A few years back, I loved saying “yes” to every opportunity. I worked a 9am to 5pm full time job during the day, then traveled back home, ate dinner (read: got takeout usually), then hopped back on the computer to “punch” back in and work on side jobs.

This was a lethal routine that I found myself in every day. I’m sure some of you can relate to this. After I started practicing yoga with breathing exercises, read more books on mindfulness, sleep, productivity, and a very insightful podcast with Derek Sivers and Tim Ferris, I started to reevaluate every hour of my day.

On a Saturday morning, I grabbed my coffee, opened up a Google spreadsheet and started to organize all my jobs and activities that fulfilled my day. From here, I started rating each of them on how much happiness it gave me, how important the activity is, or if I’m excited about it. Then, I noted if I needed the job to be financially stable. This mindful exercise helped put all of my jobs and activities into perspective. Whichever jobs didn’t score a rating of 7 or higher, I would agree to slowly stop spending time on them. That meant, telling a band I managed, that I couldn’t manage them anymore. That also meant quitting my full time job with a 2 hour total commute time, and accepting a job offer working from home at another company, coincidentally around that same time. My quality of life already started to improve by not traveling to work, resulting in spending more time at home to make breakfast, stretch, get more sleep, spend more time with my girlfriend, and focus on what activities that really gave me pure happiness.

Everyday, we are tempted with distractions. From your phone app notifications from social media, constantly checking your email, social event invites from friends, etc. The day that I realized it’s okay to not grab my phone just because I sat down to wait for a food order, was the day that I became more mindful of my surroundings. Consider taking small baby steps towards a better, more mindful and balanced lifestyle.

Here are 5 things you can do right now to be more mindful and achieving balance:

  1. Try eating outside without looking at your phone. You can flip it upside down or put it in your bag, if you have one. Be with nature and enjoy the beauty that is. There’s lots of content on the Internet around how weather and breathing in fresh air affects your overall mood and stress level.
  2. Enforce your own restrictions. Give yourself rules for when you can and can not use your phone. This can also be applied to your sleep schedule or how often you check email.
  3. Be in the moment. You’re at a social event or concert, put the phone down and engage with the people around you, or take in the moment of listening to the song. Focus on the person's eyes while you’re having an interaction with them.
  4. Try driving to the store without any music or podcasts, just you and your brain. Listen to it and have an internal dialogue. You’d be surprised the ideas and thoughts you come up with when you’re focusing your attention on one thought. 
  5. Every morning and/or night, stop and think of one thing you are grateful for. A tool like the Five Minute Journal has helped me get into this routine. I’ll admit, I have a day here and there where I don’t practice gratitude, but when I do, I feel the difference. 

Marcus Ohanesian works on the internet, is a music entrepreneur, and a sandwich enthusiast. More info here.

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