Routine allows for optimization

The main reason why I advocate an everyday lifestyle that is heavily rooted in routine is because it allows for optimization. You cannot optimize chaos or randomness.

Therefore, you want to incorporate some degree of repetitiveness in your day to day behavior if you wish to live what you could call an optimized life.     

We are the sum of our actions, and therefore our habits make all the difference – Aristotle

About two years ago, me and my wife got into the habit of eating a salad every day for lunch, because we felt like that would be a healthy habit.

I bring up this example, because I can think of many ways in which this habit has changed and been optimized over time.

To mention some examples:

  • Over time, we replaced the lettuce component of the salad with some form of cabbage, because it was cheaper, easier, more filling and fibrous.
  • We bought a food processor at one point, to make the preparation of the salad for a whole week easier and quicker. This has been a great time-investment.
  • We came up with a system for how to prepare and store all components of the salad once a week, which has made it infinitely easier stick to.
  • We have learned a lot about where we generally can buy the best and cheapest ingredients, that we use on a continual basis.

As I said, this salad example is just an example. I am not trying to persuade you to make salads every day. Only to make you think about how you can have more routine in your life, so that it can be optimized, for whatever you want more of; time, quality, money, health?

What you end up optimizing for is dependent on your values.

Evaluating your latest timehack

Lately, I have been contemplating the idea of getting myself one of those fancy Apple watches, since my brain tells me that it might be able to add value to my life.

Since I identify as a man who enjoys the benefits of “simple living” or minimalism, you can imagine how the thought of getting such a superfluous item has been a source of internal conflict for me.

I am torn on the subject, because I am also a productivity enthusiast, and in this regard, I get immensely excited every time recognize an opportunity to save time. Even if we are talking about a few seconds here and there on a continual basis.

In the case of the Apple watch, I envision how I could save a few seconds whenever somebody texted me, and I would be able to tell whether or not to respond, by just looking at my wrist, as opposed digging up my smartphone from a tightly fitted pair of jeans.

Another case example would be, whenever I want to shot off the Philips Hue lights in my apartment. It would be a few seconds faster to do it by tapping my wrist, rather than unlocking my phone, and do it from there.

As I said, the potential wins in time I could enjoy from getting the watch would only be minuscule. But seen through an accumulative lens, a few seconds gained every day, quickly amounts to hours on a yearly basis – at least, this I how I rationalized getting it at first glance.

But then I thought deeper about it

If we seriously want to do the calculation of whether the acquisition of a time hack is worth it, we have to include all possible variables that might be related to time and energy.

In the example of the watch, we need to factor in the initial time investment we have to make, just to actually get the watch. Here, I am talking about the required money that you will have to work for and earn, plus the time it takes to go out and actually buy it.

Doing my regular job, it might take my around 30 hours of work, just to accumulated enough funds to match the retail price. Add the about 30 minutes it would take me to order it on the internet, and decide on the design.

Further, we need to imagine how much of my time it will take on a continual basis. For instance, the watch has to be recharged every night, and this will probably cost me something in time.

Lastly, we have to think about, for how long this gadget will be functional and able to provide me with the gains in time. I estimate that such an advanced watch would probably last me around 3 years.

 

We are then ready to make the final calculation

We guess that the watch:

– Costs 30,5 hours (1.830 minutes) to acquire

– Takes about 5 seconds of my time every day

– Gives me around 15 seconds in time every day

– Lasts for 3 years (1.095 days)

 

In total, the watch costs me:

5*1095+1830 = 7.305 minutes

 

And in total, wins me:

15*1095 = 16.425 minutes

 

And I thereby get a surplus in time of: 9.120 minutes, or 152 hours (during 3 years).

About 50 hours a year. Not bad actually!

 

Of course, all variables in this calculation are completely pulled out of my ***.

I am only presenting this method, to give you an idea about how to think of potential time hacks.

It even gives you a way of comparing difference hacks, to make it easier to decide on your next investment.

