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It’s been a few months since I completed my 200-day streak of meditation, so it’s time to put down in words how the practice of meditation changed me and how it didn’t. Importantly, I didn’t want to do this during the “high” of my 200-day streak, and instead sought to wait to see how meditating actually “settled” into my real life.
I have waited.
Here is what I learned:
You Do You: To Start Meditating, First Make Meditation Work for You
As an anxious person with a passion for optimizing health and wellness, you would’ve thought I would’ve been meditating successfully before 2018. You would think wrong. Even after reading an untold numbers of books on the topic (special shoutouts to 10% Happier by Dan Harris, which I freakin’ LOVED, and also Learning to Breathe by Priscila Warner), I never really got into the habit for one simple reason: the meditation methods I read about weren’t tailored to me and my life.
If you follow my work or have read one of my books on purposeful productivity, you know that I care an awful lot about making life work for you, which is the whole idea behind my Work by Design movement. (Thesis: The only productivity system that will finally work for you is the one built for real people with real lives. Join my free Work by Design summit and learn from 50+ experts here.)
There were two clear ways that I made meditation work for me that changed the game.
- Meditating without a guide didn’t work for me. Trying to meditate a hundred times without a guide was too hard for my wily old brain. I didn’t do it well, I got too distracted, and I gave up. The end. When I had a guide — through a guided meditation — now that’s when I could make some traction!
- Meditating sitting up sucked most of the time. You know what didn’t suck? Lying down. I started lying down. The end.
- Getting a simple app to provide me with a guided meditation and track my progress was the holy grail. This took some trial and error. Initially I listened to YouTube guided meditations and tracked my meditations in a notebook. Fail. Then I tried a few apps. The one I love is the Calm app, with the soothing voice of Tamara Levitt, who I would like to narrate all my inner thoughts.
The point is, when I finally decided to trash the ultimate goal (45 minutes sitting on a pillow listening to the sound of my own breath) and went for the realistic: 15 minutes lying down listening to Tamara, it clicked. And it clicked so much that I was often able to do it twice a day (or three times, on occasion.)
So yeah, you do you.
Meditating is Awesome! Duh?
I mean basically, meditating is awesome. If some days i life are not more than a series of thwarted attempts to get off Instagram and do something meaningful and/or productive, then meditation is the perfect antidote. In 10-15 minutes a day you can lie down (don’t let them convince you that sitting is necessary!), listen to the soothing voice of someone like Tamara Levitt over on the Calm App (don’t let them tell you guided meditations don’t count!), and come away feeling lighter, brighter, or at the very least definitely not worse.
Meditating is Awesome but is it Just that I Feel Proud of Myself for Meditating?
When someone asked me recently if the practice changed me for the better, and then pushed further to ask me WHY it changed me positively, here’s what I thought:
In one of Gretchen Rubin’s books, she talks about her attempt to meditate and how she ultimately didn’t find enough value out of it to continue. (Interestingly, in a similar vein, she also shares that acupuncture was the same; she didn’t find enough value and decided she would rather spend her money on massage therapy.) I really liked this frankness and the You Do You + Take the Bull By the Horns approach, and I had this story in the back of my head during my entire 200-day experiment. Was it really worth the time and energy? Was it really benefiting me? Or did I just think it was?
Ultimately, I don’t know. But I guess it doesn’t matter right? I mean do I care if it helped me solely because I felt good that I was doing something positive versus if it actually helped me? (I feel confused even rereading that sentence.)
The End Game, or Now What?
Did I stop meditating after my streak was done? No, but it’s different now. I still meditate, but I don’t meditate once or twice every single day like I did during my 200-day streak. These days I try to do it 5 times a week. I still track it, and I still enjoy it, and I still enjoy that I enjoy it. But I do find that for whatever reason I need the threat of breaking a streak to ensure that it happens every day, without fail. And for the most part, I think that’s okay. I definitely don’t wait it to disappear from my life, and so perhaps that will mean starting another challenge at some point to retrain myself to make sure it happens daily, without fail. For now, though, I’m happy being a (slightly) calmer, cooler, more collected me.
So, have you tried meditating?