Author: lukefreeman

10 lessons for living life to the fullest

10 lessons for living life to the fullest

I’ve spent my entire life over-committed, to a fault actually. It came to a crunch a few years ago when the exhaustion hit me.

Fast forward to now and I’ve got my priorities in much better order. I’ve picked up a bunch of useful techniques to help me try and get the most out of my limited time on this planet so I thought I could share some of my life hacking and productivity tips… put my inner-nerd to good use.

On that note, let me introduce the 10 things I’m learning about taking control of my life to live it to the fullest (disclaimer: I’m certainly no expert, these are just anecdotes, but I hope they can be helpful for some people).

1. Sorting out our priorities is the first step to taking life by the reins

First and foremost, before I could do much of what I’m about to tell you successfully I needed to sort out my priorities. For a very long time I had gone along with life just assuming that I was living life in a way that was in line with my priorities. It just made intuitive sense to me that it couldn’t be any other way. I would think to myself, “if I’m doing X instead of Y then X must be a higher priority to me.” For a long time I didn’t realise that some things might just be more urgent, easier to think of, or maybe just more enjoyable in that moment.

As time has gone on I have started to be more intentional about my life. Ultimately I seek to have not just a life that I could look back on and be proud of but also one that was full of joy along the way.

I’ve come to know that the things that are a priority for me are happiness (both ‘hedonic’ and ‘eudaimonic’), a sense of purpose (can be defined subjectively), continual growth and learning, developing and maintaining good relationships, maximising my experiences, living in an ethical way and, most importantly, seeing the lives of others improved.

I could write an essay on each of these “meta-priorities” (in fact I hope to at some point), but these priorities have helped in deciding on more tangible goals and categorical priorities.

A good example of a categorical priority is keeping in good health, as it is integral to many of these. If I’m not in good health then I become a burden to others, I’m less happy, it’s harder to think, it puts strains on relationships, it limits my experiences and impacts my meta-priorities negatively.

Other categorical priorities can include things like health, career, relationships or creative endeavours. These priorities can translate into specific goals like entering into a sporting competition, presenting at a conference, going out for dinner with my wife or booking a gig to play music. The specific goals are things that are much more open to change — life gets in the way. Things falling to the back-burner or getting completely reassessed is not just absolutely okay, it’s to be expected.

2. Understanding our psychology is incredibly empowering

The more I read about our psychology (from trained professionals, not so-called “self-help gurus”) the more I understand how to account for basic human tendencies and develop techniques to not just compensate for them but to leverage them to my advantage.

An important lesson is that we are almost entirely creatures of habit. Most of our brainpower, energy and time is spent on following our habits. We rarely stop to question why we do things and we often fail to make changes in our lives because we’re entrenched in many habits that are hard to change. This knowledge was very empowering because it taught me that forming one good habit at a time is the way to get to where I want to be, and not to feel like I’ve failed for just being human.

From biology right through to psychology it’s pretty darn obvious that we’re not perfect. We’re products of evolution and that means that we have traits that were advantageous in some circumstances but not others and we have some traits that are just vestigial (may have once been useful but no longer are). For example, we naturally gravitate to eating sugar and fat; this is quite likely due to spending most of our existence chasing calories to stay alive (note: while this example fairly straightforward, be careful of evolutionary psychological explanations as they can have issues).

Knowing this is empowering because I don’t have to feel that I’m a failure for seeking out these things that are naturally pleasurable. However, I can use other psychological tools to combat this. The book “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think” is fantastic for understanding the psychology of food — not just to help in finding ways to eat less but to also in understanding ways to get more enjoyment out of our interacting with food.

Understanding our basic tendencies, biases and heuristics can help in leveraging them to our advantage.

On this point I also strongly recommend reading Thinking, Fast and Slow, The Happiness Hypothesis and 59 Seconds.

This simple video by Richard Wiseman demonstrates how you can leverage knowledge of our psychology to change your eating habits.

3. There is no substitute for good planning

This really point kind of speaks for itself. My whole life I’ve found it pretty consistent that if I don’t plan for many things they won’t happen. However, this doesn’t mean that if I do plan for things they will happen, planning just makes things much more likely.

