Like me, you may live with a disorder or a disease that can be challenging at times. Or you may be dealing with a temporary health issue. If you are 100% healthy, then I am very happy for you. However, there will most likely come a time in your life that you will be faced with a short term or long term health problem.
In this post, I will be sharing some intimate hurdles that I dealt with and how I have overcome each of them. Just to be clear, I love my life, and I am grateful for everything that I have. God made me the way I am, and I embrace it all.
With that being said, here are a few ways I have maximized my health so that I am a more productive blogger and business owner.
#1 I Maximize My Time Because My Sleep Routine is 12 to 13 Hours A Day
Every night at 10pm I begin my nighttime routine with a nice collection of medication followed by an intramuscular shot. This is the miracle combination given to me by a doctor that saved me from certain death. These meds keep me asleep until 10 to 11am the next day. Doctor Alex Lechin is responsible not just for saving me, but for saving my whole family.
Let me tell you a brief version of how he saved my whole family.
I was mentally and physically disabled when I had my first appointment with him. Over 100 of the top doctors in every field failed to identify what was slowly killing me. I started his mix of meds shortly after my wife became pregnant with our first son. Just 30 days later, my mind came back online for the first time in five years. One month later, my pregnant wife, Natalie, was diagnosed with Stage 3 inflammatory breast cancer. Both Baylor and MDAnderson gave her a survival rate that was grim and depressing. They advised us to treat the patient aggressively and to essentially ignore the health of our unborn baby boy.
We had a week to decide between her life and my son’s life. If we treated the cancer, then we would most likely lose our unborn son. If we postponed the treatment until we could safely have a C-section, then my wife would have gone from a 40% survival rate to a 5% survival rate. Our son would be born alive, but hers would be gone, having waited so long to begin treatment.
I couldn’t make such an agonizing choice, and I decided that there had to be another way. I spent 20 hours a day researching everything I could find about pregnancy and cancer treatment. Every waking hour, I hunched over the computer, reading journal article after journal article. Three days in, I found something. On the fourth day, I asked the oncologist to perform a variation of the needle biopsy. My version used a hexagonal axis for the basis of testing all areas of the tumor. My suspicion was that the growth rate of the tumor, which was stimulated by pregnancy hormones, had caused the clinical diagnosis to be inaccurate. The results came back on day five, and those results confirmed my theory.
MD Anderson’s top doctors came together in an emergency meeting to discuss the direction of treatment, and I no longer had to choose between my wife and my son. On day seven, my wife joined only a handful of women to ever have had a mastectomy during the second trimester of pregnancy. Our first son, Grayson Burke, was born healthy three months later. On December 23rd of that same year, we found out that my wife was officially cancer-free. The next day was the best Christmas Eve of my life, knowing that my wife had beaten cancer.
Dr. Lechin was responsible for bringing my mental capability back from the abyss. Without it, I was devoid of my natural ability to come up with creative solutions to problems. This creative problem solving is what helped me guide Natalie’s doctors down the right treatment path.
Since the day of my first round of medication almost nine years ago, I have continued to sleep 12 to 13 hours a night, which limits the amount of time I have to work each day.
Here are two ways I maximize my time to get the most production out of my day…
Working from home – I roll out of bed, eat my breakfast, and walk into my home office. I was holding on to having an office all the way up to three years ago. I finally tracked my time, and realized I was losing an hour everyday by going to my office. It was a combination of drive time, getting dressed, and chit chatting with employees. In the best case scenario, I can work 35 hours in a week. So, going to the office was costing me 15% of my available time to work. After that, I made a decision to work out of my home office from that day on.
In case you are wondering how many business owners spend the majority of their day working from home, Router Taco conducted a study to find out the answer to this question. A whopping 48.2% of the entrepreneurs surveyed spent over six hours a day working from their home.
Focusing on the 10% of actions that deliver the 90% of results – It is essentially taking the Pareto Principle up another notch. Every 90 days, I review all my key performance indicators to make sure that I am continuing to spend my time on the actions that are going to deliver the greatest outcome. For me, this is my course, my podcast, and my blog.
Although I sleep as much as a two year old, I have balanced the scales by working from home and focusing on things that deliver the biggest results.
#2 I Keep a Steady Pace So That I Do Not Overexert Myself
At the root of my health issues lies a disorder known as dysautonomia. In a nutshell, it means that my autonomic nervous system is damaged and does not work correctly. This is what initiates your fight or flight response. A normal person will go into flight or fight mode in extreme situations. For example, someone tries to come after you in a dark alley. Your autonomic nervous system subconsciously elevates your heartbeat, blood pressure, breathing, and a bunch of other things to give you the best chance of escaping.
