How I lead my life
Part 1: the daily structure and my rules for living
by Joachim Bartoll, January 1, 2016
Classic Muscle Newsletter, March 2016 (issue #18)
Over the last year, I’ve got dozens of questions about how I structure my days and if I have any valuable tips and strategies to keep productive, lean, healthy and fit in my forties.
So, I decided to make a little series about the structure of my typical day, about my rules, values, rituals and beliefs – as well as my nutrition and current training regime. And to make it worth your while, I’ll make it more like an inspirational article – I’ll also include my reasoning behind the choices I’ve made. Hopefully it will be an interesting and educational read. Enjoy it, pick out anything useful and simply discard the parts that do not really apply to your life and situation.
Now, let’s start with the most important part of your life – the daily structure, your beliefs, and your rules.
Beliefs, values and rules
Without firm beliefs and rules to how to lead your life, you’ll never be in full control of your life. Instead, you’ll live your days reacting to other people’s needs and all the events happening around you. You’ll feel like you’re always one step behind. There’s never enough time. You’ll feel lost.
I bet we’ve all felt like this from time to time. And sadly, most people are trapped in this scenario, living their whole life in a state of chaos. And I’ve been there too, many times.
Even if you have a great structure and you plan your day for success, life can throw in a monkey wrench at any time. For me that happened last year when I entered a new relationship. We had totally different daily routines and since you want to spend as much time with each other as possible, sacrifices were made. I usually get up at around 5.00 a.m. to get a few hours of uninterrupted work done. However, with several more dogs and a little boy who we put to bed at 8.30 p.m., I didn’t get to bed until after midnight (if even then), which meant that I got up at about 7.00 a.m. the next day and were immediately thrown into all the family morning stuff. Also, living at two places and travelling back and forth, my daily structure changed drastically. Although I set strict rules for my work hours, my work efficiency declined quite a bit. I had just about as many work hours as before, but my productivity was cut in half. I had lost my morning ritual and I had bent a few of my core rules – and by that, letting in a little bit of chaos in my life.
It’s easy to get sidetracked when you want to please others, especially the ones you love. This is where your values and beliefs come into play. How you treat and respect other people and what really matters to you. To me, family is most important. And while I’ll do anything for my family, I still have to take care of myself and set myself up for success. Because if I do not, I cannot support nor take care of the people I care about the most.
That’s why you need a daily structure, a short term and a long-term plan as well as goals. If you have a family, there will always be sacrifices. But if you plan and structure your days for success, your entire family will benefit. So, with that said, let’s move on to the structure of my day.
My current daily structure
Before I go to bed, I make sure that I have a plan for the next day. What I need to prioritize and how to fit it into my schedule. As I’m about to go to sleep, I think about what I can do tomorrow to get closer to my goals. I think about all the good stuff – I motivate myself to such a degree that I can hardly wait to wake up the next morning. This is an important step, since it’s always tempting to stay in that warm comfy bed just a little bit longer.
Now, I’ve always been an early riser. Getting up early does not only give you the feeling of having a head start on everyone else, there’s also fewer opposing forces seeking your attention and pulling you off track. If you get up late, when other people are awake and seeking your attention, it’s very easy to slip into reaction-mode instead of action-mode.
So, the earlier you rise, the more time you get for yourself and the more time you get to set up your day and get into a productive rhythm. Once you’ve taken charge of your day, it’s easier to deal with all the clutter and distractions – since you’re in control and taking action from the start. Beginning your day with an accomplishment puts you in a positive mood. This morning momentum leads to more accomplishments and victories throughout the day.
Here is my daily routine during a working week:
4.45 a.m. – Re-hydrate, short meditation.
5.15 a.m. – Writing.
7.30 a.m. – Family stuff or continue writing.
8.30 a.m. – Dog walk.
9.00 a.m. – Working with clients or Training at the gym (four days a week).
11.00 a.m. – First meal and Dog play time.
1.00 p.m. – Writing or working with clients.
3.00 p.m. – Phone calls, email, social networking/Skype meetings/marketing.
5.00 p.m. – Reading.
6.00 p.m. – Dog walk and dinner.
7.00 p.m. – Family/Social time.
9.30 p.m. – Bedtime
And my typical routine on weekends:
5.30 a.m. – Re-hydrate, short meditation.
6.00 a.m. – Writing.
8.30 a.m. – Family stuff or continue writing/working with clients.
11.00 a.m. – Dog play time and Family/Social time.
2.00 p.m. – Writing or Family/Social time.
6.00 p.m. – Dog walk and dinner.
7.00 p.m. – Family/Social time.
10.30 p.m. – Bedtime
While my weekends are a bit “looser”, most activities are planned ahead and I always get up early to get some kind of work done. Getting that head start and feeling of accomplishment makes me appreciate the rest of the day and all the social activities so much more. If you have goals and/or work that’s important to you, try to get up a few hours earlier and spend some time working on them without any distractions. And since these two or three hours are free from interferences and interruptions, they let you get at least three times as much work done as you would any other time of the day! This is key if you want to lead a productive and successful life!