Setting aside ample time to plan is incredibly important whether it is budgeting finances, planning a trip overseas, getting a project done or putting together a training program.

4. Following a good productivity system will help with getting things done

This doesn’t mean entirely follow a system that someone else has developed, we each have to figure out what works for us.

In 2002 when David Allen first published Getting Things Done (GTD) many people would have been pretty well placed to follow his advice down to the smallest detail. However it was pretty quickly out of date as email and smartphones became the norm. I recommend reading Getting Things Done but the system that seems to be working for me is The Secret Weapon (TSW) which is based on GTD but uses a system of email, diary and Evernote.

When I first started following the GTD methodology I couldn’t believe how much more stuff I got done. This is certainly one of the most useful techniques I’ve learned for getting the most out of life and clearing my head. Anything that is floating around in our heads instead of written down is just clogging up our brains and stopping it doing the stuff that brains do well — thinking!

5. Filtering out distractions helps with focusing on what’s important

We are bombarded with things stimulating and distracting us everyday. We cannot possibly absorb everything and it makes it incredibly hard to focus and hard to get things done. We really don’t have an option, our brain IS going to filter things out (it does it all the time) so we need to make sure that we focus on which things we filter and which things we focus on.

Personally I’ve found it helpful to turn off all social media notifications, only check things when I have the time to and use a variety of tools to help surface things that are of high quality instead of wasting time sifting through things which don’t give much value to my life.

From a technological perspective I’ve found using things like email filters/rules,, Gmail Tabs and many other tools incredibly useful in making sure that I only see what I need to see but I do continue to see new things that challenge me. I structure serendipity into my life (by using digests such as Nuzzel and HASO) in a way that reduces procrastination.

Filtering also applies to our head space and our priorities. We shouldn’t get distracted by baseless hype or worrying about things that are incredibly unlikely (e.g. worrying about wind turbine syndrome). All this does is distract us, it doesn’t do any good. Instead I’ve found it helps to focus on reality and on what really matters. If we care intimately about the well-being of other people we shouldn’t go campaigning against wind turbines (little scientific basis, low likelihood of success, mentally exhausting) but instead donate money or time to help people get out of poverty (using proven ways of actually helping people). We’re better off focusing on what’s effective, focusing on reality and filtering out the rest.

6. Wait… because patience pays off

As someone who naturally operates at a thousand miles (1,609 kilometres) an hour, taking things slowly doesn’t come naturally to me. I’ve had to learn to be patient the hard way.

I find I get less distracted if I write down all my ideas when they come to me and then come back to them later instead of starting on them straight away. Waiting actually helps with filtering and also with sorting out priorities.

Daniel Kahneman (psychologist, author and winner of Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics) wrote a great book called Thinking, Fast and Slow which emphasises the value of thinking slowly (using what he calls “system 1”) to reduce falling into the traps of our biases and heuristics. Waiting helps us to withhold judgment where possible and to give ourselves the time to think about things properly. The bonus of waiting is it also allows our subconscious to have a go while we’re doing other things or quite literally “sleeping on it”.

Another great book on waiting is Frank Partnoy’s Wait: The Art and Science of Delay which talks about waiting long enough (but not too long) to get the best decision or result.

7. Money is (just) a tool

I’m an incredibly frugal person but I like to be frugal for two main reasons: (1) it allows me to be generous to others which I find more fulfilling; and (2) it allows me enough money to use strategically.

Although the competitive side of me will want to get as much as possible and social norms will pressure me in all sorts of ways, it works when I remember this:
Money is (just) a tool

I’m hesitant to spend money if it’s unnecessary; but I don’t hesitate for a second if it is. I apply the above strategies of prioritising, understanding psychology (e.g. how much happiness can I “buy” for $10), planning, creating lists, filtering and waiting in my money management.

8. Automate it, delegate it, outsource it or crowdsource it

For this point the main lesson is to stop doing anything that doesn’t make sense for you to do — whether it’s using technology to automate a monotonous task, delegating work to other people (where appropriate), asking people directly for help, employing a virtual assistant or putting a request out on Facebook for travel recommendations.