To be honest, making this rough calculation was kind of an eye-opener for myself, and now I have to think even deeper about whether to get myself a new watch or not 🙂

The Background Picture On My Phone

Once in awhile, you come across something that inspires you, something you wish you could integrate into your bones. You want it to become part of who you are.

This happened to me recently.

I listened to the Q&A episode of the Time Ferriss Show with Jocko Willink, where Jocko said something that really changed how I think an important topic, and I immediately thought: “I must not forget this message”. I wanted to make it a part of my life.

The question Jocko was answering, was about an artist’s discipline. Jocko is BIG on discipline, and the listener wanted to know, how an artist could apply his principles of discipline at times of low inspiration.

If an artist didn’t “feel like it” on a given day, how could he get up early in the morning and start showcasing his disciplined spirit?

I really perked up my ears when I heard this question, because I usually tell myself, that I am excused for not writing, if I am not particularly “feeling it”.

Well, as usual, Jocko can make you feel like a weakling for carrying such a mind-set.

His response was basically, that you must do your work every goddamn day – regardless of whether you are inspired or not. You need to practice to get better. And if only 1% of what you produce is any good, you are still closer to your end-goal than before.

If you are a painter, you must get up and force the paint onto the canvas.

The sculptor must force the clay together.

And the writer must force the words onto the paper.

It was especially the last part that resonated with me, because I fantasize about becoming a writer one day, and I therefore immediately thought that I must integrate this idea into who I am.

I therefore, wrote a note on my phone that said “force the words onto the paper”,

took a screenshot of it, and made it the background image on my phone.

That way, I am reminded of the idea every day, in a non-intrusive way, and I find it immensely helpful for really remembering something inspirational.

Try it yourself, if you want to live by a quote or something. We all look at our phones a million times a day anyway ?

Max

Harvest the power of your unconscious mind

They say that Hemmingway used to stop writing for the day, in mid-sentence, so his creativity would stay active on the current topic until next time he would sit down to write.

We all know about the concept of “sleeping on” a certain issue.

These are just two examples of letting our unconscious mind do a specific type of almost automatic work on a problem. My suggestion is that we remember that our brains have this weird capacity to think about something, while talking a break from it.

In psychology, they talk about a mechanism called the Zeigarnik-effect, which describes how our brains tend to forget about a problem, once we categorize it as done or delt with. This was originally observed in waiters, who were masterfully able to remember unfinished orders, while being almost amnesiacs when it came to the finished ones.

This is, in part, the reason why it works to “sleep on a problem”. We tell ourselves that whatever we are working on, is still an “open order”, and therefore has to stay active in our subconsciousness.

John Cleese, the world famous comedian, said in his brilliant talk on creativity, that creative people usually keeps a subject open for editing until the very deadline, in case something better pops into their heads. The longer a subject is “open”, the longer the window for new ideas will be open.

This is also a key lesson from the book Originals by Adam Grant. By way of procrastinating, an original mind is able to come up with better ideas, because the unconscious mind is working on the problem for a longer time.

We can harvest this effect by being the kind of person who is quick to start, but slow to finish – this gives us the maximum amount of time to work. Open up a subject, and let it stay open. Ideas tend to pop up in the most unexpected circumstances, but it usually requires that we have begun thinking about it first.

//Max

World’s most low tech productivity hack

I was recently reading a couple of pages of the old school self-help book The Magic of Thinking Big, which inspired me to write this post.

In a particular section of the book, the author David J Schwartz prescribes 5 different confidence building exercises that he encourages everyone to utilize, to battle any symptoms of low self-esteem.

The basic premise for the exercises are to act in a confident manor physically, in order to feel confident emotionally. Similar to when people choose to laugh for no good reason to force themselves to feel better. It sort of works!

One of the five exercises was about walking faster. In the author’s opinion, a fast way of walking is a confident man’s gait. So he hypothesizes, that you might gain more confidence, by making it a habit to walk faster.

