My Favorite Place in the House to Start My Day

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“Win the morning, win the day.” – Tim Ferriss

Most of you who read this blog have likely noticed how much of a believer I am in developing morning routines—habitually performed rituals that give us the momentum we need to make the most of the rest of our day. While a good morning routine doesn’t guarantee a successful day, it gives you a fighting chance. 

With that said, my morning routines have been fairly erratic throughout this pandemic. Don’t get me wrong—they’re productive, yes. But set? Far from it. I have, however, found an unlikely activity that I will likely keep in my morning repertoire. Well, maybe more of a place than an activity. 

Step 1. I get up from bed. I use the bathroom. Feed the cat. Drink a pint of water. 

Step 2. I walk into my living room…and collapse to the floor. 

Yep. The floor. I really enjoy laying, sitting, rolling around…on the cold hard floor. 

Why I Like the Sitting or Laying on Floor in the Morning #1: It’s relentlessly soothing (or “soothingly” relentless?) 

The floor is…well, hard. Unforgiving. But you can lay on it. This combination of solid yet accommodating makes my thin area-rug-covered hardwood floor one of my favorite places to stretch out upon first thing in the morning. 

Not yet caffeinated or exercised, I’m not ready to do many activities that demand mental acuity or physical agility. My natural state is to want to return to the warm embrace of my memory foam mattress. However, sprawling out on the hard floor begins to awaken my joints and muscles without really any conscious effort. And the first thing in the morning, I’m looking for maximum output with minimum input. 

Rocking around on the floor feels like someone rolling a rolling pin up and down the back of your body. While that sounds painful, and it kind of is, it can also feel oh so good.

Why I Like the Sitting or Laying on Floor in the Morning #2: It’s stretching for soft, lazy people. 

In order to change positions on the hard floor feels like a natural movement while utilizing muscles you forgot you have. 

We spend most of our days in office chairs, supportive seats in a car, on sofas, and finally—big hyper-cushioned beds for hours and hours. All of these apparatuses are aimed at providing comfort. They do this by limiting certain body movements and our need to support parts of our body. They also cushion our kiesters and limit potential instances of circulation cut-offs in certain parts of the body—especially in the legs and feet. 

Though these adversity buffers can feel quite nice following a day of arduous labor, few of us break a sweat outside of a gym these days—if then. When this is the case, what were once devices for relief have become sloth enablers. If you are what you sit on, we’ve become a soft, doughy people. 

Why I Like the Sitting or Laying on Floor in the Morning #3: If you’re able to be comfortable sitting or laying on the floor, you can find comfort virtually anywhere.

I’ll be the first to admit that sitting and laying on the floor when you’re not used to doing so straight up suuuucks. It’s rigid, uncomfortable, and reveals just how tender and weak you have become as a human. If you’ve ever been forced to sleep or sit on the floor, you can attest to feeling like you should expect to find bruising under your tuchus, back, shoulders, and legs. 

After a while, however, you get used to it. You begin to understand how cultures all over the world have come to sit comfortably on the floor well into their old age. After even longer, you find yourself alternating between your $900 couch and enjoying a cup of coffee or glass of wine while sitting on the floor—just depending on the day. 

The greatest part of this last point is that getting used to sitting on the floor opens up a world of comfortable seating options to you wherever you are. Are all of the seats at the airport terminal taken? Are there more friends over to watch the big game than there are spots on your friend’s couch. Boom—the floor is yours, pun definitely intended. 

Now, you’ll just have to convince the host of the party that, yes, you really are quite ok with sitting on the floor without seeming like a crazy person. 

Why I Like the Sitting or Laying on Floor in the Morning #4: Increasing your ability to get up off the floor may actually help you live longer…kind of.

The European Journal of Preventive Cardiology published a story about a team of Brazilian researchers who studied a group of men and women ages 51 to 80 years old for a number of years. One of their findings revealed an interesting discovery—those who required the use of both of their hands and knees to get up and down from the floor were nearly seven times more likely to die within six years than those who get up from the floor without additional support. 

Now, will spending time on the floor increase you ability to get up from it and thus extend your functional life? I don’t know. I do know that it will certainly give you more practice. 

Bonus: The Back Stretch I Do Every Morning on the Floor

I can’t say that this on-the-floor back stretch is the reason I don’t have any back pain, but I do it every morning and, yep, I don’t have any back pain. 

