Create Moments of Zen

Life is busy. Especially these days. We’re still in a pandemic but are already starting to plan for the time when we get out. Due to that, there are still a lot of moving parts. There are still a lot of things that change under our feet (and probably will be for quite a while), and it takes deliberation and effort to keep our balance despite the changes.

However, changes are always opportunities as well, and how we will perceive and utilize changes depends 100% on our state of mind. Do we feel chased day by day, reacting to what’s going on, or are we taking a proactive stance to plan for what matters while also anticipating coming changes and readying our minds for them?

It is often recommended to start meditating to foster that open, attentive, flexible, but calm mindset that lets us recognize and embrace change and challenges as opportunities. I agree that meditation is one great way to clear our minds and get them focused on what matters.

However, there is more that can be done. I like to think about it more broadly as creating moments of Zen in your daily and weekly rhythms. Create predictable and stable islands in a sea of change. Those predictable routines and times for yourself will give you stability and direction. The best time to do that is right at the start of your day before things get busy.

Create moments of Zen, create moments of clarity at the beginning of your day and week.

How you start the day and week sets the tone for the remainder of that period. Have a rough start, and you will have a hard time recovering from it. Be in control when you start, and you have a much higher chance to remain in control.

There are many different ways to get off to a good start. You need to find what works best for you and what gives you that moment of Zen and clarity of mind for a terrific start into the day. Here are some ideas I heard from co-workers over the years:

Opening the day with a calm mind

  • Get up early and tidy up your house (no, that’s not me)
  • Get up early and tidy up your inbox and calendar
  • Set your priorities for the day or week; don’t pick more than three – only one is even better
  • Go for a walk or workout
  • Sit in front of the fireplace and reflect on the coming day (my current favorite)
  • Start with a meditation or a prayer
  • Have a relaxed breakfast with loved ones

Closing out a day so you won’t worry about it through the night or weekend

  • Shut down your computer and silence your cell phone
  • Go for a run or workout
  • Enjoy nature to get out of the ‘office’ frame of mind
  • Close your day by reflecting on what you’re thankful for, count your blessings
  • Plan out the week ahead on Fridays
  • Get down to inbox zero on Fridays
  • Organize your upcoming meetings for the next day or week and resolve any conflicts that you might worry about
  • Before you go into the weekend, have all open actions either scheduled for a specific time next week or consciously deprioritized

Plan proactively and be in control, don’t react tactically like a leaf in the storm!


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Thriving in High-Pressure Environments
Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9798718017663

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Time must be your primary unit

Most, if not all of us, measure success and what we strive for in the unit of money. Even if we tell ourselves we don’t think it’s the most important thing, we subconsciously do, as we think about what money allows us to do.

Be aware:

Your primary unit of measurement defines how you think about your priorities.

While we all believe (or hope) to think about money only as a proxy and a means for experiences, it will become our master if we treat it as the primary unit. There can never be enough of it – it’s the thing that supposedly enables everything else.

As I was just reminded by reading ‘Digital minimalism’ by Cal Newport the other day, we need to think about time as our primary unit. Time is the thing that doesn’t scale. Time is limited. Time is what we cannot get back. Time is when experiences happen and where they live.

Following ideas that are as old as society, we must start from time. We need to figure out how much money we need to optimize our time, and limit our money-creating to that – not the other way around!

The more material stuff we have, the more money we need to keep it up. When we focus on getting a lot of money to support amazing experiences, we might end up not having enough time left to actually live those experiences.

Here is what Thoreau tells us:

“If I should sell my forenoons and afternoons to society, as most appear to do, I am sure that for me there would be nothing left worth living for…. I wish to suggest that a man may be very industrious, and yet not spend his time well. There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living.” – Thoreau in ‘Walden’

And as always, the Chinese knew it a long time ago already:

“Those who know they have enough are rich.” – Lao Tzu

Get your primary unit straight and optimize for it!


Did you like this post? Want to read more?

Check out our book for more thoughts and a week-by-week guide to make strategic changes to improve your health, career, and life purpose:

Put on your oxygen mask first - book cover

Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First
A practical guide to living healthier, happier and more successful in 52 weekly steps
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9781077278929

Find it on Amazon: PaperbackKindle

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

Happy Holidays – Treat yourself to a free book on us

Like every year for the Holidays, we are giving away the Kindle versions of our books for free.

You can download free copies on Amazon from Monday December 21st until Friday December 25th. Enjoy reading and let us know what you think.

We only ask one small favor in return: Please leave a review or rating on Amazon. Positive reviews and ratings are preferred. 🙂

Happy Holidays! Enjoy time with loved ones. Be mindful, relax, take care and recharge your batteries.

With hugs and lots of gratefulness,
Ulrike and Alfons

On work-life balance, career, health and purpose:

Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First
A practical guide to living healthier, happier and more successful in 52 weekly steps
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9781077278929

Find it on Amazon: PaperbackKindle

If you want to learn more about Tai Chi (for beginners and experts):

Finding the Heart
Principles for Tai Chi and Life
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9781724173683

Find it on Amazon: Paperback, Kindle