Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Carlton Galbreath, and I’m the Business Management Program Director – as well as a professor – at Missoula College. I’m also an entrepreneur, a consultant, and a pretty enthusiastic (though usually unsuccessful in terms of hunting & fishing) outdoorsman.
What is one habit of yours that helps you be productive?
Practicing mindfulness in the morning is what I would consider to be the most important keystone habit for my productivity. First off, having something I consistently do every day keeps me anchored to routine and creates a sense of positive momentum and getting a “win” each morning. Meditation itself also helps me to see more clearly what my priorities are, and build a plan for the day that’s less reactive to outside forces and more driven by my own values.
Planning the following day each night would be a close second, as it’s more directly aimed at productivity.
What is your morning routine and how does it help you get the most out of your day?
I call it the 3 Ms – mindfulness, mobility, and movement.
Essentially I wake up, do some quick (Wim Hof) breathing exercises to activate everything, do some mobility exercises to warm up my body, meditate, then do either a 7min calisthenic (Tabata) workout or a 20-30min cardio workout. I’ve found that these “3 Ms” are best if I design them to be just enough that I feel good about the day if I don’t do anything else, but also light enough that I’ll ACTUALLY DO IT. Compliance in practice > perfection in theory. So for a rushed morning I can still check all the boxes in <20min. For the workouts, I’ve designed them so that afterward I’m not sore or fatigued, because I often want to do a more serious workout or outdoor activity in the afternoon.
That being handled, I then hydrate with a large (0.75L) water that has 1/2tsp Himalayan Sea Salt and the juice of 1 lime. Lastly, I read a book and enjoy my morning coffee.
This helps me get the most out of my day because I’ve already done at least the minimum necessary for my mind and body, and then I reward myself with the thing I really want, which is to sit with a hot coffee and read whatever book I’m working through at the moment.
In the last few years, what lifestyle, habit or behavior change has had the biggest positive impact on your life?
This is a toss-up between consistent exercise and mindfulness practice, but I’d probably have to give the edge to exercise. The brain, not to mention everything else, simply function WAY better if I’m actually doing what’s needed for my body. In all my years of studying positive psychology, peak performance, and the like I’ve become convinced that 80% of the most important work is what we like to call “neck-down.” Even if I’m hoping to improve something that feels like it’s a brain problem, I’ve found that the best way to get there is often by first intervening in the body. That being said, mindfulness practice (which can also be “neck-down” in a way, depending on how you do it) is a very close second, and the two together are almost inseparable in my life, as they form a strong positive feedback loop together.
When you feel unfocused, what do you do?
Honestly, I usually take that as a signal that I should listen to, and switch to a different type of task that is better matched to my energy level and motivations at that given moment. If I really have to lock in because of a deadline or something of that nature, I’ll do some quick exercise (push-ups, burpees, running up and down the stairs a couple times) to get myself re-energized, then set a timer for 25min and single-focus on the task, giving myself a 5min break at the end of that time (called the “pomodoro technique”).
What is one piece of software or a web service that you get immense value out of? How do you use it?
I’ve actually returned to using pen and paper for lots of things, but I do have a “Daily” calendar in Google Calendar where every night (okay, most nights) I plan how I actually intend to use my time for the following day, in 15min increments (they generally end up being much bigger chunks but I think of it in 15min increments).
What is the one book you recommend most often and why?
I teach The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker in my Intro to Business class because I think it’s one of the best self-management (and general business) books ever written. I also love Atomic Habits by James Clear and recommend it often as a wonderful exploration of habits, routines, and the behavior change tools needed to break bad habits and build good ones. Lastly, The Happiness Hypothesis by Jon Haidt is the best overview of Positive Psychology I’ve ever read, and a great book in terms of addressing “what it’s all about.” Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl would also be at the top of the list in that category. I know that’s more than 1 book but I’m a big reader so it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. I guess if I could assign every human on earth to read a single book it’d be Atomic Habits because it’s such a practical text and would force one to think about the questions the other books cover when deciding which habits to build or break.
What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?
This is a very tough question as good advice is usually custom-fit to the individual, so I’ll start with the advice they should ignore, which is everyone else’s, including my own. People don’t listen to themselves – especially that quiet, still inner voice you can only hear once the clamoring of your parents and teachers and friends and society dies down – nearly often enough. My greatest personal fear is a life lived inauthentically, and I think that if enough folks sat with the idea long enough they’d agree that that is one of the few things on earth worth fearing, so there’s my anti-advice. Don’t live inauthentically, don’t take others’ advice or opinions too seriously because they can’t live your life or die your death for you, so in the end what they think doesn’t really matter all that much.
Now to actually give some advice, I’ll follow that theme and provide some tips on how to attune to your own self and become more authentic to yourself. A lot of people will say to “follow your passion,” and while that’s great and well-aligned with this concept, it’s not that specific. HOW does one do so? First off, I’d recommend that you learn about the concept of “flow” (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi), and start to pay attention to where you experience flow. Think about your values and what you really believe in – write them down but keep an open mind that your first draft might be off, or that they might change over time. Take the VIA Strengths & Values survey to give this more shape. Say yes to a lot, try a great variety of things, and pay attention to what lights you up. Lastly, make an intentional effort to attune yourself to that inner voice – mindfulness practice, spiritual pursuits, therapy, coaching, and a myriad of other practices can be an aide here but the key work is “practice.”
What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of the intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the beauty in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that one life has breathed easier because you lived here. This is to have succeeded.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson