13 min read

12 Lifestyle changes improving my quality of life

“Jay I’m rather disappointed in your lack of ‘weekly’ email bulletins as of late.”

I owe you an apology. My weekly newsletter has been…sporadic. Despite the increased activity in my life that I want to blame that on, you deserve better.

I’ve been making some pretty subtle but powerful changes to my everyday life, some out of necessity, some out of happenstance. This is a long post, sotl;dr: the point is I’ve recognized that these changes and additions have led to an increase in genuine positivity. This has obviously improved my own quality of life, but I would argue maybe even the lives of those that spend a substantial amount of time around me. By doing things that I enjoy (which is seemingly selfish) I’ve by extension become more pleasant to be around (I think) and wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was even more pleasant to be around?

So, without blowing any more smoke, here’s the short list of things I’ve incorporated into my daily life that are making me a happier, more fulfilled person.

1. Crowdsourcing pretty much everything

The internet is amazing. Infinite knowledge at our fingertips just a Google search away. But what I find to be even more amazing is having research done by the collective brains of my Facebook friends list. Anytime I need a recommendation or understanding of something I know almost nothing about, or even if I need an introduction, it’s incredible how quickly answers/thoughts/help comes. This saves me a ton of time, helps me maintain relationships with more people, and generally cuts through marketing bullshit found via internet search.

Bonus business idea: I’ve refused to crowdsource exactly one thing via Facebook and it is blind dates. I know that if I were to collectively ask my friends list if they have a single friend who they think would be a good match for me on a blind date, the result would probably be fantastic. Why don’t I do it? I’m not sure exactly, except probably a small amount of fear of embarrassment. But, if you can find a way to solve this, you may have a good online dating service on your hands.

2. Doing new things (saying yes more often)

I’ve written about this before more in depth so I really won’t dive into this too much (it’s pretty simple anyway). Saying “yes” to opportunities is so powerful. I don’t mean life-changing opportunities. I mean “hey I hear one of the former stars of The Bachelor is talking to a small group at the Hillel — do you want to go?”

This isn’t just because of the collisions you will have at that event and the people you meet just then, but because no one likes to be rejected. Rejection certainly has it’s place, but if you build a reputation and a pattern as someone who is not outgoing and doesn’t want to try new things, you will stop getting asked. Then you’re missing things you don’t even know you’re missing, and that’s a shame. It’s great to watch a movie you know you love, but at some point it’s sort of a no-value-added waste of time.

This has just really improved my quality of life because it’s broadened my perceptions, changed my assumptions, given me new experiences, [insert another cliche here], etc.

I’ll give you a pro-tip I plan on implementing once a week starting later this month: going to an absolutely unknown and seemingly random event. God bless Facebook Graph Search, but especially for this. If you search “Events in [city], [state] today” you can view any public event happening that day in your city. ANY PUBLIC EVENT. This ranges from awesome art exhibitions to “Ms. Lucille’s Retirement Surprise Party.” I’ve been doing this for dates too and the results have been best case fantastic and worst case hilarious.

3. Joining new social circles

Very similar to trying new things is diving into a new social circle. This is one of those “by happenstance” changes for me, moving in with 5 relative strangers. This has exposed me to 5 new potential social circles, massively expanding my network of awesome individuals very quickly. Changes/differences in perspective abound and the opportunity for getting outside of your comfort zone increases like crazy. And let’s be honest, when you live in the same social circle, you sort of end up having a metaphorical circle jerk most of the time.

4. Routine and working out

These two ideas aren’t necessarily hand-in-hand all the time, but they certainly are for me. This has been especially important for me as someone who works from home/remotely every day.

I forget who put this in my mind, it may have been David Sherry or it may have been a Tim Ferriss podcast, or it could be David Sherry crediting a Tim Ferriss podcast. But, a great way to improve productivity for me has been starting and ending my days productively — they feed into each other. Greater productivity in working hours = real sense of accomplishment and comfort in taking “me” time later = increased happiness.

For me, that means getting up a little earlier and getting my workout in in the morning. For the first hour or so of being conscious, I cannot think in “work” mode. If the people around me are in work mode and I am not, I get upset (with myself), productivity drops, as does my own morale and, by extension, the morale of those around me. If I combine my workout with my “calibration” period, I can organize my thoughts, my mental to-do list, and start the day on a good foot. A real bonus of this routine is also seen at the end of the day — if I get the workout in early, I’m not thinking about getting it in later and watching the “clock.” I can comfortably keep working until the job is done.

5. Eating properly, drinking more water, and Brunch Club

Huge disclaimer here: I am generally still terrible at this. However, I’ve really taken notice to the fact that when I eat properly and drink more water over the course of the day, I am a much more positive person. There are definite chemistry and nutrition-related reasons why this is true, and when I make it a priority I see it. My morning routine normally leads into breakfast, which is generally a great first step.

One addition to my life I can’t understate is my Sunday morning brunch tradition. We have a group of 4–7 of us who will get up at 10:30a, text each other “Help” and then slowly motivate each other out of bed and to a restaurant for 11am brunch including multiple entrees and Irish Coffee. This has drastically improved my Sunday and really, my entire weekend. It kicks off a productive and hangover-free Sunday which I really need most weeks.

6. Listening to podcasts and audiobooks

I am potentially the world’s slowest reader of books. I frequently hear and read that the people I really respect and look up to read several books a week, and I just can’t fathom how. I’m told it’s because I actually pronounce the words in my head when I just need to see and digest them, which is totally valid, but hard to change.