  • Lay on your back on the floor.
  • With your right arm reaching over your body and rolling onto your left shoulder, reach as far and high to the left as you can. 
  • Then change sides.
  • With your left arm reaching over your body and rolling onto your right shoulder, reach as far and high to the right as you can. 

Another bonus is a quote from my wife—who is also an advocate for spending more time on the floor. I told her that I was writing a piece on spending time on the floor in the mornings. I asked if she had any input. 

“Your day can only go up from there!”


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Living 25 Minutes at a Time

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A little news before we begin: For those of you who prefer to listen rather than read, I’ve started recording audio versions of my articles going forward and reaching back. Also, look for “TheKenLane.com” on your favorite podcast player to subscribe. Thanks! – Ken


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When was the last time you needed to keep your focus on a particular task for more than 30 minutes? 

Sounds agonizing, right? Even as you read this sentence, your mind is likely conjuring up what you could be doing at the same time or what you need to do later. Most of us can’t even enjoy a favorite television show or movie on the couch without also scrolling through social media, news, or emails from a mobile phone, tablet, or laptop. Multitasking, or rather the illusion of it, has trained our brains to constantly seek up-to-the-second stimulation.

But what if you were told you’d be free to multitask to your heart’s content in return for just 25 minutes of focus? Everyone’s got 25 minutes, right?

Why is 25 minutes such an effective length of time for focus?

My fascination with 25-minute spans of focus started with the Pomodoro Technique—a strategy for productivity that could be explained to a 2nd grader. It goes like this:

Focus on a performing single task with intense concentration for 25 minutes, then take a break for 5 minutes in which you can do whatever you want. After you’ve completed four 25-minute concentration sessions, you take a 15-minute break. 25 on, 5 off. 25 on, 5 off. 25 on, 5 off. 25 on, 15 off. Rinse and repeat.

But this piece isn’t about the Pomodoro Technique—I’ve already written about that. What I’m talking about now is the beauty, the simplicity, the elegance, the congeniality of 25 minutes.

We can stand almost anything for 25 minutes.

25 minutes is the maximum amount of time most can focus without approaching the red-line of brain sizzle or scroll-twitch. It’s also just enough time to feel like we’ve accomplished, well, anything. Though we can put dents in a task after 10 or even 5 minutes, 25 minutes is the amount of time that most begin to feel the momentum of our focus and actions. Even if we struggle to initiate an arduous task, after 25 minutes, the sediment in our once-murky waters of focus will begin to settle and we’ll gain immense clarity not possible after a mere 5 or 10 minutes.

Also, when 25 minutes is presented with the promise of 5 or more minutes of aimless reprieve, focus comes easier. Don’t worry—in 25 minutes, you can be back to watching cat videos and checking your social media feeds. Is any reward more appealing than guilt-free time-wasting?

Most things can be segmented into 25-minute blocks.

After a few weeks of using the Pomodoro Technique during my workday, I began to notice how so many of my other daily activities could be segmented into 25-minute blocks. In fact, for most tasks, 25 minutes became their optimum time for focus.

  • 25-minute journaling sessions
  • 25-minute meditations sittings
  • 25-minute workouts
  • 25-minute prayer times
  • 25-minute book-reading periods

Despite all of these being daily habits that I cherish, I’ll admit it — there are times when I don’t want to do them. Maybe I don’t want to sit still that long for meditation or work myself into a panting, sweaty mess with a jump rope. It’s days these that I tell myself, “You don’t have to enjoy this today. All you have to do is put in the 25 minutes. That’s it.” And it doesn’t even have to be the best 25 minutes as long as it’s 25 minutes.

And I remember after all— it’s just 25 minutes.


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How to Make Self-Improvement Suck Dramatically Less

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They don’t know you, but you know you.

One of the reasons why most lifestyle enhancement plans and products fail is that they were not designed with you in mind. These influencers and plan developers don’t know you. They have no clue about what lifestyle changes would be sustainable for you. They don’t know what activities you hate doing and which you enjoy. But do you know who does know? You do, that’s who! 

What do you enjoy doing?

To design a growth-oriented lifestyle tailored to your specifications, the process itself must be enjoyable—or at the least, potentially enjoyable.

