Small gods and little things

Length: 1350 words

Executive summary: a bunch of small easy everyday tips and tricks for increased health and happiness


I’ve been interviewing people for my podcast lately. Three out of three, so far, claim they wouldn’t change anything if their net worth increased five fold.

With me it makes four.

What’s wrong with us? With me?


The little things that matter

I live for the little things, not for pieces of metal and plastics that I can buy for money.

I keep adding those little things to my daily habits. I hardly think about them, but I have a hunch they are the reason I’m beaming with joy all the time.

I’ll try my best to recount as many of them as I can, and I trust you won’t misunderstand and conclude it’s a daily struggle to fit it all in.

It’s not.

It’s effortless. And that’s how I think it should be.


First I fast. Then I break fast and have “breakfast”, around a time most people would call the meal “lunch”.

Fasting is not difficult or a burden to me. It’s very easy not to eat once you’re used to it. For me the struggle is prioritizing between muscle growth vs. ‘all the beneficial effects from fasting’. The latter includes fighting cancer, inflammation, Alzheimer’s and many other things.

Luckily…

Having a spoon of fish oil and a capsule of vitamin-D every day helps with those things too.

When I get up, I emphatically don’t have coffee first thing. That would just be plain unnecessary since the body naturally kicks into high gear after waking. I’d rather make use of that effect than start pumping CNS drugs into my system when I don’t need it. In addition ingesting caffeine during the first 60-90 minutes builds up an unnecessary tolerance to the drug. Google it!

 

Prioritize

Instead, you should focus on your priority goal during those 90 minutes. That one thing that will bring your life forward in the mid to long term. Only once you’re done with your prio one target you should think about crossing other things off your list. Do not start the day doing easy tasks, it’s just a waste of time and risk making you feel good about yourself and worthy of some kind of reward. Easy tasks equal procrastination; just say no. 

Best of all would be getting your daily dose of deep work at the same time; cut off from all notifications, e-mail, phone calls etc. If you’re new at this, at least practice refraining from checking that text, e-mail or social media notification when you get it. Wait at least five minutes or until you realized you forgot about it.

Just one thing: you should do 90 minutes of deep work if you can, but at the same time you shouldn’t sit for more than an hour at a time. Ideally not stand still either, so a standing desk it not really a solution (albeit better, as is sitting on a Pilates ball instead of in a chair).

Try walking around for a few minutes once an hour, perhaps get down in a squat a couple of times as well, but save your real mobility work for later, lest you might disrupt your flow and focus during the deep work session.

About that sitting… You should do that as little as possible, period. Schedule walking meetings instead of sitting (you’ll find you’re more creative too, when walking and talking – since analyzing motion is how our thinking started) 

 

Grateful notes

Once you’re done, a nice tip is to read or think about something you’re proud of, or that makes you happy and feel grateful for.

Make it a habit to collect such happiness items in your commonplace book (scrap book for your particular wisdom – start one if you don’t have one yet) and write them down somewhere you can easily see them every day. 

 

Temptation bundling

Minimize watching TV (news, series, game shows etc.), especially if it entails sitting in a chair or sofa. At least bundle your TV sins with mobility work for a few minutes a week: hit the corners of the hips, shoulders and back, and add a little something for the hamstrings and glutes too.

The scientific notion is “temptation bundling” for when you couple a sinful act simultaneously with something healthy. Sooner or later, a Pavlov-like conditioning might manifest itself and make you look forward to the mobility work, since it means you get to watch Game Of Thrones :D

Say no to that meeting, lunch, after work or whatever it is that you don’t really feel like doing. Practice saying no, and get the benefit of keeping your schedule open. That’s how I could travel to Tokyo today at just a few days’notice.


Carola – Tokyo


Pay attention!

Every now and then, be mindful: take a deep breath, look intensely at something old or with curiosity at something new, or try seeing new things in something mundane, like a crack in the wall in the bathroom.

Be mindful of the sense of your choice; touch something, smell something, taste something, pick apart the components of a sound or a song. Do it while out walking with a friend, instead of sitting (the new smoking, which I hope you’ve heard and understood by now).

Sometimes, all you have to do is raise your gaze a little, and look at other things than you usually do. Take a really deep breath, hold it a few seconds and let it out slowly, to the point where you have no air left at all and pause your breath for a few seconds before inhaling normally again.

Try power posing or posture practising while walking. Imagine you’re Batman, Superman, or Don Corleone… owning everything around you. Oh, yes, it’s very good for you.

