Tag Archives: Optimization Mindset

Create Your Dream Life, 15 Minutes a Day

Do this 15 minute exercise every day, even if you don’t do anything else for yourself.

I started a new journaling practice two weeks ago and so far, this practice is working fine for me. I use an A4 notepad for this practice. This size is close to the US Letter size.

I used to do the daily journaling practice with Evernote last year, but that didn’t work well for me. I don’t like to type in to a laptop or smartphone at the end of a long working day.

The journaling practice is a good way to review the day and prepare for the next day. It doesn’t take that much time, because I keep it short and sweet. I’m not against journaling several pages every day. That might have value for some people. That’s just not something I do nowadays.

What does my daily page consist of?

I divide the page into four parts.

  • Daily goals for tomorrow
  • Life goals
  • Positive things that happened today
  • Points of improvement for tomorrow

Journal Page Template


I start journaling by reviewing the day. What went well today? I write them down in the positive section. That’s a good opportunity to acknowledge my accomplishments and feel grateful for all the good things that happen.

Most of the time, we are too much focused on what doesn’t work. We take the things that work for granted.

Your line of descent survived the 4.5 billion years of evolution to produce you.

Think about it for a second. That chain has never been broken for 4.5 billion years. Every ancestor in your lineage managed to survive to the point of reproduction and you are the end result of that evolution. Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that something to be grateful for?

If I have to write down everything that I’m grateful for, I’ll be writing for weeks and not be able to complete the list. However, the idea here is to focus on the day and keep it short and sweet.

Points of Improvement

The second step is to write down the points of improvement for tomorrow. Be careful about the wording here. I don’t use the words “the negative things that happened today.” At worst, I call them challenges. When I call them challenges, I can find a way to overcome them.

Calling this section points of improvement implies that I have full responsibility of whatever happens in my life, not my boss, not my parents, not the president. This prevents me from blaming other people, events, and situations.

What have been the challenges or shortcomings of the day? More important than that, what can I do different tomorrow to overcome those challenges and shortcomings?

I know that I can’t change everything on a given day. I can’t overcome all of my challenges and shortcomings. However, I can make a step towards my goal.  I can make a 1% improvement towards my goal in a day. And those 1% daily improvements result in a 38X improvement in a year. That is not 38% improvement; that is 3800% improvement.

Those 1% daily improvements result in a 38X improvement in a year.

I try to keep both, positives and points of improvements, short and sweet, a few lines at most. However, on some days, I’m so amazed by the miracles on that day, my positives overflow those few lines to the following page. When that happens, I allow that to happen. I don’t restrict myself.

Daily Goals

The third step is to turn the page and prepare the page for tomorrow. I write down the daily goals for tomorrow. These are ten to twelve lines to give me an overview of tomorrow, so that I’m mentally prepared for the day.

The daily goals are a few lines that I want to get done in my private and professional life. The nice thing about the daily goals are that they are simple and easy. I know that I have the capacity to accomplish them.

If I keep accomplishing these simple and easy daily goals, day after day, I’ll be making a significant progress over time towards my life goals.

Life Goals

Every day, I write down my life goals next to my daily goals for tomorrow. It has a much greater impact when you learn your life goals by heart and write them down every day without looking at the previous page. I learned this technique from Brian Tracy and I have already made some progress towards these goals since I have started using this technique.


You might question my motivation to do this practice every day. Why not watch a bit of TV, drink a bottle of beer, and then go to bed instead of doing this exercise every night?

Continuous Improvement

First of all, I know that I can make significant progress and achieve amazing goals by improving myself and my life just by 1% a day. This is true for everybody. The best way to do that is to keep track of what happened on a given day, how I can improve it, what I want to do tomorrow, and what I want to accomplish in my life. It’s as simple as that.

If you have a better method, please let me know in the comments.

Increased Awareness

Continuous improvement wasn’t my only motivation to start the daily journaling practice.

In the first week of 2018, I was reflecting on my life in 2017. I know exactly what I was doing in the first six months of 2017. I also know what I was doing in the last three months of 2017. But somehow, there were a few months or weeks in between and I don’t have any clue what I was doing then.

Sure, I went to my job and to gym and other stuff, but was that all? Which progress did I make on those days, weeks, and months? Those months of my life are gone for good and I don’t even remember what I have done then? That horrified me. I didn’t want to be in that position again. That’s why I want to keep track of my days now.

Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly Summaries

After every week, I make a weekly summary of the positives and points of improvements. This gives me a good overview of what I have done in the previous week and what I need to improve in the next week.

I plan to make summaries for months and quarters as well. That way I can go over my monthly and quarterly summaries and see the progress I have done in the previous year at the end of the year.

At the end of the year, I can take a moment to be grateful for all the progress I have made in the previous year and I can come up with the points of improvements and yearly goals for the next year with some real data to base my decisions on.


Spending 15 minutes a day on writing down the positive things that happened that day, points of improvements, daily goals for the next day, and your life goals can make a huge difference in your life over the long term.

How to Eliminate the Stress While Working Towards Your Goals

There’s no failure in a scientific experiment. You either achieve your goals or you find out what doesn’t work and gain experience.

Lately, “intelligent people feeling miserable” became a popular blog topic. It’s a bait topic to make miserable people feel better about themselves. “I feel miserable, so I must be intelligent.” And let’s face it; most people feel miserable about themselves, because pessimism is ingrained into our brains.

Pessimism had its evolutionary advantages back in the day. You might be better off feeling pessimistic when you see a lion instead of trying to pet it. The flip side of pessimism is to feel miserable.

Pessimism is not necessarily productive when it comes to working towards your goals. It makes you feel miserable. If you keep feeling miserable, you’ll give up on your goals eventually, unless you have world class self-discipline. There’s a way around pessimism though.

Define Your Goals as Scientific Experiments

The way to eliminate all negative feelings about your goals is to define them as scientific experiments. You can do that by carrying out the following steps.

  1. What is the outcome you want to achieve? Specify the outcome you want to achieve.
  2. What are the conditions of the experiments?
  3. Which actions are you going to take to achieve the outcome?
  4. Formulate the outcome and conditions as a hypothesis you will test.
  5. Carry out the test.
  6. Evaluate and report your results.
  7. Update your experimental design and repeat.

Define the Outcome You Want to Achieve

When you define the outcome you want to achieve, be as specific as possible. This definition must be measurable without any doubt. Imagine you are a scientist. When a group of scientists look at your results, they should be able to assess your results without any doubts and decide unanimously. Instead of stating your goal as “getting rich,” state your goal as “having a net worth of ten million dollars within ten years from now.” The first definition of your goal, “getting rich,” is vague. The second definition of the goal, “a net worth of ten million dollars within ten years from now,” is precise. A panel of economists would agree unanimously whether that goal is reached or not.

Define the Conditions of the Experiment

Under which conditions are you going to execute the experiment? How long will the experiment last? Which actions are you going to take? What is your plan for each day, week, and month? For example, if your goal is to lose weight, what will be your daily meal list? What will the amount of each meal be? How many calories are you going to consume in total each day? What will be your daily and weekly exercise regimen? How long is the experiment going to last? How many pounds do you expect to lose every week?

Keep the Feedback Loop Short

When designing your experiment, keep the feedback loop short. That way you can evaluate your results and update your experimental design faster. If you have a long term goal, you can break it down into smaller parts with the divide and conquer algorithm and the reverse engineering method.

Evaluate Your Results

Once the experiment is over, it’s time to evaluate your results. Did the actions you planned result in the achievement of your goal? If not, why not? Were you able to carry those actions out? If yes, how close were you to the achievement of your goal? You can ask these and other questions to analyze the results of your experiment.

Update Your Experimental Design and Start Again

As you see, there’s no failure in a scientific experiment. You either achieve your goals or you find out what doesn’t work and gain experience. Once you find out what doesn’t work, then you can update your experimental design according to your experience and start a new experiment. Just keep repeating until you succeed. Even success is not a reason to stop your experiments. Once you succeed, you can set another goal and apply the scientific method to that goal.

What are the benefits of applying the scientific method to your goals?

When you apply the scientific method to your goals, you work in a well-defined framework. There’s no room for procrastination, deviation from the initial plans, and arbitrary decision-making. Everything is well-defined and clear. You either follow the experimental plan or not. If you can’t follow the plan, then you need to evaluate at the end of the experimental period, why you could not. If you followed the plan but couldn’t achieve your goal, then it’s time to come up with another plan towards the achievement of your goal.

There is no failure in scientific method. All you have to do is to formulate hypotheses and to verify them with experiments. Either the experiment passes or you find out that the action plan you came up with doesn’t serve the goal you have set. Then it’s time to update your action plan and continue working towards your goal until you succeed. When there’s no failure to working towards your goal, there is no stress, and there is no feeling bad. This type of approach to your goals eliminate all the bad feelings about them. It puts the focus on what you can control instead of what you can’t control. That eliminates the stress as well.