We’re not good at everything, not everything is of equal importance and we just don’t have enough time to do everything ourselves. Some things are worth our time, some things are worth our money, some things we don’t need to do at all and some things we enjoy doing even though it’s not worth our time from a financial perspective (I get intrinsic value from brewing beer).

I use a lot of apps and services like ANZ Money Manager, Auto TextExpander, Automator, Buffer, Canned Responses, FollowUpThen, Freelancer, Hootsuite, IFTTT, keyboard shortcuts, LastPass, MS Excel, PhraseExpress (just to list a few that come to mind) and if all else fails a little bit of programming skills will help! If there is something that you do regularly try googling ways to make your process more efficient.

If I have to do something myself that is time consuming or monotonous then I at least try and multi-task (e.g. cooking whilst listening to audiobooks/podcasts) or to do it in bulk (e.g. cooking large batches) so that I can squeeze out a bit more efficiency.

9. Failure is always an option

Failure is always an option
Failure is always an option

As the legendary team over at Mythbusters like to remind us “failure is always an option”. I’ve got enough silver and bronze medals sitting in my sock draw from all my years of rowing to know that I can’t always win. In fact some of those medals are from experiences that I treasure much more than any gold medal.

Furthermore, something I’ve learned about our psychology is that the one route towards guaranteed failure is to try and do everything at once! Instead, it’s better to take things one step at a time and have the discipline and confidence to start again… and again… and again.

Sometimes we have to just cut our losses, move on and come back to it later. That’s completely okay.

I’m not perfect and us humans can never have perfect information, that’s why we can’t be too hard on ourselves, we need to be nimble and bounce back.

Fear of failure is much more debilitating than failure itself.

Failing teaches us a lot, strengthens our character and gives us direction.

10. Reassess, rinse and repeat

One great thing I find about writing down priorities, plans and systems is that it makes it really easy to go back to look at them and reassess if they are right for me.

Something that I’ve found useful on that front (that I am however currently failing at) is journaling. Picking regular intervals to reflect, muse and reassess can help cut through the drudgery, give a sense of purpose and increase satisfaction.

It also helps to seek external feedback both indirectly (through things like reading books and assessing people’s body language) and directly (by asking others for their feedback). When I ask other people I try to have specific questions that they are well-placed to answer (e.g. asking my boss what I could be doing better to help the organisation meet its core goals).

These steps are not things to I do once and move on, they’re things that I try to integrate into my daily routines, my thought process and my personality.

Final Thoughts

I’ve written this in the first person because this is just my personal anecdote (albeit with links to some more objective reference material).

I know that people’s experiences vary and while some things are fairly universal, other things come down to personal preference, personality and biology (for example, #9 is difficult if you have clinical anxiety or depression).

From my perspective, I’m aware of how limited my life is and I want to use it well. My goal is to get the most personal fulfilment and while doing as much as I can to help others. Objectively I am certainly going to fail at this goal, but I want to have at least given it a red hot go.

I hope someone finds this useful… especially if they’ve read the whole way through!

[Photo Credit: Samantha Macabulos]

What’s news

What’s news

Wow! It’s been a month since my last post!

So then I am dearly owing this blog a little bit of snooz!

Okay, Uni is going great! Lots of work with my thesis, already nine thousand words of interview transcripts! I’m hoping to have my first draft of my first chapter done next week.

I’m doing a work-study with W2, creating the business plan for their Cafe. W2 is a creative arts and media incubator social enterprise in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) of Vancouver.

James and I are doing a marathon, so training for that is coming along well.

Oh yeah, and I pretty much have the best significant other in the world! Things with Joni are going great, certainly coming along well. I’m getting beter at being a little less OCD, which helps 🙂



Last night I managed to recover all my old blog posts from 2004 onwards!!

