As a person who has been obsessed with the ideas of personal development and self growth for a long time, I have espoused many times the usual mantras of hard work, putting in the time, waking up early, and so on.
In my life experience however, I’ve noticed that even though a lot of these things are useful and definitely do have their place in the pursuit of excellence and fulfilment, sometimes, doing the opposite can also have positive effects.
In my last post, I briefly highlighted how you can actually break the rules if you respect core truths. Here are some of the ‘bad’ things you can do that could actually help you succeed.
This piece was inspired by this article by Jessica Wildfire. So if this intrigues you, definitely check that out as well.
So without further ado, here are 8 bad habits that could help you succeed.
Wake up whenever you want
Shout out to the 5am club. I am just not one of ya’ll. At least not yet. At least not all the time. A little caveat. Of course this would not work for you if you have a job, or a routine that demands that things happen at a certain time. But if you are unmarried and without kids, and also working remote or for yourself, then you could indulge yourself by waking up whenever you like.
For the past couple years, I have had the most erratic sleep and wake up times. But more often than not, I am awake till very late at night. These days, I am up until noon the very next day when my body starts to shut down, and then my day would begin around 8pm. It is admitted weird, but those all night work sessions are some of the most focused and productive I ever have. It doesn’t matter so much when you wake up or go to sleep. What matters is the quality of your sleep and what you do when you are awake.
Hard work is key. I believe in pushing hard. I believe in being obsessive. I believe in putting it all on the line. The work is the work, and the work must be done. However, too many times, we are working furiously climbing up the wrong ladder, trying to scale the wrong wall. Sometimes when we feel the urge to be lazy, the lack of desire to engage with work, it is because we really do not want to, it is because we are misaligned. This is a good time to be lazy, to ease up. To do the bare minimum, to recover and refocus. To discover what we really want to do, what will excite us, what will drive us. Be lazy long enough and you can discover a better way. Often, our obsession with working hard is just an excuse to not apply ourselves in working smart. It can be much easier to do what we normally do, instead of putting in the effort to allocate our time effectively.
Disappear from the world
A big part of success is being engaged and connected with the world. No one lives in a vacuum and the more tapped into your network, the more opportunities come your way. There are times we must do the opposite, times we must withdraw. In times of overwhelm and burnout. When we have given all and we are empty. Pulling away can give us that much needed rest and perspective to make the changes we need to make and come back stronger.
Follow your obsessions
In the midst of being lazy and withdrawing from the world, you might start to feel something well up within you, a new interest, an old obsession. Nurture it and indulge in it. For a long time, I was completely over watching or listening to anything growth related. I suddenly grew a deep interest in political systems, long breakdowns and analysis of modern media, and video games. None of them have been directly useful to my business yet, but they have enriched my mind, my life experience, my thinking and the way I engage with the world around and indirectly affected my creative output and connection to the people around me.
All work, and no play makes Jack dull af. Life is short. Enjoy it. Sure, this is an area where you can overdo it. But it is okay to go out, to be social, to see and be seen. It might be vain and futile sometimes, and even a waste of time and money. But it can also be a great time to connect with friends, to make new memories, to bond, and sometimes, even to network.
Play video games/Have hobbies
Some people say you shouldn’t play games at all. And I used to be in that camp. I always wondered what the point of engaging in virtual worlds was, when you could simply just engage with life itself. Life is the biggest open world RPG you could play. But video games as a whole are an incredible achievement, a mix of art, science, technology, design and storytelling to give you some of the most immersive and engaging experiences every created by man. So play if you like. Play helps us see things in new ways, helps us grow, process trauma, and grow and learn. I for one have learned a lot about life playing video games. Sometimes when I’m facing something tough in life, I think about bashing my head repeatedly against a particularly hard boss, and I think to myself, if I could do that, then I can do this.
There is nothing like a good binge. Whether that is partying, watching that new show on Netflix or spending 12 hours straight at your desk working. the idea is dive completely into whatever you are doing. It would be a bit intense, but you will come out of that session better for it. You would have scratched the itch you needed to, and come out relaxed and chilled enough to get back to work. Or if you were bingeing work, you would have let it all on the court and come off exhausted ready to rest. The point is, sometimes it is good to binge.