Optimize Each Area of Your Life with Multi-Objective Optimization

In the last two posts, I have discussed how we can apply the concept of algorithms and the divide and conquer method in our lives. Both concepts help us maximizing our effectiveness, by focusing on a single problem and action step at a time. This increases clarity and decreases error-proneness and waste of time.

What is multi-objective optimization?

In today’s post, I’m going to discuss how we can apply another computer science concept, multi-objective optimization, in our lives. Multi-objective optimization involves finding solutions that are optimal for multiple criteria. When the process is complete, a decision maker decides on one of the solutions.

A typical example is to find products that are optimal for price and quality. We find different products that have different price and quality levels. In this context an optimal product has the highest quality on each price level. Then we choose one of the products that is on a price level and has the quality that we are comfortable with.

How can we use multi-objective optimization in our lives?

The first step to use multi-objective optimization in our lives is to determine which areas of our lives we want to optimize. The first step is similar to the divide and conquer algorithm. Instead of trying to solve the big, hard problem of optimizing our lives, we try to solve the smaller, easier problem of optimizing a single area of our lives at a time.

For example, you might want to optimize health and fitness, family, career, saving, investments, and travel. Please make your own list of life areas that make sense to you. Once you have your list, pick one of your life areas. Now, imagine there is nothing else in your life and you want to optimize your life according to that life area. How would you do that? How would your life look like?

“Now, imagine there is nothing else in your life and you want to optimize your life according to that life area.”

For example, if I wanted to optimize my life according to health and fitness, I would do a cardio workout for an hour every day in nature. I would work out in the gym four to five times a week. I would only consume healthy foods. I would never consume anything that isn’t 100% healthy such as alcohol, caffeine, any deserts, and so on. I’d sleep at least for eight hours every day. I’d stay away from stress, and so on.

Thought Experiment

The goal here is not to be realistic. This is more of a thought experiment than creating a realistic action plan. The goal here is to imagine everything else is taken care of in your life, you have no other obligations, and the only thing you have to optimize in your life is the life area that you are working on. This eliminates all the excuses, limiting beliefs, and mental barriers.

“Multi-objective optimization inspires you to recognize what’s possible for you. Once you see what’s possible for you, then you can find a more realistic solution.”

In some cases, it’s beneficial to try to implement a solution that is as close to the ideal solution as possible. That way you will immerse yourself in that solution. Once you experience what is possible for you, then you can gradually decrease the intensity of that solution to reach a solution that is in balance with the rest of your life.

Optional: Focus on a Single Goal for a Month

For example, when I picked up working out again six months ago, I worked out twice a day for six days a week. The first workout was a cardio in nature and the second workout, strength training in the gym. Gradually, I decreased the frequency and intensity of my workouts to bring them in balance with the rest of my life. Nevertheless, that experience showed me what was possible for me in the area of fitness. That helped me find a solution that was a conscious choice and not a solution that was limited by my mental barriers.

“Implementing the ideal solution in my life helped me find a solution that was a conscious choice and not a solution that was limited by my mental barriers.”

An optional part of the multi-objective optimization in your life is that you can dedicate a certain period of your life to a certain area of your life. For example, you can dedicate a month to your health and fitness and live the most optimal version of your life with respect to health and fitness. Or you can dedicate a month to your family, to socializing, to travel, and so on. That way you will know what’s possible for you in that area of your life and make a conscious, balanced choice later. That choice won’t be limited by your limiting beliefs.


You can optimize your life by focusing on a single area of your life at a time. Make a list of your life areas and pick one. Come up with an optimal solution for that area assuming that the rest of your life will be taken care of. This eliminates all of your excuses, limiting beliefs, and mental barriers. The next step is to find a less optimal solution that is more balanced with the rest of your life. Optionally, you can commit a month or more to the optimal solution to immerse yourself in it. Then you can gradually decrease the intensity to reach a more balanced solution. That way you will experience what’s possible for you in life.

Which area of your life are you going to optimize next? What’s the optimal solution for you in that area?

How to Tackle Overwhelming Challenges Effectively

This principle is so simple that it sounds obvious. However, most of us overlook it in practice and become overwhelmed in the face of challenges.

The algorithm concept from computer science involves breaking down large tasks into action steps. Using algorithms improves your effectiveness by increasing clarity and decreasing error-proneness and waste of time.

The divide and conquer algorithm is one of the most useful computer science concepts that you can use in your daily life. It involves dividing a big problem into smaller problems and then solving those smaller problems one problem at a time. This principle is so simple that it sounds obvious. However, most of us overlook it in practice and become overwhelmed in the face of challenges.

Suppose that you want to optimize your life. That’s a huge challenge. You can divide it into smaller problems and solve one problem at a time. In this case, you can divide your life in different areas and focus on each area separately. You can divide your life into private and professional. You can divide each area further into subareas. For example, you can divide your private life into family, health, and hobbies. You can divide health into diet, exercise, and stress-reduction. The more clear-cut your problems and action steps are, the more effective your solutions will be.

Focus on a Single Problem at a Time

The key point in divide and conquer is that you focus on a single problem at a time. Suppose that you want to optimize your life and you divide your life into several areas. The next step is to pick one of those life areas and focus on it. For example, you might want to focus on your diet for a month until you adopt a healthy diet. Once you adopt a healthy diet, you can work on building a habit of physical exercise for a month. This way of approaching challenges is way more effective than trying to solve all of your challenges at once.

Focusing your time, energy, and attention on a single problem at hand is way more effective than trying to solve all of your problems at once.


Dividing big challenges in your life into smaller challenges and complex tasks into simple action steps will maximize your effectiveness. You can apply the concept of algorithms in general and the divide and conquer algorithm in particular to your challenges and tasks. The key here is to focus on a single challenge and action step at a time.

Whenever you feel overwhelmed by a challenge, divide it into smaller problems and tackle each problem separately.

Which challenge are you facing right now? How can you divide it into smaller parts? Which part do you choose to solve next?

How to Maximize Your Effectiveness

Using some simple computer science concepts can boost your effectiveness in life. They are very simple to use. You can use them with a pen and paper if you want to.

The notion of algorithm is a fundamental concept of computer science. Algorithms are also extremely useful in our daily lives, private as well as professional. An algorithm is simply dividing a task into several smaller tasks. It has a well-defined set of inputs and output. It gives you clarity about which step to execute at each time. You can think about it as a plan with precise action steps.

A cooking recipe is an algorithm. It has a list of inputs, an output, and action steps. The inputs of a recipe are the ingredients. The output is the dish. The action steps are the steps that you take to cook the dish.

What are the benefits?

Every time you write down the action steps to complete a task, you actually write an algorithm. Writing an algorithm for a task might sound like a waste of time to you if you aren’t familiar with the concept, but it has a lot of benefits.

Writing down an algorithm provides clarity. It eliminates confusion. You exactly know what to do at each step. You don’t need to think or hesitate what to do at each step, which saves a lot of time and energy once you are in execution mode.

Working from an algorithm enables you to focus on a single step without worrying about the rest. It eliminates the need to figure out what to do next after completing each step.

Writing an algorithm takes some time to think through the steps. It prevents you from making decisions in the heat of the moment. Both of which reduce your error-proneness.

Algorithms save time. This is especially true for repetitive tasks. Instead of trying to figure out what to do each time, you simply go true the steps.

An Example from My Own Life

I have an LLC that requires weekly, monthly, quarterly administration. Even though I have this LLC for seven years by now, I don’t know every step I have to take by heart. These administration steps are not my core competency. I prepared a list of action steps, basically an algorithm, to execute every week, month, and quarter. I just go through this list every week, month, and quarter without thinking much about it or trying to learn it by heart. Even if I learned it by heart, I’d worry weather I remembered all the steps correctly or forgot a step. Now, I have complete peace of mind knowing that I do what I have to do, because these steps are outlined clearly in front of me. I use Evernote for this type of note taking. It’s a free tool for most purposes and has sufficient features to satisfy my needs.

As you can see you can write algorithms for a one-time complex tasks, as well as repetitive tasks. I prefer to write down the action steps no matter how simple a task is, unless it’s a single step task. This gives me the opportunity to reflect upon how to do it properly in advance, so that I don’t choose a less efficient way to execute the task.

Level of Details

If you have a very complex task at hand, algorithms are especially useful. You can always choose the level of details in an algorithm. If you have a complex task at hand, divide the task into five to seven action steps. If the action steps are not precise enough, you can always take an action step and write an algorithm for that action step. You can break down an action step into further action steps. You can go into as much detail as you want. At the end, you will have a set of algorithms that consist of further algorithms and each algorithm is simple enough to be understood, maintained, and executed easily. Computer programs are written this way and why should you not apply the same principle to your everyday tasks?