They’re all imported into this blog now (without comments)

[Update: They’re all private now – no one needs their 15 year old self on the internet forever]

You grew up in Australia in the 90s if…

You grew up in Australia in the 90s if…

  1. You watched the ABC more than any other station. Those days are long gone.
  2. You made worms by squeezing your Vegemite or peanut butter crackers together.
  3. The best parties always had fairy bread.
  4. The Waugh twins. Go! Aussie! Go!
  5. Super League almost ruining rugby league in Australia.
  6. Getting the Easter Show guide from the paper and circling all the show bags you wanted.
  7. You thought everyone in America carried a gun and you never wanted to go there because you were were scared you’d get shot.
  8. Blinky Bill, Mr Squiggle and Gumby.
  9. You always used to see that dried out, white dog poo on the footpath. You never see that anymore.
  10. SuperTed, Widget The World Watcher and Samurai Pizza Cats.
  11. Going to the Easter Show with a big group of friends from school once you were old enough to go without Mum and Dad
  12. Doing research for school projects by going to the library or looking up an encyclopaedia rather than using the internet.
  13. Brian Henderson and Richard Morecroft reading the news.
  14. Paul Keating was some guy that ran the country and John Howard became the only PM you really ever knew because you were too young to care before that.
  15. Banana Man, Bangers and Mash and The Raggy Dolls.
  16. Game Boy.
  17. Waking up early everyday to watch Agro’s Cartoon Connection or Cheez TV.
  18. Hey Hey It’s Saturday.
  19. Everyone got the Coke bag at the Easter Show and it was only $10.
  20. Buying those 6 packs of Coco Pops, Fruit Loops, Frosties, Rice Bubbles, Nutri-Grain and Corn Flakes so you could have a different one each day and then opening the packets really carefully and removing the cereal so you’d have a mini wardrobe afterwards. You also most probably just let your parents eat the Corn Flakes.
  21. Trying to make the Rainbow Road shortcut on Mario Kart 64.
  22. Postman Pat, Fireman Sam and Lift Off (that show with the dirty, eye-less doll named EC).
  23. Playing GoldenEye on the Nintendo 64 and arguing over whether Oddjob was allowed to be used in multiplayer.
  24. The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
  25. Super International Cricket on the SNES.
  26. Arguing over which was better – Nintendo 64 or PlayStation.
  27. Don’t push me, push a push pop!
  28. Nobody made “not” jokes… NOT!!
  29. Bathurst stopped being Holden vs. Ford and all those European cars came in until they came to their senses.
  30. Who shot Mr Burns?
  31. Watching Captain Planet and then driving your parents mad by always singing the song.
  32. That’s so funny, I forgot to laugh.
  33. WWE was WWF and they actually had cool wrestlers like The Rock, Mankind and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
  34. Playing Gran Turismo and MGS on PlayStation.
  35. Roller coasters at Wonderland, Sydney.
  36. You decorated your room with glow-in-the-dark stickers.
  37. SBS didn’t have any ads. Not that you ever watched it anyway, except maybe for softcore porn.
  38. You played marbles and could name all the different types like blue moon, oily, candy, red wine, galaxy and red devil. You never played anyone for your god marble.
  39. Feeling sad when your Tamagotchi died.
  40. Singing “a ram sam sam, a ram sam sam, guli guli guli guli guli, ram sam sam, a rafi, a rafi, guli guli guli guli guli ram sam sam”.
  41. Seeing a small rack of DVDs in the video store and wondering if anyone ever rented them.
  42. Dolly the sheep.
  43. Getting up early to watch the Rage Top 50.
  44. Friends when they were all actually just friends. Why didn’t Phoebe and Joey get together?
  45. Sonic the Hedgehog.
  46. Watching The Simpsons back when it was funny, every night on Channel 10.
  47. Power Rangers becoming cooler than the Ninja Turtles, even though the Turtles will always be cooler.
  48. Watching South Park for the first time and being really excited by all the swearing.
  49. Watching Hercules and then being disappointed when Xena Warrior Princess replaced it. Nobody was cooler than Herc.
  50. Blowing on the Nintendo cartridge before putting it in the console to make sure it worked properly.
  51. Smell the cheese.
  52. Vulcan, Tower, Flame… Australian Gladiators.
  53. Playing Mortal Kombat and trying to do a fatality but just ending up punching accidentally.
  54. Pokemon! Gotta catch ‘em all!
  55. Watching Hey Dad! and then seeing little Arthur McArthur go on to star in that famous Sorbent ad.
  56. Full Frontal, not Comedy Inc.
  57. Wolfenstein, Doom and Duke Nukem.
  58. Downloading music from Napster.
  59. Chatting with your buddies on ICQ.
  60. Going to see Titanic.
  61. The winner is…Sydney.
  62. Mighty Max and Polly Pocket. Max and Polly always got lost because they were so bloody small.
  63. Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.
  64. Waiting for Tony “Plugger” Lockett to break that record.
  65. Australia didn’t always win the cricket.
  66. The Socceroos couldn’t qualify for the World Cup.
  67. John Eales captained the Wallabies and we won the World Cup.
  68. Ray Martin hosted A Current Affair.
  69. Zoopa Doopa ice blocks were only 20c and if you couldn’t afford it, you asked the canteen lady to cut it in half so you could split it with a friend.
  70. Listening to boy bands like Human Nature and girl bands like Girlfriend.