Work when you feel like it
Some people think you should show up every single day, whether you feel like it or not. There is surely a place for that. Sometimes you just have to show up. The muse should find you waiting and ready. Other times though, the inspiration just isn’t there. If you aren’t feeling it, the best thing to do might be to just not do it. Do something else. Go hangout with friends, go play 6 hours of your favourite video game. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left the work to do something else, and then inspiration hits me at the weirdest time and I’m good to go.
Even typing this right now is a good example. The whole day yesterday, I was in the dumps, so I did nothing but sleep really. Today, I’ve been been at my desk since 4:30am. C’est la vie.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the concept of “Relaxed Productivity”. The past few weeks have been a bit manic. I’ve been juggling multiple projects, chasing new business, creating new products and producing more content than I usually do. It has been a bit crazy.
So last week, I wanted to try a different tact. Or at least, I could afford to try. See, I always have the experienced of being almost at the edge of overwhelm. My fingers are always in a lot of different projects, I’m always doing a lot of work. But that comes with its cost. Eventually things devolve. The work gets a bit sloppy, projects are rushed and I slip into extreme fatigue. Something has to give. I spent most of the other week in a sleep deprived state. I got stuff done and done very well, but it left me exhausted.
In 2018 or so I came across the concept of ‘Working to Live’ and it started to change the way i approached work. The thing as a freelancer, one man band, mercenary, is that it is very easy to get overwhelmed with work. There are always requests coming your way, projects to be finished, projects that were finished coming back with more stuff or edits or changes. There is always more work.
You can also be incentivised to take on more work. Because the more you work, the more you earn. At the same time, it can be difficult to charge as high as is needed, because otherwise then you don’t close the deal, and sometimes you need the cashflow however small so you take the hit. Plus, people almost never pay when they say they will, projects get stuck in limbo or fall off completely. And when they do pay, they want things yesterday. So you get stuck in a loop, taking a lot of work to make the money you desire and then bumping up against time and energy constraints. You end up working ridiculous hours and crashing and burning repeatedly.
Is there another way?
Is what I’ve been wondering.
I have come across local creatives talking about how they are fully booked for months. So I’d imagine they are simply spending the next few months only working on what’s already on their plate. That seems nice, like they already have enough in the bank, or charged high enough to be able to maintain such a schedule. Also it means that they have enough time to really dig into the project and get things done to a high standard.
Must be nice, I want in also.
To Work to Live means to schedule ones life around life as much as possible, instead of work. It means scheduling the things that are important first – like rest, like exercise, and eating, or chores, and then scheduling work around that. Now sure, this is a very privileged place to be in. But if you already have control of your time as an entrepreneur or freelancer then this is a worthy goal to strive for.
What principles would have to be in place?
If your bills and needs are high, then you will always need to be generating income. And if you generate income from your work/labour, then you are going to have to work a lot. Reducing your footprint and reconsidering your lifestyle can give you the space you need to position yourself better and work more sustainably.
Plan at least a week ahead
To have a more relaxed and productive workflow, you need to have clarity over your time, resources and tasks and set things up accordingly. You would need to plan your life at least a week a time and front load it with the right amount of work. Know what needs to be done each week and really be honest about how much time things will take. Any other tasks that come up would have to compete against the already assigned task or move to the next week.
That means probably no rush projects, if you can help it.
Strive to be as effective as possible
If you only have limited time to work, then you have to make sure you are working on the most important things. Prioritise the important things and the things that will give the biggest results. Then you can get around to all the other stuff. Make the time you spend working count.
Be more valuable
To enjoy more relaxed productivity, you are probably going to need to increase your income. And you can do that by increasing your value, improving your skills, and selling your value to the clients who can afford it. You are going to raise those prices to attract and service the right market.