You can apply the concept of algorithm in your life by breaking down bigger tasks into smaller action steps. Writing an algorithm for a task in advance helps you think through the process in advance. Having an algorithm during the execution gives you mental clarity which action to take next. It eliminates confusion, hesitancy, waste of time, and error-proneness.

If you have done the exercises in the posts about finding your direction and perspective in life, you can apply the concept of algorithms to your answers. If you haven’t done them yet, what are you waiting for? Do you need some motivation?

How to Build World Class Self-Discipline in a Single Year

Don’t start the New Year without reading this post. Create a simple self-discipline improvement plan now. It’s not as hard as you may think.

Self-discipline is the most critical quality to achieve success. For most of us, it’s not a question whether we can or we can’t achieve something. It’s a question of whether we will or we won’t. We humans are extremely capable beings. We can learn whatever we set our minds to. It takes time and effort and that requires self-discipline. If it all comes down to self-discipline, it’s worth thinking about a few questions.

  • How can we cultivate self-discipline?
  • How can we build world class self-discipline in a single year?
  • Is it even possible?
  • If it is possible, will it be a year of agony?

Yes, it is possible to build world-class self-discipline in a single year. No, it doesn’t have to be a year of agony. On the contrary, putting yourself through agony can be counterproductive to your self-discipline.

It’s a Progress

Let me ask you another question. Could you build a great physique if you exercised every day, watched what you eat, and have sufficient rest every day? Of course you could. It’s the same with self-discipline. It’s a muscle just like the ones in your body. The more you take care and exercise it, the stronger it will get.

What do you do to build muscles in your body? You start lifting weights that you can lift with slight discomfort. As you get comfortable lifting a certain set of weights, you increase the weights. By gradually increasing the weights you lift, you increase your lean muscle mass.

“Self-discipline is a muscle just like the ones in your body. You can build world class self-discipline just by improving it 1% every day.”

The trick here is the gradual increase in weights to maintain a slight discomfort when you’re training. It’s not lifting the weights that are completely in your comfort zone. It’s also not trying to lift the weights that are completely outside of your comfort zone. It’s about finding that sweet spot between these two extremes. It’s the same with building your self-discipline.

You don’t want to overextend your self-discipline, so that you burn out and give up completely. You also don’t want to neglect your self-discipline, so that it weakens. You want to increase your use of self-discipline every day by 1%. Can you do that? Of course, you can. What would be the result of 1% increase in self-discipline over a year? 3778% improvement in a year, or in other words, 38 times improvement.

How do you do that?

It’s very simple. Make a list of all the things that require self-discipline in your life. Think about the habits that you want to quit and the habits that you want to adopt. Write them down.

Now, pick one of those habits and break it down to minimum increments. This would work the best with a diary. I prefer a physical diary over a digital one, because a physical exercise makes this exercise tangible and increases accountability. If you want to increase the accountability, you can make an agreement with someone as your accountability partner and report them your daily/weekly progress. If you want to increase the accountability even more, you can make your goal public and post your results on a daily basis on social media.

Use Case #1: Meditate 20 Minutes a Day

Suppose that you want to start meditating for twenty minutes every day. Start meditating for a minute today. Increase the duration by one minute every day. Within twenty days, you will get to your target level. Now, all you have to do is to maintain that habit. Don’t give up if you fail to follow up on your goal. Just pick up the practice where you stopped. Once you get to the twenty minutes a day, keep that habit going while starting another self-discipline goal.

Use Case #2: Minimizing Social Media Use

Imagine, you spend an hour or more on social media each day and you want to decrease that to fifteen minutes. To do that, use a method that is called timeboxing. In this method, we are going to allocate a timeslot to social media and use social media only in that timeslot. Before starting this exercise make a commitment to consume social media only within the designated timeslot. Outside of that timeslot, you will use relaxation techniques to deal with the withdrawal symptoms.

On the first day, allocate an hour of uninterrupted time to social media. The challenge is twofold here. The first challenge is not to use social media outside of that hour. The second challenge is to not exceed that hour once you start. You need to make a commitment to both of them.

“Set a timer and place it away from your where you sit. That makes you stand up and walk, which interrupts your auto-pilot mode.”

