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Refining The Golden Hour

By Steven Barnes

In one of the classic personal finance books, "The Richest Man In Babylon, we are told that the way to wealth is to "pay yourself first." That a portion of all you earn is yours to keep. Great words, and just as applicable to your life itself. In other words, out of every sixteen-hours of wakefulness in a day, one hour should be yours, and yours alone. Not your job, not your husband or wife, not your kids or your parents. One hour. Sixty minutes. Thirty-six hundred seconds. Yours.

The question you should ask yourself is: if you only had one hour a day that belonged to you, what should you do with it? What CAN you do with it? Television watching patterns suggest that the average American watches over four hours a day'so we can't claim the time isn't there.

Lifewriting", the high-performance system for writers and readers, maintains that with only one hour a day you can completely take your life back from the world, build to the career you desire, reach inner peace, get in the best shape of your life, and engage in continuing education"all at the same time!

The first trick is to learn to calm your mind, to center yourself so that you have a "clean stage on which to perform. Twenty minutes three times a week is a great start, and once you are in the habit, you'll start finding other times during the day for contemplation. Either focusing on your heartbeat, or counting deep belly breaths to ten over and over again are great stress-busters.

Next, you'll need energy to transform your dreams into reality. Diet, rest and focus are important for energy, but one way you can catapult your physical energy into new levels is proper exercise. There are several forms of whole-body exercise that are far more efficient than most fitness routines. We're talking exercises that simultaneously work all muscles, produce high levels of aerobic fitness, and actually produce a healthy stretch"all in less than 20 minutes a day! Check out the "clubbell system at, the "kettlebell techniques at, or the "Combat Conditioning system sold at These three are fabulous, real, hyper-efficient means of producing fitness. Three twenty-minute sessions a week will probably double your energy.

Now you get to be clever. While total concentration on your exercise is best, this is not a perfect world, and we must make compromises. Listening to instructional CD's or audiobooks during exercise time is a great choice. Possibly the best source of such material is the wonderful Great Courses series available at The Teaching Company finds the best college professors in the world, and records their finest lectures on 30 and 45 minute tapes. The prices are reasonable (everything goes on sale at least once a year) and the breadth of knowledge staggering. The quality of the instructors is absolutely top-notch.

Ten minutes every day clarifying your goals is also a good idea.

Now, depending on how you've juggled your time (ten minutes goals, twenty minutes exercise or meditation) you should have about thirty minutes left. You can use this for making plans to move your career into a desired direction. Let's be specific, and talk about my own career, writing. What can I do with this time?

Well, after a half hour of planning, exercising, meditation, and focus, you should be raring to go. In thirty minutes, you can produce 300-1000 words of text, IF you don't worry about the quality of the draft. This is absolutely key to producing the volume that will lead to quality. Say, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, you produce new text. These are "flow days, where you simply make a picture in your head, or let your fingers tingle (or however else you move into creative flow) and then type.

Then, on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, you edit. This is when you tear your work apart, polish, plan and dig in. DO NOT CONFUSE THESE TWO STATES. Editing and Flow are completely different parts of the mind, sort of Left Brain/Right Brain. Writer's block is merely the mixing of the two, "editing when you should be "flowing." Separate them deliberately, and you unleash a creative avalanche.

Of course, if you aren't a writer, these ideas can easily be modified. The most important points are:

1) One hour of every day belongs to you. Take it!

2) Clear your mind.

3) Plan your day

4) Raise your physical energy.

5) Take steps toward your dream goal.

If you will take these five steps, then you are on the path to the life of your dreams"one hour at a time!

About The Author
NY Tmes bestselling writer Steven Barnes has lectured on creativity and consciousness from UCLA to the Smithsonian Institute. Learn more at:

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