Category Archives: Systems

Commonplace Book

A commonplace book is a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits.

I think having a system like the commonplace book is important. If you don’t record what you read, you’re likely to forget about it. Learning without execution is useless, but you can’t execute if you keep forgetting what you learn. My commonplace book project YCNotes.

Give Yourself an Out

Scott Adam’s workout system includes leeway for leakage. He allows himself to turn back as long as he dressed up and drove to the gym. This system increases the likelihood that he ends up working out and in the few instances he really isn’t in the mood, he lets himself skip out. Even if he doesn’t exercise, it gives him an opportunity to get out, take a nice drive, and clear his mind.

I literally sat in front of my computer for 15 minutes because I couldn’t think of anything to write. I was going to write about how today, I have nothing to write about, but it’s okay because you need to allow for leakage in you system.


When Maria Popova says consistency is the most common attribute of successful people she’s noticed, I don’t take that lightly. Maria runs and reads 12-15 books a week and writes exhaustively on the topics. If we assume 12 books a week and 4 weeks in a month and 12 months in a year, that’s a rough estimate of 580 books a year.

I was traveling the past few days. My girlfriend and I were constantly out and about. It has been extremely exhausting. It would have been nice to sleep in and relax, but I have to keep pushing on.

I’m currently living on borrowed time. I’m not hurting to make money in the near-term, but at some point, I will have to either ramp up my freelancing or get a job.

I intentionally didn’t pursue either of these when I first quit, because I wanted complete freedom and peace. I wanted time to reflect. I wanted to reset and redesign my system.

I think I’m getting a clearer idea of how I want to live and why. I noticed my focus has slowly been shifting to discovering the what of my life.

Notes to Podcast

Maria Popova – Tim Ferris


System vs. Goals

I’m in the process of rereading Scott Adam’s book, How to Fail At Almost Everything and Still Win Big, and I’m shocked at how much of it I didn’t remember. I recalled it as an interesting story of his life and some advice, but as I’m going through it now, I’m seeing that it’s really chock-full of useful information.

One of the ideas he brings up is having a goal-oriented mindset and a system-orientated mindset. By goal-orientated mindset, he means one and done type of things. A systems-orientated mindset is focusing on actions you do everyday.

In a goal-orientated mindset, you’re always in a constant state of failure, unless you achieve your goal. It results in anxiety and once you reach your goal, you lose your purpose for it. In a system-orientated mindset, you are succeeding everyday you succeed in applying the system.

You can’t be mindless about it. You still need to understand your values and priorities so you can guide your actions in the right direction, but I like this frame of thinking and I think it will increase my odds of happiness in the long-run.


Productivity Tactics

Here are some productivity tactics that I use or are experimenting with.

Shortcut keys – This is one I adopted a long time ago. I try to use only the keyboard when I’m doing any work on the computer. This isn’t always possible, but most things can be done. I also recently started using a plug-in called vim that lets you use your keyboard in a browser. It’s fun and easy to use.

Pomodoro – I break my day into 12 sections of 25 minutes. You’re only supposed to do 8, but the first four I do are usually reading. I take usually 3-5 minute breaks between them and a longer break around 11:30AM. I set a google timer, it’s always surprising how fast breaks go by if you don’t track them.

Airplane Mode – It’s so easy to get distracted by e-mails or texts Most things aren’t emergencies, but they still drain your limited mental resources. You can check-in on these on your own time.

ATracker app – ATracker lets you create categories and track how you’re spending your time. I’ve tested a few of these types of apps and I like this one the best. I found the biggest benefit is when I track my time, I become more aware of and cut out time I spend doing useless things.

Reading with an Audiobook – I learned this from the youtube channel, Fightingmediocrity. It’s where you read a book and follow along in the audiobook at 2x speed. The reading speed isn’t necessarily faster than my normal reading speed, but there are less distractions, because the audio drowns out thoughts and results in more concentrated reading time.