You better set a timer at the beginning of that hour and put the timer away from where you consume social media. That way you will need to stand up and walk towards that timer. This interrupts your pattern of consuming social media and increases your ability to tap into your self-discipline. At the end of that hour, stop using social media for the day.

The next day, decrease your social media consumption by three minutes. Decrease your social media consumption by three minutes each day until you restrict yourself to fifteen minutes each day. At the same time, keep the other self-discipline challenges going. Each day write down a little report in your self-discipline dairy. You better get a dairy with the dates prefilled, which makes it obvious if you skipped a day or two. Writing down your accomplishment every day will improve your motivation to push the bar 1% every day.

Use Case #3: Reducing Caffeine, Sugar, etc. Consumption

Suppose that you want to reduce your caffeine consumption.

  • Measure your caffeine intake on a given day. For example, four cups throughout the day.
  • Determine your goal. For example, one cup a day in the morning.
  • On the first day, replace the last coffee with green tea. That makes three cups of coffee and a cup of green tea.
  • On the following days two days, keep replacing the last cup of coffee with green tea.
  • Once you are down to a cup of coffee and three green teas, start dropping a green tea per day until you only drink one cup of coffee per day.

Eventually, you can use a hot beverage that is completely caffeine free to replace the coffee and/or green tea. I enjoy grain coffee on cold winter days. It has a similar taste to coffee and completely caffeine free. Similar regimes can be developed for reducing your sugar consumption and other foods.


“What gets measured gets improved.” Peter Drucker

You can build world-class self-discipline within a year just by making 1% improvements every day. All you have to do is the following.

  1. Make a list of self-discipline improvements.
  2. Pick up a challenge at a time.
  3. Measure where you start.
  4. Determine the goal that you want to achieve.
  5. Make a 1% improvement towards your goal until you reach it.
  6. Once you reach your goal, pick up another challenge and repeat the process.
  7. Don’t forget to maintain your self-discipline by maintaining your previous improvements.

What do you think? Is it possible for you to build world class self-discipline in a single year using the 1% improvements? Which self-discipline improvements are you going to make in the next year?

Optimization Mindset

If you improved your life 1% every day, you would improve your life 3778% in a year. In other words, you would improve your life 38 times in a year with 1% improvements every day. Believe me, we all have 1% improvements in our lives, a lot of them, almost as much as 365.

“How would your life look like, if you improved it 38 times in the next 365 days?”

  • If you increased your income 38 times?
  • If you improved your health and fitness 38 times?
  • If you improved your social and romantic life 38 times?

“All of that is possible, if you commit to 1% daily improvements.”

Profile How You Use Your Time

My day job is software development. When we detect a performance problem in our software, we carry out a process called profiling. In the profiling process, we inspect the resources consumed by each part of the software. Once we have those results, we try to improve the performance of the part that consumes the most resources.

If you want to optimize your life, I recommend that you start with optimizing how you use your time. You can apply the profiling method to how you use your time. The best way to do that is to log your time usage for a week and then look for leaks in those logs.

“Log your time usage for a week and then look for leaks in those logs.”

I keep my time management profiling very simple. I divide a sheet of paper in 24 lines. Each line corresponds to an hour of the day. In each of these lines, I write down how I spend my time in that hour.

You will get lots of insights from the time use profiling exercise. You might find out that you spend four fifteen minute sessions per day on social media. That might not seem too much. If you do the math, that adds up to one hour a day, fifteen days a year, and a complete year in 24 years. Do you really want to wake up one day and find out that you have spent a full year of your life on social media?

My Own Regret

One of the things that I regret the most about my college years is that I spent most of my afternoons with the same friends in the same café. Socializing is great, but spending your time with the same people, in the same café, talking about the same things for four years is a huge waste of time. I could have socialized with different people, gone to another café, participated in clubs, learned and practiced extracurricular skills, started a business, worked in a part time job, and so on. All of these would be more beneficial than repeating the same afternoon for four years.

Evaluate the Results

Once you do the profiling exercise for a week and look at the results, you realize how much time you waste. You come across many 1% improvements. However, you might find it difficult to plug those time leaks. The best way to do that is to ask yourself the following question.

“What would be the best use of my time during that period?”

Plug the Leaks with Quality Activities

Suppose that you spend half an hour on social media on your after lunch dip. Ask yourself the following question. “What would be the best use of my time after lunch? What could I do in those thirty minutes?” Then make a list of all the activities that are more beneficial than surfing on the social media. I bet you can come up with at least a dozen activities that are more beneficial than surfing on the social media. During your next after lunch dip, just choose one of those activities and commit to it for thirty minutes. If you feel the urge to pick up your old habit, just remember that wasting an hour a day is wasting a complete year in 24 years. Who would want to waste a complete year in their lives?

