James R. Crisp

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The Mindful Creator Letters

How Goal Setting and Routine Transformed My Life: A Journey to Deep and Meaningful Work

More hours spent working doesn’t mean producing more work.

It defiantly doesn’t mean quality work.

Or life-changing work.


We often spend our time working on shallow tasks that don’t provide any value or leverage towards our ultimate goal. At the end of each day, we end up feeling we haven’t done enough and our minds can’t get proper rest.

In order to combat this we keep working late into the evening, but not on anything worth while. When we finally call it a night. Our lack of progress ruminates in our minds and we struggle to fall asleep. The mind is still trying to work on the problem.

Our poor quality sleep rolls over into the next day. And again we find ourselves groggy, brain fogged and irritable. What now? You try to produce something of value, but your mind just can’t focus.

And so the cycle repeats. We end up spinning our wheels never quite getting to where we want to be.


The solution is counter intuitive.

Do less and rest more!

Let me explain…


For the longest time I have been in this unfortunate cycle. I struggled to get up in the mornings, I tried to cram as much into my day as I could. I desperately wanted to quit my part-time teaching job and go full in on my own business. But I had no clear goal of what I was actually doing.

I was putting myself under a lot of pressure and to cope with the stress and get more done, I was neglecting my health. Opting for quick easy meals to not waste time. I would drink in the evenings to relax my mind because I couldn’t fall asleep. My addiction to nicotine had took a turn for the worse, I was smoking a lot. Every morning I would wake up in a coughing fit, feeling dazed and lethargic.

This lifestyle was unsustainable. I knew I had to make a change, but I was scared. I didn’t believe I could, I was worried that if I tried, I would fail again. I couldn’t fail again.

I knew there were only two ways out of this mess. I either had to go inside, using meditation & contemplation to find a way to anchor my mind. Or I had to reassess my external goals and find something I could anchor my life to.

 I knew meditation would be difficult and take time, so I chose the external approach. I decided to set a clear goal for myself and embark on a new creative project. I committed to writing a book, crafting daily tweets, and publishing a weekly newsletter. With these goals in mind, I set a daily writing target of 1000 words for my book and carved out dedicated time for writing each day.

This gave me a clear direction and something to anchor myself towards.

I didn’t know it at the time, but my life, in particular my outlook and quality of work were about to drastically change. Although I was desperate to leave my teaching job, I accepted that there was no shortcut I could take. I needed to make money while I worked on my business, so I could pay for my studio and basic daily essentials.

Within this acceptance, I started to find peace. My mind was so focused on my goal, my subconscious started orientating its self around this output. All of the things I was struggling with, that I was trying to brute force, suddenly became easy.

The allure of my unhealthy habits faded away as I realized that in order to produce quality work, I needed to prioritize my health and well-being. Instead of returning to the studio after teaching and working late into the night. I made a conscious effort to go straight home, cook nourishing meals, and prioritize rest. The result? Improved sleep, heightened focus, and a newfound sense of purpose.

I stopped drinking, and found it easy to get up in the morning. I knew if I could get an hour of writing in before I had to start teaching, I would feel much calmer and not so agitated by my job. Life became so smooth as I dropped into my new routine centered around writing and rest.


This is how my days looked.

7AM Wake up, go to studio.
7:30 Make a coffee and prepare my mind for work.
8:00-9:00 Deep focused work.
9:30-11:30 Teach English
11:30-12:30 Lunch + Rest
12:30 to 2:30 Deep focused work. Research, reading and writing.
2:30 to 4:30 Pottering around, working on hobbies or more writing if I felt like it.
4:30 to 6:30 Teach English
6:30-9:30 Go home & cook a healthy meal. Rest!
9:30-10 Shower and sleep.


This new schedule meant that I was getting 3 hours of deliberate focused, deep work done.

In those 3 hours, the work I produced was better and more profound than anything I created during the 9+ hours a day I was putting in before. I was no longer flailing about trying to get so much done and getting nowhere.

Also you have to take into account I was working 4 hours a day teaching English. This is absolutely draining and I didn’t take into account that, these hours all add up. I was essentially working 13 hour days.

Cutting down to 3 hours plus 4 teaching meant that when I was teaching, I wasn’t suffering as much with my job. I could enjoy it somewhat more, thanks to having more energy.

I was actually starting to feel happy again, accepting my life situation instead of trying to fight it, wishing it were different.

What was even more amazing was the fact that one afternoon, having withdrawn the last cigarette from its packet, I had a strange feeling come over me. That this might be my last cigarette. Normally I would rush straight to the shop to buy another packet, but after extinguishing that cigarette, I told myself, I didn’t want to buy any more.

I had given up in the past, and it was hard. But something about this time felt different. I just had no desire to smoke anymore. Stopping felt effortless. I knew, if I could get through the initial days, my energy would return, my mind would be sharper and I would be able to write better and focus on my goals.

This was remarkable.

In less than a week, I had gone from struggling to get up, struggling to sleep, drinking every evening, smoking 20 a day, chewing nicotine gum during class, unable to find motivation, feeling anxious about my future, hating my job, desperate for a new life to completely enjoying my current one.

I was now getting up with ease, working with focus and intent, taking proper breaks and rest, avoiding alcohol and nicotine with ease, feeling inspired and motivated, having more energy to do my part time job and not feel like I was wasting the day.

All of this because I got clear on what I truly wanted to do. I didn’t need to brute force my way into change, I just had to accept my situation the way it was and organise my consciousness to focus on where I wanted to go.

In essence, I discovered that true productivity isn’t about working longer hours; it’s about working smarter with a clear sense of purpose. By anchoring myself to meaningful goals and establishing a consistent routine, I was able to channel my energy into deep, focused work. Rest and relaxation became essential components of my productivity toolkit, enabling me to produce more work of higher quality in less time.


So how can you apply this to your life?

First I would recommend slowing down. Take some time to take stock of where you currently are and where you want to go.

Bridge the gap.

What one goal or creative project could you focus on that would have the most impact on your life?

Once you’ve figured out you lever moving project. Schedule time for that activity and start removing any unnecessary things from your routine. Less is more.

Get proper rest so that when you are pursuing your goal, you can give your full focus and attention to it. Be present with the task instead of ruminating about the future.

If you focus on the process of achieving your goal in the present. That future will come.

It requires you develop patience and persistence.

Whether it’s a creative project, a personal passion, or a professional endeavor, identify what truly matters to you and commit to pursuing it with purpose. Set a goal to work on it for a least 1 hour a day. Remember, the path to deep and meaningful work begins with a single step—and with determination and focus, you can transform your life in ways you never thought possible.

When you orient your life around a clear goal, all of the other habits, routines and processes needed to achieve that goal will start to fall into place. Change becomes effortless when you have determined focus.

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