  71. Barbie, not Bratz.
  72. The Spice Girls.
  73. Happy Meals were only $2.95 and the toys were simple but actually good.
  74. Person 1: Who farted!? – Person 2: Whoever smelt it, dealt it! – Person 1: Whoever made the rhyme, commited the crime!
  75. Brad Fittler was the best in the world.
  76. Thorpe won lots of gold medals and wasn’t so gay.
  77. Opposite day.
  78. We all loved Pat Rafter and almost cried when he lost to Goran Ivanisevic because our Pat deserved that title more than anyone. Definitely more than Hewitt ever did.
  79. Playing tackle Bull Rush at lunchtime and having tackling banned. You had to resort to grab 1-2-3 or tip. Same goes for footy.
  80. Giving a friend a backage in the canteen line. If it was your best friend, you gave them a frontage.
  81. Pogs and Looney Tunes Tazos.
  82. Nobody won Wimbledon unless their name was Pete Sampras.
  83. You laughed at the fat kid on the Cottees cordial ad and changed the song to “My Dad picks his nose…”
  84. You ate Smarties instead of M&M’s.
  85. You tried Dr. Pepper and hated it.
  86. Service stations didn’t need space for 4 digits on their petrol prices signs.
  87. Girl germs! Boy germs!
  88. Goosebumps.
  89. You had to actually call your friends rather than send them an SMS.
  90. Wearing a Chicago Bulls T-shirt or cap. Wearing the cap backwards.
  91. Arguing over who got to be Warnie in backyard cricket. Six and out!
  92. Paul Jennings’Gizmo books.
  93. Matchbox cars.
  94. The feeling of wonder you got, the first time you were able to see the image in one of those Magic Eye 3D pictures.
  95. The Secret World of Alex Mack.
  96. Talk to the hand!
  97. Johnson and Friends, Noddy and Humphrey B. Bear.
  98. You wished you had enough Lego to build those amazing cities they displayed in the brochures.
  99. Collecting Yowie toys. Aussie wildlife was way cooler than any stupid Kinder Surprise toy.
  100. Playing truth or dare with your secret crush.
  101. Mark Taylor equalling Don Bradman’s record.
  102. Slap bracelets.
  103. Jurassic Park and those toy dinosaurs where you could pull a piece of the skin out to see its insides.
  104. Roger Ramjet, he’s our man, hero of our nation.
  105. We had paper money.
  106. Telling those Dobbers where to stick it by singing, “Dibba dobba dibba dobba number nine, wearing nappies all the time” and, “Dibba dobba Cindy went to kindy, stepped on a bindy wa wa wa.”
  107. Good on ya Mum! Tip Top’s the one!
  108. You could buy more than enough food from the school cantee
    for only $2.
  109. Begging your parents to go to McDonald’s for dinner.
  110. Rocko’s Modern Life, Rugrats and Hey Arnold!
  111. Noni, Monica and that bald guy named George on Play School.
  112. Going to World 4 Kids to look at all the toys.
  113. Watching The Lion King and feeling Simba’s pain when Mufasa died. Disney just doesn’t make them like that anymore.
  114. Soft serve cones were only 30c and they never tried to up-sell a Flake because they didn’t have it.
  115. Wanting a Brain or Silver Bullet during the yo-yo craze.
  116. Nesquik without the Nes.
  117. Troll Dolls.
  118. The Kids’ Works at Pizza Hut with unlimited drink refills. You made an ice cream mountain covered in choc chips and marshmallows and could never finish it.
  119. Thomas the Tank Engine and TUGS.
  120. Ba-na-na-na-na! Ba-na-na-na-na! Make those bodies sing!
  121. You had to get your photos developed.
  122. Your family didn’t own a 4WD unless it was a real one like a Land Cruiser or Patrol. Range Rovers were tough and nobody thought BMW would make a 4WD, let alone Porsche.
  123. Street Sharks and Biker Mice From Mars
  124. Competing with your friends to see who could eat the most sour Warheads in one go.
  125. The Channel 9 logo had dots next to it and the Channel 7 logo wasn’t a folded piece of paper.
  126. No Hat, no play.
  127. Dr. Dreadful Food Labs. Kids these days wouldn’t be allowed that because its not healthy enough. We didn’t give a shit about our health in the 90’s.
  128. High five! Up high, down low, too slow!
  129. Watching Round the Twist and getting pissed off that the actors kept on changing. You still loved it though.
  130. Cheating in Heads Down, Thumbs Up.
  131. Watching that game show called Vidiot. Game shows didn’t have to be educational back then, like That’s Academic… that show sucks.
  132. Collecting basketball cards, whether you followed basketball or not.
  133. You always wished your parents had bought you a bigger Super Soaker for Christmas. Christmas is hot in Australia… the more water, the better.
  134. Collecting hundreds of tickets from Timezone just so you could trade them for some crappy prize that you could have bought from Woolies for ten bucks.
  135. Healthy Harold day was the best because you got to miss class to sit in a tiny caravan and listen to a talking giraffe.
  136. Playing handball with Ace, King, Queen and Dunce and making up stupid rules as you went along.
  137. Skipping ropes and Jump Rope for Heart Day.
  138. Chewing the crappy gum in Bubble-O-Bill’s nose and wishing they could just use Hubba Bubba instead.
  139. A*mazing.
  140. The Ferals. Rattus, Modigliana, Derryn and Mixy were cool until they started that five minute piece of crap, Feral TV.
  141. Hypercolour T-shirts.
  142. Who Dares! Who Dares! Who Dares Wins!
  143. Having your very own Dollarmites account and getting really excited when you earned a tiny bit of interest.
  144. Growing up in Australia in the 90’s was rad.