Mine goes off for all kinds of things which include the hundreds of times I dream at night, when I speak to anyone that is not part of my family, and if I do anything that causes me to get excited or break a sweat. If my flight or fight goes off too many times, then it exhausts my nervous, cardiovascular, muscular, and digestive systems.
Over the years, I have become an expert at staying calm and keeping a steady pace of whatever I do. I literally live by the motto slow and steady wins the race.
The one tactic that has kept me from overexerting myself while improving my productivity is the Pomodoro technique. This technique allows me to break down major tasks into bite size chunks. The Pomodoro technique is named after the Italian word for tomato. The reason for this is because the creator of the technique used a timer that was shaped like a tomato.
I use a death star timer in place of the tomato.
I will walk you through how I use it to create content for my course. In the old days, I would go after this type of project by working as long as I could take it. This is how I do it Pomodoro style.
I break down the project into a series of tasks that need to be accomplished.
For the course, I have 13 modules that need the following to be completed.
Slide Deck – A Powerpoint presentation with 120 to 180 unique slides filled with content and visuals. It takes 20 hours to produce each slidedeck.
Video Recording – This is a raw video recording session of me teaching through each slideshow, which takes 2 hours to produce per module.
Video Editing – This is an editing session that turns the 2 hour raw video into a final cut that is 70 minutes long. Each editing session takes 4 hours per module.
Once I have laid out the tasks that the need to be completed, then I will choose one to start with.
For example, this week I will be recording the raw video session for module #7, which will take 2 hours. Before using the Pomodoro technique, I would record the entire session in one clean 2 hour swoop. Because of my health disorder, this would give me the equivalent of a four day hangover.
Applying the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique allows me to maximize my performance on a single task, like recording 2 hours of video. It does this through a series of work sprints followed by strategically placed breaks.
Sprint #1 – Set a timer for 25 minutes, and work on a single task with no distractions allowed. When the timer goes off, take a five minute break. You will get up, move around, get your mind off the task, and drink some water or eat a small snack.
Sprint #2, #3 & #4 – You will repeat the 25 minute process three more times. After sprint two, you will take another five minute break. Then after completing sprint three, you will take another 5 minute break. At the end of sprint four, you will take a 30 minute break. For the 30 minute break, I usually walk around and admire nature. However, you can do anything you want as long as you are moving around and not thinking about work.
After the long break, you can go into another round of four sprints using the same process.
By using the Pomodoro technique, I am able to record the 2 hour raw video for a course module without suffering the aftereffects of being worn down for day. The strategically placed breaks is the secret sauce to Pomodoro’s formula.
Let me just do a quick review of the Pomodoro technique one more time, so that you will remember it.
Choose a single task to focus without any distractions. Work for 25 minutes, take a five minute break, work for 25 minutes, take a five minute break, work for 25 minutes, take a five minute break, work for 25 minutes, and take 30 minute break. That is 3 sprints with a five minute break followed by a fourth sprint with a 30 minute break. When you complete one cycle, then you can start a new one.
Fedra Congressi created a great infographic that visually explains the exact formula.
This technique will allow you to have laser like focus and flow. It enables you to use time more efficiently while reducing overall mental fatigue.
#3 I Handed All of My Stress and Anxiety Over to God
This past winter was a little tougher than normal for my family. My youngest son started seeing double, and we quickly went from an eye doctor to a pediatric neurologist. They thought he might have a tumor or brain damage. Fortunately, the problem was with the muscles in his eyes. He ended up having eye surgery, and it fixed his eye problem. Even though the outcome was great, the three months of cat scans, MRIs, and tests took a toll on all of us.
To make matters worse, I had to go to the hospital on two successive months because of my heart being out of rhythm. The extra medication for my heart caused my other meds to not do what they were suppose to do, and my health quickly fell off the table.
I felt guilty for being a burden to my family when we needed to focus on our son’s health problem. With everything that was going on, I was overwhelmed by stress and anxiety. Because the two times my heart went into flutter and AFIB occurred when I was sleeping, I dreaded as I watched the clock get closer to the time when I was supposed to go to sleep.
My doctor told me to take it easy, and I did. Unfortunately, no matter how many long walks I took, my mind continued to worry about my family and the prospect of my inability to be there for them. During this time, my Mom stayed with us for a couple of weeks to help us out. Before she went home, she tied a charm to my medicine cabinet. The charm was in my Grandmother’s purse the day that she unexpectedly passed away. It read, “In God All Things Are Possible.”