Innovate your business model
To be able to strive to a more relaxed level of productivity, you would need to work differently. Make your business or setup less dependent on you and built upon systems that can run without you. That could mean selling products, hiring people, or leveraging digital platforms. Position yourself for scalable exponential growth and that could earn you your freedom
Enjoy the time off
It can be easy to fall back into old patterns of toxic hustle culture. And there’s a time and place for that. Sometimes you do have to go all out and work like crazy, but when we in relaxed mode, we want to allow ourselves to actually enjoy the time off. For a workaholics like me, it can be hard to turn the brain off and just do something else. But invest the time in yourself, in your experiences, in your relationships and funny enough, it might just make you even better at your work.
At the time of writing this, it is February, we already just over a month into the new year. And if you are reading this, you are probably the type of person to have made goals and set targets for this year.
How are you doing on those by the way? Are you still excited and eagerly chasing after them or have you fallen off yet?
Most probably the cracks have started to show. Most people approach goals with the intention of making these vast sweeping changes at once, like they suddenly developed a new personality once the calendar flipped over a new year. Unless you have a ridiculous amount of will power, this is typically an exercise in failure.
To stay consistent and actually stand a chance of reaching your goals, you need to focus on tactics that make the changes a bit more subtle, consistent and lasting. Things like focusing on building the right habits, starting small, building new routines and feeding your motivation.
But there is one simple reason we tend to fall off our pursuit.
As stupid as it sounds, many times we lose track of a goal because we literally forget about it.
Every day is a struggle, with multitude of stimuli, questions, requests, demands, and distractions. It is very easy to start off the year with good intentions and then have things just trail off. I know, it happened to me many times.
We get busy, we get distracted, sometimes we even distract ourselves with ‘good’ things. It is often easier for me to just bury myself in work than face something I don’t want to yet. But we must fight to be aware of this tendency, and to take steps to mitigate it.
We do this by keeping the goal in front of us. Having a totem, a reminder, something physical, tangible or otherwise always in front of us that reminds us of what is important, of what we are moving towards.
In this way, when the demands come at us, when the distractions come, we are able to glance over quickly, and have our goals firmly at the front of our minds and thus we can respond appropriately.
My personal experience
2018 was the year I started blogging consistently, and by the end I was able to point to a full year of almost weekly updates. It was the year I really pushed my personal brand forward and made many strides in my life and work. I even released two books in that time. It was a year of incredible focus and consistency.
Up on to this point, I had struggled with pursuing some of my goals. I would start the year eager to get certain things done, and look up months later to see that although I was very busy doing many things, I had completely lost track of what was most important to me.
So what changed in the pivotal year of 2018? Many things, but one of the most powerful things I stumbled upon was changing my diary for the year into a totem. In the front and back inside covers, I had printed out and stuck sheets that highlighted my new personal brand, life philosophy and the multiple projects I wanted to get done.
Every time I opened that book, to take notes in a meeting, to plan, to keep track of tasks, I was reminded of the person I wanted to be, and the goals I was pursuing. It was inescapable. Having that constant reminder changed my life.
Here are 3 ways keeping your goals visible can change yours.
They serve as a constant reminder
Like I mentioned earlier, we often lose track of our goals because we just forget about them. Keeping your goals visible and close by serves as a near constant reminder of where we are going and what we are trying to get done. If we then choose not to pursue them, it is a more conscious decision as opposed to it just getting buried under the pile of other things vying for our attention.
They stimulate our minds
When our goals are perpetually in front of us, reminding us, our brains are constantly thinking about them, churning up ideas in the background, working on ways to achieve them, or build our lives around their pursuit. And if we enhance this by designing your environment in such a way that orients us towards our goals, it all combines us to move us steadily and automatically towards those ends.
Having your goals always in front of you also keeps you primed and sensitive. So that when opportunities come up, or chances for synchrony happen, you are ready to recognise and take advantage of them.
They build motivation
Seeing the vision constantly helps to cultivate burning desire. Something that is essential to helping you stick it out over the long run. Sometimes we set the goal we want, but we don’t want it enough to do whatever it takes. Keeping your goals in front of you stimulate the visions of it in your mind. They help you visualise having it and becoming the sort of person that achieves it. They also help fan the flames of desire until you are going after it with all you got.
Keeping your goals front and centre in your daily life is a small thing, but can have outsized effects. You can do this in many ways. You could keep a vision board close by, in your office, in your room. You could do as I did and dedicate pages of your daily planner to it. You could make it your phone or computer wallpaper, or place post-its all over your apartment. Whatever works for you.
Keep your goals in front of you, and they becomes that much easier to follow through.
Thank you for your attention and reading this to the end. If you enjoyed this post, please share with someone who you think might benefit greatly from it.
A lot of the times when I sit down to write, I have no idea what I am going to say. But I trust that as I sit and begin, that the idea will reveal itself. That’s what has happened as I have sat down this Sunday evening to write the first blog post for the year.
It’s been a while away from the page and I wonder…do I still have what it takes? What if I have finally run out of ideas. Yet I must face the uncertainty and create. The blank page is before me, the blank canvas of an entire year lies ahead. We must begin.
And to be honest, there is something that has been on my mind lately and in turn something to write about. (And weirdly enough dovetails very nicely into the podcast topic for this week)
The past week was chaotic, and it seems like I wasn’t the only one. Apparently 3 planets are in retrograde…if that actually does apply to anything. But it was a rough one. I personally dealt with turmoil in my relationships and friendships. I am just glad that I had the presence of mind to be proactive in dealing with and resolving the issues. But that didn’t change the fact that it felt like shit, like the week at some points felt like such a slog. That it was painful to go through.
It’s also the beginning of the year. Things are still slow. Things are gradually picking up. In a month or two, the year will be in full swing and things should be moving all around. But for now, we remain in the dip, especially if you are in the freelance or contract space. That comes with its own anxieties.
And as we move through this inevitable slog, I find myself thinking about a concept I’ve written about a few times on this blog here, here and here – learning how to suffer.
I like to look at life as the weather. So even with weeks like the last one, I am reluctant to call it a bad week. I’d just say that the weather was bad. Life is fine, there was just a bit of turbulence.
And that is okay. Because there must be variety. Things aren’t always easy. Things won’t always be chilled. Sometimes it will be rough. Sometimes there will be trouble. But in all these things, you can remain even keeled. You can practice virtue. You can do your best. You can be patient and consistent.
I think it is a good thing to remind the self from time to time. About the need to be able endure suffering, to embrace the pain. How to get back to the grind, how to hustle, how to push the body past its limits. How to focus and get things done when all you want to do is relax and Netflix. How to let the past die. How to stick to your guns and do what’s right even when your heart is pining to do different.
It is a crucial skill to remember. Because the year is long, and we have only just begun. We have another 12…well 11 now, months to go before this cycle is done. That is 11 months to move forward, to improve, to put to practice and to practice. To act on everything we have learned in the year(s) before.
It will take a lot from us. It will demand our energy, our concentration, our focus, our discipline. And there will be rough spots. Times we feel defeated before we begin, times we feel like we have wasted years, decades with nothing to show for it. Times we can’t see the results.
We must remain calm, and focused on following the plan, on doing the things we know to do. To weather the storm with an eye still firmly fixed on the goal. To not suffer needlessly with things that can be easily avoided but to suffer well in service of the path we take.
Because it will get easier. We will get into the groove of things and the wheel will begin to turn. And as we embrace the pain, we will get stronger. Our muscles will grow, and we become more capable. Our minds sharpen and our hearts get more resilient and we are able to carry more, to be the strong pillar in life’s inevitable storms.
Soon we will be back in still waters, in crystal clear oasis and sunny skies. And we will enjoy the harvest and live the good life. And when the next storm rolls in, we will be ready to do it all again.
In a previous post, I shared my experience with upgrading my living space, and as I mentioned then, the experience has inspired me to take a closer look at productivity as a whole. Although I am already fairly organized, I know there is still plenty room for improvement.
