A Sleep Solution

If you only knew how much I love my digital watch, you’d laugh at me. It has five alarms, a stop watch, tells the time in 12 time zones, and has a countdown timer.

I have all five alarms set for something.

  • 9:55 p.m. – time to start my bedtime routine
  • 6:55 a.m. – time to get the kids up for school/weekend wake-up time
  • 7:40 a.m. – time to leave for work
  • 10:45 a.m. – time for mid morning snack/MCT oil
  • 5:15 a.m. – M-F wake-up time (this can vary based on the next thing)

But the thing I’m using the most is the countdown timer. When I boil eggs, I bring the water to a boil and as soon as the water boils, I cover the pot and boil the eggs for 9-minutes. When I put something in the washer, I set the timer for 28-minutes, because it will remind me the load is done. I set it for 20-minutes when I have clothes in the dryer.

What does any of this have to do with a good night’s sleep?

Here goes my latest, craziest “hack”. I used to set an alarm for the time I wanted to wake up but now instead, I set my countdown-timer for the amount of hours and minutes I want to sleep. The goal is always 7 hours. So if I go to bed at 11:00 p.m., I could set my alarm for 6 o’clock, right? Sure. If I didn’t have a countdown-timer. Duh. For the past three nights, at the moment I stop reading or decide it’s lights out and time for some R.E.M., I calculate how many hours I need and start the timer.

Brilliant, right?

Last night, I went to bed at 11:15 and was light’s out at 11:30 and determined that 6.75 hours of sleep would mean I wake at 6:15 a.m., giving me enough time for a short walk with the dog (it was zero-degrees out) which gets me back home in time for a 6:40 a.m. shower (I had subtracted out shaving time …I didn’t shave today).

So, right before bed I drank my orange juice with Green Vibrance and Macha powder (yuck), took 100 MG of Magnesium, and a half a banana, went to bed and because I was confident in the countdown-timer, the next thing I knew, my watch was signalling I’d successfully slept 6.75 hours.

Maybe it’s a mental thing, but there’s a different mindset when I lay my head down knowing I’ll sleep 6.75 hours rather than setting an alarm for an arbitrary time and hoping I get all the sleep I want.

Why does this work?

Your brain anticipates time and events in a linear way and think about when you know you have an appointment or date that starts at a specific time. As your “2 o’clock” approaches, it’s natural to keep checking the time. “Oh, it’s 12 o’clock. I have to leave at 1:45.” Later. Oh, it’s 1:05, I have 35-minutes until I have to leave.” Then, later, “oh, look at that, I have 5-minutes until I have to leave for my 2 o’clock.”

Your brain doesn’t stop thinking about the appointment. Now, I set alarms on my watch for 12:50 p.m., then 1:30 p.m., then 1:40 p.m. so I don’t have to keep checking and I’ll leave right on time at 1:45 p.m. Better still is countdown timers. If it’s 12 o’clock and I know I have to leave at 1:45, I can set my countdown-timer for 90-minutes so it alerts me at 1:30 p.m. Then I can quick set a 10-minute timer and when that alerts me, I’m out the door. And if I happen to check my watch, at any point, I can see exactly how long I have, versus doing some quick reverse math.

Does it make me sound crazy? When you’re anticipating a vacation, how do you track it? You tell yourself, “four more days,” and then, “two more days.” You don’t look at the date on the calendar and say, hey, it’s the 20th of December and I leave on the 23rd of December . . . no. You just know there are three days until you leave. Or 1 week until your birthday. Or 3 weeks until Star War Rogue One is out in theaters.

This “countdown” instead of “setting an alarm” at bedtime can trick your psyche and you can approach the amount of hours and minutes you want to sleep like you’re looking forward to something.

It works. It changes your mindset before you sleep and when you wake up in the middle of the night.

Try it, won’t you?



It’s Never a Bad Morning with Wisdom from Tim Ferriss

I’m calling the next 6-months the “Don Improvement Project.”

I’m gonna try the “get better by 1% each day” approach, and today started with actually  getting out of bed when I wake up, versus laying their and doing nothing. If I can’t go back to sleep and get back into R.E.M. sleep, I might as well get up. And so I did. Then I took a 15-minute walk, and then I swung a kettle-bell around for 15-minutes. I emptied the dishwasher. I enjoyed a cuppa coffee. I relaxed while shaving and showering.

It was good. And then I listened to Tim Ferriss dole out some bits of wisdom during my 25-minute commute and am better for it.

Tim Ferriss never disappoints and I’m devouring his new book, Tools of Titans, because it’s an enhancement of the years of his Podcasts I’ve enjoyed. I’m going to use it as a personal improvement manual …because that’s how he wrote it. To be used like a users-guide to me (you).

Here’s a little sample of Tim talking about his book and answering some fan questions. Enjoy.



Small Improvements

I’m pretty certain earlier in the year I told myself, “Don …you’re going to do one thing every day to make yourself better.”

