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.
So it has been about two weeks into the new year. Things are getting into full swing. With school and work opening again, we are all easing back into our normal lives and routines. If you are reading this, you have probably already done some form of vision boarding and planning for the rest of the year ahead. You probably have things to improve, achievements to gain, habits to form, routines to commit to, etc.
All the best, I am rooting for you. And I’m hoping that my content would be of some help over the next 12 months. I intend to put out content on multiple platforms weekly this year and grow this into a more cohesive platform aimed at building a Life by Design, so if you like what you see here, please like, share and stay tuned.
This specific piece will be the usual fare but with a twist. Instead of drilling down on a specific topic like we usually do. in my minds eye right now, you and I are seated on beach chairs with our toes in the sand and drinks in hand while we shoot the breeze.
I am entering the next 12 months with a mix of being very open to whatever happens and being quite specific of what I’d like to do and create in the next year. I think both seemingly contradictory ideas are important to keep in mind. The past 2-3 years should have served as a humbling lesson to us all that we might make plans but life has the final say. It is important to plan, to have a sense of clarity of who you are and what you are trying to do. It is doubly important to be flexible and responsive on the path to take there.
Here are some ideas I’ve been mulling over as we begin the year.
It is okay to take things slow
The tempting thing to do when the new year rolls around like this is to hit the ground running hard and fast. With the adrenaline of a new start, we tend to go all out, trying new routines, diets, lifestyles, etc all at the same time. Unless you have an unusually high amount of willpower and discipline, this is a recipe for quick burnout.
The better thing to do is to take it a bit slow. Sure, use the excitement of a new year to make changes. Try everything and sample all the changes you want to make, then slowly scale it back to be more manageable. Focus on one main habit or thing to change. Better still if it’s a cornerstone habit. The kind of thing you can stack other habits on.
Popular cornerstone habits are daily meditation or daily exercise. Starting your day with meditation puts you in an intentional space everyday and once you approach your day with that clarity, it is easier to keep doing more positive things. Same thing with exercise. Beginning the day with your endorphins pumping and some sweat energises both the body and mind and sets you up for success the rest of your day.
If you did nothing else, implement one of those two.
You can break the ‘rules’ if you respect core truths
The personal growth space is chuck full of many rules and routines to follow to ensure success. Apparently you need to wake up before 5am, and then exercise, meditate, read, journal, eat a healthy breakfast and then go to work. That is a great routine. But once you break that into its core truths of wake up at a good time, move and feed your body, clear and strengthen your mind, then you can break the rules of how where and when you get that done.
You can wake up whenever you want, exercise however you want, meditate, read and journal wherever you want. You just have to make it suit you.
Be creative in how you tackle your goals
We are all going to face obstacles in the pursuit of our goals. We might apply over and over to jobs and get no responses. We might start executing a plan to scale our business and come up short. We might want to go back to school, but not be able to find the course we want to do.
The same concept of looking at core truths applies. What are we really trying to do here and how else can we get it done. Maybe we need to change how and where we apply for jobs. Maybe instead of just applying, we come up with solutions and ideas for the company and come prepared with them. Maybe we focus on nurturing relationships instead to open doors. Maybe we bite the bullet and start our own businesses.
Think outside the box and approach your goals in unique ways.
Explore new pleasures
I take fun seriously. I like to have a good time. I do believe it is an important part of the human experience. At the same time, without temperance, it can become a breeding ground for bad habits sending you tumbling down rabbit holes at the expense of many other things. It then becomes imperative to expand your idea of pleasure, and cultivate a diversity of interests. Sure it is fun to hangout and shoot the shit with the guys. It is also a lot of fun to sit down for hours working on your idea/concept. Expand what pleasure means to you, and explore new things, activities and experiences.
Evolve into the next version of you
The new year comes with the chance for evolution or reinvention. You don’t have to be who you have always been and it is never too late to be who you might have been. You can pick up old dreams, you can let go of old weight. You can transform yourself. Take the time to evolve, to become better, to become unrecognisable even. To move with more grace and strength. To gain new skills and experiences, to operate on a whole new level. But it will take commitment, focus and intentionality
But shout out to you, I know you can do it. Let’s kick ass and have a fun time doing it.