 

Whether this idea really works or not, I cannot say with certainty, but what I do know for sure, is that it will make you get from A to B faster!

This thought made me realize, that I, as a productivity nerd, get too fancy sometimes, staring myself blind in technologically based productivity hacks – like, how can I increase the speed of the mouse on my computer.

I am all about shaving off a second here and there from my daily routine, in order to accomplish more. But sometimes, it pays to look for the low-hanging-time-fruit in the real world.

 

From now on, I will try to make it a point, to get from A to B faster, whenever I have to go by foot. I understand that there certainly is a place for a slow stroll in the park, or a walk down the shopping street with ones girlfriend under the arm.

What I am talking about applies to my day to day business, between tasks, where there might not be any time for mindful walks anyway.

What do you think? Could this very low-tech productivity hack end up backfiring on me, by inducing more stress than confidence?

My Masternotes

Here is a new thing I started doing recently, that I would like to share with you.

My overall goal in life is to become some kind of teacher, speaker or educator on a few different topics that interests me. I want to be the guy you go to, to get an opinion, whenever you have a discussion about one of my preferred subjects.

My key topics of interest have been evolving perpetually throughout my life, although some of them have stayed pretty consistent. A few days ago, I sat down to evaluate what they are currently, and this is the list I came up with:

  • Health/nutrition/biohacking/body-optimization
  • Minimalism
  • Productivity
  • Philosophy (on how to live life)
  • Politics
  • Business
  • Mindfulness

After making this list, I decided to create Evernote notes, to represent each of my chosen subject.

The idea, from now on, is to append any new golden nugget of information to these note, whenever I come across something that I particularly resonate with. I hope, over time, that these notes, will become a complete curriculum of everything that you might want to learn from talking to me. It is an encyclopedia of my favorite ideas.

When the individual notes reach some kind of critical size, I fantasize about, how I might be able to create an entire course, just by organizing the content of one of my notes. Or how I may be able to write a book based on another one.

I am just starting out with this process, so I cannot guarantee that the desired effects will manifest, but I don’t think it can ever hurt, to make an archive of favorite ideas and pieces of information.

 

Thank you for reading

Max

Noise Cancelling Headphones – Like Having a Superpower

On this very blog of mine, I identify as being a minimalist/frugal person. Because of this fact, I always feel like I need to justify it, every time I advise the readers to break open their wallets.

In my opinion, the purpose of being a minimalist is not to spend no money whatsoever. The main idea is to realize, that most of what consumer culture has to offer, is total garbage, and that we should always be very skeptical, whenever someone is trying to sell us something.

However, in some cases, we simply run into products or offers, that are truly worth it, because they add value in a meaningful way to our lives. In those cases, I believe that it is exactly the job of the minimalist to shine some light on these objects, to make the market easier to navigate for everybody else.

Recently, I acquired a product that falls into this category. After considering it for a very long time, I finally took the leap and bought the in-ear, noise cancelling headphones from BOSE.

As I said, it took me a long time to actually do it, since they were fairly expensive, but I always had the suspicion that they might be worth it. They are by no means, an essential product that everyone should own, but they are a really nice luxury to have if one can afford them.

Their main feature, obviously, is the noise-cancelling function. With them, you get a button, that you can press at any time, in case you want to shut out all low-level noise around you. This is truly powerful whenever you find yourself in a train, airplane or even open office, and want to be able to concentrate. I also find that you get a lot less fatigued from sitting on an airplane, when you are able to shut out the constant humming that goes on in the background during the entire trip. If you want to take a walk down the street and be alone with your thoughts in a noisy city, they are great for that too.

They do not make you completely deaf. They just filter out all low-level background noise, and still allow you to hear, what the person next to you is saying. This also makes them reasonably safe to wear in public/traffic.

I say that they are like having a new superpower, although a minor one, because they allow you to concentrate and have some peace, a little bit better than everyone around you – whenever you click the button.