Commit in Advance

The problem with our minds is that we cannot stay in a conscious mode for too long. We eventually switch to a more energy efficient, auto-pilot mode. That’s when our past habits and urges creep in. In order to prevent them from taking over control, you need to commit yourself to staying with your new habit and not give in to the old habit. Just promise to yourself at the start of those thirty minutes, that you will stick with your new habit and won’t give in to your urges.

Develop an Optimization Mindset

If you carry out the profiling exercise for an extended amount of time, you will develop an optimization mindset. You will go through your days looking around and searching for 1% improvements that you can execute immediately. When you internalize the optimization mindset and live your life accordingly, you will experience quantum leaps in your life, maybe not overnight but guaranteed within a year.

Don’t forget that 1% improvements a day result in a 38 times improvement a year.

How to Improve Your Life 38X in a Year

If you improved your life 1% every day, you would improve your life 3778% within a year. That is 38X improvement within a year. 1% improvements over time add up. So, never ever underestimate 1% improvements adding up and compounding.

There are three types of 1% improvements.

  1. Quitting bad habits that have little marginal costs that add up over time.
  2. Improvements that have little marginal benefits that add up over time.
  3. Improvements that require a significant initial investment, but pay dividends over time.

Bad Habits with Little Marginal Cost

Smoking a cigarette won’t kill you. Smoking a pack a day for forty years can kill you. Watching a YouTube video takes ten minutes. Watching YouTube for an hour a day costs two weeks of your time over a year. Eating an extra desert won’t make you overweight. Eating that extra desert on top of your daily calorie requirements will make you fat over time. I’m guilty of all of the three above.

When you come across a temptation that has a little marginal cost, ask yourself what the long-term consequences would be, if you repeated that over and over. It might be OK to eat an extra desert and to watch a YouTube video now and then, but don’t forget the compounding effect of repeated indulgences on those temptations. If you have a bad habit that has a little marginal cost at a time, think about how much you can improve your life over time, if you quit it.

Improvements with Little Marginal Benefits

After experimenting with switching off the heating and letting it run, I realized that I sleep best if I turned down the heating 1 degree Celsius down at night. After experimenting with no coffee and a lot of coffee, I decided to stick with 2 cups of coffee in the morning. After experimenting with no music and heavy metal, I found out that listening to Baroque music while working helps me the most with concentration and productivity.

I hired an assistant who is helping me with cleaning my home once a week. That is more than 1% improvement as the work they are doing took one day of my free time every week. It’s a no-brainer to hire someone to do the work that you don’t enjoy if it is within your budget.

There have been times I didn’t exercise at all and my belly showed it. There have been times I worked out twice a day, six days a week, which was great, but my life was the life of an athlete. I have other responsibilities as well. Now, I stick to four workouts per week.

I bought two packs of Hickies to avoid binding the laces of my sneakers. That saves some time. Even though I have the MS Office Suite, I use LibreOffice to type in my blog posts. It has the auto-complete feature that helps me save time when typing.

Instead of buying and carrying bottled water, I bought a Britta filter pitcher system. Not having to carry those water bottles every time I go to the grocery store saves me a lot of time and effort.

1% improvements with little marginal benefits add up over time and make a huge difference in your life.

Improvements that Require Investment and Pay Dividends over Time

Getting myself a pair of high end, noise canceling headphones was one of the best investments I have made. That improvement pays dividends in improved concentration and productivity every single working day.

At work, I use Resharper when programming in C#. It saves me a lot of time and headaches by pointing out possible bugs in advance. Moving closer to my work saved me a lot of time as my commute to work is limited to twenty minutes a day.

I developed an Evernote system to keep track of all my one-time and repetitive tasks. It cost me a lot of time and trial and error, but now it is the only system I use. It requires perhaps fifteen minutes per week to maintain. It didn’t cost me any money at all, because Evernote is a free software. However that time investment was heavy. At this moment I’m more than happy with the results as it saves me a lot of time and headaches.

How Can You Improve Your Life 1%?

Now, look at your life carefully, how can you improve your life 1%? Here are some 1% improvements on my to-do list.

Change my bed. It’s the same bed for the last seven years and it wasn’t a very good one to start with.

