Tag Archive | Checklists

The ideal break

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What does your ideal break look like, viewed as a checklist?”

“It has the following components:

Micro Meditation – One or more centering breaths; connecting with myself.
(Centering, Shine)

Moving Meditation – One or more movement snacks, as a means to actively recover energy.
(Active Recovery, Perpetual Motion Machine)

Reflection / Recall – Looking backwards, asking three questions:

  • What went well? (Celebration, Shine)
  • What needs work? (Understanding, Design/Optimization)
  • What will you do differently? (Design/Implementation)

(Learning Cycles)

Intention-Setting – Looking forwards, a brief preparation for the next work cycle (pomodoro); getting clear on what I want to accomplish.

Getting Inspired – Right before the next work cycle, reading a few random inspirational quotes.
(Gratitude, Shine)”

On Balance 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I consider Balance one of the most important values.”

“What do you mean by Balance?”

“I mean moderation. Neither too much, nor too little. Think Aristotle’s golden mean between excess and deficiency.

I mean equanimity. The moment to moment practice of returning to your Center.

I mean proportionality. I use Brian Johnson’s beautiful Big Three framework:


All of them are equally important, so I strive to give them equal attention.

I mean oscillation. Two types in particular:

Input/Output – the balance between absorbing information and creating and acting on it.

On/Off – the balance between full engagement and full disengagement.

I like to think of the last two as a daily checklist.”

Peak Performance Checklist

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“If you were to create a peak performance checklist, what would it look like?”

“There’s a lot more peak performance books I want to read, so this can only be a tentative checklist.

The checklist combines two models.

Alan Watkins’s model [<link, medium read]:


People’s brilliance comes from thinking. (Josh Waitzkin)
Feeling (emotions) profoundly influences thinking.
Physiology profoundly influences feeling.

Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s model of Full Engagement:

Full engagement requires drawing on 4 separate but related sources of energy: 

Physical – Physically energized
Emotional – Emotionally connected
Mental – Mentally focused
Spiritual – Spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond your immediate self-interest

Thinking in Alan Watkins’s model corresponds to the spiritual and mental energy sources in Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s model.
Feeling corresponds to the emotional energy source.
Physiology corresponds to the physical energy source.

If we were to think of this process as activation, the order matters. So it’s an ordered checklist.

Physical comes first. (Breathing, Posture, and Movement)
Emotional second. (state management, accessing the Beautiful State)
Spiritual third. (Purpose, your Why)
Mental last. (Deep Focus)

We can combine the first three into one ritual, so the final checklist looks like this:

– Movement
– Beautiful State
– Purpose
Deep Focus

The next step is detailing the specific actions at every stage of the process, stress testing it and, in time, gradually condensing the process.”

On Learning and Quality

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I optimize learning?”

“Realize that there’s two aspects to it: the learning foundation, and the learning process.

The former refers to getting yourself in a peak mental and emotional state for learning. That means optimizing what Brian Johnson calls the Fundamentals:


It also means training your capacity to focus.

As concerns the latter, start by asking a better question.

What exactly do you want to optimize about the learning process?”

“I want to maximize learning density [<link; short read]. The amount of learning I get done every day.”

“The problem with that statement is that it focuses only on quantity.

Let’s say you get a lot of learning done in a day, but of low quality. Think cramming for an exam. You have a high density, but very low quality.

The learning process has an input and an output. Let’s say you have a lot of efficient input in a day but zero output. You have a high density, but an imbalanced input/output ratio [<link; short read].

You want to get more learning done every day. (Quantity)


You want to get more out of your learning every day. (Quality)
You want to be more present in your learning every day. (Quality)
You want to be more balanced in your learning every day [<link; medium read]. (Quality)

Quality has four components: Effectiveness, Efficiency, Presence, and Balance.

We can think of effectiveness as the macro, and efficiency as the micro. Strategy and tactics. Both are essential.

To maximize density, maximize efficiency. 

Better still, focus on maximizing all aspects of Quality. You can think of them as the Quality-checklist.”

Moment-to-moment Checklist

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I’m (re)learning to get in touch with my BodyMind and my emotions. I’ve been reading a lot about it lately. It’s challenging, after being disembodied for so long, but I’m making progress.”

“What does your practice look like?”

“The main practice is a moment-to-moment mental checklist I created for myself. This is part of a bigger practice which I call Loving Awareness. The checklist consists of four self-checks:

Breathing: How’s my breathing? Am I breathing through my nose or my mouth?
Posture: How’s my posture?
Expansiveness: Am I expansive or contracted?
Relaxation: What am I feeling? Where in my body am I feeling it? Where am I holding tension?

A beautiful idea I know from Dan Brulé’s book Just Breathe is the two fundamentals of Breathwork – the process of mastering your breathing: Breath Awareness and Conscious Breathing.

He calls Breath Awareness ‘Being the breath’ – ‘The breath breathes you.’
He calls Conscious Breathing ‘Doing the breath’ – ‘You breathe the breath.’

