I don’t like it when other people make rules for me, but I love it when I make rules for myself. To become more of who I want to be each day, I assign myself rules to live by. Here are the rules I’ve followed (and of course, have broken at times) for the last four months now:
- Meditate when I wake up. I do it each morning because later in the day, a thought might pop into my head. It might not be useful or healthy for me to dwell on this thought. From meditating, I’ve started to train my mind to notice these thoughts when they appear. Instead of dwelling on them or getting carried away by them, I can note that they’re there and carry on working.
- Do deep work after meditation and before anything else. I do what Cal Newport calls ‘Deep Work’: I concentrate deeply and work through a difficult task. For me, this is practicing programming. It can only be programming that I’m bad at or struggling with, not programming that is easy for me. I set my alarm for ninety minutes and I only focus on the programming at hand. Of course, it’s easy for my mind to drift. Newport writes about how our minds have become addicted to stimuli. It’s easy to click open your email, check your phone or indulge in a daydream. But by bringing your mind back to your deep work, you eventually start to wean your mind off of this addiction. After a few months of this, I’m starting to notice that I can much more easily focus on hard work without my mind wandering. Newport calls deep work the superpower of the 21st century, and I agree.
- Ruthlessly cut out things that don’t matter. I started cutting out everything from my life that didn’t matter to me or didn’t make me feel good. For the most part, so far, this has meant only checking social media at night or at the end of the week. It’s also meant drifting out of contact with old friends, people who didn’t better me or people who made me feel bad. Actually cutting out what doesn’t matter or help me has been much harder than I thought, but has led me to become much happier.
- Talk to my family each day.
- Work out five times each week
- Go to bed early, wake up early.
- Don’t do stuff I hate. I don’t wear makeup or heels anymore unless I’m at work. I no longer Facebook stalk the people I dislike. I don’t watch the news and obsess about what Donald Trump is doing in the world. I don’t make phone calls to friends of the past that I felt obligated to talk to. These are things I hate doing, and no longer doing them makes my life fifty times better.