Taking time for personal and/or professional development is a lost art and one of the last priorities for most people.
One of my favorite quotes is by an author, Dale Partridge who was quoting his friend and said, “If you’re not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you’re determined to learn, no one can stop you.”
This means investing in yourself to get better.
It requires the following from you:
- Your Time – you need to carve out a period of time to invest in you and you alone
- Your Focus – you need to be in the learning zone (aka locked in / dialed in / no distractions)
- Your Commitment – you need to be consistent
Most are simply not willing to make those requirements a habit but it’s possible whether you’re on the road or at home.
The formula for the Develop Energy Habit is: Invest in You. There are three parts to the formula with a natural and necessary flow.
How the “Invest in You” Formula Can Change Your Life
The 1st part is to Sharpen the Mind.
Key Phrase: “Think Putting Good Content In”
Too many of us “put content in” but the keyword in the phrase is “good” which means content that helps you develop personally and/or professionally.
The normal content is email, text, news, social media feeds, etc.
In this energy habit, that content doesn’t count. We want good content that helps you develop personally and/or professionally.
So, let’s break down the 1st part of the Invest in You Formula of Sharpen the Mind.
There are three keys to Sharpen the Mind:
Find the What
What content do you want to consume that will help you grow as a person that sharpens your mind?
- Find something you enjoy – this is something you look forward to reading
- Find something you want to learn – this is something you could implement right away
This is next level, road kiddos. It could be for your job/career or to develop a new skill. The topics are endless, and this is where most business professionals wonder why they’re still stuck in their job. Remember, most people only read what is required of them instead of reading to get ahead.
Find the Where
Where do you find book ideas?
- On this blog, I mention many book titles, including my own, Elite Road Warrior
- Amazon – just do a search. There are so many books available
- Audible – maybe you like to listen to books. This is a great option to receive the content while you’re driving, or busy doing dishes.
- Barnes & Noble – Once stores start opening up, this is a great option. When you have downtime and can search the shelves for a title that is something you enjoy or has something you can learn.
Find the When
Having the place doesn’t help, if there’s no time to read. Having a quiet place where I won’t be interrupted, where I can sharpen my mind without distractions is key.
I implement reading into my time blocks – first thing in the morning, I make reading part of my morning routine. I read my Bible and my current motivational book.
Right after dinner can be another good time whereas a family we have individual time where I can do some great reading.
The 2nd part of the “Invest in You” Formula is to Process the Thoughts.
Key Phrase: “Think Getting the Content Out”
Here’s a paradox for you: the faster and busier things get, the more we need to build thinking time into our schedule. The noisier things get, the more we need to build quiet reflection spaces into our day, where we can truly focus.
No matter how busy you think you are, you can carve time and space to think. Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, schedules up to two hours of blank space on his calendar every day. He divides them into thirty-minute increments where he schedules nothing. It is a simple practice he developed when back-to-back meetings left him with little time to process what was going on around him.
At first, it felt like an indulgence and a waste of time. But eventually, he found it to be his single-most valuable productivity tool. He sees it as the primary way he can ensure he is in charge of his day, instead of being at the mercy of it.
Creating Think Space is a new concept for most people so let me define the concept:
Think Space is a dedicated time to develop and process key ideas.
Another way of looking at Think Space is as an “idea formulator.”
There are many ways to maximize Think Space:
- PREPARE for Think Space
This sounds obvious but getting into the “thinking zone” has some prerequisites.
I’ve wasted more time during my Think Space because I was simply unprepared in two key areas:
- Concepts to think through – I now have the time and couldn’t think of what I wanted to spend this time on, and I need a dedicated period of time to process.
- Means of recording it – If and when an idea would come, I had nowhere to record it and had to leave it to my memory. Guess where THAT idea ended up!
These are solvable issues when you prepare in advance. When I know I’m going somewhere that I’m going to have to wait, I always plan ahead and bring a journal and/or clipboard, blank paper, and a few fine-tipped colored pens. (So… I’m a creative type who likes old school pen and paper but specifically different colors and blank white paper). I then label my Think Space topic at the top of the page.
- Create the Right Environment for Think Space
You know what distracts you, so do what you need to do to make the most of this time. This is absolutely key. You want to keep your mind in the thinking zone, so definitely remove email, text, and phone alerts.
You also know when the environment is advantageous for thinking. Do you need quiet? Music? Headphones to either knock out the sound or for a certain type of music?
What to Think About During Think Space
So, you’re all prepared and it’s actually go-time to process. If you don’t have a clue already on how you could spend the time, here are some ideas:
- Preparation – What do you need to develop or review for any upcoming meetings/presentations, etc.?
- Follow-up – Who do you need to follow-up with as a result of your business travel?
- Deliverables – What did you promise that you need to take action on to be a person of your word?
- Goals – What do you want to accomplish in the next 90 days? What are your yearly goals? Do you want to write a book? Run a 10K?