Daily TODO Card – This one has been surprisingly effective. I have a small notecard with daily things I’d like to do and I make a mark each time I do something. It roughly corresponds to my daily schedule. I think it really helps when I have my morning routine items on there, which I always do. As I mark those off, I see the remaining items, and I find myself compelled to complete them.

Daily Schedule and Priorities

My day starts at 6AM. My morning routine usually lasts until ~8:30AM. In that time, I write these posts (40-50 minutes), exercise and some other things. From 8:30AM-11:20AM, I read and make summaries of the books I’m reading.

After lunch, I usually work on different things. I might have an hour of break in total spread out in increments. What I work on has shifted, but I’ve settled on a routine at least for the past two weeks.

  • 60 minutes on a misc. project. The past few days, I’ve been working on a test landing page for an online course.
  • ~4 hours of learning Python

By this time it is usually 6PM. After preparing and eating dinner it’s usually ~7:30PM. I hang out with my girlfriend and roommate until bed which is around 9:40PM.

I don’t do more work because I prefer to spend quality time with the people that are special to me. I’m really close with my roommate. We’ve been friends for about twelve years now and have lived together for about seven years.

I think the work you do is important, but there is more to life than work. Negative visualization is a Stoic technique where you imagine what it’s like to lose the things or people you value. It’s a little morbid, but it really helps you appreciate what you have. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to live with my friend. I don’t know how long I’ll be around for. Life is fleeting and to not appreciate the people I love in life when I had the chance is so much worse than not getting getting to where I want to be as fast as humanely possible.



Tony Robbin’s Practice of Priming

I heard of priming through Tim Ferris’ Podcast with Tony Robbins (section starts at 26:15). Tony says if you want a prime life, you need to be in a prime state. Fitness does not happen by accident. This is a practice he does everyday no matter what (lasts 10-30 minutes).

The exercise is accompanied by a breathing exercise (starting ~1:10:20). The practice is called breath walking. I didn’t find too many studies on the topic when I searched for it though.

During priming he focuses on three main things.

  1. Getting back inside of the body and outside of head. Feeling earth and body.
  2. Thinking about three things to be grateful for. Letting gratitude fill the soul. You can’t be fearful when grateful.
    • 1) something simple
    • 2) total focus on feeling presence of God (or however you want to language) but inner presence. Feelings that heals everything and solves anything that needs to be solved
    • 3) focus and celebration on service
  3. Three to Thrive – Three things you’re going to make happen. See them, feel them, experience them.

I like priming because it lumps head clearing, gratitude, and visualization all into one practice.

Link to notes on Podcast:

Positive Influences

Consuming information is like consuming food. Our minds are influenced by environmental inputs so it’s important to feed it things that are beneficial, motivational and creative.

I’ve tried to cut out most of my news intake. The news tends to focus on sensational or negative events. It’s not their fault though because that’s the type of stories people like. Reading news generally doesn’t impact my life so I want to spend less time doing that.

Instead, I’ve started listening to podcasts, audiobooks, and motivational speeches. I use podcasts as a way to vicariously spend time with some of the most interesting and successful people.  Tim Ferris and James Altucher have had some really awesome guests. I’ve also purchased a 24-credit pack for Audible, Amazon’s audiobook service.

Finally, I listen to a playlist of motivational music/speeches everyday during my workout. Chris Winfield wrote a very in-depth post on daily routines and one of the sections is “Find a well of inspiration” (excerpt from his post below). I asked Chris about some of his sources of inspiration and made a playlist based on some of his recommendations.

What kind of things do you feed your mind?

Find a well of inspiration

Inspiration and motivation can come from many places—books, music, podcasts, videos, emails, other people. All you have to do is find the one or ones that resonate most with you and commit to engaging with them. Daily.

Research has shown that inspiration can be activated, captured, and manipulated…and it has a major effect on important life outcomes.

