My favourite life changing books

February 12, 2018 in Focus, Life, Mindset, Money

I read a great article recently — If It’s Important, Learn It Repeatedly. It makes a good case for going back and re-reading important books.

So, I went back and read Deep Work by Cal Newport. It’s one of my favorite books and it was even better the second time round. It gave me a renewed enthusiasm for doing deep work and some fresh ideas for how to go about it.

It got me thinking, what other books could I go back and read again?

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How to plan a killer week

January 10, 2018 in Focus, Life

Get more done, spend more time on what really matters and be happier. It sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t.

Planning the week ahead could be the one, single biggest thing you can do to get more done — and be happier. It’s usually the difference between a bad, or an awesome week.

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Can technology free us from technology?

December 20, 2017 in Focus, Life

I’ve been using Freedom for the last couple of weeks, with interesting results.

Freedom is an app that helps you control distractions by blocking the internet, apps and websites — or any combination of those. You can start a freedom session whenever you like, or schedule a session for the future. It supports recurring sessions too. You have complete control over how long you want sessions to be, and what distractions you want to block.

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Why you need to become a morning person

December 12, 2017 in Focus, Life, Mindset

I’ve written about morning routines, quite frankly, more than anyone should. That’s because I believe waking up early is about the most life changing thing you can do.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the people I consider successful and happy, get up early and follow some type of morning routine. I challenge you to think about this too. Look at well known people, colleagues and friends. I bet you come to the same conclusion.

But, I’m just not a morning person” you say. “I do my best work later in the day”.

I’m not buying it. For 99.9% of us, it’s much better to become a morning person.

Why? I think it boils down to these 3 things:

  • Getting up early sets a tone for the day. It builds positive momentum from the get go, which then flows into the rest of the day. When I get up early and do things that are important to me (without distractions), the rest of the day usually goes well. I feel satisfied at the end of the day. When I get up late, I almost always drift into bad habits and have a bad day. I know I didn’t make the best use of my time and wasn’t the person I wanted to be.
  • It allows you to make consistent progress on things that are important to you — whether that is exercise, writing, working on a personal project, reading etc. Morning routines build consistency, largely because of the lack of distractions (everyone else is asleep). Over time, that establishes habits.
  • Getting up early builds a certain strength in character and mindset. You start to feel stronger and more disciplined than others. That breeds confidence and influences how you attack the day. It’s hard to beat the feeling of watching others come into work, knowing you’ve already exercised, worked on a personal project, got ahead of your email and done a block of focused work. Not only are you ahead on output, you’re ahead on mindset.

Jocko Willink, sums it up more succinctly than me:

“Discipline equals freedom, and that discipline begins every morning when my alarm goes off, well before the sun rises.” Jocko Willink.

And for proof, he posts one of these every day:

If you’re not waking up early, how do you start?

Simple and small.

Go to bed a little earlier. Get up a little bit earlier (i.e. 30 mins), and do one or two things. Meditate for 5 mins and take a short walk. Read or work on a personal project. Whatever is important to you. Keep it simple, easy and small for at least 30 days.

Once you get to 30 days, extend the time and perhaps add something else in. The biggest mistake you can make is to go from simple, easy and small — to complicated, hard and big. And I guarantee, you will make that mistake. Learn from it. Go back to simple, easy and small and then layer in a little bit more for the next 30 days.

It sounds unambitious, but it’s the best and fastest path to a longer, more impressive morning routine. By starting simple, easy and small — you establish the habit of getting up early and doing important things. And that’s the key to it all.

I just switched up my morning routine (part of what inspired this post). Here’s what it looks like:

  • 04.30 — 05.15: GMB Elements
  • 05.15 — 05.30: read a chapter from ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’
  • 05.30 — 06.30: write
  • 06.30 — 07.00: plan day

I’ve only done it a couple of times, and it’s feeling really good. It’s a good mix of exercise, working on myself, working on a skill and setting myself up for an awesome day. I should also note, I go to bed before 10PM so I can get up that early.

If you’re not waking up early — try it. I’m confident you won’t go back.

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The power of broad focuses

November 28, 2017 in Focus

Recently I read ‘In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto’ by Michael Pollan. Here’s how it starts:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy. I hate to give the game away right here at the beginning of a whole book devoted to the subject, and I’m tempted to complicate matters in the interest of keeping things going for a couple hundred more pages or so. I’ll try to resist, but will go ahead and add a few more details to flesh out the recommendations.

I love how Michael Pollan simplified a complex topic (and a whole book) down to 7 words:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

It’s beautiful. Those 7 words have stuck with me since — and as a result, have helped influence my eating.

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Two years without a smartphone

November 22, 2017 in Focus, Life

Two years ago, I ditched my iPhone 6 for a Nokia 130.

It was an extreme decision, but it felt the only thing left to do. I was tired of being constantly connected. I couldn’t find a way to break the addiction of compulsively checking things.

It took a couple of weeks for the urges to go away —  but go away they did. And once they did, life got better. I’m not tempted to go back one bit. It’s been life changing.

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Feature phones aren’t just for hipsters

November 20, 2015 in Focus

Yesterday I overheard someone saying feature phones are popular amongst hipsters.

Recently, I ditched my iPhone 6 for a Nokia 130. I guess that makes me look like I was trying to be cool, which I definitely wasn’t. In fact, I think I look less cool — and I wasn’t cool to start with!

I did it because I was tired of being constantly connected.

The computer we carry around in our pocket is amazing. We have the world at our fingertips, but that was my problem. I was addicted to checking things — twitter, medium, public markets, email, news, instagram, bank balance etc.

I did it when I woke, when I was with people, or when I was bored by myself. Reaching for my phone to check things, that didn’t need to be checked had become a habit.

Maybe I’m more obsessive than most. Or maybe I’m more aware of my addiction. Either way, it was getting in the way of life.

I wasn’t being present and was feeling drained by being constantly connected. It was distracting me from things I wanted to do.

I tried to curb it in a few ways. I tried turning off all notifications. Then I tried removing the worst offending apps from my phone. I tried Jake Knapp’s disabling safari trick. But, I couldn’t resist checking things and always found a way around it.

I decided to try something extreme. Ditch the smart phone for a feature phone. The Nokia 130 seemed perfect. It was 20 quid. No apps. No camera. Just phone calls and texts.

Nokia 130 — Just look at this beauty!

Nokia 130 — Just look at this beauty!

I’m 10 days in and it’s been one of the best things I’ve done this year.

I had the same urges to check things in the first week, but had no way of acting on it. They became less frequent in the second week, and now I hardly get them at all.

I feel so much better. I’m more present and my mind feels less cluttered.

I also now enjoy the things I used to check too frequently more. Take Twitter for example. I used to check it 20 times a day for a few minutes. Now it’s two or three times a day for 5–10 mins. I look forward to sitting down and browsing it properly

I thought I would miss apps that are exclusive to the phone, but I don’t. The only thing I’ve found inconvenient is needing to google something on the move. But how great I feel without a smartphone far outweighs that.

The only time I pull the iPhone 6 out of the cupboard is when I run or bike. I like to use Strava and Nike + to track things and I listen to music whilst I’m exercising. But I put it straight back into the cupboard afterwards. I can use the laptop for most other things and can live without the rest.

One surprising benefit of a feature phone is the battery life. My first full charge lasted eight days. You wouldn’t think charging your phone is such a pain in the ass until you rarely need to do it.

Right, I’m off to stay with family for 3 days on the South coast. And I don’t need to pack a charger.

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