The following perspectives, tools, and systems are shared with the intention that we cultivate a thriving existence together.
1. Life Path
Every decision we make is a choice for the direction we wish to take in life.
“Principles are fundamental truths that serve as the foundations for behavior that gets you what you want out of life. They can be applied again and again in similar situations to help you achieve your goals.”
The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, are intended to lead toward personal freedom.
Be impeccable with your your word.
[Bring awareness to the story you tell yourself about yourself]
Don’t take anything personally.
[Choose how you respond to everything]
Don’t make assumptions.
[Be curious and seek an accurate understanding of every situation]
Always do your best.
[Show up as much as you can in everything you choose to do]
And Dalio shares shares his own three principals intended to lead toward success.
When our principals align with our values, the path we lead in life will take us where we want to go.
2. Daily Routine
The factors which affect our state of being are vast.
Complex cause and effect relationships between the actions we take and their resulting effect on our overall state of being can be difficult to track or understand.
When we develop a consistent daily routine, we establish a baseline for recognizing minor differences as they arise.
We can then start making minor alterations intentionally to see what provides better outcomes.
“To live one day well is the same as to live ten thousand days well. To master twenty-four hours is to master your life.”
Entrepreneurs from Ben Franklin to Jack Dorsey have shared their routines publicly.
3. Goal Setting
Setting goals for ourselves allows us to determine our own priorities and better observe/optimize our performance towards those priorities.
Tony Robbins, best selling author, motivation speaker, and entrepreneur, writes:
"Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible."
A self-imposed goal is nothing more than an abstract anchoring point for measuring accomplishment.
When we take the time to set goals for ourselves, we give ourselves the opportunity to answer the question: "What is important to me?"
This important step in self determination, implicate in setting goals, is easy to neglect when we only follow the goals set by others.
Goals can be small, as in something to accomplish during a single day, and goals can be large, as in something to achieve over a life time.
Peter Drucker, author of The Effective Executive, writes:
“People in general, and knowledge workers in particular, grow according to the demands they make on themselves. They grow according to what they consider to be achievement and attainment. If they demand little of themselves, they will remain stunted. If they demand a good deal of themselves, they will grow to giant stature—without any more effort than is expended by the non-achievers.”
We can chose any goal we'd like, easy or hard, and make predictions about what it will take us to accomplish that goal.
Organizations and individuals use yearly and quarterly goals to align efforts across multiple departments.
These goals are set at the beginning of a calendar period and tracked throughout.
The more specific a goal we set, the more easy it is to measure performance towards that goal, and the accuracy of our predictions.
We should always strive to improve the accuracy of our predictions to better coordinate with others.
4. (Re)Invent Yourself
Be sure to break your routine on a semi-regular basis to avoid getting stuck in a rut.
Decide not only what you want to accomplish in life, but who you want to be in this life.
Steven Kotler, best selling author and entrepreneur writes the following in his book Stealing Fire:
“When free from the confines of our normal identity, we are able to look at life, and the often repetitive stories we tell about it, with fresh eyes. Come Monday morning, we may still clamber back into the monkey suits of our everyday roles—parent, spouse, employee, boss, neighbor—but, by then, we know they're just costumes with zippers.”
Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives.
Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:
I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
I wish that I had let myself be happier.
5. Self Discipline
Jim Rohn, author and entrepreneur, writes:
"Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment."
Studies show that people with lot of self-control are happier.
When we spend less time debating whether or not to indulge in detrimental behaviors, we are able to make positive decisions more easily.
When we don’t let impulses or feelings dictate our choices, we can instead make level-headed decisions.
This results in greater life satisfaction.
Living with intention is raising awareness to the outcomes of our actions, big and small, and adjusting our actions to match our desired outcomes.
Many people do things with a goal in mind but neglect to observe the result or effect of their actions.
When we focus on understanding the lasting impact of every action we take, we can begin to effect change in ourselves and the world around us in a manor consistent with our goals.
6. Problem Decomposition
When a problem feels unsolvable, look for ways to break it down into smaller problems which are solvable.
Most problems can be decomposed in this way into smaller tasks which are manageable.
7. Note Taking/Organization
The rising complexity of our mental landscape can feel daunting and using old systems like google drive for note taking can stretch these general-case tools to the breaking point.
Modern tools like Evernote are designed to address the complexity with features like tags, hyperlinking, and sharing.
Michael Hyatt describes a useful tag-based approach for organizing notes in Evernote in his article How I Organize Evernote.
Med School Insiders is another great resource for note taking and organization best-practices (even if you aren't in med school).
8. To-do Lists
On any given day, we balance our time between responding to unpredictable responsibilities and making progress on multiple long term endeavors.
Rather than let a single to-do list grow the point of overwhelm, we can split our to-do lists into manageable hierarchical increments and decompose large plans into smaller action items.
Some To-do lists make sense for a specific time period, like a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly to-do list.
To-do list items on the daily list should be relatively small, and manageable within a handful of hours.
