My secret weapon to staying consistently effective in every day life, is that I created an ‘every-day life.’
In a previous time, I was the backstage sound guy. Always being in such a loud environment made me treasure the peaceful silence between, and years of holding that balance definitely leaked into the life I have now. The first lesson carried-over was that composition and attention are key. Without my intervention, everything was just noise and nothing was impactful.
Sticking to a schedule makes for the best possible performance, and so the routine I built to carry me through my new every-day challenges had to share that principal.
Wake up, hit the coffee
That’s right, I combined the two because they’ve become synonymous to me. If you find something that helps you consistently achieve your goals with more ease and finesse, grab it and hold it close. Even better; grind it up into bitter brown liquid and drink it.
The day stretches from 6am to 10pm, and in my case there’s no chance of staying sharp that long without caffeinated cheat codes. Public opinion on this kind of dependence is still divided, but the importance here is learning what works for you and doing it every day.
One hour of crucial catch-up
Normally, the first thing after caffeine would be heading to the gym. I go four times a week, but a different schedule here will work for different people.
On rest days I sub this for catching up with e-mails for my day-job. After working a few years in two or three different industries, I’ve found there’s always been a way for me to push myself and squeeze more money out of work. ‘Work more, get paid more’ is a pretty simple concept but it’s not always obvious in some jobs where the extra is made. Try to find it, then nail it down.
I’m not a wizard though. Nobody can work at a slower pace and still stay in the lead.
Once every couple of days has historically been enough for me to stay on top of my workload. The average work week might be around 44 hours, but I guarantee in most jobs you can add just 3 spread over the week, and bump-up your income more substantially.
Keeping your mind and body sharp is of maximum importance, so alternating between exercise and catch-up time helps keep my mind clear.
Make sure it’s a light breakfast
Consistency is king and so I always stick to the same breakfast. Even on the days I do hit the gym, I don’t change up the morning meal because predictable energy levels are so important to me. Post-eating fatigue always hits me hard so I keep it relatively light, and always nutritious.
Two eggs, something crunchy, and something green. It never takes more than a few minutes, and is easily prepared in whichever of 100 ways I’m feeling.
Work on the side hustle
Committing at least an hour to this each morning is absolutely essential for me. It allows me to peacefully build on those morning shower-thoughts without distraction, or tie-off the ideas I didn’t have time to finish the previous evening.
A nice and rounded, uninterrupted hour works well because it’s all about staying in a flow-state. I tried doing 30 minutes here and there throughout the day but could never, ever make meaningful progress. Fully committing has been my secret to success, and in this case it’s building my whole day around the most important chunks.
Read on the way to work
Commutes are a good time to zone out an be with your thoughts. In a way, it’s the easiest part of the day to keep consistent because you’re at the mercy of your job or perhaps the public transport system.
It’s important to make time to take in new ideas every day, and so if your commute is automatic I encourage you to read words on a page, even if it’s just some kind of news feed. Audiobooks work best for me because I’ve been walking to work as means to shake out of that morning desk-time.
Fully commit to the professional day
Switching between my work responsibility and my home-business is very difficult, and honestly the hardest part of my day. Swapping the mind between the two modes can be a real challenge, but keeping to a schedule helped me stay effective in both.
Your career could be anything, as long as you are constantly seeking opportunities to improve. If you stick on the path long enough you will either get really good at switching your attention so your side-hustle can blossom, or you will discover ways to get out and into a more lucrative profession.
That’s why they call it ‘lunch break’
Fighting to make sure you get at least an hour’s lunch is essential to the work-day. Making the food enjoyable is important in my case, because this time really needs to feel like a break. Your brain needs time to rest before taking on the other half of the day, or you’ll suffer physically, mentally, thus financially.
If I decided to demonstrate this point by typing a very long sentence with absolutely no punctuation you would grow tired of reading it even before you reached the end. Lunch is the comma, or the (musical) break you sorely need.
“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”
― Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
That’s it, don’t stay late. I don’t like to over-complicate this part of the day, because simple rules are easier to follow. My job already requires longer hours than most, and the morning catch-up session is plenty extra.
This is all about proper time management, and leaking time into what’s already the biggest chunk of the day is just inefficiency.
Food, family, and friends
Having just moved to a new city where everyone is a stranger, two hours a day taking care of these three things is enough to keep myself and the people in my life happy. You’ll learn a ratio of these things that works for you, and if you finish work earlier than me you can steal some time from the previous slot.
Having a meal with friends and family is a universally enjoyed pastime, and it has the added benefit of condensing three daily needs into one.
Eat food, make food, go for a drink. Find something that works and don’t spend 100% of your time grinding. Think of this time as the evening’s equivalent to the morning’s “catch-up to stay in control”. It’s a necessity.
Work on the side hustle #2
Getting in another hour should be done right before bed. Food has had time to go down, and the distractions around me disappear as the world slows down through the darker hours. Leave your phone on airplane mode in the other room, and get to work on a solid block of progress.
If in my line of work I finished at 17:00 like perhaps most people do, I’d be taking those extra 90 minutes and dumping them right into this category.
The morning is better suited to a 1-hour sprint, but the slower evenings lend themselves to some extended problem solving.
Head to bed for reflection and a reset
Wrapping up the day I tend to think about how its efforts have brought me closer to my life goals. The typical evening routine of cleaning teeth etc. has similar qualities to the morning commute; it’s easy to zone out and take advantage of the automation to have some real thinking time.
What comes next is a totally non-negotiable eight hours. It’s a necessity for me to get that many, and even before I started working hard I could never function on less than that. I’ve now come to accept that everyone is different and I will always have to surrender 1/3 of my life to sleep. It’s paramount to stay sharp when keeping good time. There’s a very good reason the first step of my day is coffee.
If you stick to the most efficient version of your life without skipping a beat, your progress won’t falter either. In practice, it was figuring out these principals that sky-rocketed my daily progress and satisfaction.
I guarantee that discovering a proper distribution that fits around your own goals and relationships will bring you similar success.
Balance in your lifestyle doesn’t have to be as polarised as ‘work vs life’. It’s all relative to a person’s goals, needs, and environmental limitations. I’ve adjusted the levels to where I like them, but that’s different for everybody.
Over time I know my ratio of blue to purple will even-out, which will make for more flexibility to have a more even spread in the other categories too.
Self-improvement comes with real thought, followed by focused action, and that’s what I think I’ve achieved by honing-in on what works for me. You are therefore encouraged to crank-up your yellow bar and listen for the rhythm.