It’s rare that I read an article and think – I wish I had written that. That’s exactly how I felt after reading Wise People Have Rules For Themselves by David Cain.

I agree with every single word.

It sounds odd to say ‘discipline equals freedom’ – but it does. It’s counter-intuitive. When you set rules for yourself that you know are good for you, it’s actually liberating. It’s a huge relief. You no longer have to flip flop between things that work, somewhat work and don’t work. You lean in towards what works for you. You live a life on your terms.

I’d even go as far to say, if you don’t have many rules for yourself, it’s because you haven’t experimented enough with different ways to live your life. I think this is why people tend to enjoy life more when they get older. When you’re younger, life is a range of options and you haven’t had enough time to figure out what works for you. As you get older, you tend to settle into what works for you.

How do you find out what works for you? Well, for a start you have to develop a philosophy and mindset to be the best version of yourself. You have to try different things – and for a long enough period (usually 30 days does the trick). Sometimes it involves stopping something. Sometimes doing something new, or simply just something different.

You then have to notice how these changes impact your life, and make a decision on how that becomes a part of your life. Or, not.

Here are some rules I have for myself, which make my life better:

  • I eat during an 8-hour window, and then fast for the remaining 16 hours. So, I skip breakfast, and eat between 12.00PM and 8.00PM
  • I drink a maximum of 3 cups of caffeine a day, and they must be before noon.
  • I eat paleo 80% of the time (this is my most challenging rule to stick to) I drink 2 litres of water each day
  • I wake up early (usually for 05.00)
  • My mornings follow the same structure:
    • Breathe (~ 2 mins) – usually 20 air squats, 20 push ups, 10 burpees
    • Think (~ 10 mins) – usually sitting down quietly with a cup of tea
    • Do (~ 60 – 90 mins) – usually writing, exercising or working on a personal project
  • I spend about 2 hours each weekend, planning the following week
  • I spend about 15-20 mins every evening, planning the following day
  • I finish every shower with 30 secs of cold water
  • Ella and I spend 10-15 mins every Sunday, syncing our diaries for the next couple of months.

I’ve settled on the above rules through alot of experimentation. And from there, realising that there is a significant net positive to my life by sticking to these rules.

I wish I could say I have 100% consistency with these rules, but that’s not realistic. Some are easier than others to stick to. For example, I don’t have to think about skipping breakfast, or limiting my caffeine to 3 cups before noon. But, sticking to paleo, and drinking 2 litres of water every day – that’s a bit more hit and miss.

I’m experimenting with alcohol at the moment. As of today, I haven’t had a drink for 25 days. My life is SO much better without it. I’m leaning towards giving up forever. Perhaps I will only have a drink on very special occasions, and limit it to three drinks. I’m still thinking about that.

Now, you may still be thinking, that’s a very rigid way to live your life. Loosen up, have some fun. And that’s a valid point.

A good friend sent me a great article the other day – Let Yourself Be Unproductive. At Least for a Little While. I agree with alot of it.

I do think it’s important to have periods where you let go of some, or even all rules. In fact, just to let go of trying to be productive. There’s absolutely a place for building in periods of no structure – where you let go of calendars, tasks lists and rules. And actually, this is often necessary to keep a good balance. It also can be critical to break through key phases of life, or to recharge from intense periods.

Balance is the key word there. Most people are much happier when they have their life well organised as the baseline. More often than not, it’s better to have rules, and a system for how to live your life. That’s your foundation. And from there, you can build in periods of rest and downtime where you see fit.

As I said at the beginning, I wish I had written Wise People Have Rules For Themselves. But, I’ll settle for being able to share it with you, and share some of my rules 🙂


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