How I live my life to stay productive
If you’re a writer — write. If you’re a software engineer — code.
Here’s a quick overview of what I do to stay productive and healthy in a tldr format for everyone who knows the terms and I’ll go into detail over every entry later in the article
- Early get up
- Four hours a day of long concentration on the most challenging tasks with time blocking (Deep Work)
- Intermittent fasting (18/6, 20/4)
- Daily exercise
- Cold showers
- Low carb diet
- No social networks
- No notifications
- No porn
Now that we are done with that, I’d like to say why am I writing this. By no means I am a guru or business coach or highly successful entrepreneur (yet).
I’m writing this mostly for myself and for social commitment too. Truth is, while my life is usually fairly stable it still has its ups and downs and while I am up here, feeling like I could wrestle with God as Jacob did, I wanted to record what helped me get here for future reference when I might feel like Cain killing my brother.
The second notion is that even on the best strikes, best weeks, and best days there are broken rules, there are laziness and stuff that gets postponed. The general rule for me is that if it’s a bad day — fine, but never make it two bad days in a row. Also, if you feel like you’re taking too much — rest, but not today. Plan the rest. Never submit to the immediate urge of weakness.
If it’s a bad day — fine, but never make it two bad days in a row.
Last year I figured a few things. They were counterintuitive to me and I was surprised how I was able to figure them out knowing how stubborn I am with the things I’m not truly believing in. Those things are exercise, early get up, cold showers, diet, and fasting.
What’s the difference if you would get up later, but still put up the same amount of hours in your studying and working?
I don’t know. Yet, getting up early feels so much more productive. The whole world is sleeping, nobody is there, except you. If you can get up early enough, you can finish your job by the time others wouldn’t be even on their desks reading emails. But I’m getting ahead of myself. At that time I used to get up at 6:30 am and going straight to the gym, which isn’t bad, but I was in the office at 9 am, which of course fairly early if your title includes words like “software” and “engineer” but not so early that you’d be able to do all the work before others show up. In this part of life, what I want to remember is that I used my stubbornness to my advantage. Without any particular mission or vision, I challenged myself to get up every day at 6:30 am no matter what. Want to have a party on Friday night and come back home at 3 am? Good. You still going to get up at 6:30. Oh and it was a regular weekday, not a Friday, so tomorrow you have to go to the gym and then to the work? Good. That’ll teach you. Still going to get up at 6:30. Now you feel like you’re getting sick and need a few extra hours of sleep? Too bad that’s not going to happen. Each night before going to bed, especially if I was going to bed late, I would say to myself: “You will get sick, your day will be completely unproductive and tiresome, maybe you’ll be fired, but you’ll finish this goddamn challenge no matter what”. And guess what, I didn’t get sick, I wasn’t fired and most of the days were pretty productive too.
That was extremely fun and from that point in time challenges are a crucial part of my life.
Aren’t you going to be more exhausted if you go to the gym and then go to work? How are you going to do your job when you’re tired?
I don’t know. Yet, after the gym, I felt I could do even the hardest task on the ̶p̶l̶a̶n̶e̶t̶ Jira. Getting up early is hard, but right after that going to the gym is even harder. I used a few tricks tho.
Social commitments. I was very new to the gym and didn’t even know what am I supposed to do there, so I figure I should work out with the coach. Make an appointment at 7 am with the biggest and toughest guy in the gym. Now try to skip it, saying that you don’t feel like working out today.
This is a small one, but make leaving your house as easy as possible. Pack all of the stuff for the gym in the evening including water. Prepare all of the clothes that you’ll wear near your bed. Put a cup of water there too. So when you get up all you have to do is wash your face, drink a cup of water, dress up and go. What I like about the gym is the fact that most of the time the success is defined by simply showing up. So make it as easy as possible.
Exercising a lot of fun and you can do all sorts of stuff once you get to know some basics. I choose gym each Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and the kettlebells every other day. I might do a squash game on Saturday and additional yoga on Tuesday and Friday. But that as of now, when I started it was just the gym. I’ve also tried CrossFit, which I liked to some degree and might return to it later. Doing some martial arts is still on my to-do list. While exercising is fun, sometimes it could be tiresome too. Do the bare minimum on these days and don’t skip it. If you did, don’t judge yourself too much, but never skip something twice.
