Spiritual productivity. Sounds like a bit of an oxymoron. After all, spirituality is all about letting go and turning things over to your higher power, right? It’s not like there’s a performance improvement plan that’s going to quickly turn around your spiritual life and make you more attuned to the universe.
Consider this little story from Michael Barnes in “Masters and Mastery of Zen“:
The story is told of the monk in a hurry who eagerly enquired of his teacher how long it would take for him to be enlightened. “Perhaps ten years,” said the teacher. “But if I tried very hard?” asked the pupil. “Then it would probably take you twenty,” came the reply.
When it comes to spiritual growth, trying harder may not necessarily help. As the story suggests, overdoing it may actually impede your progress. The authors of Spiritual Companioning put it this way: “If you tend to sleep until seven most mornings, do not commit to an hour of daily prayer at five.”
I’ve found, however, that there are a few tweaks you can make in your daily life that can ease the way to spiritual growth. Take the 10-3-2-1-0 rule for example.
It comes from author and fitness coach Craig Ballantyne. “The single most important factor in winning your mornings and owning your days,” he says, “is to get up 15 minutes earlier and work on your number one priority before anyone else is awake. It’s that simple.”
But Ballantyne also concedes that this is easier said than done. That’s where the 10-3-2-1-0 formula comes in. It’s five easy-to-remember rules that give you some great advice on sleep and productivity. Here they are:
- 10 hours before bed: No more caffeine
- 3 hours before bed: No more food or alcohol
- 2 hours before bed: No more work
- 1 hour before bed: No more screen time
- 0: The number of times you hit the snooze button in the morning
When I first heard about this, I kind of intuited that it would work. But I hesitated giving it a try. See, I used to like to end my day catching up on emails, watching some of my favorite television programs (Better Call Saul, anyone?), snacking a bit and having a little wine. Nothing in excess, but enough to keep me up until around midnight.
More often than not, I’d be a little groggy when I woke up, which meant that my usual morning spiritual routine (devotional reading, journaling, a bit of meditation) might be done under less-than-optimal conditions.
But as I said, I hesitated giving the formula a try because I knew if I did, it might disrupt my comfortable routine of screen time and a nightcap. And that would mean change, wouldn’t it? Ugh.
Finally, though, I took a shot at it. And, wow! It’s really reinvigorated my morning spiritual practices. Getting up is much less of a pain, and I’m feeling refreshed enough to truly engage in my reading, journaling, and meditating.
So if you’ve been dreaming of adding a new spiritual practice to your life but haven’t found a good place in the day to do it, consider the 10-3-2-1-0 rule. It might be able to help you find a few extra minutes at the end of the day for your practice, or it could help you get up just a smidge earlier with your head clear and your body rested.
Either way, I’m amazed by how these relatively small changes in my daily routine have yielded big gains in my spiritual life. This might be something that could help you, too.
If you’re interested in talking with someone about your spiritual life, feel free to contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, call or text me at 612-875-0959, or use this contact form to schedule a session or ask a question. The first session is always free.