Via: Facebook

Digital Cinema Evaluated – Essay

Digital Cinema Evaluated – Essay

I’ve been doing an essay on Digital Cinema, there is some pretty interesting stuff out there and how it is probably going to affect us… I would really love to see cinemas start to screen more alternative content (e.g. live concerts and independent films!!!) and I look forward to the idea that small independent cinemas might pop up with interesting content (Mac Uni already screens stuff in one of their lecture halls).

Its a long read and not quite an interesting journaistic style, but I’ll leave it here for future reference.

The rise of digital independence

The introduction of digital technology arguably represents the most exhaustive technical and social changes in the history of cinema, greater than both sound and colour (Ford 2005). In analysing who benefits from the proliferation of digital cinema, it is helpful to review it in the context of the traditional film making process and then to define digital cinema in regard to this. Developments in digital media are having a significant impact on the spectrum of cinema production (filming, editing and effects) and distribution (printing, shipping and screening). This results in both positive and negative ramifications that can be addressed in relation to a number of recent Australian films with digital processes.

The world of cinema began to change with the advent of films like the original “Star Wars“ (Associated Press 2005) which pioneered and developed digital editing and rendering techniques. This explosion has led not only to digital film industry but also the proliferation of technologies as video games, DVDs and video podcasts (Manovich 2007). Digital technology has also allowed the possibility of interactivity (e.g. alternate endings on DVDs), however this essay will instead focus on the feature/short film productions which are designed to be projected in a theatre.

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