Life Optimization — How to Do Everything Better
Are you complacent about your current status in life? Do you always know what you can do to improve? At the end of every week, are you satisfied because you have made progress this week? A couple of years ago, my answers to these questions were no, I wanted to grow but I didn’t know how to. In this article, I will share a system, a mindset, that I developed to optimize every aspect of my life.
Since adopting the system, I have become:
- Happier as I feel rewarded for the constant improvements, even the smallest ones.
- More focused as I now always have something to strive for. There is no time for boredom or self-doubt.
- A better person: more driven, more confident, more organized, and more.
What to Optimize?
Well, the short answer is everything.
Optimization is a common concept in software development. A good engineer knows that in a complex system, there are always things to improve on. A robust system is constantly evolving. Life is similar to a software system in its complexity. You can improve every aspect of it, whether it is a tiny habit, a whole routine, a skill, or a mindset.
I like to group processes in life into two categories and treat them differently:
- How You Live: these are major directions and plan for your life, like how to deal with stress, how you socialize, your career plan, etc. To find ways to optimize how I live, I practice Life Planning almost quarterly. Try to plan your life by breaking it down into major areas (i.e. health, career, family, friendship, and interests) and analyzing each. Ask yourself:
- What is my current status? Am I happy?
- What am I happy about? What am I not doing so well?
- What are new things I want to try or do differently?
- The Little Things: you can improve habits and processes that you are used to and don’t even think about. The result will amaze you. For example, think about how you can brush your teeth better: try a different toothpaste; try a different time of day to brush; or try brushing with your off-hand. To get started, identify a habit every week and optimize it. The experience will be rewarding and the results surprising.
The key mindset to constant growth is to welcome change and be willing to experiment. Just because something is working doesn’t mean it cannot be done better. Once you have developed such a mindset, you will see areas to improve on everywhere. At that point, you will have to prioritize and pick the more important (or interesting) ones to work on first.
How to Optimize?
Ok, so now I know that I can brush my teeth better, how do I do it? Here is my three-step process to life optimization. The process became second nature once I started doing it.
Step 1: Research.
More often than not, there is a better way to do something, you just don’t know about it. Start your journey by doing some research. Google online about the topic, read reliable sources, and collect ideas.
For example, to brush my teeth better, research gave me some ideas:
- Choose the best product: oscillating vs sonic toothbrush, type of toothpaste, floss, etc.
- When to brush my teeth: after wakeup or after breakfast; after dinner or just before bed?
- How many times a day to brush my teeth? Is once enough?
Step 2: List your requirements.
In the initial research, you will learn new ideas and know about alternatives that you never thought about. But not all good ideas are feasible or relevant to you. You might have preferences that others do not care about. Combine and maybe rank them, think about your:
- Goals: what you want to achieve or improve on. To generate ideas, focus on efficiency and quality. How to be more productive? How to do it better?
- Preferences: these are your personal tastes, habit, idiosyncrasy, and things you cannot give up.
For example, requirements for my brushing routine include:
- Goal: whiter teeth and the fresh feeling after I brush.
- Goal: save time with my routine. I prefer to group bathroom activities together otherwise I might forget or would be too lazy to do it.
- Preference: I strongly prefer my setup to be aesthetic and minimal. My toothbrush should have only the functions I use and nothing else. My bathroom should be organized and has as few items as possible.
Step 3: Find solutions and draft a plan.
Combine ideas from your research and personal preferences together. Maybe research more. You will come up with solutions to your requirements. Finally, organize them into a plan.
Here are my tips on planning and execution:
- Try New Things: be adventurous and try to do things differently. It is human nature to resist changes, but it becomes easy to embrace them once you have tried and experienced their advantages.
- Actionable Plans: optimizing a single routine or a process is simple, but breaking a bad habit or developing a new one is difficult. To form long-term changes, break down an abstract goal into smaller countable action times. There are many books about forming habits, a classic one is “Atomic Habits” by James Clear.
- Keep Iterating: an initial plan is often suboptimal, but that is fine. Keep iterating and trying new things. In the process, you will discover new possibilities and come up with new ideas.
Once I have developed the mindset to grow, I find items to optimize all around me. I admit that I may have become more obsessive about small details as I want to do everything right. But overall, the process of constant Life Optimization makes me happy and more fulfilled. I am becoming a better person as the result.
In the future, I will share more details about Life Planning and specific examples of how I optimized some more important aspects of my life.
Thanks for reading~