Context: I wrote this as an email to a friend when he asked me for tips to manage his increasingly complex life (he is doing exceedingly well in life and has a toddler that keeps him on the toes) while remaining healthy.
I poured EVERYTHING I knew in this email.
And while I was editing it, I realised I could send this to more friends. And thus this post. Please note that I am no expert. Just trying to get better as an individual and these are the things that I am working on to #bebetter.
So I wanted to write you an email and then I thought a doc is better. Easy to format and consume and share and comment and add to and all that.
Standard disclaimers apply. I am not a doctor. This is not medical advice. I am NOT responsible for the results if you do try these.
Oh, I don’t do a lot of these right now but will start doing so by the end of this year (right now, I am not even equipped to do some of these and I am working hard to get there).
Also, dont ask me for research, facts, rationale, reasoning, links, sources etc. This are things that I sincerely BELIEVE in and am willing to do myself. If you think these are right, please try. If you think these are wrong, these are wrong and refrain.
But like I said, I believe in and practise these things. There is all the skin in the game when I recommend these. So, up to you.
I divide my “discourse” in sections. Sections are:
This is the most important thing ever. I sincerely wish that I could turn back time and not abuse the body the way I did (coke etc). Thankfully I was never on drugs or alcohol. But if I tell something to all young ones, I say that you need to work on your health.
Anyhow, within health, key components are:
A.1 Sleep (I know that you have a baby and it’s tough to do all this but I am sure you can).
- You have to find your optimal level (duration) of sleep. People say it’s between 6 and 8 hours. For me, its 5. For you, it could be 8. Use a sleep tracker (see tools below).
- Find your relationship with circadian rhythm. Essentially, know if you are a morning person or a night person. And try to become a morning person if you are not. Easy way to do this is to try to sleep by 10 and up by 5. And no this is not impossible. You can do this. First few days are tough. And then it’s easy after that.
- When you sleep, sleep in a room WITHOUT any screen. Tough but if I can do, you can too. If you are using a tracker, put on airplane mode.
- Room temperature — 22 degrees
- Lights — DARK. Or Blue. Buy lights if you have to. I bought and it got fucked after a few days and since its too expensive, couldnt buy again.
- As you drift to sleep, think of things that you are grateful for, in THAT day. Not in general. On THAT day.
- REM Sleep is when what you learn gets reinforced and new connections are made. So I typically try to read / think about things that are perplexing me as I drift to sleep. By the time I get up and reach the shower, I somehow get the best ideas. Remember they say that best ideas come on the pot? This is the reason why. So, use sleep as a weapon.
- After you wake up, first thing? MAKE YOUR BED. Simple and SUPER EFFECTIVE. Please please do this.
- Second thing? Think of three things that you need to achieve today. That you WILL achieve today. Think. No writing nothing. Think. And then you start your day. If you want more dope on what to do when you start your day, ask me and I will tell you.
- Third thing? Watch some funny video. Whatever tickles your bone. I watch haryanavi humor. And prank calls by RJ Naved. You can watch Louis CK. Or even Modi Ji :)
- Irrespective of your body size, shape, age etc, you HAVE to go on a lo-carb diet. Fuck what nutritionists say. Lo carb it is.
- Try Keto for 2 weeks. Trust me, its THE shit.
- Cut out red meat from your life. Forget that there is red meat. If you eat red meat.
- Forget sugar. Eating processed sugar is a sin. You need to slap yourself hard in public if you eat sugar.
- No alcohol. No smoking. EVER.
- Try weed. Serious. But in moderation.
- Skip Dinner. If you can’t, ensure that you don’t eat carbs after 7 PM. If you have to have to eat, proteins. Boiled eggs are the best. No milk. And it’s ok to be boring and not want different kinds of food. And it’s ok if you go to family functions and people make fun of you for not eating.
- Install one of the brain training apps. I use Peak. Its immensely helpful. Its like exercise. You know walking is good. But same applies to brain. Each day, doing something that actually works on brain muscles is required.
- Brain is NOT for remembering. Its for thinking and processing and creating patterns. Outsource your memory to The Brain (a tool), or simply, Evernote. Counter-intuitive. But do it. Your brain has one function and one function only — processing. This means making connections, seeing patterns, connecting the dots etc. Fuck anything else that anything says. No one cares if you can remember a deck of cards — its a simple hack, anyone can learn. What you need to be able to do is process and be creative.