How are you going to be productive if you’re hungry? All you going to think about is what to eat.
Intermittent fasting. I’m not overweight. I like eating tasty stuff. So why? I was reading some article or listening to the podcast and one thing struck me: “Watch how your mood changes when you’re eating”. It was so simple and didn’t require any actual commitments or actions, so why not. I was terrified by the results, turns out every meal made me a dummy stuffed animal that is unable to do anything from thirty minutes up to a few hours. Of course part of it was because I was eating pretty bad too, including sugar. But I still gave it a chance. And here I was kinda lucky because fasting felt fairly natural to me. It didn’t require that much mental power, so I kept at it. And did three-day fasting too. That was the time when I couldn’t sleep because of how much energy I’ve had.
Low carb diet. I’m not going to say anything about it. Too controversial. Just don’t eat sugar I guess? I’m personally eating meat, fish, and vegetables. And I still eat sugar sometimes. That’s unfortunate, but I’m working on that.
And that was my last year. Pretty good year right? But it feels like everything about this year was kinda “physical”. Yet it laid a great foundation for future challenges and experiments.
A new year started with the “Deep Work” by Cal Newport which is a tremendous book! My last year was kind of tricky. I felt fulfillment from life but something was missing. And that’s one tricky thing about the exercise. If I did the exercise in the morning I already felt like the day was very well spent, the day was fulfilling. But was it?
That’s where I started asking myself questions like “Am I a sportsman? Is that what I do for a living?”. Once the problem was acknowledged it was only a mere solution that was required, right?
Not so easy. At some point, I thought I burnt out, which you hear quite often if you around people who code for a living. Maybe too often. I’m not saying that this is not a real problem, but it would be too simple to blame everything on that. I went to the woods. Literally. For whatever reason, I wanted to go places where there will be no slack sound notification, no people who would call you on meetings. Just me and the books. And surprisingly, this didn’t help. At least when I came back everything was the same.
I’ve only figured it out a few months later when I changed the work and read Deep Work. I was in a constant distraction state. My day was filled with slack messages, replies, meetings, and overtime. While I felt like I worked for 10 hours a day, barely any job was done at all.
That’s what time blocking is about. Now I schedule four hours of deep work every day. That time there is no way to distract me. No messages, no meetings, no nothing. Just me and the tasks that I have to do. Finally, the job became so much more fulfilling and what’s more important — done.
I liked this time with no notifications so much that I disabled them completely on my phone and PC I only have slack notifications after a deep work session ends.
I did a few challenges to eventually get rid of social networks. The most time consuming for me was Twitter which I deleted completely. I left Instagram and Facebook (not on the phone) because I rarely use them and when I do, it something that I need. One rule here is to never open it up unless you know exactly what it is that you need there or you drunk at 4 am. Although I’m pretty sure drunk people have their reason to open up Instagram.
I’ve had this feeling of controversy only about 2 items and the second one is porn which is strange if you think about it. Why would anyone consider this a controversy, yet I’m pretty sure someone would. So no comments here, except I don’t do it because I think it has bad implications for your health, but the moral and religious side could be considered too.
Most of these routines exist purely to support my main activity. Code. I feel that I’m excelling at my job, I constantly working on 2 side projects, I try to contribute to open source and learning rust (programming language) every day. So overall I feel more than satisfied right now.
Yet, a few things could be improved. Here’s what I want to try next.
- Martial arts
- Intermittent fasting 24h
- Write blogs regularly
- Open Source project or regular contribution
- Learn them algorithms
- Learn and write more about linux
If you read up until here, then wow! Thank you! As my routine is always a work in progress everything may change pretty quickly. Right now tho, I’m in a really good feeling and want everything to continue this way, so I’ll push myself even further, and let’s see what happens next. Hope you did learn something from this blog post!
Here’s a list of people/resources/books that you can search for, that gave me the idea and motivation:
- Jocko Willink
- Cal Newport
- David Goggins
- Joe Rogan
- Jordan Peterson
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
- How to fail at almost everything and still win big by Scott Adams
and many more…