Category: Blog

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]

Back in Syd with new contact info and looking for work!

Back in Syd with new contact info and looking for work!

Greetings one and all!

I am now living back in Sydney, looking for work and possibly doing graduate studies.

At the moment I am living with my folks in Narrabeen for a couple of weeks before moving into an apartment in Alexandria.

As you may know, I’ve recently finished my Bachelor of Media at Macquarie (Sydney) and spent time in Vancouver completing my Communication Honours at Simon Fraser University.

Our apartment is close to downtown Sydney (very close to the Redfern train station, one stop from Central) – a short work from the University of Sydney. If you’re ever in Sydney or Australia, we are maybe a 10 minute drive from the airport, so don’t hesitate to get in touch! Consider yourself as having a standing invitation to come visit any time–neither Joni nor I will be back in Canada for a while, so it’d be great to see some familiar faces.

As far as keeping track of me, please add me on facebook (, follow me on twitter ( or read my blog (

I am also looking for work so please, please, PLEASE let me know if you hear of any work going either in my field (communicaiton/marketing/PR) or just in general (from admin to hospitality). Joni will also be looking for work when she arrives here on October 13th.

My resume is available at

I am also back on the road with web designing – anything from simple “pamphlet/brochure” websites to dynamic, database driven, eCommerce solutions with content management & customer relationship management facilities. I work using: PHP, (X)HTML, XML, RSS, CSS, C++, JavaScript, MySQL, Automator and Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Premiere, Flash).

So, I think that is it!

Look forward to hearing from and/or seeing you all!

Updated: Thanks to @ andrewfergusson for reminding me to websafe it! Contact me if you want my address / phone etc…

Picture 12

Publishing and the recession

Publishing and the recession

In recent times I’m sure you’ve noticed far more red discount stickers posted out around bookstores. Maybe you’ve seen the number of publishing jobs being advertised have drop off significantly (not to mention the wages). Perhaps your own workplace has laid of employees to reduce costs.

There’s been an adage in the industry that publishing is recession proof. Then why are there telltale signs that the industry, with an exception of on-demand, is suffering?

This question needs careful consideration before jumping to conclusions… and now may be just be the opportune time to brush up on your publishing skills, take some time to do some writing or explore some innovation within the publishing industry.

For years, publishers have argued that “because books are inexpensive, provide lasting pleasure and are sought by a relatively affluent clientele, their appeal persists even in hard times.” Yet anecdotal evidence can be scary.

However, an article by points out that there are specific areas falling in sales that are largely the cause of the overall publishing dip. These are largely tabloid-style celebrity books or ‘trade non-fiction,’ about food and drink, health, mind, body and spirit issues et cetera. Furthermore, they show that GPS systems have been the cause of a blow to maps and atlases and computer books are becoming obsolete as most people are opting to do a quick search online.

A lot of this is just showing a temporary shift and a natural progression. As journalist Helen Brown states “most publishers agree we’re likely to turn away from the grimmer stuff. Misery memoirs will take a nosedive, as will “suicidally bleak” literary fiction.”

Furthermore, Jamie Byng of Canongate, feels that the financial restrictions mean that there will be “fewer but better books: publishers will sharpen their focus.”

What does this mean?

Be innovative. Be creative. Refine your skills. Make good use of your time.

According to many critiques of the recession: it hits less-educated workers much harder.

Adam Hale, chairman of the technology leadership group at the Prince’s Trust, says job-seekers must be distinctive and proactive and must communicate well. “Having done things that are a little bit different, having made maximum use of your time are all important – do lots of things that make you distinctive,” he says.

Author Jim C. Hines wrote on his blog: “In the face of all this, here’s what I intend to do: (1) Keep writing. (2) Keep submitting. Because everything else is out of my hands…I didn’t start writing fiction in order to gain a stable, secure income stream. Don’t get me wrong, I love the income, but that wasn’t the purpose. I started because I love it, and I’m not about to stop writing because we’ve hit a rough patch.”

As Rick Haglund of the Detroit Bureau wonderfully puts it: “Recessions end. I’ve lived through five of them in my career.”

Now is a great time to move around, explore, retrain and spread your wings.

If you’ve got the drive, you’ll succeed. Just be patient and innovative.

Simply have a look at the booming online and on-demand industry: Number of On-demand Titles Topped Traditional Books in 2008.

Or maybe, just maybe, you could use this time to write your memoirs?

Entering the workforce

If you are of Generation Y (born 80s-early 90s) and just entering the workforce, this is actually a great time. Over the next 5-10 years most of the Baby Boomers will be retiring and there will be more jobs than people to fill them. I cannot stress enough how being qualified can slingshot you to the front of the crowd in the post-recession frenzy!

by Luke Freeman

Lessons from Sci-Fi

Lessons from Sci-Fi

So, I went to see the new Star Trek movie recently on it’s opening day. My girlfriend, Joni, is a former-semi-closet-now-unashamed Star Trek fan and I had hardly seen much Star Trek before (not a single episode until the Christmas just gone by).

The movie was great, as I’m sure you have heard (or know from experience), but it got me onto watching a bunch of old Star Trek and it’s reminding me of a lot of the Sci-Fi that I’ve watched over the years. They all have some interesting stuff in common and, in my opinion, you can learn more from Sci-Fi than from any other genre.

