10 pieces of advice for an easier, happier & healthier life

Here are some things that have made a positive difference to my life.

1. Hydrate

First thing in the morning, get a pint glass and fill it with water. Before you do anything else, drink the water. You need to drink at least 2 litres (4 pints) a day and potentially more if you exercise. These days, I drink just water and black coffee. I find that water can wake me up more than caffeine to the point that sometimes I do not have my first coffee of the day until I get to work. There are many benefits to making sure that you are hydrated. See here or here for example, but for me drinking plenty of water was key to dieting, losing weight and feeling happier.

2. Kill bad habits. Adopt good ones.

We all have bad habits that let us down. For years one of mine was junk food. It seemed to be easier to go to a fast food restaurant than cooking. Also in the modern Web 2.0 age, we all spend far too much time checking our e-mail, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and so on.

Checking Facebook gives us a good feeling if someone has sent us a message. Eating junk food gives us an initial good feeling because we crave the fats and sugars in it. These bad habits are really addictions. By checking your e-mail every five minutes, you are trying to satisfy a craving. In this case, you are an information addict!!

Unfortunately the best way to get rid of bad habits is to stop them immediately and go into rehab. Do not put yourself in the position where you will do them. Prepare food instead of going to a junk food restaurant. Close your web browser or limit the time you spend using it. Seek professional help if your addictions mean that you have a serious dependency.

Try to implement good habits. One way to do this is to adopt a small number of habits at a time and measure them. If you try to start a fitness programme, a new diet and also quit smoking on Monday, you will probably fail. Take baby steps and change over time.

3. Measure but don’t obsess.

Measuring is a good way to build good habits because you have a constant feedback loop and an accurate record of your progress. For example, taking a picture of what you eat and posting it on a blog will make you think twice about eating rubbish, particularly if you have told everyone that you are following a specific diet.

After a period of time though it is easy for the measurement process to become more important than the actual thing you are trying to achieve. At this point, dump the measurement process. Since April 2011 I have reduced the amount of junk I eat considerably. Measurement was key to the process, particularly after a bad week where I had to report to my personal trainer that I had eaten Burger King, McDonalds and KFC in abundance. Now it is a waste of my time to measure what I eat in great detail, because the bad stuff is the exception and not the rule.

Stop measuring something you have become good at. Move on to the next good habit you are trying to build and measure that instead.

4. Accept that you will fail sometimes.

Everyone gets it wrong sometimes including you and believe it or not, even me. Life is not black and white. Sometimes there are no right answers.

Failure can come in several forms. It can be something at work or it can be a bad personal decision. Accept the consequences for your actions. Try not to dwell on them but move on. If you try to live your life in a good way, your failure will be the exception rather than the rule.  A horrible 30 minutes of your life, is just 30 minutes and that is how you should write it off.

5. Remove unhealthy relationships. Do not confuse friendliness with being friends.

This section might seem a bit negative but it needs to be said. It is very likely that the people you hold closest to you will influence you more than anyone else. Try not to be led by other people. By all means try to help others, but there are some people beyond help. You need to let these people go, as hard as it is to do so.

Be friendly and helpful to everyone if you can, but do not confuse an initial positive exchange with friendship. Friendships need to be built over time, but some friendships also dissolve over time too. Don’t get dragged down.

6. Exercise more

I have written on this blog before about my weight loss that was achieved by increasing exercise and changing my dietary habits. Before I started exercising and dieting properly I had a pain most mornings in my stomach that I could not explain. Six months into the change and the pain had gone. I now put this down to being overweight.

Exercise helps you maintain your fitness and your health. Regular exercise will make you feel better and help you rest. Do you need any other reasons?

7. Treat food as fuel and adopt a diet that supports a healthy lifestyle

I have posted about diet many times on this blog already. Develop good food habits and do not think of junk food as a treat. Avoid processed foods. Eat plenty of fresh proteins, fruits and vegetables. You will feel better.

8. Get an agonist and a procrastinatrix

I saw these terms in a blog post by Seth Godin. An agonist causes things to happen and a procrastinatrix is accountable for you getting things done now. A personal trainer may well be your fitness agonist and procrastinatrix combined. If they aren’t, get a new one.

Procrastination is one of my biggest enemies. In my work life, I use my staff as agonists and my Chief Architect is my procrastinatrix – he is the one that is allowed to bug me when I haven’t got things done.

In a small startup, you may well be working alone and you may well need to call a friend to help you. Don’t get stale – surround yourself with people who you can feed off.

9. Digitise paper and reduce clutter. Less is more.

Working environment. Lady’s hands not included.

Up until recently my house was full of possessions I didn’t need. I had bookcases full of books that I will never read again, DVDs that I will never play again and cupboards full of technology I will not use again. The answer is to reduce your possessions down to a set of things that you use and enjoy. The Minimalism movement, which supports this, is not about getting rid of all your possessions but making sure you are leading a meaningful life that is not distracted by the unnecessary.

Paper is one of the areas I have addressed as well. We need to keep paperwork for tax purposes and similar, but a lot of these documents can be digitised and stored online. I have my key documents digitised and stored in the cloud that gives me the added benefit that I can get to them from anywhere. There are plenty of cloud services you can use to achieve this including Zettabox, Skydrive, Google Drive, Dropbox and Evernote.

Your desk and working environment are another area where you can improve. Try to keep to one computer and one notebook. If your computer is a laptop, this will mean you can take your working environment wherever you want to go.

10. Get your play and your rest

Russell Martin, catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, says that a day should be 8 hours of work, 8 hours of play and 8 hours of rest. Maybe you are building a startup company, in which case your play may also be your work. For most people this is not the case.

You need to have an interest that will take you mind away from your work. By absorbing yourself into something else you will have a rest from your work and you may even improve your work as a result. As I’ve got older, I’ve started to watch more sport. Baseball is my favourite sport but I also watch the cricket and the football. The baseball hobby has taken me to America and I have combined it with tourism. It is a way to get absorbed in something other than work. But there is a time for work, play and rest, and you need to find the right balance.

Don’t be afraid to switch off, leave your mobile at home and have a break. It will all be there for you when you get back.

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