Many people ask me how I am able to produce so much content. Aside from work-related research, I maintain two websites, one is this site, where I write on topics that enhance our living and another that contains my twice weekly curated lists of the best free articles on the web. I’m also putting the finishing touches on my own podcast channel (Deep See With Bilal). Besides of all of that, I still get time to read one or two books a week, spend time with family and friends and still feel like I have free time.
So how I do it? It really comes down to having a good system and being ruthless in removing time-wasting activities from my day. But to show how it works in real life, here’s a taste of my system on a typical day:
1) I have a very clear morning routine
- No phone. Upon waking up, I make sure not to check my phone as it will contaminate my mind. It’s important I hold my ideas and thoughts that have developed during my sleep. In fact, I keep my phone in a separate room.
- Simplest physical work-out ever. One push up, one sit up, one sun salutation, one squat. The secret of physical fitness is regularity. Such a low bar for reps ensures I will never miss this work-out! In fact, I haven’t for many years now. I add extra work-outs later in the day or week.
- Shower power. When showering I note down all my ideas on my water-proof note-book. Then, I end the shower on freezing cold and stay in it as long as possible. Exposing myself to temperature extremes makes my body more resilient
- No stress dressing. I wear clothes that I have picked the night before. This ensures I minimise using decision-making energy on trivial things
2) Perfect commute
My commute has three legs: a walk – overground train – underground train.
- While walking I don’t listen to anything, and instead observe the environment – this grounds me in nature, makes my worldly problems seem small and helps reduce stress.
- On the overground train, which is around 15-20mins, I go through work emails and my RSS feeds (more on this later).
- On the underground train, which is around 10mins, I do a breath-based meditation using an Apnea app. This is another technique to help manager stress
3) My ideas factory
- All ideas noted. If any idea pops into my head, I make sure to note it down somewhere, otherwise I will forget it. I use the Notes app on my i-Phone or my great new connected paper notebook (which sends everything to my phone)
- Feedly. I use Feedly, an RSS aggregator, to pull in the latest articles from hundreds of blogs and websites. I categorise by finance/econ, China, finance news etc. I scroll through these and save the ones that look most interesting to read later. This is one of the key ways I use to construct my list of curated articles.
- Newsletters. I subscribe to lots of email newsletters of interesting bloggers and journalists, who themselves curate interesting articles. I scan the ones I like then save in Feedly to read later
- Kindle. It’s always with me and I read on my train ride home or if I have spare time in evenings. On books, if I’m bored by a book, I drop it and read another. I highlight bits that look interesting and I usually write a review, which may become a blog.
- Podcasts. I use Overcast to listen to podcasts. I put it to speed x1.5 and use the shorten silence option to get rid of pauses. I subscribe to around 50 or 60 podcasts that range from politics to economics to design. I’ll listen to this on my return journey or in the car on weekends.
4) Two key disciplines
- I only check my phone and emails three times a day to minimise disturbances. This is a major producvtivity booster.
- I avoid internal meetings as much as possible. If someone wanted to invent the most inefficient use of time, they would invent the internal meeting. One technique to stop getting invited is to ask for notes for the meeting in advance, ask what the agenda will be, ask for minutes to the last meeting, ask who will be chairing the meeting, what is expected and who will be accountable for outcomes. Very quickly you won’t get invited any more!
5) At home, relax
- No phone. I try to set my phone aside, so that I won’t look at it during the evening.
- No TV, until later. I try to make sure there is lots of time to talk and hangout with family and friends. I also use this time to write blogs etc.
- Read. I catch up with reading.
- Work out. I’m not a big fitness person, so I do the minimum to stay healthy. I do one session a week of deadlifts to work on leg muscles (the neglected muscle group that comes back to haunt you in old age when you start to have knee problems) and do one session of sprints/jogs (HIIT)
Hope that’s helpful
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