They are great headphones in the classic sense too, and I use them for podcasts and music every day. However, the sound quality aspect is not something I obsess so much about. All I can say is that they are very good in my uninformed opinion.

To be honest, it is a minus that you have to charge the headphones separately every other day with a micro USB cable. But since you can do this, every time you sit in front of a laptop, it is a minor detail in my view.

To sum up: the headphones have my very strong recommendation.

Thanks for reading!

Mining For Ideas With Meditation

I should start out this post by saying that I am no meditation guru by any means. I am a very mediocre practitioner, and I have only gotten as far into my meditation journey, as a little further than the courses you will be able to find in an iPhone app.

I have had great benefit from starting out with the Headspace app , for which I bought a year of premium subscription to.

A little while ago though, the membership period ended, which suited me greatly, as I was starting to find myself choosing the guided meditation sessions with the least “guidance” i.e. talk in them.

You see, I have come to believe that, once you become a little bit experienced with meditation, the focus of the practice becomes about listening to your own inner voice, as opposed to making it quite.

Like everyone else, when I first started out meditating, I found myself in a thunderstorm of thought inside of my own head, and just paying attention to breathing, was a very difficult task in itself. Later on, it became gradually easier, and now I find that many of the thoughts that actually disrupts my focus are worth paying attention to, or even write down.

That’s why I have stopped using the guided mediations– I want to be able to listen to the thoughts that pop up here and there because they might be worth something.

Our sub-consciousness is constantly at work, processing the information and the experiences and we have throughout the day. Simultaneously, this is all being distilled into thoughts, opinions, lessons and sometimes ideas.

There are many ways to practice meditation, and once you reach some level of experience, you will probably end up finding the exact flavor that suits you. My personal style, however, has become all about the notepad in front of me. I am consciously looking for what might come into my head during my usual 15 minutes sessions, and if anything does, I will write it down for later.

Most of the time, the things I write down are not particularly good. But that is okay. There is no place for being critical of one’s thoughts during meditation. Furthermore, I find that the act writing down a thought is a great way help to let it go again – i.e. the point of most meditation practices.

When you use meditation as a tool for mining for ideas, it is important to note, that the practice quickly becomes just about exactly that – meaning that it might not be a great way to handle a stress or other problems. Ultimately, when you meditate with a notebook in front of you, it all becomes about the notebook and what you put in it. Which isn’t the point of traditional meditation.

Try it today. Sit down with a notebook, and start meditating like normal, and see if anything good comes up. Write it down, and let me know what you think.

Thank you.

Relentlessly Proactive

Here is another post I was inspired to write because I listened to Josh Waitzkin on the Tim Ferriss podcast.

On the podcast, Josh said he advises his executive coaching clients, to be relentlessly proactive as opposed to reactive, in their daily work.

For me, being proactive means: to do things on your terms – limiting distractions – and moving life forward in accordance with your own internal instincts and principles.

I completely believe, that this is the mindset of an effective person, who is able to define his own destiny. Therefore, something worth aspiring to.

With this post, I would like to discuss a few of my favourite strategies, for enabling one to lead a more proactive, and undistracted life:

 

Your most important stuff first

A simple way of getting your most important stuff done, and thereby work proactively, is simply to do it before anything else. Do your stuff, before checking email, or other tasks, that may grab your attention for the next few hours. This will ensure, that you’ll get some proactive work done, no matter what else happens that day.

 

Distractions evaluated

Pay attention to what is grabbing your attention on a regular basis. It might be, that your work process can be optimized a little. Maybe you get notifications on your computer or phone, which can easily be turned off. Maybe you are using some forms of communication that you should simply opt out of, because they solely work as distractors, and add no value. If so, you might need to delete a few apps from your smartphone – easily fixed.

Distractions are attention robbers and thereby the opposite of proactiveness.

Remember, distractions can come in many other forms, than just notifications from technological gadgets.