Step 1. Jot Down What You Like to Do

Bring to mind all of the things you currently enjoy doing as well as the activities you once enjoyed—regardless of their positive or negative implications. Physically jotting these down on a piece of paper or typing them into a document may prove to be helpful.

Step 2. Strikethrough the Destructive Habits

Recall or look through these activities and strikethrough all of the activities that are bad for you. These can range from unhealthy habits like smoking or excessive drinking to compulsive social media checking, maintaining toxic relationships, and the like. 

Step 3. Highlight the Activities That Are Good For You

Regardless of how unhealthy your favorite activities are, there are likely a few that aren’t bad for you. Heck, some may even be good for you. There are probably even some that are extremely good for you that you haven’t thought about in decades. Even still, there are likely some activities you enjoy that share an unlikely component with something that is good for you. 

Let’s use some examples to get the wheels turning. 

Activities You Currently Enjoy That Are Good For You

Ok, maybe you’re not a total loaf of soggy bread. Maybe you genuinely enjoy the occasional walk around town. Perhaps you enjoy learning from historical documentaries. Consider the things you do every day that aren’t actively hastening your demise.

Activities You Once Enjoyed But Hadn’t Thought About Since

Did you play sports in high school? Middle school? Elementary school? Did you enjoy writing stories as a kid? How about painting? Have you stopped playing a musical instrument because life got too busy? 

Activities Your Enjoy That Could Correspond to Something Good For You

Do you enjoy sitting still? Look at you—you potential meditator, you. 

Do you tend to doodle during inconsequential meetings? Is that a budding illustrator I see?

What are your personal goals? 

We all have positive goals in life. Maybe you want to achieve and maintain a certain level of fitness. Perhaps you’d like to get more sleep. Maybe you want to become an avid reader. Bring these specific goals to mind and jot them down—the more specific, the better. 

And finally—use your favorite activities as tools in your growth.

Whether you physically wrote down your goals and favorite activities or just have them at the forefront of your mind, begin to draw lines between the two. 

  • Which of your favorite activities can you leverage toward your goals?
  • Which of your past favorite activities could you revisit to aid your progress? 
  • Which of your favorite activities are negatively inhibiting your goals?
  • How can you replace these harmful-yet-enjoyable activities with positive activities you enjoy? 

Stuff You Enjoy + Stuff That’s Good For You = Stuff You Should Do

venn diagram of stuff you enjoy and stuff that is good for you

When you leverage your favorite activities that also happen to align with your goals, you can begin to craft a growth-oriented lifestyle you enjoy. This Venn diagram should summarize the point of this article as well as anything. 

I jump rope because it’s fun. Fitness is a side effect. 

When I was in elementary school in the early-to-mid ‘90s, Jump Rope For Heart was on a crusade to get kids jumping rope. I remember enjoying the experience thoroughly. However, once I moved into middle school, where gym class was optional, I didn’t touch a jump rope again until I was into my 30’s. 

Why did I pick up jump rope again? Was it because I was at my heaviest weight of 235 pounds? Was it because I was researching various forms of exercise and found jump rope to be one of the most underrated forms of cardio? 

Nope. It just looked fun. And it was. 

Beginning again as an easily-winded sack of flab means it wasn’t necessarily easy, but even as an utterly sedentary desk jockey, I enjoyed the challenge. 

Every week, my stamina increased, and my body began to change. I had no specific weight-loss goal in mind, aside from possibly dipping below 200 pounds for the first time in about five years. That happened rather uneventfully because, though the process was challenging, it didn’t suck. I enjoyed pushing myself to my limits and leaving puddles of sweat in my driveway. I would look forward to my next jump rope session with anticipation rather than dread.  

At the time I write this, I jump rope six days a week, regardless of the weather, for 15-30 minutes, striving to keep an average heart rate of above 145 bpm. 

Is it hard some mornings? Yes. 

Is it challenging to push through when I feel like giving up? Definitely. 

Does it suck? Absolutely not. 

Leverage what you consider fun. Lean into what you consider challenging. 

Whether you’re looking to run a faster mile, lose and keep off a certain amount of weight, or develop a useful meditation habit, utilizing the activities you already enjoy will help you not only tolerate the growth process but crave it. When you use enjoyable activities to push your journey towards achievement, you pour rocket fuel on your progress.

