Optimizing Your Life by Optimizing Your Sleep, Exercise and Nutrition + Kaizen
This may sound a little obvious but these are often ignored fundamentals of a fully optimized lifestyle.
This is the framework that will allow you to build a truly healthy and optimal lifestyle. What you need to recognize is that your performance at work and home are intimately tied together. The happier and healthier you are during your time off, the better you will perform when you are working. The better you work, the more time you will have to focus on your own health. And it all starts with sleep…
By employing a little strict discipline, you will find that you less often allow your work life to ruin your sleep. This is crucial because your output will be significantly neutered if you don't.
At the same time, you also need to make sure that you are doing everything else in your power to make sure your sleep is the best it can be.
For starters, this means going to bed at the same time every night and aiming to get a full 8 hours sleep. Again, this is sacred and it will make all the difference to every other aspect of your life. Going to bed at a strict time is what will help you set your internal rhythms, while waking up at the same time will prevent sleep inertia (and likewise prevent you from sleeping through your working morning).
Make sure that your room is pitch dark and that light is kept to an absolute minimum. Tape over the LEDs in the room and use heavy curtains to block out sunlight. Remember, you want to avoid ‘blue light' so don't look at your phone or computer past 8pm. Caffeine should also be avoided after 4pm and note that alcohol can ruin the restorative nature of your rest.
A warm shower just before bed can also make a big difference to your sleep, as can stretching and perhaps practicing a little quiet meditation (meditation is also a great tool for encouraging mental discipline so that you aren't thinking about work). Make sure you get plenty of exercise and fresh air during the day too, so that you will be more tired when it comes to the evening.
Finally, nutrition is also critical for healthy sleep and specifically you need to be consuming enough vitamin D, magnesium, zinc and tryptophan to really maximize your deep sleep.
Exercise is also a very important tool for the self-employed. Remember, working from home means you have no commute which means less exercise. At the same time, that means you have at least an hour you can commit to going to the gym in the morning and this will also help to boost your brain power.
Exercise triggers the release of BDNF – brain derived neurotrophic factor – which in turn increases learning, plasticity and attention. It also helps you get more blood to your brain and improves your mood and focus. All these things are great tools for boosting your performance and for combating health complaints.
Particularly important as well is stretching. Stretching also boosts IQ and at the same time it can prevent the mobility issues that come from working at a computer. Yoga is a particularly good practice but you can benefit simply from doing some stretches on a mat prior to lifting weights or doing CV.
Now you might have a desire to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in which case, you need an entirely different book. But for the purposes of optimal productivity and health, you don't need to go mad in the gym. In fact, it's better that you don't. Instead, focus on exercise that will be enjoyable and that you'll be likely to stick to. Your whole aim here is to move regularly and to apply a little bit of positive stress (eustress) to your body to wake it up and strengthen it. Bodyweight training is particularly good for this, as is running.
Ultimately, remember that it's better to have a very easy training regime that you actually stick to, than an intense one that you never do…
And in this vein, it's also pertinent to find a gym that is near to you, or to set up your own home gym. If the gym is 10 miles away and requires driving, then it will eat into your day and your available energy levels.
This is the most important point of all: getting your nutrition right.
Again, our goal here is not to turn you into Superman or to give you gigantic pecs. Instead, the objective is to make you generally healthy, happy and able to work well. Avoiding obesity is part of that, so you do want to cut down on your carbs. Likewise, you want to avoid carbs and sugars because they can make you tired after your blood sugar has spiked.
Instead, focus on filling up with complex carbs, fats and proteins and don't overeat. Working from home means you can eat smaller snacks instead of big meals and this is also advisable.
The most important thing to remember of all though, is that your diet should be nutrient dense. This means that you should focus on getting lots of fruits, lots of vegetables, lots of meats and more. The benefits that zinc, potassium, sodium, vitamin C, B complex vitamins, lutein, calcium, l-tyrosine, l-carnitine, vitamin D, iron, omega 3 fatty acid, CoQ10, MCT oils and more have on your body cannot possibly be overstated. If you are getting your RDA of all these things, you will sleep better, feel happier, be thinner, think faster, be stronger… and the effects are more profound than any ‘nootropic' or ‘health supplement'. The best way to do this is just to eat lots of berries, fish, fruits, leafy greens, meats, organ meats and more. Don't cut anything out your diet and do everything you can to give your body a varied and comprehensive selection of nutrients.
All this might sound like a lot to take on all at once, but if you're creating a plan that supports these changes you'll find it's much easier. The changes you make to improve your health and energy will feed into your work life and the improved work life will feed into better health and energy – it's a virtuous cycle and that's why it makes sense to change everything at once, instead of viewing your ‘diet' or your ‘fitness' as isolated matters.
But if it's still sounding daunting, consider the concept of kaizen. Kaizen means making a small change in your lifestyle that will have ripples affecting every other area. If you can't commit to changing your diet right away, instead just try committing to having a smoothie instead of a cappuccino first thing in the morning. Or commit to just doing 20 press ups in the evening.
This one change will likely be the beginning of huge repercussions in your life that lead to the healthy and happy you that you want to become.