Every so often, I get asked the question of how I can accomplish so many different things every day. People ask me how I can blog, stream videos, write books, develop software, have a day job, run my own business on top of running online tech communities amongst many other things all at once.
I’m writing this article to give away the recipe of how to extend time.
We have 24 hours to spend every day. Some of us choose to spend it all on the same thing, some others like the variations of activities during the day and some just choose to alternate between one thing a day versus several all depending on the opportunity.
Let’s talk about the rules for extending time:
Rule 0: No Routines
You’ll hear and read a lot of the time-management tips about following a certain routine. Routines are for machines. Routines kill the joy and excitement out of what you do. Instead, alternate and substitute certain flows in your day based on how the day goes.
For instance, in any day (weekend or not) I have three types of flows, people flow, engineering flow and self-flow. The people flow is when someone shows up while I’m working on something, I put a hold on my current flow and start a different one. When someone stops by my office, I hold off everything and start by asking them how they were doing, take genuine interest in their day and maybe invite them to have some beverage or eat depending on what hour of the day it is.
Instead of trying to control life, I let it flow while reacting with premediated sequences of actions that dances with the flow of time instead of fighting with it. Sometimes life events can be so unpredictable that I need to design and create a new flow on the fly!
I don’t really plan a day. I let it present itself and I interact with it. Take the last weekend for instance, my flow was to go to Starbucks, sit down and write some code. As I entered the store, someone in the crowd recognized me and wanted to have a conversation with me. This is where I hold off the code flow and kick off the people flow.
When we try to control life, we grow certain frustrations as life is much stronger than we can ever control. You plan a wedding, and it rains. You plan a meeting and flights get cancelled. And so on. Everyone who’s ever planned anything would tell you 9 times out of 10 that things don’t always go exactly as planned.
For this rule, I say dump the routines, have a skeleton about what you want to do in a day, then dance with the flow — react naturally and peacefully to whatever the day throws at you. Because when you do so, you leverage the strength of the flow of life instead of going against it. When you go with the same direction as the river you go faster, stronger and put a lot less effort than going against it.
When you go with the river of life, stir it slowly you can accomplish in one hour what takes others days maybe weeks to accomplish.
Rule 1: Chase Excitements
When we become adults, we roll ourselves into the industrial machine. We are burdened with debts and dreams. We trade off being alive for pennies and we try to rationalize that we are supposed to be happy because we paid off our mortgage.
But that’s really no way to live. I see so many people doing things every day that they are not really excited about. There’s nothing wrong with making compromises to ensure survival, but that shouldn’t be the case for the next 20–30 years.
For instance, one may have to work in some fast-food restaurant to pay off some debts. But they should never lose track of not settling down for that job or trying to make a career out of it if it’s not what excites them.
But furthermore, one should never settle for doing the same thing the same way every day. For instance, if you’re an engineer and you did some development at your desk yesterday, today do it in a coffee shop. The day after try doing it next to a lake, or by a tree or anywhere that’s different.
That’s just for the location, but the number of things that you could change in a day are infinite. You don’t have to eat your breakfast the same way. You don’t have to eat the same breakfast. You don’t have to make the breakfast. Look at everything you do, and change it, don’t settle for the status quo — because that’s what machines do.
Change brings curiosity, entertainment, and excitement. Even with the smallest of things. Like changing the coffee mug or switching to eating with chopsticks.
As a software engineer, I work tirelessly on embedding excitement and beauty into what I create, how I create it and how I tell people about it. I advocate for beauty, simplicity, and purpose into what we create as engineers. Making things beautiful turns life into something beautiful. Beauty keeps ignites excitement and happiness.
In the software industry I see engineers doing dull tasks. Maintenance, support, or some other grunt work that doesn’t really carry much meaning, learning or excitement. I advocate for revamping legacy dying systems to ignite excitement, happiness, and prosperity into the hearts of engineers. Because even dull work can be turned into an exciting opportunity is tackled and redesigned the proper way.
The act of generating excitement could take pages and pages to talk about — but in summary, we all know what makes us happy. We all know deep down what would make us excited about what we do. So, my methodology is not to ask for permission to be happy and just be happy.
When I invest into the beauty of engineering, those who work with me everywhere share the same excitement and double their effort as they enjoy what they’re doing — we can accomplish much more than we’ve ever done by finding or generating excitement into what we do.
That most exciting thing about life is to have a purpose. My purpose is to do only the things that directly impacts the survival, evolution, and fulfillment of mankind. So, whenever life throws an event at me, I kick off the flow that compliments that event but stirs it towards my purpose in this life.
Rule 2: Every day is a Vacation
Don’t wait for a weekend or a holiday to take vacation. Find your vacation within every day you live. When we trap ourselves in a daily routine or a job that we do half-heartedly, we yearn to vacation days where we get the opportunity to not do said job. But when the vacation is over, we experience a huge drop of happiness and massive impact of depression as we know we are going back to doing what we don’t like.
That’s not a way to live.
Instead, if we do what’s exciting for us, it consumes much less energy from us which allows us to experience a day with its full spectrum of happiness with work, people, and ourselves. It feels like a vacation every day.
Tomorrow is not promised. Ask yourself the question, what if today was my last day? How would you spend that day? Would you want to go to work? Would you want to visit with your family and friends? Or just spend it by yourself?
I try to do all of them every day. I talk to people, I do work, I change things around me as I go through the day — and by the end of the day, it doesn’t really feel like I did anything that day. Because I enjoyed it all.
People who work 10–12 hours a day then come home at the end of the day to eat, sleep then repeat the same thing everyday have lost the way. They are easily replaceable by a machine. Automatons, lifeless, mindless, and happy-less. It becomes even worst when I see them advocating for such a lifestyle (deathstyle?) on social media — claiming that true happiness is to work until you die. Don’t listen to these machines — they’ve never experienced true happiness and excitement — they are programmed to work and die and nothing more.
In order to make everyday a vacation, especially for those who are in the engineering industry they must ensure that their day is contextual and intentional. Switching contexts is a deathtrap for the mind and puts a massive dent into the productivity of the individual.
I find my vacation into what I do — when I talk to people, hear their stories and dreams, or develop or design systems with them or just being around them without saying or doing anything. I find my vacation into the quietness of thought and the loudness of the crowds however the day goes. Even in my sad moments, and difficult times, I find assurance into knowing that we are all a part of a well-designed balanced and intentional cosmetic system — everything happens for a reason. I stopped worrying about the grunt work and started focusing on the exciting work years and years ago and it continues to evolve me and drives me to evolve everyone around me.
When I follow these three rules, everyday becomes an exciting journey. A chapter in a book that is unpredictable. Everyday becomes something to look forward to — something more exciting than a vacation in Hawaii or a bungee jump from a high mountain.
Don’t save the good things for later, do them here and now. Take the risk and follow your heart — let your mind do the logistics of what your heart desires not the other way around.
Let your heart lead the way — for once.