On this premise, I’m kicking off a series of posts “Lessons from Sci-Fi.”

The topics will include things like the science, political, social and religious commentary, technology, artificial intelligence, environment, living on other planets, war, peace, occupation/colonisation/insurgence, patience (hehe), storytelling, dreaming, hero complex, not taking yourself too seriously…and much more!

Comments encouraged!

To come: new job, BC-STV missing out, adjusting to life, future plans and my new place…

Are British Columbians mathematically challenged?

Are British Columbians mathematically challenged?

I awoke this morning to read yet another article about the perceived complexity of the BC-STV. In Terry O’Neill’s article in The Tri-City News he stated that he “can’t fathom the complicated vote-counting mechanism it employs.”

Throughout the campaign we’ve heard political pundits and former politicians like Bill Tieleman and David Schreck state outright that they were not capable of understanding it.

I’m a born and bred Aussie and most people in BC that I know are pretty smart. Why do so many people fear something my brother could explain to someone his age when he was 12? He’s a smart kid, but certainly no genius.

Back home, our elementary schools often use STV for their student council elections. The ballots are cast and counted by kids younger than 12. Is the NO-STV campaign insulting the intelligence of British Columbians?

Furthermore, why is something that is complex bad? Say the BC-STV was not complex and it used the old Irish system of randomly selecting the surplus ballots to transfer the value, would it not be accused of leaving things up to chance?

In not one single place where STV is used has it been retracted due to people not understanding it.

People around the world are looking to BC to see if they can do what no one else has done: institute an electoral system chosen and designed by ordinary people. I would rather something that is intricately designed to be fair than something that is made simple and unfair. Wouldn’t you?

Remember, the BC-STV needs 60% of the provincial vote to pass. This supermajority requirement can only be linked to the direct intention of failure on behalf of the legislature.

Change is difficult for politicians. Change comes from those on ground.

For more information, read my thesis – Closing the Gap in Deliberative Democracy:? The Importance of Communication in the?Post-Deliberative Process

Set up to fail? Democracy or plutocracy?

Set up to fail? Democracy or plutocracy?

Recent anomalies in British Columbian and Canadian election results have re-ignited electoral reform as a prominent topic of debate. The British Columbian Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform in 2004 was the first successful implementation of deliberative democracy with directly legislated decision-making powers.

The assembly’s recommended voting system, the British Columbian Single-Transferable-Vote (or BC-STV), was supported by 95% of its members. However, the final recommendation was subject to a provincial referendum which only garnered 57.7% of support province-wide, falling 2.3% short of the 60% supermajority required to pass – demonstrating a vast disparity compared to its support within the Citizens’ Assembly.

Recently, I have been flooded with articles and opinions saying that BC rejected STV in the last referendum. However, I cannot possibly fathom how this argument can be legitimately made. It looks to me that BC accepted STV with a landslide in political terms. Just four years earlier, in 2001, the liberals had a “landslide victory” with 77 out of 79 seats from 57.6% of the popular vote – less than STV had when it “failed” to gain acceptance.

People from the NO-STV campaign have been kicking and screaming about the possibility of a minority getting input in making decisions. Do they not realise that they were the minority in 2005 that stopped the majority (57.7%) getting the change that they voted for?

The assembly process was designed by Hon. Gordon Gibson, a former politician and recipient of the Order of British Columbia. Following Gibson’s recommendations, the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia (with 77 of the 79 seats held by BC Liberals) had the final say on enacting it. The legislature included additional rules such as a 60% supermajority of the popular vote through a referendum process. The only public communication planned for the final design was a leaflet that was mailed to every house in the province five-months before the referendum.

Leading up to the 2005 referendum there was almost no campaign whatsoever and there was a strong anti-STV sentiment within the media pundits. Considering the inherent restraints and direct opposition, the Citizens’ Assembly and the electorate of British Columbia can be applauded for the success of 57.7% provincial support.

So I have a few questions.

What does the discrepancy between the Citizens’ Assembly support compared to that of the public referendum support say about the process? The assembly members were chosen from the general public. Why did the recommendation not ultimately pass at voting time? Were these eleven months and 5.5 million dollars of taxpayers’ money well spent? Was this a very expensive stunt or will it finally lead to much needed change in BC?

It’s now come to crunch time and the citizens’ of BC can either be lead into fear by those who’s interests are protected by the current FPTP system, or they can take steps of faith and lead the way for the world in adopting a system that was designed for the people, by the people, with the support of the people.

For more information read my thesis – Closing the Gap in Deliberative Democracy:? The Importance of Communication in the?Post-Deliberative Process

Re: Control Freak

Re: Control Freak

In response to my last post: the things I like to control are not sinister, in fact the one that most often runs me up the wrong way is that I like do whatever I can to make life easier for other people – the factor I can’t control is whether they will appreciate it or if it will actually help.

Secondly, the expectations that throw me off when they are not met are very small and very reasonable. I set the bar really low and seem to be astonished when it’s not low enough. I have a very high ratio of my effort to someone else’s effort/benefit.

Just clearing up that I’m not a crazy, unreasonable person. I just have to learn to accept things and not be thrown by things that seem very unreasonable to me – not to be thrown because I can’t ensure a positive outcome with all my efforts.

© 2024 Luke K. Freeman

I've pledged to donate at least 10 percent of my income to effective charities