That small act of love from my mom led me to truly surrender my life to God. I bought the book The Purpose Driven Life, and began a new path of faith. I would be lying if I told you that my anxiety and stress went away the day I surrendered. It took work. I went through each of the 40 days of the purpose driven life, and did what it asked me to do.
Starting from page one, I began reading and studying The Bible for 40 minutes a night. Last week, I just finished my ten month personal Bible study, which took me from Genesis to Revelation. At this point, I can tell you that I rarely feel stress or anxiety anymore. I have come off the majority of my heart and blood pressure medication, and I am filled with love and joy on a daily basis. My wife saw all these changes first hand, and she is now on day 3 of The Purpose Driven Life.
#4 I Spend 20 Minutes Deep Stretching and Exercising My Core Everyday
Up until two years ago, I would consistently have numbness and pain in my legs from impinged nerves in my lower lumbar. After a six week physical therapy stint for my spine, I felt a massive decrease in pain and numbness. The majority of the therapy was focused on deep stretching to decompress my spine and core exercises to keep my spine straight.
From that point on, I made a commitment to daily deep stretching and core exercises. Since I wake up at 10:30am, my first Pomodoro cycle ends at around 1pm. That is the time I do my stretching and core exercises. This 20 minute daily session has ended a decade of leg numbness and pain.
In case you are wondering, I use the Precor Stretch Trainer to decompress my spine on a daily basis. Pretty much every gym has one, and it has been a big difference maker for me.
#5 I Always Stop What I am Doing to Welcome My Boys Home from School
When I hear my boys coming up to the house, I literally jump out of my chair and race down the stairs. I love being there everyday to give them a high five and ask them questions about their day. On most days, they are happy and full of smiles. On the days they are not, then I will spend an hour of one-on-one time to help them turn their frowns upside down.
This may sound really basic, but I look forward to this joy filled moment everyday. It is a midday point that centers me on what matters the most.
#6 I Spend My Weekends Enjoying My Family
Other than answering questions in the private FB group for my course, I spend my entire weekend with my family. Five years ago, I became healthy enough to start a business again. This was after almost a decade of dormancy. I decided that I would try to make up for the lost hours from sleeping 12 hours day by working on the weekends. This placed me into a vicious cycle of working 365 days a year. I even found myself trying to get a few hours of work in on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
This was making my health worse, and it was robbing the most important thing to me. I decided that my family was worth more to me than knocking out an extra business project on the weekend. As I embraced letting go of work on the weekends, I saw my health improve almost immediately. I also saw my productivity and focus improve when I was working.
Trust me, when I say that we are not meant to work on weekends. It is in our nature to long for love and to wish we had more time. I choose to spend as much time as I can loving my family. And the best way I can do this is by being physically and mentally present as often as possible.
#7 I Find Creative Ways to Make Work Easier on My Body
I sleep in a special environment that is designed to keep my autonomic nervous system from being stimulated. The air conditioner is turned to a crazy low level to bring my bodily functions to a crawl. The windows are blacked out, the doors are sealed, and even the fire alarm light is covered with a black piece of tape. I have three air filters to keep the air at an optimal level, and I have a noise machine that blasts white noise to cancel out any barks or bumps in the night.
I mention this, because this is something that has been proven to keep my body in a safe state. After going to the hospital twice for irregular heart rhythms, I had to monitor my heart and blood pressure throughout the day. The goal was to find anything that activated my autonomic nervous system and eliminate it from my life.
After recording a podcast episode, I took my blood pressure and the results were bad. Apparently, I get excited when I record podcast episodes or video modules for my course. I took almost two months off from the podcast while I waited to build me health back up again. Then I recorded my next episode, and it was still stimulating my autonomic nervous system.
I was faced with a dilemma. I could record my podcast with a monotone personality, or I might just have to abandon it altogether. A few days later, I had a light bulb moment. I could try super cooling the room before recording my podcast. My super cooling experiment had a positive effect, but I was still perspiring on the back of my knees. This is one of the main signs that tells me to stop what I am doing.
The next podcast episode I decided to continue the super cooling of the room, but I also added two additional variables to my test. I turned the fan that was above on the highest setting, and I stripped everything off except my boxers.
This ending up being the formula that saved my podcast. Although you may be laughing as you visualize me in a super cooled room recording all my podcast episodes, I am just grateful that I found a way to make my show continue to go on.
I would like to end this post with a quote from Stephen Hawking.
He famously said…
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”