A Workaholic’s Guide to Happiness and Balance

A few months ago, I raised funding for my startup. After months of bootstrapping the business and burning through my savings, I finally got what I needed to push LawTrades into the stratosphere. My friends/family heard about the news and wanted to celebrate, but I just stayed in bed all day and ignored their calls and messages.

Like a kid, I hid under my covers and just laid there.

Why?

For the first time since starting my company out of my law school apartment, I felt completely and utterly overwhelmed by the work that was cut out for me.

And over the next few months, I began neglecting my relationships, didn’t sleep till 3am, gained 10lbs of fat, drank 6 cups of coffee a day, and worked 80 hour weeks.

I thought I was getting a lot done but I felt miserable.

WHY I HATE THE WORD “SUCCESS”

The media portrays “successful” people (especially unicorn startups) as these god-like individuals who overcame every obstacle thrown at them and are now benefiting from their overnight success.

But they’re not superheros. They’re odd people who figured out how to do big things against all bad habits and adversity.

To me success is defined as taking action on your ideas instead of letting it sit around in your brain.

From my analysis, the biggest achievers in the world mapped out their vision and I wanted to replicate their thought process.

Your decision + action + repeated action + time = progress

So in the last eight weeks, I grew my company to profitability, launched a successful side project, exercised daily, improved my personal relationships, and significantly cut down my dependence on caffeine.

But remember, you are a human being, not a human doing. Keeping that in mind, here’s the one thing I did differently that will help you get more done in a healthy, effective, and balanced way.

THE TRICK

I’m really bad at doing stuff quickly so this is a little mechanism for handling my roller coaster life while keeping my efficacy (doing the right things) at it’s peak.

At it’s core, you want to ask yourself:

What are the 3 most crucial activities related to my work, side projects, and personal goals?

As an an entrepreneur, artist, creator, or someone who holds a leadership position, it’s difficult to prioritize your objectives because you basically create your own schedule.

But there is a method to the madness and here’s how to put it to action:

STEP 1

Grab a notebook (I use Moleskine) and on the right hand side write the 3 most important things you want to accomplish within 3 segments of your life — work, side projects, and personal.

My notebook

For instance, in the work section you could write “update investor deck” or if you are a student it might be “finish philosophy essay.”

In the side projects section, put in things you like doing on the side such as, “write a post on medium” or “ buy a bicycle to ride to work.”

Under personal, you want to put in stuff that you need to do for yourself (paying a credit card, calling your parents or doing laundry).

I like to add a square next to each of my items because I’m weird and get pleasure from checking it off after completing each task.

STEP 2

On the left page, take notes on stuff relating to your important things. You can include potential issues, self motivators, drawings, additional information — whatever.

Think of it as a way to jot down an idea or problem before it leaves your mind.

You can also use the notes as a way to guide you on what you should be focusing for the following day. I often find myself filling up the left side throughout the day before I even create the list on the right.

STEP 3

Practice this every night.

I like making this list right before bed. It helps stop my mind from running wild since tomorrow already feels complete.

When I wake up, I go through my morning routine, head to the office, open my notebook, and start attacking the list before I do any emails/social media/meetings.

After some time, you’ll drastically improve the efficacy (doing the right things) of your work output.

You’ll realize your work days are cycles of limited time and it’ll force you to understand your limitations and focus on the truly important stuff.

This format helps me keep my day focused on execution and I think it has the potential to change your life.

THE POINT

The purpose above all is to keep your work relationship healthy so that you feel invigorated rather than overwhelmed. You’ll know if your work life encroaches in your personal life. Or if your personal life interferes with your side projects and vice versa.

This system will leave a huge impact in your mood where you’ll feel more happy, focused, and content with your day.

The problem with workaholics is they become addicted to their work and end up neglecting other parts of life that are essential to their wellbeing. Your work should enrich all the other parts of your life, not take over it.

Something almost magical happens when you organize yourself and focus your creative energy on a well defined target.

PUT AWAY THE KEYBOARD

I think that this is one of those activities where you should keep it old school and write your thoughts down using a pen or pencil. There are studiesproving that this method leads to retaining information better.

While you can probably write more in less time using a keyboard, research shows that when you write by hand, it forces you to experience a different type of cognitive processing.

Specifically, it forces the brain to do more mental lifting such as analyzing, digesting and summarizing — rather than just furiously typing without putting much thought to the content — in order to foster better comprehension and retention.

So that’s it. By doing just 3 things in each aspect of your life, you will keep balance and stay happy.

I try my best to follow it every day. But when I don’t I always regret it.

And when you feel like life is getting to the best of you, remember that even the best people in the world feel this way sometimes.

As stated so elegantly by influential writer Kurt Vonnegut about his creative process: “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.”

You’re not the only one. Just sit down, pick up a pen, write your thoughts, and push forward.