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Things to do when you wake up and before you go to bed so you don’t freak out about life every day

This article is here for you. Because when you wake up in the morning you are a raging disaster of indecision and self-doubt. I feel you. I am too. But because of the right combination of psychosis and observation I have learned how to trick myself into being productive. Not just somewhat productive but I’m a scary freak productive.

As a result of my many different ‘careers’ and the way my brain processes information I’ve become a sort of expert on managing my time in accordance with my energy levels.

My credentials are this – I am extremely ambitious but ultimately a depressed, fat kid inside that wants the whole world but without having to actually do anything.

Because my legs work and your legs presumably work it’s important to note that there are very few physical obstacles in the way of getting the things we want.

People might talk about their lack or resources but that is silly as well because resources are everywhere, they are just a couple inches behind all the excuses we’ve been grabbing our whole lives.

But the one thing that is trickier than all is our mind. The most corruptible, back-stabbing pile of grey slop on the market. If you’re anything like me, and I am assuming you are, you are your own worst enemy, by the longest shot.

So life has been difficult, even though there are no apparent reasons for it to have been. But all the struggle and all the analysis has led me to understand my motivations and my energy cycles in such a fine and specific manner that I can and do and have outworked every single person I’ve ever met in half the time. I get things done at a rate so impressive you would undoubtedly hate me if you yourself weren’t struggling with your own motivations.

Of course here comes the line where I tell you the good news – I’ve simplified my mastery in 7 easy steps and now you will be a master too after reading this post…

I do hate this business. The business of making promises.

Anyone worth a shit will tell you that it just takes time. Pick something and do it for A WHILE until you have learned A LOT and then make an adjustment and do something else. Only when we are moving forward and getting momentum behind us will a single other person in the world give a shit what we are up to. But once you are up to a lot and you are motivated and people see you as the type that gets things done then you become quite literally the most captivating and desirable human they’ve ever laid eyes on.

So, if you want to do actual work and learn actual things instead of halfheartedly listening to a dozen podcasts a day while you brainstorm your next big dream then I do believe the following bits of information will be helpful because I can tell you that life is so much better on this side of the fence.

 

WHAT TO DO BEFORE BED, EVERY NIGHT

 

  •       THE ROLLING 9

 

Every night before bed I make a list of things I need to do the next day. This has evolved from the very elaborate “Intuitive Schedule” I created for clients in my online course, Organizing Inspiration, which mapped out entire weeks at a time from morning til night.

The Rolling 9 is a list that may NEVER exceed 9 items I need to complete the next day to move closer to the things I want to accomplish. This list includes to-do’s from professional, personal, social, health, and creative categories.

It might look like this:

  1. Stretch 20 minutes with music
  2. Write 500 words
  3. Boxing class
  4. Edit video curriculum (2-3 hours)
  5. Email accountant
  6. Call United
  7. FaceTime nephew
  8. Family dinner (adopted family)
  9. Write client proposal

And that’s it. I will never, ever exceed 9 things. It is the perfect number of things to do to make progress but not overwhelm.

And maybe you’re thinking there’s no way I could get everything done with just 9 things a day.

You’re completely and utterly wrong.

The people that do a little bit every day always outwork those who operate in infrequent and manic bursts. I do this 5-6 days out of the week, taking 1 or 2 days off completely.

The main reason why it’s important – I never have to wake up paralyzed thinking there is too much to do and not knowing where to start. I just wake up, open my 3×5 Moleskin journal that I use specifically for my Rolling 9 and get started. When I’m done, I make a check mark. And when I’m done with the whole list, I smile. Sometimes it only takes me 2 hours to do all of my work for the day. And then I’m done. And I go play basketball or take pictures. And I don’t feel guilty about not ‘working’ 8 hours because I do more in 2 because I’m motivated.

 

  •       TRANSITION SPACE BEFORE GOING TO BED

 

Since I was a baby I’ve never been able to sleep. I used to pretend to fall asleep while my Grandma was babysitting so she would fall asleep herself. Then I’d slip out of her arms and destroy my entire house. Getting in bed and having to sleep makes me panic.

If I don’t take some time to let all the anxiety work itself out, I lie there for hours.

There’s a transition that needs to happen from life to sleep. Just taking off your clothes and crossing the line into the sheets brings with you too much unnecessary and incongruent energy.

I’ve set up a space between my living room and my bed that is my “transition space.” It has a yoga mat, bolsters, blocks, foam roller, incredible sound system, and a candle. Before bed, I make a stop here. Can be as short as one minute or as long as forty-five.

I used to have a rigid meditation practice – 25 minutes a day, every day for one full year. But I’ve found that lying on my back, with a rolled blanket under my neck and a bolster under my knees is the closest thing to comfortable and safe that I can get to. I’ll stretch (restoratively) for a few minutes while I listen to piano symphonies or something soft and burn a candle. I might put a few drops of lavender on my feet and make my way into a shoulder stand, then restorative bridge, and then just lying there.

