I've gotten tremendous gains out of breaking actions that are easy to fail into multiple steps so I know exactly where things worked or didn't.
The one I've written about before is in regards to healthy eating. I split "Eat Healthy" on my Lights Spreadsheet into two things I try to do in a day:
1. Eat Healthy -- Plan2. Eat Healthy -- Execute
In my experience, there's a tremendous difference between eating junk food as a result of no plan to eat healthy vs. a failure of execution and followthrough when you have a plan.
The vast majority of the times I've eaten poorly, it's been a result of not having a plan for where to get easy, fast, convenient good food. Transit days, the restaurant is closed, there's nothing in the refrigerator, or whatever else.
Counterintuitive but true —
Do you know that feeling where you can't fall asleep and it's really aggravating?
I've found that has zero correlation with next-day's success.
Laying down in bed, unable to sleep for whatever reason — this means I've already decided, ok, I'm done for the day. The inability to fall asleep, imperative as it seems at the time, is totally irrelevant and doesn't matter. Apparently lying there in bed is good enough for resting/recharging; the next goes well.
The flipside is that going to bed later than my scheduled times correlates really well with the next day going more poorly than normal.
If you're mulling over ideas and ethics, trying to decide what's right for your life, trying to think over conduct and actions...
...you might get to the point where you think, "Everyone's going to think I'm crazy, but..."
Here is a question I've found that helps with that:
What will people think, three generations hence?
I used to kind of think the opinions of others don't matter. There's lots of quotes from talented performers that say that.
Madison Maxey — a very insightful multi-discipline designer/technologist/entrepreneur/fashioner/etc briefly dialoged on this question with me, and graciously gave permission to share her to —
"How do you evaluate people to see whose "got it" and who hasn't?"
What a great question! I'm going to assume that "having it" means having some sort of promise for success (whatever one's definition of success may be). With that in mind, I've found that people who I've seen do really well live loosely by the same guiding mantras:
"I am putting small (or large), consistent amounts of effort into achieving my long term goal of X" (seeing success as a marathon or adventure rather than a sprint)
Small detail, outsized productivity benefit.
Listen to flow-inducing, world-drowning-out music when needing intense focus.
Listen to disruptive, stimulating, amusing, entertaining music when doing something boring, and let the mind enjoy the music while executing.
Started doing this and it's an extraordinary improvement. I'll put on minimal techno when doing deep work, and then put on 50 Cent or something when doing something boring.
Sounds small. It's actually pretty big. Play with your music choices based on activity, and let me know how it goes eh?
It was something of a shocking revelation to me, an epiphany, a breakthrough — these daydreams...
I let my mind wander a lot. I think it's good and healthy. Lots of good ideas will come suddenly to me.
But there's a whole class of thinking that seems valuable and is pleasurable at first, but of which almost nothing useful comes out of: daydreams about future successes.
There's a word for that —
Question from a reader --
My answer --
Consider using Freedom or SelfControl (or a similar app) to ensure you don't get online right away.
Do SOMETHING every day, even if it's imperfect. My default: pushups, situps, air squats, bicycle situps, jumping jacks, and -- if a chair/ledge is around -- dips. In a real hurry, I can bang out a quick version of that in 5-8 minutes, which is enough to get SOMETHING going.
It was a couple trips to Shanghai ago. The ever-brilliant CEO of ChaseFuture, Greg Nance, and I went running with a couple members of his team.
Nance is just hardcore, a total animal, always looking to expand and challenge himself in mountaineering, business, physical fitness, the nonprofit world, academia and policy, and just about everything else.
Not satisfied with just a couple mile run, Greg says drop it and hit the decks and do pushups at every red light.
I was going through a big pile of mail recently, finally making notes and trashing all the various mailings from bank statements and credit cards and whatever, and something caught my eye: the concierge ability on high-end cards.
AMEX I think was the first to do it, though now Visa Signatures and World Mastercards have concierge, among others. I got a new American Express Platinum a couple months ago, and so I decided to call.
I'm not so into entertainment. I love to work, I love working all the time, and when I'm not working on business work, I do creative and nonprofit projects with my friends and colleagues. So I generally skip on fine dining and fancy entertainment, given that that's cash I could use to do more adventurous enterprising world-building type stuff.
So, then, what would be useful to call the concierge and ask about?
One thing I'd been meaning to get around to are fixing two fraying cords -- on my Mac Air and iPhone 4S. I was wondering if it's possible to fix myself, and if not, there's no Apple Store in Taipei so where is best to get it serviced?
My strategy on buying clothing: generally hold off on shopping for clothing until I wind up in very favorable conditions for buying, and then buy a lot at once.
That means if a very good 70% or 90% off sale is happening at a high-end American store, that might be a good time to restock everything.
Failing that, I'll look to buy my clothing in China or Malaysia. Recently, I was in Istanbul where clothes were incredibly inexpensive for very high quality, perhaps the least expensive country I've seen in that regard, and foreigners taking their materials will them got all taxes refunded at the airport. It's a good deal.
So I bought a lot of clothing. For a couple hundred dollars, I've got all my casual clothing taken care of for the next couple years. I'll pick up a couple nicer items in New York City for occasions that dictate it, get tailoring done in Beijing, and be good to go.
There is a downside, though: by doing this relatively quickly, I don't agonize over every single piece. Sometimes, I buy things that don't fit so well or aren't so durable. If you look at it mathematically, you can just put into the cost of the items you do like. Quite cool casual shirts in Istanbul started as low as $3 USD (no joke) up to $25 or so. This is roughly the same quality level you'd be looking at for $25 to $70 in the United States.