- Big Decisions – Do you move? Do you take the job offer? Should you change careers?
- Your Future (looking forward) – What changes do you want to make in your life?
- Evaluation (looking backward) – Did you accomplish your goals? How did your presentation go? Workouts?
Think about what to think about. As odd as that sounds, use Think Space as a roadmap to formulate the thoughts you want to develop. You will be surprised at the results if you take the time. Then, write your ideas down to think about for a future Think Space session.
Find a centralized place to keep your notes from your Think Space session.
There is nothing worse than finally having a great idea but losing it. You may have even written it down, but now you cannot find it. Talk about maddening! Learn to keep all your Think Space results in a centralized location for easy access.
The 3rd and last part of the Invest in You Formula is to Monitor the Heart.
Key Phrase: “Think Checking In on You”
As road warriors, we know the check-in process and often it’s a huge sign of relief to finally show up at the hotel after travel or a long day on the road, and we’re relieved when we finally get to check-in.
Same idea, but to Monitor the Heart means taking time to check in with what’s going on inside of you.
Guys struggle with heart stuff – we think it’s too “touchy-feely” and the women have us beat hands down in this area but also scare us off so we don’t even touch it.
But gents, that has to change. Let me help a brother out on this one.
How Do You Monitor The Heart?
We need to learn to check the vitals consistently. Here are some vital checks you need to do:
- Pulse Check
Learn to ask: “How am I REALLY doing?”
We ask people all the time, “How are you doing?” We don’t really care or even want them to answer beyond fine or great. My father used to have a drop-dead line when someone asked that question. Here’s how it went:
Acquaintance: “How are you doing?”
My father: “Depends”
Acquaintance: (Confused and stops in their tracks.) “Depends on what?”
My father: “How much time you have. If you only have a second, I’m fine. If you have a minute or two, I’ll actually tell you how I’m doing.”
That interaction was always awkward to me as a kid, but wow, do I understand it now. On the road, we would change the word “fine” to “busy” to compete with each other on who is busier (aka who’s more important!).
A pulse check asks YOU “How are you REALLY doing?” A pulse check is quick but important.
Try answering this question daily. It may take a while to get how you’re REALLY doing out in the open, but that’s the goal.
2. Gratitude Check
Learn to ask: “Who or what am I grateful for right now?”
We all want to be grateful people, but are we? How often do we acknowledge our gratitude? This is a discipline that can change how you view your life once you put it into consistent practice.
I began this practice years ago with a gratitude journal that caused me to reflect and ask this gratitude question: Who or what am I grateful for right now? I have to admit, it was harder than I thought. It’s easy to be quick, shallow, and answer with one-word responses, like my teenage sons. I’m asking you to think of only one per day to start.
Two Key Details:
- Write It Down – There is power in writing words down; it also allows you to go back later and read what you’ve written.
- Be Specific – Once you list the who or what, write down why you’re grateful.
3. Soul Check
Learn to ask: “What do I need to get out that I’m keeping in?
There are issues, feelings, frustrations, anger, hurts, disappointments, and on and on that we continue to swallow and never let see the light of day. Some of them are literally killing us. The stress they’re putting on our hearts is like the fluid crushing my mother’s physical heart. Both are doing damage, just in a different way. The heart is where you find yourself.
Have you ever been around a person who doesn’t have a filter and just starts dumping poison? I find this guy all too often on the road. This dude has some serious heart issues.
I’ve found that morning journaling has been the best source for me to monitor the heart process. I ask a series of questions daily to monitor my own heart.
I want to be around people who have a heart that is sensitive to those around them. I’m drawn to them and compelled to become more like them in this way. They raise the bar and are not dependent upon others to make decisions for them. I’m around enough Donny and Debbie Downers on the road who’ve lived for years on Denial Street.
The best and most helpful action is to talk to someone about what’s going on at a soul level in your heart. Most of us need to figure out what’s going on in there first, and you can do that by learning to ask, “What do I need to get out that I’m keeping in?” then bring it to a trusted friend or counselor.
Let me start you off by asking how your heart is toward your…
- Spouse/significant other
- WORK – boss/co-workers/clients/your role
- What you care about in life/what matters to you (causes/faith)
1. Do the pulse check. Ask and answer, “How am I really doing?”
2. Do the gratitude check. Ask and answer, “Who or what am I grateful for right now?”
3. Do the soul check. Ask and answer, “What do I need to get out that I’m keeping in?”
The Elite Road Warrior Journal is a beautiful black, artisan branded journal that has two sections: one for Think Space and one for Road Life to monitor the heart. You should try it out yourself!
Your action items this week may be:
- Finding something to read to develop you personally or professionally
- Taking time for Think Space
- Purchasing the Elite Road Warrior Journal at our online store
- Journaling key questions each day to truly check in with yourself
The energy habit of DEVELOP takes time and commitment but separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls.
And there’s no better time than now to begin personal and professional development being at home to prepare you for the road.
Get your read and think time on man!