What Worked for Me in 2021
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I’m constantly experimenting with tools, systems, routines, books, and supplements to try to live a better life. Experimentation is the essence of Superorganizers: we look at the systems and processes that work for high-performers and we apply them to our own lives. We keep what works and we throw away what doesn’t.
As 2021 is coming to a close, I thought I’d write a little update on what’s worked for me this year. I’ve tried a lot, and learned a lot—in fact I think this is the year I might have learned the most in my entire life.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of the things that have worked best for me in 2021. I hope it helps.
No Meetings Before Noon
I’ve been trying to avoid meetings before noon so I can get work done, and so far I’ve been pretty good at it this year. Instead, I try to spend my mornings on deep work: writing, editing, thinking about what’s going on at Every. It really helps my output and my quality of life. Recommend if possible.
Right now, I’m on a Streaks streak. And it’s great. It’s a little app that’s been around for forever that helps keep track of how many days in a row you do something. I’ve gone back and forth on using it over the years, and right now I’m really enjoying it.
The main things I track are meditation (every day), stretching (4x a week), exercise (3x a week), morning pages (5x a week), and exposure (3x a week). (Exposure is treatment for my OCD symptoms, I’ll address more below.)
I find that if I’m doing all or most of these things on a daily basis, I’ve set myself up really well to have a good day. If I had to pick 2 with the biggest impact I’d probably pick meditation and exercise.
Low-ish Carbs During the Day
I tried out Levels, a continuous glucose monitor company, and learned a lot (review coming soon.) It sparked an interest in trying to eat lower carb during the day to see how it affected my energy levels. Anecdotally, it’s really effective for me.
I used to have a lot of days where I’d feel lethargic and low-energy, especially in the afternoons. By the time I’d finished with work I’d feel like I could barely make it off the couch. But if I’m eating lower carb I’m much more energetic, and that energy is more even throughout the day. It’s something I plan to stick with.
I got one of those bright lamps that mimic the sun for $30 on Amazon. I try to get outside in the morning too, but the lamp seems like it really helps me with that yuck feeling I get on cloudy winter days where it’s just a little harder to get out of bed. Definitely worth a shot.
Email and Workout Babysitters
Social accountability really helps me do things that I don’t want to do. There are many ways to achieve social accountability, but one way that has worked for me is to use what I lovingly call “babysitters” to make sure I get done the things I need to—even if I don’t want to do them. The two categories they have been most helpful so far are: working out and email.
In the beginning of 2021 I started working with a trainer on Zoom. He’s incredible—when we began I was out of shape and had muscle imbalances all over the place. Now I’m stronger, fitter, and more flexible than I’ve probably ever been. Most importantly, though, when I work with my trainer I show up really consistently. The consistency is generated just from the knowledge that someone will be disappointed if I don’t show up.
I started to reason about where else this idea might be valuable—where else showing up consistently to something I don’t really want to do might pay dividends. And I realized that I really needed a personal trainer just for my inbox.
Enjoying this? Read the 12+ other things that worked best for me in 2021, and hundreds of other in-depth productivity essays and interviews by subscribing to Every below.