SPIRE part 2

The Specifics: Here’s exactly what I do on a daily basis. It has evolved over the last two years or so into this current incarnation. I encourage you to find something that works for you and would note that this is a baseline and not the final word.

Spiritual: mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation is one of the best-studied versions of meditation and has many benefits. Mostly it reduces stress and pain signals and helps you to use the parts of the brain that make us human–the prefrontal cortex.

Physical: HFT and foam rolling.

Match what you are doing, physically, with both where you are now and what your goals are. Be sensible. If you weigh 300lbs, start with a daily 20 minute walk. The most important workout is tomorrow’s workout, and you won’t do tomorrow’s workout if you destroy yourself today. Even daily walking has a ton of benefits. For me, I need the muscle maintenance of the HFT as well as working out the kinks mobility-wise.

Intellectual: 10 ideas

Some people have very logical, rational thinking in their daily work or jobs. These people would benefit from more creativity. Artists, musicians, and other people might benefit more from a logical SPIRE practice. Alternately, you could learn or hone a skill.

Resources: Morning Pages from “The Artist’s Way”

Relationships are your relationships with other people, resources are your internal resources and environment. If you are an extrovert, working on your relationships is natural, but developing internal resources may be difficult. The opposite is the case for an introvert. An ambivert (both intro- and extroverted) could alternate or do both. I think that working against your natural grain will bear fruit in this area.

Daily journaling has been studied by science, too.  Journaling is like a cheap version of therapy: it can help you manage stress, anxiety, and improve your mood. I learned about Morning Pages from Oliver Burkeman (who wrote the tremendous book The Antidote: happiness for people who can’t stand positive thinking) and Tim Ferriss.

Emotional: A simple gratitude practice.

I write down at least three things that I’m grateful for. I try to write new things every day, going beyond the usual things like “family”. I’ve written “sunshine” and “coffee” more than once though. Gratitude has been studied quite a bit and has tons of benefits.

Bonus: A focusing exercise from Mel Robbins.

Write down two things you will accomplish today that relate back to your main goal, then write down one reason why you will achieve those two things.

All in all, this morning routine takes less than 90 minutes to complete (although it would be faster if I did a briefer workout). I believe it’s adaptable to anyone in nearly any situation. It gives you a way to win the morning and hopefully win the day.


SPIRE part 1

Activity Breaks

In my last post, I talked about Deep Work, and the concept of having a structure that supports it. Part of this was the idea that you needed to block out hours or even days to make room for Deep Work in your schedule.

This sounds great, but runs into a pitfall: working deeply is exhausting and requires one to take breaks. How do you take breaks in the context of a larger, hours- (or days-) long focused work block?

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The Promise of Deep Work


The Note to Self Podcast produced an excellent program on Single Tasking that has turned out to be one of their most popular episodes. They contend that the crucial thing to relieve feelings of overwhelm is to select a single task, then work on it until it’s finished.

Gloria Mark, one of the researchers they interview in the show, says: it can take 23 minutes, 15 seconds to recover after an interruption. (Relevant part at about 7:40 of the podcast.) She even argues that after a series of interruptions, workers will begin to interrupt themselves, increasing stress and lowering productivity.

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100 Days YouTube series

Just finished watching a great YouTube series called 100 days.

The series follows two guys who are trying to “have a healthy midlife crisis” by eating healthier, meditating, and exercising. It’s somewhat artificial in that they have hired a support crew of psychologists, nutritionists, doctors, and maybe a dozen personal trainers to help them in the process, but this is part of making it a show instead of their life. They tried activities as common as  tennis, bowling, and golf, as well as more obscure activities like obstacle courses, rock climbing, roller derby, and even aerial circus training — filming the whole mess along with reflections on their progress, photos of their food, and frequent check-ins to see how some basic metrics are going (e.g. number of pushups in a minute, heart rate both before and distance from their toes in a forward fold).

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How I Clear My Mind

 In 1999 I found out about freewriting from a writing professor whose name I don’t remember anymore. I’m not sure it matters. The thing that mattered more was a book called “Writing Down the Bones” and it was this weird, Zen-ist manifesto on writing, where the important thing wasn’t what you said, it was moving your hand across the pages, for time. I learned a lot about myself somehow in that class, even though a lot of the writing I did I don’t remember at all. I was at some stupid community college and I thought I already knew everything after coming out of a private school. Like a lot of things that work, it got me past the rough spot I was in and then I stopped doing it.

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Dogs, Exercise, and You

Having dogs is tremendously beneficial to well-being. Having pets has been shown to reduce depression, increase happiness, and improve your stress response in a variety of different situations.  They increase oxytocin, lower blood pressure, and improve your blood lipid profile. Beyond all of these notable benefits, I want to focus on one thing here: owning dogs gives you the opportunity to exercise outside every day.

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The Five Second Rule

Here’s something I re-discovered recently: the Five Second Rule.

Picture this: it’s 2001. A younger Daniel is dialed into his university’s modem bank, looking for information on how to talk to women. One message stands out: you have about three seconds to either approach a woman or you’ll talk yourself out of it.  I then use that trick to reach out to women I’m interested in and start relationships with some of them. I fall in love, get heartbroken, fall in love again, and forget all about this three-second window.

Flash forward 16 years.

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