It’s a little over three years since I first had the idea for Buffer, and I’ve started to notice a few patterns amongst the ups and downs that come with building a startup.
One of the most important things I’ve learned during this time is that I perform the best when I’m happy. It really does change everything. If I’m happy then I’m more productive when the hacking code, I’m better at answering support, and I find it easier to stay focused.
1. HAVE MULTIPLE WAYS TO “WIN” EACH DAY
Since the above activities are habitual, many days of the week I actually accomplish all of them. If I succeed with all five, I have a truly amazing day and feel fantastic. I have goals for Buffer, and I have goals in my weights routine too. In addition, I try to schedule one or two meetings or Skype calls to help people each day.
2. LEARN NEW SKILLS – THE POWER OF NOVELTY AND OUR BRAINS
“Being in the moment, focusing completely on a single task, and finding a sense of calm and happiness in your work. Flow is exactly that.”–Leo Babauta
One thing I’ve found during my time working on Buffer is that a key reason I’ve been happy for most of that time is that I’ve consistently had new challenges to take on. It may seem odd that new challenges can equate to happiness, but it is the times when I’ve slipped into a few weeks of working on something I already know well, that have led me to feel less happy than I want to be.
3. REGULARLY HELP OTHERS
One of my most fascinating discoveries about myself so far this year, is how happy it makes me help others. For some time I had been consistently meeting founders to help them with their startups without realizing that it was making me so happy. Then when I read Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill by Matthieu Ricard I connected the dots of when I was happy and the activity I was doing: helping others.
4. HAVE A HABIT OF DISENGAGEMENT
“The richest, happiest, and most productive lives are characterized by the ability to fully engage in the challenge at hand, but also to disengage periodically and seek renewal”–Loehr and Schwarz, The Power of Full Engagement
As I mentioned earlier, a key way I am able to wake up at 6 a.m. is through my ritual of disengaging in the evening. I go for a walk at 9:30 p.m., along with a route which I’ve done many times before. Since the route is already decided and is the same every time, I am simply walking and doing nothing else. This prompts reflection and relaxation.
5. EXERCISE DAILY
“We found that people who are more physically active have more pleasant-activated feelings than people who are less active”–Amanda Hyde
In the last three years, I’ve gone from dabbling with exercise to it becoming something I do every weekday without fail. At first, I had no idea what to do at the gym, so I asked my brother, who’s a personal trainer. I then went a few times with a good friend and soon I was hooked.