And as I dive down the rabbit hole and nerd out on productivity tools and frameworks over the next couple of weeks, I will share ideas on how to improve how we get stuff done and stay on track with all our concerns.
I find myself asking questions like. What does my workflow look like now? How do I stay on top of everything? How do I become more effective and efficient? How do I ensure I do the things that usually tend to fall through the cracks? What systems do I have in place to capture all the ideas, tasks, requests I have and be able process them well?
How do I read more and retain information? How do I gather my notes in such a way that it is easy to access and apply those insights? How do I keep up to date with all my projects and make sure they are moving forward?
A lot of questions I’m sure I will have a lot of fun trying to answer. But even now, there are some quick ideas I can think of to help take your productivity to the next level, and make yourself even more effective.
Have a prep/planning day
If you don’t already do this, then you need to set a day and a time to plan your week. Every week.
If you are able to build the habit of checking in with your goals, intentions, tasks and priorities weekly, you stand a much better chance of staying aligned to it over the long term.
This is the time that you take to review the week that has passed and look over the one coming. You can do this on a Sunday before the week officially starts, or on Monday morning, or whenever really. As long as it happens every week.
In this time you get to empty your mind of all the reminders, and tasks and requests that have been swirling up there and objectively sift through them to prioritise the most important things to get done in the coming week.
This is absolutely crucial if you want to keep your plates properly juggled.
Make your calendar your best friend
I’m not yet great at this, but in my research, I have seen quite a few people swear by having a calendar. It is a vital component to your productivity and time management.
The idea is to make sure that every appointment, call to make, birthday, event to attend, you want to make sure all of that is captured in your calendar so you don’t forget. Instead of having to keep all of that in your head, all you need to do is pull up the calendar and be reminded of what you need to do by when.
Another powerful use of the calendar is to use it to time block. You can actively plan your day hour by hour the day before according to your prioritised todo list, and actually block off time for each task. So when you start the day, you have a clear game plan, and at any point in the day, you know what you should be working on.
Obviously you can move things around as you need them, but having a plan in the first place is invaluable in putting you in control of your day. It eliminates distractions and keeps you focused and accountable.
Organized productivity boils down to a few main principles
When trying to be organised and productive, people often worry about the details – what tools to use, what apps to download, what is the best notebook, etc. But truth is, the tools are less important than the underlying system and principles.
There are a few main principles to getting things done, those boil down to – capturing, filtering, scheduling, evaluating. You want to be able to reliably and consistently data dump all requests, tasks and ideas into appropriate apps and notes. You want to be able to filter and prioritise all that stuff. Then you need to be able to schedule the most important tasks or steps of your ongoing projects. And you also want a system where you can monitor what you are doing and review and adjust as needed.
Once you have these main things in place, it doesn’t matter exactly what tools you use, just that they work for you.
Invest in your tools
Whatever you do for work or creativity, there are the tools of your trade that you use regularly. You probably use a computer, you might need a camera, or a ring light, or some notepads and pencils. Evaluate what you do, and what you need to get it done. Invest in improving your tools from time to time. Get things that are durable, as top of the line as you can afford, as nice as you can afford. If you enjoy using your tools, you will enjoy your work.
The day I switched from a PC based set up to Mac was a game-changer for me personally and I haven’t looked back since. Getting an extra screen boosted my workflow and productivity. The Logitech MX3 mouse I started using this weekend is already having quite the impact on the way I work and design.
Invest in your tools and leverage them to become better at what you do.
It is all about reducing friction
I mentioned this already in my post about upgrading your environment, but it bears repeating here. What being organized and improving productivity is all about is making it easier and more fun to do what we need to get done.
Having a neat and clearly define place for everything allows you to easily find what you need when you need it. Using your calendar allows you to free up mental space to actually be creative or problem solve with the peace of mind that nothing is falling through the cracks. Having a proper note taking system allows you to access the information you need when you need it. Designing and fine-tuning your workstation to your needs make its easier to plug in and get things done.
Keep evolving your productivity practice and finding ways to reduce friction and you will find it easier to breeze through your work and reclaim the time and space you deserve to enjoy life.