A great year is coming to a close, and it’s time to look in the rear view mirror with the Annual Review Glasses on. 2017 has been a very good year for me, featuring big life decisions, interesting travel, loads of learning, starting this blog, teaching entrepreneurship, and having loads of fun in the process of all this.
As part of my yearly review, I ended up with a few lists outlining the year’s best new habits and life hacks I’ve adopted in my never-ending quest to live and work better and more productively. All of these have significantly improved the quality of my life and work, and I hope they’ll do the same for you if you choose to try them out in 2018.
Best New Habits and Life Hacks Adopted in 2017
Semi-consistent mindfulness meditation
Most effective when done daily – takes about 14 days of uninterrupted daily 15-minute sessions to feel the proper effects. I’ve recently swapped from Headspace to Oak – both are great apps to begin with. (And check out Coach.me to track your habit progress.)
Stood up while working
Turned my iPhone screen black and white for most of the day
A colourless screen is not very tempting to waste time on, so I put it down instead. See this excellent guide to a mindful phone setup.
Reduced social media input by 90%
The SoMe companies are hiring hundreds of “attention engineers” whose sole job is to find new ways to make us spend more time on their sites. I’ve started fighting back, as I don’t want to spend my time watching other people’s lives unfold in full colour on a screen. On Instagram, I now follow a grand total of 6 people, which means nothing ever happens in my feed, which means I never check it except when I’m uploading a photo myself. On Facebook, I’ve removed the entire feed altogether. Use News Feed Eradicator for Chrome if you want to try it out. No more wasting my life infinity-scrolling on Facebook. Welcome back, time!
Started taking cold showers
60 seconds of the coldest water your shower can muster jolts your whole body into red alert. It’s a fantastic way to start the day (and train your willpower). It’s never pleasant, but always great afterwards.
Blocked out time to reflect backwards and plan forwards
Weekly reviews, monthly reviews and quarterly reflection getaways do the trick for me. These must be scheduled out well in advance, or they never happen.
Started doing Deep Work sessions
Blocking off 3-5 continuous hours to focus on meaningful work – instead of running from one thing to the other all day long – led me to enormous productivity gains. No meetings before lunch contributed to this as well. (Much more on this in Deep Work by Cal Newport.)
Adapted a mindful email system
My rules include never checking email first thing in the morning, batch process email when I do check it, touch each email only once, always get to inbox zero. (Inspired by this excellent post by Tiago Forte.)
Started a “decision journal”
Whenever I make a major decision, I write down my thought process, pros/cons, and what I expect the outcome to be. 6-12 months later I’ll review the note to check how accurate I was, and extract lessons from eventual discrepancies between my predictions and what really happened.
Explicitly wrote out the governing principles and decision making rules I want to base my life on
Inspired by Ray Dalio’s book, I’ve made my own set of principles. It’s a super useful document to look back on whenever I face a difficult decision, to make sure I follow the decision making rules I intend to live by.
Those are the new habits and life hacks I bring with me from 2017 into the new year and beyond. Adopt them at your own risk of becoming fantastically more effective – now you’ve been warned!
Also published on Medium.