One: read a lot
I read quite a lot. I have an approximate morning commute of 40 minutes. In that time I spend most of it reading a book. I try to alternative the books so I flip between fiction & non-fiction. It keeps my mind active, wakes me up gently in the morning, and engages me. More importantly, books are an escape that give me great ideas in the real world. Some more useful than others.
Two: stop using my phone
I’m looking forward to the new iOS, which will include a feature to block certain apps after a period of time. Like an adult version of a timeout. But I avoid my phone where possible. On the bus I avoid it on my commute and force myself to only use my Kindle. I fund myself mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, wasting insane amounts of time, so I deleted it a month ago and feel much clearer now.
Three times a week I go to the gym. I just run 5k, lift a bit of weights and then head off to shower. It takes around 40–50mins all-in. And I do it at 11am during work. I’m lucky that we have an onsite gym & shower facilities. I tend to get up early and go to work early, so I give myself that 11am time to take an exercise break before lunch & hitting work again in the afternoon.
This is different to pure exercise as you can do more productive things while walking. Like have a 1:1. I much prefer doing my 1:1s with folks on my team while walking around. If I’m working from home or taking an evening meeting with someone in the US, I’ll go for a walk with headphones on (AirPods are amazing, by the way!). In the morning, when my wife can’t, I’ll walk the dog while listening to a podcast.
I have a pretty stressful job. In the past few months I’ve dealt with huge structural changes in my team (that I implemented, so if it went wrong it was on me) — which will benefit me long term in exchange for short-term pain — and had 30 people reporting into me at one time. But it’s important to allow yourself to disconnect. Ignore email, or turn off notifications. Switch Slack to snooze mode. And go for a walk, read or something similar.
Six: learn something
I’ve been going back to basics with guitar, an instrument I’ve not picked up in years. That, and spending time programming for fun has been fundamental to keeping my brain ticking over while also not specifically doing things for work.
Seven: have a safe space
I’m in a fortunate enough position that I have a personal laptop separate from my work one. And an iPad that has no work apps installed. I also treat my kitchen table as a desk-away-from-the-desk. Work doesn’t happen here. Only things I want to do that explicitly aren’t work related. Being able to physically separate work from non-work is important. On the flip side, it’s also really important to not allow work to invade your private space (e.g. making checking emails before you rest your head down in bed).
Eight: have a routine
I’m a creature of discipline. So having an easy-to-follow routine is key for me. I get up at the same time, go to bed at the same time. Injecting some routine makes the day more predictable and easier to follow.
Nine: get a dog!
Last year my wife & I got a Labradoodle puppy, named Marla after the crazy girl in Fight Club (she lives up to the namesake). She’s been a huge help for exercise, walkies (she walks me as much as the other way ‘round) and generally being a positive influence on our lives.
Ten: stay positive
Sometimes you get stressed. It’s inevitable. Sometimes things don’t go the way you want. It’s also inevitable. But remaining positive, playing out the steps to getting on track and following some simple positive energy generating mind games with yourself helps. Maybe it comes with age, but more recently I’ve found myself being nearly immune to bad situations dragging me down. The only thing that can put me in a bad mood is a devastating life issue, or my own self indulgent depressive mindset.