To-do list items on a yearly list should be comparatively large, and composed of several smaller to-do list items.
Using a tool like Evernote allows us to hyperlink smaller to-do lists from larger to-do lists, and track progress of complex endeavors one step at a time.
9. Saying No
Even with the decrease in mental clutter from organization and self-discipline, we can easily be overwhelmed by tasks or opportunities if we don't say no sometimes.
Our ability to take on new responsibility increases with our effectiveness, and being aware of our capacity saves us from over committing.
It’s important to not over commit so that we can be relied upon to satisfy our responsibilities.
As social creatures, saying no doesn’t always come naturally, but there are tools to help.
10. Prioritizing Focus
Choosing priorities which are in alignment with our goals allows us to forgo overwhelm by determining what is most important to focus on.
Often times, we take on far more than is necessary to accomplish our goals.
Bruce Lee writes:
“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.”
Every month, we can pull from our yearly/quarterly goals and choose the most important priories for that particular time period.
When we make prioritization part of our planning routine, we check-in with our goals and re-align our actions with our intentions.
Every week, before the week starts, take a look at the things you intended to accomplish in the previous week.
Of the things which did not get accomplished, decide if the items are important enough to bring into your new week or if they can be dropped.
Choose new priorities - and stack rank them in order of importance.
Throughout the week, as new to-do list items come across your path, you'll now have a simple framework for deciding what to work on now, and what can be put off.
This has a dramatic impact on reducing cognitive burden.
11. Embracing Challenge
Meet challenge head on and do the difficult things you need to do first.
M. Scott Peck describes scheduling to intentionally front load challenge and end on a high note in The Road Less Traveled.
“Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with. It is the only decent way to live.”
Bring awareness to the things in your life you can change, and those you can’t.
Maya Angelou describes how we can use this awareness to effect change in either scenario.
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
12. Managing Stress
Constantly switching between tasks and priorities can understandably leave us anxious and unfocused.
A mindfulness or meditation practice can help us remain calm and centered when we feel overwhelmed.
"Despite the fact that these are people from tennis to surfing to cryptocurrency to fill-in-the-blank, like any field you can possibly imagine — some type of morning mindfulness or meditation practice would span I'd say 90% of the respondents."
He recommends two twenty minute sessions per day, once immediately after waking and once before eating in the evening.
Some people feel uncomfortable sitting still initially.
The mobile app Calm provides a great introduction to mindfulness practices without spiritual overtones.
A regular journal practice is another great way to reflect on daily events and prepare for tomorrow.
As discussed in this blog post detailing best practices for a daily journal, history is littered with examples of successful (and unsuccessful) people who kept daily journals. It ranges from Marcus Aurelius to Ben Franklin, and from Mark Twain to George Lucas.
13. Capturing Inspiration
When we are struck with creative inspiration at times when it is inopportune to explore new ideas, it can be helpful to quickly write down the idea for later review and expansion.
Keeping a note taking application or journal handy allows us to quickly jot down the idea for later review, and release it from our immediate consciousness and lightening our cognitive load.
This practice releases us from spinning our cognitive wheels on the new idea when we can't take it further, and frees us to be present with our immediate environment.
Create a system for reviewing inspirational notes later and following up on the ones which merit further expansion.
14. Time Management
It can be easy to loose track of time and end up spinning our wheels on a task for hours without realizing it.
It can also be easy to consistently misjudge the length of time a given type of task will take us.
The Pomodoro Technique is a great method for staying productive throughout the day by breaking up work into manageable segments.
15. Context Switching
When we struggle with hard problems, taking breaks can give us the space we need to see things from a different perspective and find a solution.
Charles Dickens wrote from 9am to 2pm everyday. Then, he would go for a long walk. This downtime allowed him to let his ideas percolate and was just as important to his novels as the writing itself.
Jeff Brown’s book The Winner’s Brain points to a study in 2008 by University of Toronto’s Chen-Bo Zhong that showed this phenomenom via fMRI.
They found that doing something habitual, like taking a walk, doing the dishes, or even taking a nap, enables us to subconsciously access peripheral information your brain may not actively consider during your “focused mode thinking.”
Doing something other than focusing on the problem seems to allow your brain to access other information and see problems in a new way.
16. Cultivating Flow
When you align with circumstance, circumstance aligns with you.
Wikipedia defines flow:
In positive psychology, flow, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one's sense of space and time.
In practice, this can occur for many reasons and generally requires consistent commitment and cultivation throughout the day.
Jeff Rosenthal, an award-winning Canadian statistician and author, writes:
“In all our studies of extreme performance improvement, the people and organizations who covered the most distance in the shortest time were always the ones who were tapping into passion and finding flow.”
Duncan Trussell discusses "Flow" with Steven Kotler in this podcast.
Learn how to identify your "flow triggers" and plan your day around them.
Communicate your needs to be your most productive in-flow self so that your team can help you cultivate your flow.