- Practise deep breathing. Wait. Deep breathing? Brain? Yes. Do it.
- Challenge yourself in new ways. Do things that you’ve never done. For example, stand up? Or play pool? Brian is about making connections. The day you stop making connections and the synapses, you are fucked.
- Meditate 10 minutes everyday. Use Calm. Free version allows you 28 days. Please do that. If you want, am happy to buy you a subscription.
- REMOVE all negative things from your life — friends, family — anyone that drags you down, throw that person, thing out. This could be your best friend that pulls your leg all the time. I’ve done this. Thrown people out. It hurts. Like Cancer. Its part of your body but you kill it.
- ADD positive things.
- There is LOT more on mindfulness. I am not sure of a lot of things myself. This is something that even I am working on.
- Get authentic. Read about it. Authentic. You are like who you are. In real life, in conduct, in meetings, in your bedroom, in your heart and in your soul. If you are authentic, you spend less effort (you are not posing and hence you are using less brainpower and thus are happier). Plus people on other side also know you as authentic and good and honest and all that and thus trust you more.
- Massage — twice a week. At home. Not spa. There is this guy at XXXX. He charges 400 per day. Find one in XXXXX.
- Walk — 45 mins EACH day. There is NO alternative to this. Invest in a GREAT walking shoe. Either Nike or Asics or nothing. You don’t have issue with money. So do it.
- Work with hands. Learn something that makes you use your hands. This will help you in delaying old age. I tried guitar. I am going to pick up Khartal.
- Grow muscle. Don’t become The Rock. But grow muscle. This will not happen without gym or protein. I don’t understand much of this right now but I once I reach that point, i will.
- Get a standing desk. You have to. If you can’t, I can gift you one. Mine is coming. At Starbucks, I work with a standing desk.
- Keep back straight. Remind yourself multiple times to keep the spine straight.
- Sex. Get regular with it if you aren’t. Sorry, this is a taboo and all that in India but get regular at it. Get an extramarital if you have to. I know this sounds wrong but you need to decide for yourself if you want to live till 120 and you want to be active and all that. Fuck what has been taught to us. Draupadi had 5 husbands. Akbar had a Harlem. What other evidence do you need? There is science. And no, I don’t have an extramarital thing yet. Heck, I don’t even have a marital thing yet. But if need be, I will. I am selfish.
Here are some “hacks”
- Carry Almonds with you in a small box. Everytime you are hungry, pop in a few. Not too much. A few (less than 5 at a time). Or boiled eggs. Buy an egg boiler. I bought one and it’s super easy to use and its fast and I get perfectly boiled eggs.
- Buy eye mask if you can’t get lights in the room.
- Use the night mode feature on your phone to get the phone to automatically go silent post 8 PM.
- Tell yourself EVERYDAY that you are lucky. You know that study right? They divided a random group of people into 2 groups. One was told that they were lucky. The other was told they weren’t. And then they were asked to search for free movie ticket coupons in the same newspaper. Guess who found more coupons? Just because they were TOLD that they were lucky, they found more.
- Listen to the music from the time in life when you had no worries and were carefree and you were SUPER happy. May be the same track that you used to propose to your wife! I listen to Lucky Ali, KK, Silk Route etc. I am forgetting who talks about this but this is a PROVEN technique to reduce stress and get focus back.
- Assume you make 3 lakhs a month (INR). This means you make 10K a day. Means each working hour for you is worth 1000 bucks. Anything that you can outsource for cheaper, do that. For example, you can get a driver for 400 bucks an hour, do it. You can hire an EA to save you 20 hours in a month? Pay 20K and get one. More on EA later. But point is, anything that frees up time for you — even if you have to pay for it, do it.
- Get an EA to handle emails and other “dirty” tasks. Idea is that you will NOT do anything that does NOT add value to your time or life. If there is one thing that you can do from this entire document, get an EA will be THE number 1. May be sleep is but this is close.
- You will only do 4 things at a point in time. Not 3, not 5. If more than 4 things demand your attention, you will find a resource to do that. You can afford to. So do it. Wish I could.
- Use pomodoro. 25 mins of deep work and then break. Chunk you tasks in 25 mins. Open office for 25 mins, meetings for 25 mins, thinking for 25 mins etc. The other 5 mins on the pomodoro? Go for a walk. I am going to do 2 push-ups every 25 mins. Lets see. Idea is to cultivate that habit.