I get so tired.

If none of that is working, or you get horrible anxiety like I do, then lay on your side in a fetus position and imagine you are a child. If it sounds weird, try it anyway.

 

  •       CONTROL THE NARRATIVE

 

Once you’re finally in bed, the last obstacle to peace of mind is analysis. Wandering thoughts bury us, exhaust us, and prevent us from getting good sleep. As a serious over-thinker I know the pain of needing sleep, and knowing I need sleep, and knowing that I know that I need sleep, and knowing the exact amount of minutes I need to sleep to meet the specific tasks ahead of me tomorrow, and then not being able to relax enough to sleep at all. It makes me feel psychotic but I know it’s actually quite common.

The thing I’ve found that works the best, as a result of many discussions with a woman that is both a therapist and an intuitive, is what we call “controlling the narrative.” It’s a proactive vs reactive strategy for lying in bed. The wandering thoughts create anxiety because they come at us from so many directions and scatter our emotions in a way that makes it difficult to feel calm. But when we decide to tell the stories ourselves, it’s a whole different experience.

Take a few of the things you want in life, for example, maybe it’s love, travel, freedom, or something much more specific. Imagine that instead of desires those are real things and a real part of your life. Then picture what that looks like. Walk yourself through a situation in which things look exactly how you want them to. Don’t think of it as this big visualization/manifestation thing, just think of it as a film you are making in your head. Concentrate on the details and, more importantly, the feelings you get when you live in this world.

I often get lost in these narratives and feel like I’m living a second life. And then it’s morning.

 

WHAT TO DO IN THE MORNINGS, EVERY MORNING

 

  •       THE FIRST 5

 

When we wake up it takes a few seconds to realize we are back in our bodies, back on Earth, and tasked with many horrible and unimaginative things. But we can prolong that sense of freedom and soulfulness if we take care in deciding the first few things we do each morning.

The First 5 things you do in the morning are to benefit your heart and soul. Everything else after that is a jelly donut. What I have found, even working for myself, that the second I open up correspondence with the outside world – whether it be checking email, opening social media, going on my phone, etc. – I lose complete and full control of my own day. My mind moves through other people’s narratives and agendas and causes me to jump ship on myself.

But if I control The First 5, if I choose things that benefit the creative and free version of myself then I can move through the rest of the day with a sense of confidence that I haven’t reached any other way.

Maybe you’ve experienced a time when you did something that was emotional or inspirational for yourself. And then you carried that sense of ease into your next “normal” activity or conversation and all the words and all the thoughts came to you so smoothly, like you were a different person. A better, more confident version of yourself. And you’ve sense wondered how to get back there. It’s through The First 5.

Por exemple:

  1. Stretch 20 minutes
  2. Make tea
  3. Write 500 words
  4. Go for a walk/Take deep breaths
  5. Draw 20 minutes

And I have successfully coated myself with a shield that protects me from all of the world’s meaningless shit that depresses me on a daily basis.

I try to give myself 1-2 hours each morning like this before I interact with anyone. On the days that I don’t take the time to do this, I pay.

Whatever you pick, make sure it addresses the things you are curious about in life, the things that are meaningful to you. Depending on how busy you are, The First 5 could be 1 item on your Rolling 9 or it could be 5.

 

  •        STAY THE FUCK OFF YOUR CELLPHONE

 

This casual reminder piggy-backs of The First 5. And it is not a joke. Not even the littlest joke. And you might think a little Insta in the morning never hurt anyone. Well you’re wrong. It makes you dumber and less original. It takes you away from yourself and makes you less useful to the world filled with people that are suffering.

The second you turn on that phone your entire morning belongs to someone else. We don’t even realize it but it puts us in a reactionary state from the first moments, meaning not a single thought or breath comes without significant influence. And if the purpose of this quest we’re on is to be comfortable, fulfilled, heartfelt, poetic, and even powerful then we outta start out the day tuning our own internal instrument instead of playing in someone else’s game.

Charge your phone in another room, FAR AWAY from your bed. And learn to forget about it in the mornings. Use music instead and be an interesting human. People will notice, I promise.

 

  •        SEND A MEANINGFUL NOTE TO SOMEONE

 

I’m not big on gratitude because I need my edge to keep from falling off the face of the Earth into a puddle of fat laziness. But I do appreciate the people and things in my life. It took me a while to have any solid friendships. When my closest 8 friends started hosting a monthly “family dinner’ I rolled my eyes. But after a few months and some good conversations these nights are the highlight of my life. And I notice that when I sit back and ask more questions or compliment people on things they said or did the night becomes more meaningful and rich than most human existence.