You Owe It To Yourself to Give Your Craft the Focus It Deserves

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Disclaimer: I mostly wrote this article to myself, but felt that it may be helpful to others.

The Scattered-Focus Life

With information and global networking more attainable than ever, there’s no reason why, with a little focused effort, any of us can’t become world-class specialists in our craft. From graphic designers, developers, writers, videographers, and photographers to business managers, financial professionals, and educators, with the proper focus, we can continue to sharpen our craft every day. But many of us choose not to. Why? Because we prefer the easier, scatterbrained life.

Multi-tasking vs. Fragmented Focus

Yes, listening to a podcast while folding the laundry or watching a TV show while riding a stationary bicycle are both within the realm of what we deem “multi-tasking.” This is due to the limited concentration required for the accompanying task. This being said, one task always has focus over another. The folding of the laundry, the riding of the bicycle—these tasks require virtually no mental bandwidth whatsoever. That means that our primary focus is on the plot of the show or the content of the podcast. And that’s perfectly fine, as long as we’re not fooling ourselves into believing that we can split our focus 50/50 between both activities simultaneously. This is a lie—a lie that we frequently tell ourselves when it comes to pursuing our craft.

Forsaking Focus On Your Craft

When we attempt to use this same logic in our working lives, the same rules apply; one takes the lion’s share of our focus. Though we can listen to repetitive music while we write about complex subjects, we can’t simultaneously watch riveting programming while claiming to provide the necessary attention to our valued specialty. 

Why not? Well, firstly, as much as you claim to be the unique person with the capacity for split focus, you simply can’t. But more importantly, because your craft deserves to be the primary focus of your conscious mind. Your concentration deserves your concentration. 

So, if you hope to sharpen your skills and create meaningful work, sign out of Netflix, close the YouTube browser, turn off the podcast episode, and give your craft what it deserves — the captain’s seat of your focus.

Related Piece: 5 Things I Really Like About the Pomodoro Technique

For Your Future Self: 4 Attributes of a Sustainable Existence

Reading Time: 5 minutes


“How long can I keep doing this?”

143

In addition to being an accomplished television personality, minister, and musician, “Mister” Fred Rogers was also an immensely disciplined fellow. He was a vegetarian who never drank or smoked. He went to bed every night at 9:30 PM. He rose every morning at 5 AM, and began every day with prayer, answering fan mail, and swimming laps. After swimming, he’d weigh himself. Every time, the scale was the same: 143 pounds—the “I love you” number as he’d call it due to the number of letters in those words. 

Was this routine flashy? Hardly. Was it sustainable? Undoubtedly. 

Inspired by Rogers and my desire to be a friend to the older versions of myself, I’ve grown fixated on cultivating the most sustainable lifestyle possible. This research continues, but this piece contains what I’m presently referring to as “The Four Attributes of a Sustainable Existence.”

Life Sustained

Four touchstones must be present when determining which lifestyle activities, habits, or routines are sustainable—a sustainability test, if you will.  

  1. Positive: The activity has to be something that you won’t need to give up eventually. 
  2. Honest: The activity has to be something you honestly want to pursue with motivations authentic to your character. 
  3. Simple Reasoning: the reason for pursuing this activity needs to be simple.
  4. Enjoyment: you need to enjoy the activity separate from the benefit it brings. 

Throughout this piece, I’ll be using the routine of jumping rope for 25 minutes, six days a week as an example of a sustainable lifestyle habit of mine and why it met all these criteria for me (and maybe you, too, but hey, that’s you...)

1. The activity needs to be good for you…or at least not bad for you.

Starting with the most obvious, any lifestyle activity you hope to pursue into old age shouldn’t be anything that will, at some point, result in negative consequences. Some examples of not-good activities include nightly cigar smoking, a keto diet, or afternoon ice cream. While any of these may begin as harmless niceties or even helpful tools, if you’ll have to give it up eventually, there’s no use in starting it now.

Example: One of the reasons I chose jump rope as my favorite form of exercise as opposed to, say, motocross racing, is due to its sustainable nature. With the proper conditioning, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to do jump rope cross-overs and boxer-skips into my 90’s. Ok, maybe not double-unders, but I can take or leave those.