If social events or something else keep me up past my preferred bedtime, I still do my best to get up at my wake-up time. And I make up for lost sleep by a short nap in the afternoon (after our dog play time).
A lot of people think and feel that rules, rituals, planning and structure equals a boring boxed-in life with less freedom, not more. Nothing could be further from the truth!
That is a delusion from programming by the media and the society. It is tempting to go with the crowd and stay up late each night, watching television for hours or drinking alcohol at some popular nightspot, and sleep late the next morning. That is the way of the average man. And if you lead and average life, you’ll get nothing but average results. Rules, habits, and rituals can help you kick procrastination and actually free up more of your time.
If you’re unsure about your values and beliefs, leading a productive and happy life will be difficult.
By identifying your core values and setting up rules to live by – living the life you want will be much easier and any obstacle will have multiple solutions. If you know how to react and respond in any given situation, you will have less guilt, fear, regrets and worry.
Use your rules for living as a set of personal philosophies that will make your daily decisions easier. Your rules should be aligned with your beliefs. They should be powerful.
Let’s take an example. Imagine a person on a diet at a birthday party. The host is serving some really delicious pieces of pizza. While this person is on a diet and has rules for what and how much to eat, he makes an exception and eat the slices of pizza with the belief that it will be ok if he cut back on his other meals that day. That’s not a rule anchored in a strong belief. However, another person at that party simply says no to any of the food served, as it does not fit into his nutritional beliefs, as carbohydrates and the refined oils are very toxic. For this person, breaking that rule, one of his core beliefs that will affect his health is unthinkable. Now, that is the definition of a rule.
Think of your rules as a way to eliminate your bad habits and replace them with positive routines that make the right decisions almost automatic. If you really believe in your rules, if they are what makes you who you are, making decisions will be that easy.
Here are my 10 rules:
1. I will get up early to get the best possible start for the day (between 4.45 and 5.45 a.m.) seven days a week. I will go to bed at a time that ensure at least 7 hours of quality sleep, preferable 8 hours. If I have to stay up late, I take a powernap during the day.
2. I will write for at least 90 minutes first thing every morning.
3. I do not check my email or any social networks before noon (if training) or before I finished my morning and have walked my dog. I do not make phone calls or answer the phone before noon unless it’s scheduled.
4. I create a to-do list in sync with my calendar and review it at the start and end of every workday.
5. I always act polite and courteous, and I always listen to what other people say in conversations – and give them my full attention.
6. Being a voluntaryist and following Natural Law, I only confront people that bully others or act threatening against my loved ones. I do not start fights, but I make sure to finish them. I do not engage in unnecessary confrontations in-person or online as that is a waste of time and energy. Always block shills and trolls on social media, do not waste time that is better used elsewhere. And if I caused harm to an underserving party, I will always apologize and fix the situation. I will always take responsibility for my actions.
7. And everything that happens to me, good and bad, is my personal responsibility. I will never blame anyone else but myself. These are the choices I’ve made and if they do not produce the result I want, I have to make new and better choices.
8. I will always stick to my values and beliefs. I will not tell a lie. I will not gossip or speak badly of others. If I’ve had bad experiences with a person, I will warn others if asked, but only from what I’ve experienced, never from what I’ve heard or been told, since that information is not verified.
I will not be negative when it is easier to be positive. I will pick friends that share my values, who can think outside the box, and make me happy. I will cut off people who steal my energy and don’t give anything back.
9. I will not conform to society’s norms about ‘acting your age’. I will keep my inner child alive and socialize with people of all ages. I will make time to play and laugh every day.
10. My mission is to help as many people as possible, no matter their goal. I will always be innovative, thinking outside of the box, and always a step ahead of everyone else within my field.
I will study, gain experience, and hone my skills daily – year-round. I’ve done it for more than 25 years and will do it for another 25. This is my passion.
I do have other rules that are more like values and manners. But these rules above are my core rules for leading a productive life, eliminating stress and getting through each day with some kind of accomplishment.
Some people will scoff at rules like these. They will think, “Damn, he is boring. Living a life by a set of rules – where’s the fun in that?” These people don’t get it. They’ve been dumbed down by society and the media to follow their agenda like a flock of sheep. Making clear-cut rules get you ahead of the game and they free up time so you actually can enjoy life more – getting more time with your family and friends. Unfortunately, many people will not understand that simple fact.
I shared my rules with you to inspire you to sit down and really think about your values, beliefs and possible rules for leading your own life.
That’s it for the first part. If you liked it or if you have questions/suggestions for the next part, feel free to write at the forums or send me an e-mail.
Thank you for reading!