I’d read a lot about breathing, and everyone spoke only about the latter. From Dan Brulé I learned the beautiful practice of just being with (and savoring) your breath, without trying to control it in any way.

Expansiveness refers to physical expansiveness – how much physical space I’m occupying –, and attentional expansiveness – how wide my field of awareness is. I noticed I have a tendency to collapse my field of awareness, especially when under the influence of unpleasant feelings. This check is meant to counter that.

Relaxation is essentially a body scan, with the scope of eliminating all tension. As I notice tension, I embrace it with Loving Acceptance and let it go.”

On Attention and Focus

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I improve the quality of my experiences?”

The quality of your experience is the quality of your Attention. This makes attention management one of the most important life-skills.”

“What is the difference between Attention and Focus?”

“Focus is a functional-model for Attention. It is useful because it reveals some important properties of Attention.

Attention properties:

Each property has a corresponding skill. In isolating them, you can focus on and train them individually.

Attention sub-skills:
Deep-Focus (Depth)
Selective-Focus (Direction)
Wide-Focus (Width)

Deep-Focus is the capacity to maintain Attention on one thing (One-pointed Attention). This is what you’re essentially training with Meditation.

Selective-Focus is the capacity to choose the optimal direction for Attention in any given moment.

We have a tendency to collapse Attention to a point. Wide-Focus is the capacity to expand Attention to the entire field of experience.”

“What is the optimal direction for Attention?”

“I’ve identified five dimensions (so far):

Focus on what you can control (not on what you can’t).
Focus on what you have (not on what you don’t).
Focus on the process (not the outcome).
Focus on the solution (not the problem).
Focus on the positive (not the negative).

You can think of them as a moment-to-moment checklist.

What are you focusing on now?

Selective-Focus checklist:
Control / Not control
Have / Not have
Process / Outcome
Solution / Problem
Positive / Negative”

“Why are you emphasizing the opposite in each case?”

“This makes it easier to invert [<link; medium length] them.”

Beautiful Tools: Introspection/Reflection-Checklists

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Checklists are a beautiful tool.”

“They are. Our memory is so unreliable. Checklists make sure you remember what needs to be done, and tell you exactly what to do at a glance. They’re inherently practical.”

“That’s one reason, and one type of checklist. I like to distinguish between physical/digital-checklists and mental-checklists.

Both help you remember, but the latter also help you retrieve the information more effectively from memory. Grouping the information together allows you to access it as one unit.

Another reason is their amazing flexibility. They can be adapted to a wide variety of practices, from flying a plane and performing an operation to… introspection and reflection.”

“Introspection and reflection?”

“That’s one of my latest ideas.

I look at checklists [and everything else] with a Designer’s eyes. I see them as a design-space, a space of possibilities.

Checklists can be used to structure a practice. In this case, introspection and reflection.

Checklists can have a temporal dimension.

Focused on the present, you get one checklist, like:


Body (Body-Check, Embodiment)
– Am I breathing?
– How’s my posture?

State (State-Check)
– Am I centered?
– How am I feeling?
— Where am I feeling this in my body?
– How’s my Inner Fire? (Motivation)

Energy (Enegy-Check, Movement)
– Am I moving?
– How’s my energy level? (low/medium/high)

Focused on the near past, you get another checklist, like:


– What went well?

– What didn’t go well?
– What were the failure-points?

– What will I do differently next time?

And you can focus the checklist by identifying specific areas of interest, like:



– How present was I?

– How much did I move?
– How well did I move?

– How well did I oscillate?
– Did I take breaks?

– How focused was I?
– Did I procrastinate?

You can think of these as templates [<link; medium read] that can be tailored to your specific practice and circumstances.”

Access / Retrieval System

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I access my mental resources more effectively?”

“This is an important ongoing project of mine, which I call the Access / Retrieval System. This is part of a much larger project, which I call Operationalizing Knowledge [<link; short length].

The Access / Retrieval System is essentially a mental-checklist. More specifically, it is a combination between a checklist and a mindmap – a mindmap-checklist. It looks something like this:

A mindmap-checklist

All the nodes are mental resources.

C is the central access-point.
1, 2, 3 are micro-checklists.
Together they form the macro-checklist.

If the access order of the micro-checklists matters, it is a linear-checklist. Otherwise, it is a nonlinear-checklist.”

“What’s the reasoning behind it?”

“Think how many nodes this little network has.”


“That’s a lot of information to access at once, especially when in the heat of the moment. By sequencing it, you make it more manageable, hence usable.

In case of linear-checklists, the access-order is as follows:

– 1
— a1
— b1
— c1
– 2

In case of nonlinear-checklists, the access-order is as follows:

– x
– x
– x

I like to describe this one as ‘1-3‘ – you access 1 node, followed by 3 more.

At this stage you evaluate which micro-checklist is most useful for the situation at hand, and start with accessing that.”