- While you work and you get a distraction, do NOT jump to it. Buy empty visiting cards and write on those the thing that is causing you distraction. And then once you are done what you are doing, do things that are on the cards.
- Get a personal board. I am getting one. You are on it. And there are 10 other people. Like XXXXX Sir said, from different backgrounds.
- Tell each of those people about your work ambitions. Don’t hide. Trust them. Don’t talk in vague terms. They are YOUR board. There is often sensitive information. Its ok. Life’s too short. And this sensitive information is NEVER life or death. Its at max career limiting. We can get the career back. But it’s ok to trust in your people, your board. For your progress.
- Switch off mobile notifications from all apps except SMS. Tell your favorite ones to call or sms for emergency. Everything else has to “fetch” for you. Your life shall not be controlled by the ding of an incoming message by a colleague or a client. Neither it will be run by a notification on Facebook about your wife uploading a pic of your daughter. It will be run by you and your goals and your ambition.
- Get famous. You already have XXXX. Use that. Leverage that. The idea is that reputation takes you so so far. Go far. I suck at this. I am working on this. And its tough for me cos I havent done shit. You have. Your reputation can take your so much farther its not funny.
Here’s a favour. If you REALLY think that this is of ANY help, send this to 5 people. No wait. Send this to EVERYONE you know and you tell them that Saurabh Garg has written this for you. I am selfish like I said. Get the drift?
- Write. PLEASE. Even if you think you write BS or write like crap, please write. There is NO better way to clear the head than to write. Writing this note has given me so so so so many ideas and reinforced so many beliefs. Thank you for making me write this one. Ideally you have to write at a specific time EACH day. I am trying to get into that zone of writing. But I need to first get out of the issue that my time is owed to someone else. You are lucky. You own your time.
- Learn mental models. Use them. If not all models, just learn Cialdini’s. These are social proof, authority, scarcity, liking, commitment and reciprocity. Find out all the models I’ve used in this one email.
- Get purposeful. Dont do things because there’s nothing else. I can talk so much about this. Not purpose as in world changing and all that. Purpose as in you do things with so much passion, so much love, so much purpose that if someone is looking at you, they get infected with your way of working. Ordinary is boring af.
- Make a vision board (sounds gyaan but trust me, it helps. And ofcourse none of these esoteric things happen unless you work towards those things)
- Once a week, sit and think on your future. Mark this in your calendar. There is no way you can’t NOT do this.
- Use your board. I am sure you read the point above.
- Make your team. Team XXXX. I have this thing called Team SG. A set of REALLY young kids (in the age group of less than 25) that you hire today. These people HAVE to work with you for rest of YOUR life. Groom them, mentor them, help them. Make your team. Not your company’s. Your. Do you have 5 people who’d walk out with you if you have to quit? I have 1. I want 9 more in this year. Working on this.
- Start using Asana. Or Trello. Whatever you like. Idea is to outsource your remembering function.
- Google Calendar. You will NOT meet anyone if its not on your calendar. Not even standup meetings. Create office hours (time when anyone can walk in to you office to ask you anything — like yesterday, 5 people walked in while you and I were talking. Train then that they can only ask you things at 11 AM or 5 PM). In 25 min slots.
- Sleep tracking — use fitbit or even some app on your phone. I use Sleep Cycle. This tells you how is your sleep and if you are sleep is fucked, you are fucked. You need to first know if the sleep is good or bad. You may think you sleep well but the app tells you that you are fucked and you need to fix it. This is the single biggest revelation that happened to me.
- All tools that I use EVERYDAY are: Hubspot CRM, Feedly, Asana, Toggl, LifeTrack sheet (where I track my life — I note down what I do on most days), Google Calendar.
- There is no set formula for these tools. You find your set of tools. I found these after a lot of effort and lot of time. I keep going back and forth between tools. Idea is to find your own path.
- You OWN the day. Not your calendar or emails. You can choose to switch off emails. Once you get your EA, you can further control your time.
- Use your commute. Cat nap, podcasts etc. Do whatever but do NOT waste it with SM or email. Commute is THE biggest advantage we have. I know of a guy who actually lives in Thane so that he can get 2 hours every day in train to read! Beat that!
That’s for the time being. I am sure there are more. And I am not sure if this helps you. But these have helped me immensely. I am little more peaceful and content. Though I am yet to become the big shit that I’ve always wanted to become — I am sure I will get there. I am lucky. Are you?
Any inputs anyone? I am @saurabh on twitter.
All images are credit to Canva.