 

Mindfulness

Mindfulness/meditation is dedicated time, to listen to what is going on inside yourself. And in order for you to act according to your inner instincts, you need to know intimately about them.

With a mindfulness practice, you get a better sense of where you want to go and why. That means, you will be better aware of, how exactly you should apply your newfound proactiveness.

 

Well-defined values and principles

Again, having a clear sense of direction is important. Otherwise, you can’t know, in which way you should be proactive. I have literally sat down, and written out my personal values and principles, to make it clearer to myself, how I want my life to go.

How you choose to define your life’s purpose and overall goal, is up to you. The important thing is to know, what you should to apply the proactiveness to.

 

Time for thinking

More of the same stuff. Being proactive means, to be clear and deliberate about where you want to go, and where you are at the current moment. A great and simple drill can be to take dedicated time to seriously think, and stop >doing< all the time. Sometimes, we all do a lot of stuff, that doesn’t help us achieve our highest ambitions. It is therefore massively important to stop from time to time, to think and plan the few moves ahead, to ensure that our energy is applied correctly.

 

Being an essentialist.

Even more of the same stuff. Time is precious, and cannot be wasted on anything. As a relentless pro-activist, you also must become an essentialist, which means you must say no to the superfluous. Read the book Essentialism to understand this concept.

 

Thank you for reading.

Living Life Progressively

Before you get too far into this blog post, I just want to make it clear that this isn’t about progressivism in the political sense.

This is about a cornerstone of my personal philosophy of life, that I would like to share with you.

It is about living life in forward motion.

I believe, that most of the things we do in life, can either be regarded as actions that:

–        Move us forward

–        Or don’t

To me, it seems illogical to choose a stagnant way of living, where there is never any progress to see. On the other hand, I think it makes perfect sense, to want to strive for a life that will somehow be better tomorrow.

So what does this mean?

Obviously, it all depends on what you define as “a better life”.

But let’s just say, as an example – only because this is easy to understand – that you consider a wealthier life, a better life.

A progressive way of dealing with this would be to choose a frugal lifestyle, because this would allow you to grow your net worth every month – you spend less than you earn. You would also be able to invest your savings, and in that way, build slowly towards a wealthier life.

What the non-progressive type would do, would be to increase cash flow, but also increase spending proportionally.

(I have many friends like this. They all want to be rich, so they earn a lot, but save very little, which means they are ultimately poorer than my low-earning/frugal friends. They confuse the concept of “being rich” with “living a rich person’s life”.)

The main goal is to stand on a higher platform today, than what you did yesterday.

Here are some more examples, so you get my idea:

Progressiveness Non- Progressiveness
Saving something every month

Writing blog posts – Your blog accumulates value

Reading classic books – the ideas will always be relevant

Learning a new skill, that you can enjoy forever

Buying high-quality items, that will last forever

Sticking to classic ideas and concepts

Working on long-term and deeper relationships with people

Working on bigger and impactful projects

Etc.

Spending everything you get

Writing articles for a newspaper – it is worthless tomorrow

Reading the news – You will always have to keep up

Learning a new skill, that will only be relevant for a short time

Buying low-quality items, that will have to be replaced frequently

Following current fashion and trends

Working on short-term and shallow relationships with people

Working on small projects, that will only have short term impact

l  Etc.

And this is just to give you some examples.

 

You can actually make the distinction between the two, as being proactive and reactive.

The progressive type is proactive, because he decides in which way he wants to move his life forward.

The non-progressive type is reactive, because he constantly has to keep up with what’s in vogue, and therefore start from scratch next time the trends shift.

It makes it really easy – for me at least – to decide which type I want to be. I want to evolve and grow, and never be stuck in my place.

Thanks for reading.

—-

Further readings:

Part of this idea about sticking to the classics, is definitely stolen from Nassim Taleb’s book Anti-Fragile, which is one of my favorite books of all time.

You can read about sticking to a few long term projects, that has long lasting value in the book The Power of Less.