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.
Work is an interesting thing. For most of us, it takes up most of our lives. At least 60% of our time is spent at work, either at an office, or more so these days, working from home. And depending on how engaged you are with what you do, how much you love or tolerate it, you might be looking for ways to make work more effective and efficient. Ways to squeeze more out of the time you spend working, etc.
This is the essence of productivity. Finding ways to produce more.
If you work for a company or business, you might be able to skirt away by doing the least amount of work you can get away with. Since your labour is paid for on a fixed monthly basis, that might make sense. Or you might want to push harder to get noticed and promoted. If you work on commission or you work for yourself, then your income is probably tied more directly to your labour. So the more you work, the more you earn.
At this point, it gets very tempting to maximise the amount of time you spend working. After all, if you can work more, you can make more. But the human body is not a machine, and the amount of energy and attention we have is finite. We still have to do pesky things like eat and sleep.
If you push and try to work as many hours as possible, you will quickly come against your upper limits. And that is a limit you need to get very familiar with, and respect accordingly.
In the early days of my career, as a whip-smart youngling, I would work almost all the time. From the moment I woke up, to the moment I went to bed, every day of the week. Understandably I burnt out often. Sure I was much younger and able to put in insane hours without too much of a strain. Also, I love what I do, still do. But overtime, I have come to respect the productivity decimating power of a burnout, and I’ve changed the way I think about work.
It is not use burning the candle at both ends for weeks on end to be completely wiped out and unable to work for days or even a month at a time. The better way is to find your rhythm and optimise it at both ends – your work, and your play.
The case against overwork
Because human energy and attention is finite, putting in more hours at work than you need to actually starts to become detrimental. The work you do 4 days into a work stretch will not be as good as the work you do right at the start or midway through. Plus, bad work can lead to even more work down the line, where you have to backtrack and make changes or fix the bad work you did.
You probably don’t need to work as much or as long as you think.
Especially in the creative space. It might do you better to focus on writing for 2 hours every day, than to try bang out an entire book in 9hour daily sessions. But everyone is different, the point is to find the rhythm that works for you.
Personally I am able to give about 3-4 solid days to my design work in a week. On day one, I can do an easy 12 hour stretch. On day 3, I can average out at 8hrs of work. By the 5th day, I am barely functional. If I push further than that, which I certainly could, I would definitely pay for it by the next week. In this state, no matter what I do, I simply cannot work. My brain and body are far too tired to do anything creative or productive.
Find your balance
As I’ve grown and refined the way I work, I have learned to institute a couple of things like respecting the weekend, respecting how long tasks actually take, and communicating clearly to people when I’m available and when I’m not.
These days I am able to strike a balance, knowing that once Monday rolls in, I am completely focused on the grind, and by Thursday, Friday, I am easing off, and when it’s the weekend, I do not think about work at all. Whether I am at work or leisure, I am able to give my all to it, knowing that I am doing the right thing at the right time. I rest and bum out when I need to, and I get on the grind when I need to.
Make your work time more efficient
Striking a balance also helps us do one other important thing, which is focus on the efficacy of the time we actually spend working. If I can only work for a limited time, then I have to make sure that it is time well spent. I have to ensure that I am working on the right things – the things that actually move me forward, on the projects that excite and teach me, on the ideas that could give exponential return.
By respecting the time off, we can become even more deliberate and intentional about the work we do.
Which is why if you are someone who works for yourself, you have to be strict with your hours and your time. It is far too easy for something to come in to encroach on that. Clients need things last minute. People are disorganised, everything is urgent. It is okay to throw on the cape and save the day from time to time. But acquiescing constantly to such demands will just throw you off course and into chaos.
And that isn’t what we want.
We want a life by design. A life where everything is at the appropriate level at the appropriate time.
It is okay to go all out and have hectic head-down work sessions. Some seasons call for it. But it is also doubly important to make sure you get some down time, that you take care of yourself, that you have other things in your life other than work. The chance to pursue curiosity, the time to rest and relax and play, the time to have experiences, the time to nurture relationships.
The time to live.
That is paradoxically, how we become more productive in the long run.