Coming up something I have really wanted to do for a long time. An experiment, where I spend a longer amount of time doing only productive things. I have tried it multiple times, but from last Saturday until today it has actually worked out pretty successfully.
First of all, the motivation.
The biggest question for me has always been whether this kind of lifestyle is doable and for how long.
Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, is this kind of lifestyle worth it? Is the amount of work getting done worth the amount of fun that I am missing out.
To quickly define a productive week: doing only activities, which are long-term goal orientated. This could be daily work, hobby projects, working out, but also it can include all essential things such as doing groceries and cooking… I mean you get the point. No Netflix nor any social hangouts.
First, the results. I would say the whole experiment was a big success in terms of staying within the boundaries. I did watch two series, Billions and Silicon Valley, in fast-forward mode, but I did not feel too bad about it. What’s more important, during the first five days I finished the first iteration of a new app that I am building with my friend and read quite a bit of books that I wanted to go through. So, in terms of the results it was certainly worth it, but let’s get down to my key learning points that I got.
It is not worth it in the long run
I wanted to start out with the most important point that I got. I mean following such a regime so religiously is not worth it. I skipped a social gathering one evening just to keep on pushing it and I felt so shit afterwards. Really, there are things which are far more important than just putting in the hours.
That being said, I was quite satisfied with myself after the week. Satisfied especially because I felt good that I was able to pull it off as some sort of an accomplishment. I believe the most sensible way how to approach a similar experiment yourself would be to lay down the rules up front, what you are going to allow for mind food and what not.
Furthermore, everything in life is more similar to a marathon rather than a sprint, which a lot of people get wrong. A good parallel: a diet you follow 90% of the time is a hell lot better than one you follow 100% for one week. Every improvement in life should be a lifestyle improvement and thus sustainable, not a one week sprint. I also see a lot of my programmer friends often being lazy most of the time and then putting in two all-nighters in a row. That’s not the kind of person I would like to work with. I would rather work with someone who I can depend on all the time, not only two nights a week. And the best way how to change other people — be the change you want to see in the world.
It is essential to have an active lifestyle while living a super busy life
One aspect that I got dead on right. It is sooo important to be physically active while living a 100% hustle lifestyle. Otherwise you are just not going to cut it.
I visited the gym 4 times a week in the morning just to get my body some physical stress and it paid huge dividends. I do not think I would have been able to last the week without leaving home.
And even more importantly, physical activity is even more essential in the long run. Yes, you can make shortcuts and fool your body for a week, but in the long run burn-outs would be much more common without taking care of your health in the first place.
It does not necessarily have to be gym. But then just take walks or run outside while listening to a podcast or similar.
I mean honestly, it also helps with your productivity. A funny example. I woke up one morning and worked on trying to find a bug in my application for four hours. Four goddamn hours that I could have made huge progress on. Then I “slept on it” by going to the gym. And while pushing it to the max in the gym my mind wondered back on the programming problem and the solution popped to my mind. Just like lightning. Without even seeing the code I knew all of a sudden what the typo was what was stopping me from making any progress during the morning.
Takeaway 2: take breaks to be more productive in the long game.
Have a diversified battle plan ready to go up front
Sounds scary? Sure it.
What I mean by that is that even before attempting a no-fun lifestyle, picking certain activities and goals you want to finish with before getting into the right mindset is necessary.
When being in the constant “do it” mode, you want to have something always to do. There should be no time for “What should I work on now”. Always have something to do when taking a rest from the main goal. For example, when I was not coding I immediately switched to studying German or reading one of the books that I had started so that I would always have filler-activites to keep myself productively busy.
I also mentioned diversified battle plan. The key word is diverse. This means that there should actually be multiple activities that you want to be working on during the week.
Yes, studying German and reading books might seem like wasting time when compared to getting the app release ready, but it’s just not doable. Those filler activities help to clear the mind to be ready to go again after a while. I am quite certain that by switching between a certain number of activities throughout the day, I was actually more productive than I would have been had I tried to code 24/7.
So, keep it interesting! This also means choosing an array of books/podcasts to switch between so that you would not get bored.
Find someone to company you when trying out such a lifestyle
I actually left the biggest nugget in the end. The whole week I was home alone and it was the biggest mistake I could have made.
Even worse, I rarely talked to anyone on social media (I mean it was supposed to be a work-only week, right) so I spend a huge bulk of my time alone.
This was a huge mistake.
Even though I do love me. And I do enjoy my own company more than anyone else’s, it is simply not healthy. Not healthy for me nor any of the activities I was trying to do.
For example, the app that I am building together with my friend. I never even talked to him during the week and it is a shortcut to failure.
I simply did not have the self-motivation to keep myself going after 5–6 days of coding in a row and not showing anyone what I had been working on this far. It is essential that you have someone to share your small victories with because this is the fire that keeps you going.
So even when doing such a thing alone, I would highly suggest sharing your accomplishments with the outside world in whatever way possible so that you would have someone to discuss your progress with.
I mean, had I not been super confident about what I had to build I would have wasted a precious week of my time and had to do it all over again. Just do yourself a huge favor and share your work with anyone who cares or even with people who do not care in a worse case scenario to keep yourself sane.
This is the biggest takeaway for me in case I want to try it again. I will certainly get someone to talk to every night or even someone to hustle together with during this time. Being responsible to someone to show your work is also a huge motivational force to keep you going!
Will I change anything in the long term because of this experiment?
To my surprise such a lifestyle is possible, even when not sustainable.
I think that somewhat surprisingly this experiment gave me more motivation to think more about the long-term and hopefully I will keep the productive streak going. Not in such an extreme fashion, but even a 5% more productive day on average over long term will yield huge benefits!
Heck, even a 1% increase in daily accomplishments would be life-changing over long-term.
It is so worth it my friends. Let’s celebrate the victories of today and live with tomorrow in sight.
I am not a big fan of motivational quotes, but there is a good one I remember from a young age:
Hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard enough.