Break out of your rut, your homeostasis: Try to be scared or laugh or learn something new as often as possible – everyday should be the ambition, but, hey, you don’t have to hit that target right away. Just start somewhere and laugh one more time, or scream of fear, or feel the brain tickle of an Eureka moment, than you usually would have. Set aside a few per cent of your total available time in a week for experimenting, doing new things and old things differently. Like Google used to.

 

Hiit it

Exert yourself a few times a week (every day if you can, but once is more than zero; start there): do HIIT (intense intervals for a few minutes or more), lift weights (or yourself), take hot saunas (good for just about everything you can imagine)

When the day draws to a close, turn off your screens, or at least red shift them with Flux or similar apps. Make a To Do list of the things you didn’t finish, to get them off your mind. You can get to them tomorrow after you’re done with your Prio One.

Then enter your quiet, cold and dark bedroom. Get your dry and fluffy pillows from wherever you keep the pair from the night before last night and read and/or meditate yourself to sleep (just breathe, e.g., or think about your body parts, one by one).

Aim for waking up without using an alarm (but set an emergency alarm if you just can’t afford to miss a certain appointment early in the day)

NOTE:

If you wake up to an alarm every morning

and have a cup of coffee first thing,

you’re in a really bad place

Summary

In one word (eh…), it’s about being focused and mindful – doing one thing at a time; the most important one first, done with the utmost intensity and focus.

Adding a little more nuance, take care of your body and mind, don’t sell out to the man. Avoid trading time for money, if you can.

Touch life, smell it, taste it. Experience life, savor it, be curious and mindful, surprised, like a child. Don’t rush through it, toward some futile end goal. Life is the senses being stimulated by the world. Focus on the sensations they provide, rather than on trying to best your neighbors and friends. What kind of a friend does that by the way?

Be uncomfortable.


If that wasn’t enough, you really should read this post about three of my core tips from my coming book: Always be prototyping. Or this quite recent one about my actual habits, rather than the optimal schedule.

Please remember to share this article with your social networks. Well, if you liked it and want me to write more.

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8 Comments

  1. Saunas?

    My Jewish friend told me that they deplete your mineral content so much that even though the stress may be good on your body, the acidity of the blood afterwards is negative.

    Thoughts Mikael?

    • LOL, with all due respect, the “acidification of blood” sauna theory sounds about as likely as the “there is a God” theory :D

      I guess he didn’t read the link with sauna research I provided

  2. I’m a Nigerian,I really appreciate your articles… No your perfect bootcamp that are now changing my life for the better.Cold shower,mobility,earlly morning walk,etc you said I’ve been trying them infact I also tried using my left hand to write for a week as Ludvig Sunstrom said.
    In my friends’ circle now they call me’abnormal’.Yes I don’t want to be normal like some people.Your site and that of Ludvig have been doing lots of ‘rehabilitation’ in my life.Thanks

    • Great, just keep working at improving yourself no matter what your “friends” say.

  3. Mike,

    Great tip on the coffee. You replied to my comment a few posts ago under a different username and I have switched to waiting 1-2 hours to drink a cup. I am significantly more tired (but my body has been needing to rest) but it has been worth it! Also – if you’re drinking coffee make sure you drink quality coffee. The beans should be single sourced origin, organic, and freshly roasted. I feel a difference.

    As far as happiness – you should really try vipassana meditation. I often feel like it’s a waste of time – and I bet you do too, but it comes back 20x in your life. You will focus on your podcasts better during your walks, enjoy them more, and your deep work will be even deeper. Mix it in with some binaural beats, and you’ll have ruthless focus and be happy.

    “Practice saying no,” I think you should write a blog post about this. Honestly, this has been the single most important thing to my life, and I’m sure a lot of other young guys struggle with this.

    Lastly, I know you switched your diet. You should check out: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCr2eKhGzPhN5RPVk5dd5o3g and the documentary “cowspiracy” I think you will really enjoy both.

    Also about the money thing – I think after you reach financial freedom and can eliminate distractions (probably around $2m net worth if your investments are good) then you are rich enough. You passed that points years ago. Although now you have the freedom to just sit on your money and barely do anything to maintain your lifestyle, but we all know that doing nothing gets boring.

    • Vipassana doesn’t currently fit in my 80/20, but maybe in the future. For the time being I’m going with bite-sized meditation techniques. They do wonders in mere seconds.

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