Secondary thought: is it good (or at least not bad) for the world?

This activity should also not be harmful to others. (This is perhaps the most common understanding of modern use of the word sustainable—which many use in an environmental context.)  For instance, if you decide to pursue an activity that requires a product whose manufacturing or disposal is overly destructive to the environment, this activity may not be sustainable. Likewise, if this activity damages a valuable relationship, it’s also likely not sustainable.

2. Do you really want this? Why? 

Despite our ambitions, there is a certain amount of virtue in properly giving up on a goal. To determine which ambitions to pursue or discard, we can simply look at the honesty of our motivations. 

  • Do you want to read all 2,711 pages of the Babylonian Talmud to glean its information, or are you doing so for the bragging rights? 
  • Do you want those six-pack abs to combat dangerous subcutaneous and visceral fat or to flaunt it on your Instagram feed?
  • Do you want to wake up 5:30 AM to get a jump on the day or because you simply want to share that aspect of your daily routine with your favorite influencer? 

Honest Motivation = Stored Willpower

Any activity we pursue will occasionally depend upon stored motivation and willpower to commence or pursue. If our motivations are frivolous or shallow, that fuel source will be spoiled when we need it most. When our motivations for pursuing a specific goal are constructed on vain or fragile foundations, they are doomed from the start.

To test this, ask yourself: 

“Do I want the result because I want it? Or do I want the result because I’m supposed to want it?”

Example: 

My motivation for jumping rope is pretty straightforward: to maintain my fitness and because it’s fun. Yes, I’m supposed to want to maintain my fitness and pursue fun things, but I also genuinely want to pursue these endeavors for my own sake—thus, this goal has a sustainable motivation.  

Besides, if I was going for cool points, I could have done a lot better than a jump rope

3. Is your motivation simple enough to endure?

If our motivations for pursuing a task are unclear or overly complicated, determining success may be difficult—and thus, the reward illusive. To test your motivations’ simplicity, see if you can express them in a single concise sentence. 

Here are a few examples of my own reasons for pursuing my routines/habits:

  • Why do I practice intermittent fasting? To aid my digestion and boost metabolism. 
  • Why do I jump rope six days a week? To maintain my fitness and because it’s fun.
  • Why do I journal? To process my thoughts and emotions. 
  • Why do I meditate? To train my attention span.
  • Why do I allot eight hours in bed every night? To maintain my health and focus.   

Now, enjoy some examples of my past routines/habits I’ve abandoned due to complicated or misguided motivations: 

  • Why do I practice strength training? Because I’d like to, at least once in my life, see what my abs look like under that gut fat. I mean, wouldn’t it be pretty cool? I guess, though it’s not a huge deal, it seems like something I should want. (Yep, and I ditched it.)
  • Why do I engage in the Daf Yomi (daily reading of Talmud every day, resulting in completion in seven-years-time)? I imagine that studying Talmud and navigating all of the arguments of the sages would give me immense insights into Jewish life. Besides, being able to say “I’ve completed Shas(Daf Yomi)” is something not everyone can say. (And thus, I closed the book.)
  • Why do I get up at 5:30 AM? Some of the most accomplished minds get up at 5:30 AM, if not even earlier. Getting up an hour or more early will give me time to do more throughout my day…right? (I didn’t quite believe this and was tired of cutting sleep short, so I have since abandoned the notion.)

If you have to sell yourself on your motivations, pursuing the associated goal is likely not sustainable.

4. How much fun are you having?

Another sustainability sniff test for a lifestyle activity is how much pleasure you derive from the process…independent of the goal. 

“Because I Want To” Passes the Test…As Long As You Do

To piggyback on clearly defining motivations, one of those motivations may simply be, “because I enjoy doing it.” That was my initial motivation for jumping rope. Though it has transitioned into, “I jump rope to maintain a certain level of fitness,” as well, the process began solely as, “Hey, that looks fun.” Because fun was my original motivation for starting it, I still enjoy the process to this day. Any project or activity we begin must remain pleasurable to remain sustainable. 

Pleasurable Doesn’t Always Mean Non-Stop-Fun

Only pursuing projects I find pleasurable does not mean that I am perpetually laughing like an idiot through every step of a process. During a writing project, I may end up banging my head against the wall regarding what word to use or how to structure a piece. During exercise, I may end up frustratedly tripping over my jump rope. Despite these challenges and disappointments, exasperations eventually give way to breakthroughs, making them an enjoyable part of the process. However, when the highs no longer justify the lows, it may be time to abandon an unsustainable initiative.