Before taking on anything too serious in the day, in any capacity – actual letter, email, text, fb message, whatsapp, snap, not Periscope – say something meaningful to one person. If you’re like me, it’ll be awkward as hell at first and maybe even your friends will give you a hard time because they are uncomfortable but give it a week or two and you will see the superficiality of your relationships dissolve into ones that you will grow old with. Here’s one last tip – make sure you fucking mean it.

The other night I shared a rather emotional blog that I wrote with my two adopted sisters and they took the time to read it and gave very thorough responses to it. They always go out of their way to support me in my work and, even though I brush it off sometimes, it means a lot to me.

So I said this, “Seriously thank you guys for always supporting me. It makes me feel good.”

Not Edgar Allen Poe or anything but I meant it, and it felt good. And they appreciated it too. And that matters.

 

LAST LITTLE NUGGET BEFORE WE GO

 

You’ll have your list and you’ll be ready to go and then when it comes time to execute you’ll start to hear little voices in your head that are not good voices. They will say you’re too tired or you need to be doing something else and they will actually help you rationalize not completing your tasks. This is no different than death. It’s just slower and slightly more invisible.

Only when we take an idea and do the work to turn it into a real thing can we feel truly proud of ourselves.

The voices just need to be silenced, or what I like to do is talk back. “Oh really? Fuck you, ya little bitch.” And then I do it. Maybe I’ll grind my teeth or stare at myself in the mirror with a twitching eyeball when I do it, but I do it whenever I hear them.

Also, pay attention to your natural level of energy at different points in the day. For example, I like to do some stretching and body weight exercises every day. However, I’ve noticed over time that if I wait until night time I am about 100% less likely to complete them. I become very physically tired and it’s too much to overcome in my head.

The solution???

Do the exercises earlier.

Seem too simple? Great, then it will probably work.

Pay attention to your voices and make adjustments and keep moving forward and accumulating feedback and trusting your instincts and none of this evil complacency can affect you anymore.

Best of luck.

Kirk Hensler is the creator of ‘Organizing Inspiration – How to bring your brilliant ideas to the world,’ a course for entrepreneurs and creatives to identify their brand, create a work process, and implement an intuitive working schedule. Check out his course HERE.

Organizing Inspiration Course Trailer: How to Bring Your Brilliant Ideas to the World from kale & cigarettes on Vimeo.
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    11 Comments

    1. Ian McMahon
      February 9, 2016

      Just wanted to say thanks. This article is great and full of interesting real life strategies, not to mention I laughed out loud at least three times which is rare for me. Lately I’ve been in the pattern of waking up and reaching for my phone and looking for inspiration and entertainment via social media. Youre so right, before you know it, you slip into a reactive fuzzy frame of mind. Not the best way to start the day. Thanks for that insight!

      Reply
      • kirk hensler
        February 9, 2016

        hey bud, thanks for taking the time to comment. honestly, this is the one i struggle with the most myself. it’s an easier grab but it comes with no fulfillment whatsoever. glad you laughed!

        Reply
    2. February 10, 2016

      Thank you so much for this article. I’ve been practicing ‘morning pages’ which is just basically a brain dump for 10-20 minutes and don’t check my phone for almost an hour after o get up and it has made a world of difference. Going to try your Rolling 9 and unwinding techniques. As a creative, I have a hard time going to bed sometimes, and turning it all off, and the transition time/mat idea sound wonderful. Thanks again!

      Reply
    3. Hannah
      February 11, 2016

      Thank you for the wonderful article. I plan on utilizing your methods to help control my anxiety before bed and start my day out on high note.

      Reply
    4. Gordon
      March 15, 2016

      Kirk love the article, you sure know how to write……….now off to come up with my rolling 9 for tomorrow. Easy on the Twiglets, all the love Gordona

      Reply
      • kirk hensler
        December 20, 2016

        Gordon!! is it really you ?!?! i just read this comment and put it together with the Twiglets. good show man. we miss you and Lena. hope to see you in feb/march!

        Reply
    5. January 26, 2017

      Kirk you are a fucking genius and your writing is epic (don’t let this comment get to your head). Been following your whole 30 genius (i’ve done 2, good for you), and this post really helped me get my shit together. If you want any of my whole 30 life hacks for round 2 happy to share with you, although you guys really do seem to be kicking ass.

      Thank you and you are very lucky to have such a kind beautiful partner in Alexis–your wedding video made me shed a few tears.

      -Natalie

      Reply
    6. January 27, 2017

      I discovered your blog through Melissa’s whole30 post and holy shit am I glad that happened! I’ve taken a little tour through some of your old posts and have followed along with your w30 review ever since. Your thoughtful writing really speaks to me. This weekend I’m going to get myself a notebook and start the rolling 9 and first 5. I’m a very introspective person and I can sense the value it will bring to my life already. Thanks so much for sharing.

      Reply
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