I have a few apps on my phone that I read daily to inspire and motivate me. They keep me centered and grounded, giving me a more stable mental foundation.

Another way to get inspired involves repeating positive affirmations, which is why I do this both in the morning and at night. In fact, researchers at Stanford University have found that affirmations have been shown to improve education, health, and even relationships.

So find a word or phrase that is empowering and motivating to you and repeat it over and over again to yourself.


Science Behind Affirmations?

There’s a section in Tim Ferris’ Podcast with Scott Adams on Affirmations (11:17 – 30:49. It’s an interesting discussion and has some fun stories.

How it works is you write your goal down in the form of “I, [Your Name Here], will [You fill in the blank about some goal]” everyday. Now, Scott doesn’t believe in magic, but goes over some of the reasons why it might work.

  • Reticular Activation – Certain things tend to catch our attention (e.g. our names). Maybe, you just become more aware of things that may help you achieve your goals.
  • Selection Bias – Maybe the type of person who’s willing write down his goals is the type of person who is likely to fulfill those goals.
  • Selective Memory – Maybe you only remember the ones that worked out (though Scott says every single one eventually worked out).

In my readings, I’ve come across another concept that might serve as an additional explanation. In Influence, Dr. Cialdini goes over some of our automatic mechanisms one of which is a strong desire for consistency. This consistency bias drives us to act in ways consistent with previous actions even when they go against our best interests. Additionally, it has often been found that attitudes tend to follow behavior, not the other way around. We tend to evaluate our attitudes, based on how we behaved. If we say something, we tend to think we believe it. Once we believe something, if we don’t act in a way that is consistent with what we believe, we experience cognitive dissonance.

I started using affirmations, because it’s a low risk/cost practice. Also, I certainty don’t think it’s a bad thing to be regularly reminded of my goals.

Link to Book Notes:


Energy and My Morning Routine

We often think about how much time we spend doing things, but not the quality of those hours. One of the keys for high performance is managing your energy levels. The Power of Full-Engagement breaks these down into four categories: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

Energy is like a muscle and while it can get stronger with exertion, it needs time to recover or else you will burn out.

Below are some steps on managing your energy levels for each category.

  • Physical Energy – Get enough sleep. Eat healthy. Spread out your meals. Stay hydrated. Exercise.
  • Emotional Energy – Do something you enjoy, spend time with friends, give to a cause
  • Mental Energy – Challenge your brain, take breaks
  • Spiritual Energy – Reflect on your values, work towards your purpose

James Altucher is a big fan of this framework and managing these four energies is the key part of his daily practice.

I’ve tried to keep these ideas in mind as I crafted my daily routine. Below is roughly how my morning routine goes. I tweak my schedule around from time to time.

  • 6:10AM – Get out of Bed
  • 6:10AM – 6:25AM – Priming. Tony Robbin’s technique. (phys/emo/spr.)
  • 6:25AM – 7:30AM – Affirmations and Morning Pages (mental)
  • 7:30AM – 8:50AM – Exercise/Shower/Breakfast (phys.)
  • 8:50AM – 10:30AM – Read and take notes (men.)
  • 10:30AM – 11:50AM – 10 ideas / text my girlfriend something sweet (men./emo.)

Afterwards, the day can really vary. If I feel drowsy, I’ll take a nap around 1-2PM for 20 minutes. This week I started learning Python so I’ve been working on that from about 12PM – 6PM in 30-35 minute intervals with ~5 minute break in between. In previous weeks, I’ve read or worked on other projects.

I’ve made an effort to try to eat healthier as well. In the past, I felt like the only reason to eat healthy was to get a better body, but that didn’t do a good job of motivating me (I swear I was in the best shape of my life before I met my girlfriend). Thinking about the link between eating healthy and my productivity has made me want to eat better though. While I still eat the occasional burger and pizza, I’ve generally tried to cut down on sugar and processed foods and up my vegetable and healthy fat intake.

Link to book notes:

The Power of Full Engagement