And then . . . I didn’t.

Today I got an email from Intelligent Change linking me to this article and I decided, hey, start today. Start now.

So often we convince ourselves that change is only meaningful if there is some large, visible outcome associated with it. Whether it is losing weight, building a business, traveling the world or any other goal, we often put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about.

I’m guilty of that. I need to think of it like this . . .

Improving by just 1 percent isn’t notable (and sometimes it isn’t even noticeable). But it can be just as meaningful, especially in the long run.

One extra half-hour of quality sleep. Followed by 20 minutes of swinging a kettle bell. Followed by writing for 15 minutes. Small. But daily, I can beat depression and anxiety while focusing better at work and, generally, being happier (because of quality sleep). I can lose 10 pounds (because of a kettle bell routine). I can write a novel (because of 15 minutes of daily writing).

I hate to admit this in such a public forum, but looking at my last 4 or 5 months, I’m on the wrong trajectory if I’m following the chart

Read this. I read it while eating at my desk and the sun is shining and happy Christmas music is playing on the overhead speakers and I decided to make a 1% improvement immediately. Hence. A 15-minute blog entry. Yay, me!

Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.
—Jim Rohn

A Shave at a Barber Shop Changed My Life

I grew a beard for No-Shave November. 31199767612_04158c1b23_bMe and my friends at work raised some money. I learned, at age 43, my beard grows and looks more like a beard than my last attempt in my late 20s.

I also learned I hate having a beard. At no point was I ever not aware of hair on my face. I felt like I had always just-walked-through a cob web. It was . . . just . . . . there. I don’t know how bearded men do it.

I couldn’t wait for December and to shave it. Having never been a hairy guy, I’d never gotten a shave at a barber shop. Plus, long gone are the days where a shave and a haircut cost two bits. Nowadays, looking at the chalkboard of prices at my local barber shop, a shave is $36. A shave at a barber shop has become the equivalent of a facial or pedicure …something you do for a special occasion.

My barber shop is The Barber Pole in Birmingham and this past Saturday I treated myself to a shave and a haircut and as the title of this post proclaims – it was life changing. I expected them to lather on some hot shave cream, break out the straight razor, and shave me. But ooooooooh no. It’s much more than that. It’s a hot towel. It’s hot shaving cream for starters, then that’s wiped away. Then another hot towel, followed by this pine and woodsy scented oil massaged into my face and another hot towel. Then more hot shave cream and then the straight razor and the most careful, accurate, and exact shaving I’ve ever seen. It made me realize my daily shaving routine is a violent attack on my face. It’s no wonder I always have irritated skin and acne breakouts. I assault myself almost daily.

The shave is followed by more hot towels. Then some cold cream, a cold towel, and finally after shave balm.

This was a man’s facial. I felt like a new man. I might make this an annual tradition. One thing I know for sure …I’m going to treat my face better.

Every man should do this at least once in his life.

Life. Changing.

Updates to my Christmas Wish List

vent-holderIsn’t it funny how we all feel so much pressure to have an amazing Christmas wish-list, so we hurry to write everything down and then we totally forget some totally obvious things.

Hilarious, right?

Added five things to my list (and took off the TV …I bought one on Black Friday)

Much more to follow.

Best Advent Ever 2016

best_lent_ever_white_logoAnd here we are again. Another reason to make crazy promises to myself about self-improvement and becoming a better friend, father, husband, employee, and, overall, a better person. It happens every Lent, every January 1st, and now I’ve added in Advent thanks to Matthew Kelly’s Best Lent Ever invention.

Why not? If we chose yesterday, the first Sunday of Advent, to work on a few things to make ourselves better, what’s the harm? If one of those new habits stick, or you and I can break some old, bad habits, who gets hurt? The answer . . . nobody.

I carry around this bag of guilt because you’d think, after forty-three years and all these New Year Resolutions, and Lents, and Advents, and birthdays, and all these momentous occasions when you and I were going to “turn over a new leaf” and make “today the first day of the rest of my life”, well . . . you think we’d have it all figured out.

Not many people ever do, I guess. Maybe that’s the journey. Daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and seasonal opportunities to fix something or change something. This past weekend, I posted my Christmas wish list, but today I’m going to post my Advent Wish-List. If I can cross-off the majority of the things on both lists, it’s going to be a great Advent and Christmas.

  • Pray daily with all three of my children (I’ve gotten away from it with my oldest)
  • Be there for my Aunt Denise more than I have been and make her more a part of my family
  • Actually wake-up and take care of me at 5:00 a.m.
  • DO NOT EAT in the evenings
  • Exercise (at a minimum, walk the dog) in the mornings
  • Avoid dumb sugar
  • Maximize the hours of 8:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily for work (and nothing but work)
  • Build a routine to help make December better and get 2017 off to a good start

And just like my Christmas Wish-List, my Advent Wish-List is a work in progress . . . as am I.