offered in the hope that it will encourage wider distribution of this world prayer.

Many religions believe in a World Teacher, knowing him under such names as the Lord Maitreya, the Imam Mahdi, the Bodhisattva, and the Messiah, and these terms are used in some of the Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish versions of the Great Invocation.

Men and women of goodwill throughout the world are using this Invocation in their own language. Will you join them in using the Invocation every day – with thought and dedication? By using the Invocation and encouraging others to use it, no particular group or organisation is sponsored. It belongs to all humanity.

Reading for 30 minutes

I used to read while I was eating breakfast. I didn’t time it, but now that I read for 30 minutes (and time it) I realize I wasn’t reading so much then! And it’s the light stuff… Treatise on White Magic, Esoteric Astrology, and starting tomorrow or Monday, I’m heading into  a new pattern: I’m rotating through The Secret Doctrine… and four others, as yet unchosen.

I’m going to shake things up, though, and work at 3-5 books, 30 minutes a day, a different book for each day of the week, for the energy of the day, or just set them out and pick one up every day. We’ll see. As my father-in-law used to say, usually just before he played a nasty prank on someone, “Ya gotta have fun sometime.” Again.. more important for me to do something than to do the ‘right thing.’

30-Day postaday Blog Challenge

I’ve been sitting on the fence about blogging for several years. Rather, I’ve had blogs, but have had no strategy nor plan. Failing to plan=planning to fail. (quote attributed to Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin and Alan Lakein. I’m going with Win and Ben) It’s been hit and miss to say the least. Mostly, I haven’t shown up. If you don’t show up, you don’t get results. Go figure.

So I decided to push myself to post something every day. Just for the practice. Without pushing for followers, without pushing for comments, without expecting anything. The project is to post something every day and learn. I started on the New Moon of Libra. So far So good.

10 000 Steps a Day

I’m not achieving this and didn’t fully expect to. Plus I was sick for a couple of days and my blood pressure was really low for a day. So, this week, I’m giving myself a break. The realistic target is 5 000 a day and 10 000 several days. When it’s not pouring rain and I’m not in the car, it’s easier. But it isn’t difficult at all if you do a few 20 min walks.

And so it goes. Brendan Burchard, in The Charge, talks about 30, 60, 90-day learning projects. Rather than start at the beginning of the month, I’m working with the first of the month, the new moon, the change of zodiacal sign and the full moon. This gives me a chance to get something underway before a new pattern begins.

We’re in Scorpio, so I’ve set a challenge (which I’m keeping to myself for now) and the Full Moon is coming up, so I’ve set a mental pattern to change over the next 6 months)

And I’m going to use stickers, coloured dots… and maybe even some gold stars. They’re more interesting than simple check marks, no?!

Looking for other ways to inculcate a good habit….

Routines, Limits and Creativity-Breaking the Rules

I broke all my rules this morning. (Rebel)

And I did it to fuel my creative self. (Good girl)

I slept in until after 8 (nearly three hours late), I didn’t do Morning Pages, Meditate, Mantra and heart coherence, Qi Gong or read right off the bat as I usually do. I had a quick bowl of Chex  rather than the hearty grains and chia and hemp and kefir concoction, and contemplated changing the homemade cocoa (recipe below) to a cup of Murchie’s CBC blend tea, but that was as I was pouring the drink. I left the house with my morning routine in tatters and went to a business showcase in the next town.

It’s Saturday. I remember it being housecleaning day as a child. It was watch cartoons and eat whole wheat Shredded Wheat rather than eggs and toast. (yup, on Saturdays, all hell broke loose at breakfast!) Saturday should be about something more relaxed than the rest of the week, but, seeing as I’m trying to corral my distractions, stay focused and keep the end in mind, I’ve been disciplining myself quite rigourously. And I need to stop some of that.  You CAN go overboard.

Routine? Discipline? Limits? and Creativity? They go together?

Creatives claim that limits and structure and discipline limit their capacity for creativity. They say that they need total freedom to contact whatever it is we contact that fuels the creative fire. Creatives claim that setting a schedule is impossible and, worse, useless.

This is hogwash of the highest order. Or disorder.

The reality is that the most successfully, consistently, productively creatives have a routine, some kind of regimen.

My morning routine and other “systematic” actions give me intense freedom within set limits.

When I follow the routine I’ve set, when I sit down and follow a task list, when I plan out my time, I eliminate a lot of possibilities, usually the ones that are distracting and take my eyes way off the goal. It sets the ground so that the niggly little things run under the radar, and the more important things have their time and space in my head and life.

But sometimes, you have to break the routines. They can become too restrictive. It’s not good when I get up and feel completely BOUND by the limits I’ve set myself. Eventually, the rhythm of work can move from a dance groove to a dried mud rut.

Today, I broke the routine. Intentionally. That’s the critical piece.

When we set out, with good intentions, to develop a good habit, or untrain ourselves from a bad one, we often go about it mindlessly. We don’t mean to miss, but we do, just because we forgot. We follow the same path every day and it becomes not only subconscious, but unconscious and unthinking.

I guess what I’m trying to build into my practice is the quality of conscious choice, of mindfulness, of clear awareness of how and where I move, think, speak and act.

The challenge was, though, could I still complete the things that I’ve set out as daily actions (meditation, mantra, morning pages, reading, movement—qi, walking, stretching—a blog post) but in a different order, at a different time, in a different place, even? Would I forget something? Because usually, once I’ve ‘done’ the morning, I’m off to the next thing.

Our brains seek novelty. New colours, textures, shapes and sounds, new places, new people, new experiences—these all stimulate our brains in a good way. I regularly go into new shops and just look around. I spy on the new colours, the shapes… and then walk out. (yup, I do! ) It wakes me up and sets up new neural connections. I’m good with that.

In the interest of novelty and poking at my brain,  I took my mala with me and did the mantra as I was driving. I asked questions or engaged every vendor (connect with new people and friends, ask people’s names, create new connections). I walked along the old railway line for the first time, then discovered the snowmobile trail that runs parallel. (new colours, sounds, smells). Went into the town’s grocery store (almost never go there).

Drove home. Shortened morning pages, a shortened reading time. Yes, not ideal, not what is most helpful, but today, it was enough.

And now… day 6 of the 30 day post a day challenge… done at a different time of day. Done and done.

Here’s that cocoa recipe… it’s pretty easy.

Mix cocoa powder ( I use Camino brand) with 1/2 tsp each of raw cane sugar and cinnamon. For variety, add 1/4 tsp ginger.

Pour in hot milk or milk substitute, just a little to start, to make a paste of the powders. Then stir well. Sit down with a good book or a lap cat and look out the window. Don’t do whatever was on your to-do list. Just for the next 15 minutes.