Tiny Life Hack: A White Square

Tiny Life Hack: A White Square

While visiting friends in Maine this weekend, I stumbled upon what might prove to be a useful morning hack for you. They’d taken down their bathroom mirror (presumably to replace it), and in its place was a big white rectangle with nothing on it. The first few times, I was disoriented, because I counted on the mirror to give me a quick glance at myself. By the third time, I’d found what makes for a nice focusing hack.

Stare at a square of white wall


This might be equivalent to what Zen wants you to do. I don’t know. I failed Zen, and the other Buddhist methods didn’t click well for me yet, either. But here’s what I did:

I just stood straight and tall, breathed slowly, and looked at the white square. At first, everything was a jumble, like spinning a radio dial and listening to just snips of conversation. But, when I worked at it just a little, I found that I could either break off certain “voices,” and that I could choose to “tune in” certain threads a little better.


What focused me most was asking myself a single question: “What matters?”

This gave me a great frame upon which to hang the goings on of the day, my emotions, and the state of things. Sure, things were hectic. Sure, I hadn’t had much sleep the night before. Sure, I knew that my projects were piling up in my absense, but when I asked myself what mattered, it was this: connect with our hosts, and really enjoy my family.


And that’s what I did.

Break it Down


  • Stand up very straight, with your shoulders relaxed, before a square of white attached to a wall and look at it. (try posterboard from the local drugstore).
  • Take a few deep breaths, slowly. Take a few more.
  • Silence the “chatter.” Think of the white wall as much as you can.
  • Ask yourself: “What matters?” (This is not the same as “What needs to get done?”)
  • Listen to the response. Question it again.
  • Ask again: “What matters?”
  • Accept this answer and stare a while more. Just try to focus on the answer.
  • Leave this space with that idea firmly in your head.

I’m not one for meditating, but this worked well for me over the weekend, and now I’m going to implement it at home.

What are YOUR thoughts on the matter? How do you get to the above state? Where’s your success?

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Last Updated on November 19, 2019

How to Become an Early Riser and Stay Energetic

How to Become an Early Riser and Stay Energetic

When you become an early riser, you’ll experience a lot of benefits including feeling more energized and having more time to do what you want.

If you’d like to become an early riser, there are some things you should know before you run off to set your oft-ignored alarm clock.

So how to become an early riser?

Here are five tips I’ve discovered to be most helpful in making the transition from erratic sleeper to early morning wizard:

1. Choose to Get up Before You Go to Sleep

You’re not very good at making decisions when you’ve just woken up. You were in the middle of a dream in which [insert celebrity crush of choice here] is serving you breakfast in bed only to be rudely awakened by the harsh tones of your alarm clock. You’re frustrated, angry, confused, and surprised. This is not the time to be making decisions about whether or not you should stay in bed! And yet, most of us leave the first decision of our day to be made in a blur of partial wakefulness.


No more!

If you want to be a consistently early riser, try making your decision to rise at a specific time before you go to sleep the night before. This frees you from making the decision in the morning when you’ve just woken up. Instead of making a decision, you have only to follow through on your decision from the night before.

Easier said than done? Of course. But only for the first few times. Eventually, your need for raw willpower to get out of bed will diminish and you’ll be the proud parent of a new habit!

Steve Pavlina suggests you practice getting out of bed during the day[1] to get a few of the “practice sessions” out of the way without the early morning fog in your head.

2. Have a Plan for Your Extra Time

Let’s say you’ve actually made it out of bed 2 hours before you normally would. Now what? What are you going to do with all this time you’ve discovered in your day?


If you don’t have something planned to do with your extra time, you risk falling for the temptation of a “morning nap” that wipes out all the work you put into getting up.

What to do? Before you go to bed, make a quick note of what you’d like to get done during your extra hours the following day. Do you have a book to write, paper to read, or garage to clean? Make a plan for your early hours and you’ll do more than protect yourself from backsliding into bed.

You’ll get things done and those results will fuel your desire to build rising early into a habit!

3. Make Rising Early a Social Activity

Your internet or social media buddies just don’t have enough pull to make your new habit stick in the long term. The same cannot be said for the people you spend time with as part of your early morning routine.

Sure, you could choose to read blogs for two hours every morning. But wouldn’t it be great to join an early breakfast club, running group, or play chess in the park at 5am?


The more people you get involved in making your new habit a daily part of your life, the easier it’ll be to succeed.

4. Don’t Use an Alarm That Makes You Angry

If we’re all wired differently, why do we all insist on torturing ourselves with the same sort of alarm each morning?

I spent years trying to wake up before my alarm went off so I wouldn’t have to hear it. I got pretty good, too. Then I started using a cellphone as my alarm clock and quickly realized that different ring tones irritated me less but worked just as well to wake me up. I now use the ring tone alarm as a back up for my bedside lamp plugged in to a timer.

When the bright light doesn’t work, the cellphone picks up the slack and I wake up on time. The lesson learned? Experiment a bit and see what works best for you. Light, sound, smells, temperature, or even some contraption that dumps water on you might be more pleasant than your old alarm clock. Give something new a try!

5. Get Your Blood Flowing Right After Waking

If you don’t have a neighbor, you can pick fights with at 5am, you’ll have to settle with a more mundane exercise. It doesn’t take much to get your blood flowing and chase the sleep from your head.


Just pick something you don’t mind doing and go through the motions until your heart rate is up. Jumping rope, push-ups, crunches, or a few minutes of yoga are typically enough to do the trick. (Just don’t do anything your doctor hasn’t approved.)

If you live in a beautiful part of the world like me, you might want to use a bit of your early morning to go for a walk and enjoy the beauty of the world around you.

If you have a coffee shop open within walking distance, dragging yourself out of bed for a cup of coffee to savor on your walk home as the world wakes around you is a wonderful experience. Try it!

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Featured photo credit: Nomadic Julien via


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