Reflecting and Experimenting
Recently, I was listening to a podcast about living a life filled with things that are important and meaningful to you. The questioner asked the host how to find out the things that are important to them. The host's answer - succinctly given as reflect and experiment - got me thinking about ways to do that in my own life.
Family and Friends
Your time is the most precious resource you have
I have always been stingy with my time, but I feel this more now when I have even less free time. Make sure you are spending your time on activities you need or want to be doing. If something feels like a waste of time, it probably is. The forced isolation from the pandemic has helped me realize how much I don't miss certain things as much as I thought I would. Think about events you attend at regularly - do you get excited about them, or are they drudgery?
You are who you spend time around
You will become more like the people you spend your time with. Look around - are these the types of people you want to be? Do they share the same core values? Are their actions ones you would be proud to take? More importantly, if there are actions that you would like to take in your life, surround yourself with people who take those actions. If you are not sure what actions and values you prioritize, spend some time thinking about what you want your world to be like and what actions you would need to make your world like that.
Do tasks that bring value
We only have so many hours in a day, and we only spend ~8 of them working. So, we need to make sure we focus on the tasks that bring the most impact. Make sure the feature you add to your application will actually help users, instead of just sitting there looking good. Also, if you are good at identifying and completing the tasks with the highest impact, it will help you build up your skillset. Ask yourself - are the tasks you are doing bringing value?
Build up skills you can leverage for a career you want
Lots of people have names for this, but the one I prefer is "Career Capital" that I came across in Cal Newport's 2012 book "So Good They Can't Ignore You". Feel free to read that book for more information on the topic, but the basic point is this - if you have rare and valuable skills, you can leverage them to have shape your career any way you want. Whether it is remote work, higher pay, or working on important projects - you can guide your career in whatever direction you choose. Make sure the skills you are building are actually wanted, and use them to shape your work life in the way you desire.
Make spaces you want to spend time in
Especially now, since we are at home more than ever due to coronavirus, it is important to make your home someplace you enjoy being. Earlier this year, I got a sit/stand desk and fancy chair. I set them up in a corner of our basement that is now my office / gaming area; I love it down here now. I have what I need to be productive nearby - fiber internet connection, noise cancelling headphones, a whiteboard on the wall, some snacks. It isn't really much to look at, but it's my little area that I get to set up just the way I like it.
Maybe you can create something like that in your own house. Or maybe you can find a nearby place outdoors. Plenty of people (when it is safe to do so) enjoy their local bookstore or coffee shop. The point is, find places you enjoy being and spend time there. In addition, thinks about the places you spend a lot of your time. Do you enjoy those spaces?
Automate / Outsource as many tasks as you can
One way to take things off your plate is to automate them. All of my recurring bills are auto-paid online. If there is something you need to purchase frequently, lots of online services will send you those items at whatever frequency interval you choose. Even this blog you are reading benefits from automation - I submit this to a github repo, it is built automatically, and a task I have set up tweets out a link to the post. There is plenty of software to help with these kinds of automation tasks - I use Netlify, Todoist, and Zapier for a lot of my automation needs. It might take some time upfront to set things up, but the savings in time and mental energy it huge.
Another way is to outsource them. My wife and I haven't mowed our yard in longer than I can remember. Neither of us likes it at all, and it was more of a hassle than it needed to be. We hired a local lawn mowing company for a reasonable rate, and they have been doing it ever since. If there are things you hate doing, and can get someone else to do them for you for a price you can handle - do it. It saves you both time and stress, and it is totally worth it. Think about the things in your life that need to be done, but you do not enjoy doing. Is there a way to automate them with software? Is there someone else that can do that for you at a price you can afford?
It has taken me plenty of time and reflection to even be able to write this post, and will take even more to figure out exactly how to apply this advice to my own life. Truthfully, we should probably be frequently reflecting and course changing, just to make sure our life aligns with our current values.