For the time being, I’ve taken to diving into several podcasts and occasionally audiobooks. Just like reading, this can take up a lot of time. However, I’ve basically replaced some of the time I would normally listen to music with these podcasts (i.e. at the gym and in the car). Since I drive to Cincinnati or home fairly frequently (both two hour trips one-way) I consume quite a bit of these podcasts or audiobooks and it’s a great way to quell that sense of hunger for information that I have but can’t quite feed with reading. Music is awesome and may be more “motivational” at the gym, but it’s more for the soul than for the brain. Working out my mind and my body simultaneously is an awesome addition to any time of day.

7. More communication with my family

This summer our family lost its newest member, my sister’s newborn son, Jack. It was a horribly sad time for all of us, and as a result I would say our family is closer than it has ever been. I think this is something that has been said many times by many people, but it’s important to cherish the time you have and spend more time with your family. For me, this has taken the form of going home more often, saying “I love you” more, and just communicating more in general.

One weird way this has played out that I wouldn’t have expected to have the impact it has is that my whole family now has an iPhone. Because of this, we have a family group messaging thread that has kept us all close while geographically spread, and I really enjoy it.

8. Avoiding things I know I don’t care for (saying no more often)

This may seem to be in direct conflict with an above concept, but it’s really not. There is a huge difference between saying yes to a new or different opportunity vs. saying yes to an understood/previously experienced circumstance that you already know from experience that you don’t enjoy. Knowing from experience and “knowing” (but really just assuming) are very different. To an above point, why spend some of your precious time doing something you know you won’t enjoy?

I’m not quite to the level of believing in radical honesty but I’m close. I think there is a lot of power and value in being upfront and honest about things that you don’t want to do as opposed to begrudgingly doing so and hampering everyone’s enjoyment. Admitting something isn’t a fit is a gift to both parties, and should be exercised.

9. Donating to campaigns and causes

I really dig people doing/creating something that is difficult and/or takes effort that most people won’t do. I donate time or [small amounts of] money to just about any cause that someone in my close network is doing (Pelotonia, Kickstarter campaigns, other charitable causes) because dammit being supportive just feels great. It’s another way to just show someone you appreciate them, keep in contact with friends, and bring some good karma (if you believe in that as I do). Give love -> get love.

10. Facilitating introductions and sending recommendations

I obviously love meeting new people. By extension, I assume other people do too. Because of that, I will facilitate just about any introduction someone asks for or sometimes send them without solicitation if I know there are synergies and people will hit it off. Again, it feels great and comes back in spades.

Another tip I would give to my business-savvy friends is signing up for the service Help A Reporter Out. HARO is a service for journalists to request sources on various subjects for upcoming pieces of content. Quite literally, you will receive around 100 different queries a day via three separate emails. Yes, it’s great for potentially getting your own name/company/opinion published, but it’s also a great tool for helping out people in your network. I’d say by a factor of 2:1, I more often forward queries on to people in my network who I know could be a source for a given story than actually submit information myself.

11. Ignoring inbox zero and treating all messages equally

There was a time when I could not look at the email icon on my phone and see a red circle with a number in it without immediately checking it out. I craved inbox zero. I needed it.

Now, I have a collective ~1,500 unread emails looking at me right now. I’ve only really changed a couple things: I’ve narrowed my focus down to two email accounts (business and personal) and I watch those fairly closely. But, I don’t care to take the time to mark garbage/spam as “read” anymore. At the end of the day, I miss some emails (if it’s important they will follow up) but the time and peace of mind gained from not obsessing over inbox zero is great.

In addition, I have way too many messaging services actively happening on a daily basis. They include: texts, emails, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook messages, LinkedIn messages, Tinder, gchat, Slack, and Hipchat. It’s absurd. But now, basically none of these carry more weight than the rest (slight differences, of course the more social apps get weighted a bit less) but I batch them all and treat the verbiage all about the same. My email form is merging with my text form and I’ll wait until I have a large backlog of these messages to batch them together (with the exception of gchat, which is our internal team messaging tool).

12. Making positivity and value creation a priority

I have a short checklist on my whiteboard of daily activities I strive to knock out. One of them is just “Positive?” i.e., did I take a positive state of mind through my day today?

“People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.” — Stephan Hawking

In summary, with this entire post, the end product of all of these slight changes has been an increase in positivity, and that in turn feeds into more positive lifestyle changes. Recently, my roommate Ian asked me what bothers me the most. Without really thinking, I spewed out, “Unwarranted negativity” and that is completely reflective of how I feel. I am no longer comfortable in the physical vicinity of someone who has an overly and especially unnecessarily negative attitude — it just breeds more negativity and no one benefits.

Creating value for those around you is a much more rewarding experience. Whether it’s on the level of creating a business that provides a service that improves someone’s life, or just being a beacon of positivity. This has been an especially helpful shift when trying to raise sponsorship for an organization or event. After talking with my roommate Joey, he opened my eyes to the power of asking someone, “What can I do to make this a valuable experience/investment for you?” Just that small shift shows appreciation and respect, lowers barriers, and really forms a much more beneficial and effective connection.

So, I tried to make up for weeks of no thoughts with one long one. Hopefully it helps you make some small changes and pull some levers on how you spend/prioritize your time, resulting in increased positivity and more fulfilling days. And, of course, I would love to talk to you more about any of this or provide any value to you that I can. Feel free to reach out at jay [at] tixers [dot] com.