(My) Systematic Approach of Life

I am a person whose happiness is co-related to my productivity (especially work). At the same time, I do not trust my own willpower too much to keep my productivity high, because I know that I am just an imperfect human who want to slack off doing nothing.

I tend to think everything, even my own life, as a system (sorry I am an engineer). I ponder about the reason or mechanism behind my behaviors or thoughts a lot. After many years, I learned some ways to push myself to be productive at my fullest (synonym: be productive as fuck).

The key to boost my system is controlling time

Controlling Sleeping

Morning is when my brain is the most active. I feel like it is performing at least 3x or 4x time better than it is on afternoon. First thing in the morning, I usually go to a undisturbed, quiet place to do the toughest task of the day.

Maybe it is because I cannot perform very well when I am sleep deprived. I need to sleep at least 7~9 hours to be myself. I seldom pulled out an all-nighter for anything during my undergrad days, at least for brain intensive things. If I need to get something done urgently, I prefer sleeping some hours and wake up at around 3~4am to get it done.

This is really different among people, so it is important to find when your most productive time is. I am not promoting that a morning person is better.

To increase the quality of sleep, I control the light as well. From 11pm, I turn off all my lights except one small reading light, so that my body will know that it is soon bedtime. Moreover, my bed is located right in front of the window, so that I can receive full sunlight in the morning to wake up (I hope the curtains can be automatically opened as an alarm. someday…). The screens of my Macbook and iPhone are both adjusted accordingly to optimize my sleep.

Recording Time

I use Google Calendar to record how I am using my time. I put every detail from my meeting schedule to personal appointments. A method I find useful is “blocking”. I block timeslots for concentrating time & exercising. By forcing time that I otherwise may easily be lost from other chores, I manage to secure a certain amount of time. Usually afternoon is left empty for doing work that requires less concentration, because I know I am less productive at that time.

Typical Thursday and Friday schedule

I also use a technique called Pomodoro, which employs 25-min concentrating sessions and 5-min breaks. It helps me to take a break in the middle and record how much focused time I am having per day.

Recording is really important since I can get a good picture and number of how I am using my own time. I can reflect my performance daily and weekly.

Uncontrollable factors

Nevertheless, I am not always satisfied with my productivity. There are uncontrollable factors that threaten my system, and most of the times they are related to the emotions.

Sometimes in life, I confront events or people that affect my emotion, both positive or negative. These emotional turbulences shake my system like an airplane shaking during the flight. I really hate it when the turbulence gets so big that I feel like crashing. I sometimes joke to my friends that I wish I was an AI to get away from these “feelings”, but I guess that does not make my life happy after all.

Despite the fact that I named this “uncontrollable factors”, I am trying to make things a bit more controllable. These attempts include music, meditation, reading, exercising, etc.

Keeping the energy level

Those who read until here so far may think how much of a tiring person I am. Some friends tell me that I do not have to do this, but I know that I will not be happy if I do not do this to myself.

And I actually get tired of myself pushing too hard occasionally. What I have been doing in the past is to give some time to embrace randomness by going on long, unplanned trips.

However, recently I feel the need to give some more space in between daily life, since I do not have a vacation anymore. I am still working on how to maintain my energy level that keeps the whole system productive as long as possible.

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