No commute, no meetings, no phone, and no alarm clock
The last few years, I’ve been trying to live increasingly more after two small philosophies, that I really like.
#1 – Your happiness will increase more by removing negative elements, than adding positive elements.
#2 – Perfection is obtained when there is no more to remove rather than when there is no more to add.
Life is so complex and we have so many things that we want to do. For me to achieve some of the many things I want to achieve, I think it makes sense to remove other, less important stuff, to make room for the things I really want.
Here are 4 things I’ve tried to remove from my life and why I did so:
Some years ago I worked in Sweden and lived in Denmark. It was only a 45-50 min drive each way, which is a pretty normal commute in Denmark. In many places that are a really short commute. This job was something I had worked towards for years and I was proud of getting the job. But already the first week, on day 3 or 4, I remember thinking “this is insane”.
It was obvious already in the first week, that I wasn’t gonna live like this in the future. I loved the job, but having to spend so many hours on transport each week was extremely frustrating. I couldn’t stop thinking about how many hours I needed to work to pay for the car and the gas, so I could get to work to earn money… to pay for the car and gas.
Since I went full-time nomad and entrepreneur (again) I’ve avoided paying monthly for offices, so I don’t feel that I need to go there every day to get my money worth. I still spend some time on transport, to go to coworking spaces or cafes to work, but it’s always when and where I want.
One, pretty mind blowing fact about commuting is this:
If you’re spending 40 minutes on your commute each way, then you’re effectively working 6 days per week and not 5. #remotework #freedom
— Nikolaj Astrup (@nikolajam) February 22, 2017
I’m pretty inspired by this blog post called “The True Cost of Commuting“, where he discuss that you shouldn’t work so far from your home, that you’re not able to walk or bike there.
I’m allergic over meetings. Meetings can be so ineffective and time-consuming. After having been in thousands of meetings, I’m just tired of it and has decided to minimize it to a degree where I have no fixed meetings, don’t offer any meetings for people who write and where I just take Skype calls with friends.
My problem with meetings is that you have to prepare for them and that comes with a cost too. Meetings often put me in a situation where I have to respond right away and can’t give it a few thoughts. At the same time, if I just have one meeting planned in a day, my whole day will be planned after it.
Having meetings really disturb doing deep work. Often the meeting will start to fill my mind x amount of hours before the actual meeting, depending on how important it is. I really prefer email to meetings, because then I can answer stuff when I want and it’s always very effective.
Not sure about why or if you should cut down on meetings? The guys at Basecamp is famous for their thoughts on meetings and I can’t recommend enough to read their post “Meetings are toxic”
Actually, I have a phone. But I don’t have an active phone number that people knows. No one has really called me on my phone for almost 3 years.
I think phone calls are much more toxic than most things because if you’re available on the phone, you let other control your time. I absolutely prefer having contact with friends via Facebook Messenger, where I can get back to them when I want.
Of course, I still sometimes take a call with friends and family, but then it’s planned. An active phone number and people around you who expect they can call you any time is way more toxic than meetings, because of phone calls interrupt you, where as a meeting is at least planned.
I think that being available via phone would be extremely difficult to get used to again.
No alarm clock
This is a recent experiment that I have been doing for maybe 45 days or something like that. Both my girlfriend and I have the flexibility to work more or less when we want, so I felt it was a bit weird to discuss each evening when we should set the alarm to.
From doing sports I’ve learned just how important good sleep is. You can find many extremely high performing athletes who drink a bit, eat the occasional burger etc. but to perform at a high level they have to get enough sleep. If I get just an hour less sleep than I need I can cancel all training and my work will be bad and I just feel worse. Too little sleep is not just bad for you, it’s bad for society.
There is so much focus on eating healthy and a lot of people are eating extremely healthy, but fucking up their sleep. I would always prioritize getting enough sleep over eating healthier.
Our sleep patterns are very interesting stuff. It’s important to get enough of the real, deep sleep. Having an alarm clock, you risk getting waked up in the middle of the most important part of your sleep. Completely dropping an alarm clock has absolutely given me much more energy. My energy is stable throughout the day and I’m naturally tired in the evening. It feels so much better.
The only problem with this is that you have to control your sleep habits more actively. Getting to bed a bit too late because you want to watch Netflix, can really screw up the next day because you will be sleeping more the next morning. I’ve tried that a few times and it can result in some days where you feel very unproductive. I try to avoid that by not looking at screens the 30-45 min before I want to sleep.
Other things I want to experiment with
There are mainly three things that I want to experiment with removing or moderating my use of, and those are: the news, social media, and my phone
I love reading the news and it’s something I do to mindlessly. It’s probably the thing I consume the most. I could use that time much, much better either be relaxing completely or doing something productive. There is no doubt that reading the news makes me more frustrating and negative than anything else. My concern about stopping reading the news is that I want to follow overall trends because I think you have to have an idea about where the world is going, so you can impact it in your way.
I’m a big, big fan of social media. I know some people just hates Facebook and some people experiment with canceling their accounts, but I really love social media. I think it’s amazing and I want to keep using them, but I want to use them more wisely. I try to do this with editing my feed a lot, but I check social media soooo many times per day and I spend a lot of time on social media, where it gives me absolutely nothing.
Both of the above is connected to my phone. So, I don’t have an active phone number, but I still have a phone, just with data. I use it for maps, music but of course also social media and the news. My phone is where I often check these things when I’m procrastinating. I’ve started a bit with just getting rid of Snapchat, but I’m not really sure how to take more control of these things right now.
Experimenting with these things creates more time for working on my projects (Refuga, OOB life, Radimet) which is my biggest priority 🙂
Interesting stuff. Especially the sleep thing is something that I never really thought of, but want to work on myself after reading your article. Thanks man.
Interesting post, Nik.
I’d add one more idea to your own. Very simply that we’re already born happy, resilient, creative and connected. That’s our default position as humans IMHO.
Where it goes wrong is when we become slaves to thought. And start believing our thoughts as if they’re true. The only truth is our awareness. Everything else after that is helpful or unhelpful stories we tell ourselves and each other.
My sense is the 21st century is about to revolutionise our understanding of ‘the self’ (not ‘our self’). With this understanding will come an awareness that conditions such as stress don’t actually exist, but are instead products of thought. It exists in thought, which comes and goes like the tide 🙂
Super interesting thoughts. I couldn’t agree more. What I’ve really been thinking about since I wrote this post, is that it is really external things. It’s not at the very core of happiness or thriving. And therefor it shouldn’t be that important.
While I love these ideas, experiments and life hacks I think I have maybe focused too much on them.
Can’t wait to discuss more in a few months Matt!