Get a parking space closer to my home. In a way, it’s not bad to walk for ten minutes to the garage where I park my car, but I can save an extra ten minutes a day by parking somewhere closer or moving to a home with integrated garage space.

I need to find better investments than the savings account where most of my savings rest.

I need to find a service that delivers the grocery home. On average, I spend at least an hour a week on this.

If you look carefully, you will find at least a dozen 1% improvements in your life.

First look at the bad habits, that you want to get rid of from your life. Then look at the 1% improvements that wouldn’t require any investment at all, such as adjusting the music you listen to when you work.

The last step is to make those investments that require an initial investment that pay dividends over time, such as getting better equipment for work. Sometimes that equipment, such as open source software come for free. In some cases, you have to develop it yourself, which requires time investment. An investment, such as productivity software, has some initial costs, but think about the time you are going to save over the years and how much that time costs.

1% Improvements vs Essentials

If you have read my post on focusing on the essentials, you might think that 1% improvements might be contradicting with that post. If you look carefully, the 1% improvements provide significant long term benefits, which makes them essential. Buying a pair of noise-canceling headphones might seem to be providing only marginal value. However, if you look at the time I save and the improvement in the quality of my work over the life time of that product, it is an essential investment.

Finding the Optimal Solutions

Some of these 1% improvements involve finding the sweet spots, a solution between two extremes. Others involve cutting a habit entirely such as quitting smoking. It’s up to you to decide which path you want to take. Depending on the issue, you might want to take a sweet spot approach or the extreme approach.

Call to Action

  • What are the 1% improvements you can make in your life?
  • What is your plan to execute them?

The Fallacy of Extremism

Extremism is on the rise, because only extreme ideas cut through the noise of the Internet. Common sense wisdom gets lost in that noise. Extremism is a product of mental laziness. It not only hurts communities and nations, it also hurts individuals, even the most sensible ones. At this moment, you might have strong convictions without even realizing them and they might be holding you back.


Back in the day, we had relatively few publishers and mainstream media, run by relatively sensible people. What they published was boring, but most of it was the common sense middle way. No one dared to say anything extreme. Saying something extreme meant being branded as an extremist and losing all of your publication venues.

The Internet changed everything. Now every laptop, tablet, and smartphone is a media company. People can publish whatever they want and they do it. In this overcrowded space, only extreme ideas stand out. People don’t follow the leaders with the most sensible ideas. They follow the “influencers” with the most radical ideas or the online marketers with the Lamborghinis, private planes, and helicopters.

How It All Applies to You

The ticket to make a quick buck or get the office seems to find the most extreme version of an idea and publish as much as possible about it on social media. If you want to live a good life though, don’t follow that advice, because as we all know, life isn’t about extreme ideas. Life is about balance and finding that sensible middle way, that sweet spot that produces the most results. It’s not about working for 18 hours a day, 365 days a year. However, you will find a lot of “influencers” online that say that to stand out on social media.

Extremes almost never work. People fall into the fallacy of extremism, because they like to think their options are binary. That makes their decision process easy. In the past, I oscillated between drinking no coffee at all or drinking a lot of it. I oscillated between switching off the heating at night or letting it at the same temperature as day. I spent either at least an hour a day on social media or did not check it at all. I either didn’t work out at all or worked out twice a day. There were times I didn’t listen to any music at all while working or I listened to heavy metal.

None of the extremes above worked for me. Even though I liked the idea of having extreme decisions and the false sense of pride they gave me, I stopped acting on those decisions after a while. I realized that the sweet spots between those extremes worked better for me. Now, I drink two cups of coffee in the morning, check what’s going on in my friends circle once a day on social media, listen to Baroque music while working, work out four times a week, and turn down the heating a few degrees at night. These are the sweet spots that work for me, among many others.

Call to Action

I invite you to take a good look at your life and see the decisions and choices you have to make. What are your options? If you happen to find only two extreme options, remember that most of the time there are more options in between them. Those are the sweet spots that might work the best for you and for the situation that you find yourself in.

Moreover, I invite you to take a good critical look at all the information that you receive from social media. If the information seems to be extreme, take it with a grain of salt and look at the motivation of the people behind the information. You might see that they are trying to market a product or to promote their agenda.

Remember, the truth, what works the best, is most of the time somewhere between the extremes. Those sweet spots might be a little harder to find compared to sticking with the extremes, but at the end of the day, those are the ones that produce the best results.