I hate rules that come from arbitrary authority, but I love giving them to myself.  One of the best ways to experiment and find ways to get more productive and happy is through testing various rules.  It’s also a great way to learn about yourself.  Here are a few rules I have.  I sometimes break them, and sometimes temporarily suspend them, but for the most part I value and stick to them.

  • Don’t read the comments
  • Don’t refer to any political figure by name
  • Don’t check email, text, Voxer, or social media until a blog post has been written each day
  • Immediately throw away anything that can be thrown away
  • Walk outside at least once every day
  • Don’t follow the news
  • Build any commentary on underlying principles, not current events or specific instances
  • Don’t recommend books unless willing to buy them for the person
  • Have a budget for everything but books
  • Immediately delete/archive emails that do not require a response
  • Only read things by people I’d like to emulate in some way
  • Listen to the same playlist every time I write
  • Avoid phone calls unless absolutely necessary, and preferably only when scheduled
  • Travel no more than three times per month
  • Avoid calling anyplace that will put me on hold
  • Don’t haggle over anything less than $50
  • Outsource as many things I don’t love as possible
  • Say no to anything less than an obvious “Hell yes!”
  • When asking ‘why?’, try asking ‘why not?’ instead
  • Assume the moral neutrality of everyone

Making this list has been a really fun exercise.  I have more rules than I thought, and I’m sure I have others.  One interesting observation about this list is that there’s nothing here that just comes naturally as a part of my personality.  Every one of these things takes conscious effort, and they were all developed for specific reasons and continued because they are working for me.  I suppose things we do naturally without much effort don’t require rules.

This list also reminds me of the value of self-created structure, and the danger of other-imposed structure.  Most of these things may be useless to most other people, but they’re indispensable for me.