I know, hype-y headline, right? But this “secret” deserves it. How about a little more?
What would you say if I told you you could get (a lot of) the benefits of journalling or coaching without spending more time or (much) money?
That’s exactly what I do every day when I shower.
My secret weapons? A laundry marker and any ol’ sheet of paper.
Okay, the premise: when I take a shower, my mind wanders. I ponder life, the universe, and everything. Or I indulge random worries, letting them flit in and out, bringing stress with no clarity. And even when my thoughts are relaxing, they don’t give me the oomph I need to jump into the day.
Last year, I read a post by Peter Shallard about increasing motivation by asking good questions. He identified some powerful questions and offhandedly said:
Print off and laminate a list of five “power questions” and hang it in your shower. Ask yourself these questions, until you get answers, every morning. This really works.
I was immediately captivated by this idea… but frankly, I’m not big into preparation, and getting something laminated sounded like a big pain. So I didn’t do it.
The real-life solution
A week later, I went to my first swim session for the triathlon I was training for, and my coach gave us all laser-printed workout cue-sheets. He said, “When I started swimming, I would set my workout sheet at the edge of the pool, and constantly had to pop half-way out to see what was next. Then I looked around and saw what other people were doing: they just dunked the paper in the pool and slapped it on the side where they could see it with every lap.”
Something clicked. I realized I didn’t need to laminate my paper, just print it out, get it wet, and slap it on the shower wall. (I never really got good at the swim workouts, but that’s a separate issue. 😉 ) So that’s what I did.
“Great” is the enemy of “done”
I used the stock questions for a while, just printing out a small stack to keep near the shower, but I quickly noticed Peter has places in them where you’re meant to insert a specific task.
My unwillingness to spend prep time meant I didn’t use those at first—in order for them to be relevant to the current project or task, I’d need to run downstairs, fire up an editor, type in my specifics, print, and head back up for the shower. Not happening.
But the real a-ha moment (you might be wondering why it took so long!) was when I stopped printing altogether, and just wrote something fresh every day. Not only does this take almost no prep (woot!) but it keeps my brain from getting bored and ignoring the familiar.
From motivation to problem-solving
At first, I stuck with the motivation-only questions. Those are fantastic, and still work shockingly well for getting me moving. But I’ve also discovered along the way that this is a great way to use my brain’s amazing brainstorming power in a pleasant, passive way.
It’s easy. I just write a question related to the biggest challenge I’m currently facing, and scrub-a-dub without putting any particular effort into answering it. But as I’m shampooing and face-washing, my eyes repeatedly land on the question and my brain goes to work solving it. More often than not, I emerge with a solid plan and the fire to git-r-done.
Now, to be clear, I do work with a coach. This hasn’t and won’t replace the value of having a sounding board outside yourself. But I’ve found the effects very similar to our conversations, and also to journalling (which I get real value from, but have a hard time setting aside the time to do consistently).
What kinds of questions?
I ponder anything and everything. Here’s a sample of questions I’ve considered lately:
- “How awesome will I feel when I finish everything on today’s task-list?” (Straight from Peter’s success-priming questions.)
- “What content should go on the homepage of my site?”
- “What will I do today to have fun?”
- “What’s the most important thing I could do in the next hour?”
- “What am I doing regularly that I don’t enjoy and could outsource?”
And sometimes when there’s nothing major on my radar, I’ll put some kind of uplifting affirmation or statement that makes me smile (often quirky, like this couplet from Regina Spektor).
Try it tomorrow
Intrigued? Don’t wait. You can get the pen from Amazon if you like, but I’ll bet you could use a ballpoint pen or a basic marker or, heck, a crayon in the meantime.
You can use pretty much any paper, too. I’m currently working my way through one of those notepads everyone wants to give you at tradeshows. 3″x5″ cards work. Printer paper works. Junk mail envelopes work.
Just keep a pen and paper near your shower so you don’t have the friction of having to get them, and stop for five seconds and think, “What is hanging over me?” and come up with a question to help you solve or get excited.
So what do you say? Will you give it a go? Please do, and tell me how it works for you.