In Conclusion: I’m Actually Lazy

While the idea of cultivating sustainable lifestyle activities and projects seems ambitious, it’s actually a process I’ve lovingly dubbed utilitarian laziness. It’s nothing more than buffing out the friction of false-starts, thin motivations, and superfluous fluff from life to get us closer to the good stuff—fewer items on our docket, but each one packing a resonant punch that helps us live a life that truly sticks to our ribs.

My Secret to Building a Daily Routine: Playing with My Phone

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In the last two weeks or so, building my daily routine has received a shot in the arm. No, it’s not from reading self-help books or listening to insightful podcasts. What is my secret? Playing with my phone. 

I know this sounds completely counterintuitive, but it’s true. You’d think that as a digital minimalist with no Facebook profile or a single social media application installed on my phone that I would be preaching against the dopamine hijacking of mobile applications. If this were any other article, that would be true. In this case, messing with apps is really helping me remain consistent. Let’s go back to how this silliness started. 

In May, after reading Meditation For Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris, I was sold on the benefits of daily meditation. To help me start my meditation routine, I looked around for free meditation phone apps. Though I found one that offered free guided meditations, I began to prefer breath-focused mindfulness meditation over guided meditation. Despite this, the same app offered a meditation timer that utilized a soothing gong sound instead of a startling alarm. Snooping around a bit more, I also found that the application tracked the duration and frequency of my meditation sessions. 

deep meditation app screenshot
Keep in mind that it’s only the 20th, ok?

Looking at the dots on the calendar reminded me of hearing about one of Jerry Seinfeld’s secrets to success: his comedy calendar. The premise was pretty simple — he’d get a huge wall calendar that showed every day of the year on one page and a big red marker. For every day that he wrote a new joke, he would write a giant red “X” on that day. 

“After a few days, you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

crossing off calendar dates

Like Jerry’s calendar, my meditation app became my wall calendar to help me build my meditation routine. After every 10-minute meditation session, I would check my stats to look at another gorgeous dot butted up against yesterday’s gorgeous dot. The days I wouldn’t get around to meditating made my beautiful smile of a calendar start to look like a mouth missing teeth. 

Over the course a few weeks, meditating came more natural — not just because I enjoyed meditating and the life-altering this attention span weight training, but also because I wanted to preserve my precious calendar. I hated breaking the chain. Any missed day was like punching a tooth out of the mouth of my calendar. One day in particular, I knew there was no chance of meditating once I got home from work. I couldn’t bear to imagine a hole in my routine calendar. To get in my daily meditation session, I meditated in the waiting room before a doctor’s appointment. I hope the sight of a guy with a long beard sitting with his eyes closed only to be “awoken” by a gong tone on his phone didn’t freak anyone out. Then again, that’s probably the least weird thing to happen in a doctor’s waiting room. 

As I aimed to craft a solid daily routine, I decided to look for ways to track habit streaks for the other positive daily habits I wanted to develop. After a short search in the Google App store, I found an application called Roubit. Roubit is essentially a self-refreshing daily habit to-do list attached to a calendar. Users can enter daily habits they want to achieve, which days of the week they want to accomplish them, and the application does the rest. Your daily habit to-do list refreshes every day, and you can check the activities off as you go. Depending on the percentage of daily habits you accomplish, a different type of emoji-like face shows up on the calendar for that day. The goal is to complete each habit and have a streak of smiling faces on your calendar. There are tons of applications like Roubit, but I can only speak for Roubit. 

roubit to do list
Hopefully, I’ll be able to tick-off that money fasting box before bed.
roubit calendar
Goal for next month: all smiles.

There are days where I really don’t want to jump rope or do my 7-minute high-intensity workout. Still, as silly as it sounds, I have gotten out of bed and worked myself into a winded, sweaty mess just to be able to tick a box on an app. It’s really more than fiddling with a phone app. It’s the feeling of accomplishment that I know will wash over me when I can look back at a solid week, month, and hopefully year of ticked boxes, smiling faces, and unbroken chains. 


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