In 2017, I was a very unhappy person. Happy was not a word I would have used to describe anything about me. It’s like the word was erased from my internal lexicon. I was drowning in concepts like tired, stressed, upset, sleepless, disgruntled, and…unhappy. My business at the time, an IT service company, was rapidly sinking and dragging me under with it—emotionally and physically. My life was a chaotic mess that continued to spiral downward because of all the stress I was under. This, in turn, brought about sleepless nights, which only led to more stress and disorganization.
My life could have been summed up in one phrase: I just can’t right now.
As you can imagine, I had been tired of this state of affairs for a long time by the time I actually did anything about it. That’s the thing about human nature; something has to suck for a long time and be painful enough that one day you decide on a soul-deep level that you’re done with whatever it is. Only at that point does the internal ability to get out of whatever situation it is begin to exist. Fueled by the energy of being fed up and an almost mystical pact with yourself, you then begin the journey to a better place.
The biggest problem for many of us is we are too tired at that point to pull ourselves up one more time to start the journey.
Here’s what came next for me.
A colleague of mine urged me to get out of town and out of my business/life for at least a long weekend, or longer if possible. So I did. And after a long weekend of decompressing, a whole heck of a lot of walking, and a healthy dose of soul searching, I finally came to the decision to get out of my business. I’ll spare you the details of how. That story is long, complicated, and not particularly relevant to the point of this story.
The fact of the matter is that I somehow dredged up the energy to start getting my life back together. I got out of my business, found a job, and started to work my way back from the brink.
I credit a number of elements with helping me get to a state of happiness with my life again. Getting organized (and staying organized) is a big part of that. You see, the primal human brain thrives on routine and predictability (especially when it comes to things like sleep: Lancet Study | Also see my post on my own journey with sleep here). In essence, the more you can make important things like eating and sleeping, not to mention anything else, into a routine, the better off you will be in a variety of ways. The big thing about routines and habits is that your mind doesn’t have to engage at as high a level as it does when something unexpected happens or when you are improvising. That’s not to say that spontaneity is bad, per se. However, you may want to set some limits on how spontaneous you are on a regular basis (everyone is different).
Bear in mind I wasn’t aware of the science behind routine in 2017, I just wanted to sleep.
What I did next was the most logical thing to me at the time, and boy did I underestimate how impactful it would be for me.
As I started trying to find the best way to get more sleep and decrease my overall stress levels, I came upon the Self Journal. As I experimented with personal planning for the first time, I never would have guessed how impactful it would be.
(Shameless product review time.)
As part of the product description says:
“Being busy is NOT the same as being productive.
“Overwhelm, decision fatigue, and lack of time will keep you stuck in the weeds and spinning your wheels—unless you push back.”
As someone who was feeling subject to all of the above, this resonated with me. So I picked a Self Journal up and started in. One of the key things the journal did was help me find a focus, which I quickly realized was something I had lacked the previous five years. I now had a goal! Something to consider as a guiding star to use to direct my decisions and actions. Granted, the first goal I set for myself wasn’t something that sounded all that glamorous. I just wanted to not feel like I’d been dragged behind a horse for ten miles every morning when I woke up.
Unfortunately I don’t have that original journal anymore, so I can’t provide pictures of what I had written down, but it went something like this: “I want to feel healthy and whole.” Of course, then I had to quantify it into something that could be measured. I settled on being able to sleep more than three hours a night. That then broke down into smaller objectives that I could track in the journal on a weekly and daily basis. Simple things like “going to bed at the same time every night” and following the meal schedule a nutritionist friend of mine had recommended.
I checked off those boxes day by day, week after week, and soon found myself at the end of the 13 weeks the Self Journal covers. And I gotta say, it was a huge difference just doing two small things every day (well, maybe not every day, but most days). Through a couple relatively minor adjustments, I was feeling human again and able to get a good night’s sleep! Yeah, I was subject to the emotional ebb and flow that comes from working an office job, but I finally felt like I had some control over my life again.
Don’t get me wrong, the Self Journal isn’t going to solve all your problems for you—far from it. But it does provide a proven system to assist and guide you toward big improvements. With the right routines, habits, or systems in place, everyone can be successful. I wholeheartedly believe that. The caveat is that you need to start with one tiny thing and stay with it until you don’t have to think about it anymore. Like John Maxwell once said:
“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.”