Living Intentionally: Designing your life for happiness and productivity
Consciously design your schedule and create automatic rules for success
To perform at a high level at work while balancing other priorities, I need to be in peak physical and mental state.
This is the foundation for everything.
However, being in the best physical and mental state does not happen by accident. It is about living intentionally.
To me, living intentionally is about knowing what are our top priorities and to “consciously design one’s schedule and create automatic rules for success” (Farnam Street)
When we make things an automatic part of our lives and a consistent routine, they become easier to follow.
We become happier; more confident and have bandwidth to focus on other aspects.
My new routine: Exercising in the morning
One of the positive changes I made to my life in the past few weeks is to set up a morning routine.
I used to wake up at 8AM or even 830AM but now, it is around 7 AM consistently.
How did this change come out?
Firstly, I was inspired by the people who lived in London when I was there for a few weeks.
I noticed British people tend to start their day early.
I started following what they were doing. Every day, I would wake up at 7 AM and reach office at 830 AM.
This helped me tremendously because firstly, I started to feel really good about myself for being an early riser.
Secondly, having that additional time to do focused deep work was a game changer for my learning and performance.
Secondly, I was inspired by some of my peers.
They exercised in the mornings frequently and would post it on Instagram stories.
Here is what my morning routine looks like now from Monday to Thursdays. On Thursday evening I gym, so I have to recover physically.
7 AM: Wake up (I sleep with curtains opened so I wake up naturally due to the sun)
7:15AM-8AM: GYM or SWIM depending on weather conditions for 15 minutes to 30 minutes; then get ready for work
8 AM - 8:15 AM: Pack my things plus spend time with Banana and Biru
8:15: Head out to office
Here are some benefits:
🌞 1. Higher energy; better focus and mood:
I have been feeling quite burned out before going to Bali. Some signs included
Wasting time after work scrolling on Instagram and not really doing anything purposeful
Doing many things average or just slightly above average
Mind and body felt weak and restless. Not feeling like doing anything
Starting my day right with exercise really gives me energy. It helps me feel good about the day and about myself.
I also feel accomplished when I get to log an activity on my smart watch - Btw, if you don’t like smart watches, you can opt for Oura Ring. I think it looks very good on guys.
I feel like regular exercise feels so good because it is simply a natural way of being. Humans are also not designed to lead sedentary lifestyles. It is not natural and exercising only 1-2 times per week is hardly sufficient. I don’t buy the lack of time as an excuse after all so many top business leaders exercise regularly.
The morning sun, sounds and air before 9AM is also amazing and something I appreciate a lot. I really enjoy and savour every minute of my walk to the bus stop because I love the greenery in my estate and fresh air.
🌞 2. Seize the most productive time of the day:
Humans are most productive in the morning and most creative at night. I get to seize the part of the day where I have the most energy and focus.
Working out in the morning helps me focus even more. This is because it causes one’s brain to secrete a chemical called neurotrophic factor, which boosts brain function.
After lunch, I tend to be less focused. So, I use that time for the customer meetings that do not require much brainpower.
I am usually in bed at 1030PM and fall asleep around 11PM.
Due to working out in the morning, I usually fall asleep pretty fast. This prevents me from scrolling social media at night.
🌞 Create a good impression:
Being a morning person is something that people are biased towards including the older generation.
Most of us will be scolded if we stayed up late to work versus praised if we woke up early to work - even though the hours are the same.
I recently noticed someone from my previous company getting promoted. One of the key reasons she won senior management’s favour was because she came earlier than everyone else every single day.
Call it boomer all you want but these things do matter.
Besides morning exercise, here are other automatic rules I have set up
What are some rules you can set today that will make your October a more productive one?
Or, help you live a life that is more aligned to your values and goals?
I am sharing some things I do beyond exercising in the morning.
Please feel free to adapt it:
✏️ Focus: Front loading the week by putting my most important activities with deadlines early in the day and early in the week
✏️ Focus: Switching off all notifications except for essentials apps on my phone. I feel like notifications are giving apps a way to hijack my attention. I’ve been exceeding quota almost every year despite doing this since 2016.
✏️ Focus: Making a rule not to post on social media till noon. And, keeping the no. of accounts I am following to less than 500. I really don’t want to spend my morning watching reels and stories of things I don’t care about (This is something I recently implemented and excludes automated posts)
✏️ Focus: I try my best to put a 30 mins block between customer meetings. This ensure I can stay present, focused and am not simply going through the motions.
✏️ Focus: I will not text anyone to chat throughout the day - will only reply at night. To me, texting is low effort, not sincere and distracting. If I really want to build a proper connection, I will ask to meet
🍎 Health: Cutting down alcohol to only once a month. It affects productivity; focus and causes cancer. If I need to drink in order to enjoy someone’s company, I do not enjoy their company! Also, while some make excuses that they need it for work, so many top performers don’t need alcohol for success.
How I choose my friends
Besides being intentional about my habits, I am also intentional about friends.
Here are some reasons why:
We are the average of the people we are closest to: I have a vision of who I want to be and do not really want any negative influences
Time and energy is limited: Close friendships are an investment to me. As someone who has Relator as a strength, I prefer to go deep rather than broad.
Wanting to double down on winter friends: When you are a creator or doing well in your life, many people would want to befriend you but not all have good intentions. So, it is also important to be selective.
Most people choose friends or romantic partners based on “feeling” or “common interests”.
While those have a role to play, I put a much heavier weightage on values:
Compassion: I observe small things like how they treat and talk about others. I do not believe that we are a different kind of person at work or with different people. The common denominator is us.
Growth: Growth is important to me. I feel energised when I am with people who challenge themselves; step out of comfort zone; have drive; curiosity and an open mind.
Loyalty & Trust: Do you do what you say you will do? Can you show up when I need you and provide assistance? To me, loyalty and reliability is key. I have ended friendships because of multiple pangsehs > 3 times or lateness. Or when I reached out for help and they told me they were lazy to. I feel like my life is too short for this.
I am not always 100% accurate when reading people but here are some reliable indicators I look at:
How they perceive the world
How they spend their time
How they manage their finances especially when relating to people
How they treat people in their lives
How they show up when you need help
A small favour to ask
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