What is lifestyle design?
Updated: Sep 27
I care about efficiency and productivity so I can MAKE more time.
But once we make more time, what do we do with it?
The extra space we earn from efficiency is referred to in The 4-Hour Work Week as, "The Void".
You can obviously choose to do more of the same to fill the void. We do it all the time. Making that money felt good. I’m gonna do more of it. Watching that show felt good. Press play!! Skip the intro. There's no right or wrong. The other route is, “Hold on a second. What do I really want to be doing? And how do I spent more time doing that thing?”
This is a major part of lifestyle design. It's about creating more freedom for more fulfillment.
Imagine a day where you wake up, you feel like yourself in the morning.
Then the day begins with the chaos that it normally does. But you’re ready. You’re not bothered by it. Not because you don’t have to present in that meeting, pick up your kids, stop to get gas, or defrost the chicken.
It’s because you’ve set up the mental infrastructure to navigate the day.
Get in the driver's seat
One of my mentors said something to me that she wished she knew early on in her career: “I‘m a writer because I’ve set my life up to be a writer.”
That's the hardest part of all. Everyone wants the allure of X. But where people fail is the restructuring of their life to support X.
She shifted the way I thought about my own craft. In my case, it was being a comic. I've set up my entire life to create funny and interesting things.
It feels weird talking about it. Because it's something I strive to just show instead of tell.
But that sentence is my mantra.
"I'm a comic because I've set my life up to be a comic."
If I get offered a deal or opportunity, and it’s gonna take too much time or mental energy away from comedy…I won’t do it.
Because I can't do my life!!
This commitment to myself has taught me how to use my most fulfilling skill sets in a way that helps me fund my life and career.
There’s always gonna be work that is gonna feel like work. That’s not the feeling we’re trying to eliminate. It’s being able to do more meaningful work over time.
Lean into your "zone of genius"
Your "zone of genius" is the cluster of skills that come somewhat effortlessly to you.
You can do mental math like you had a 4.0 in elementary school? News flash: not everyone can do that.
The hard part is even being aware of what this is for you. It's deeper than, "Man you are a really great bank teller."
WHAT makes you a great bank teller? Those microskills you've developed can be used in other more enjoyable ways if you play your cards right.
For example, my strength is connecting with people through the spoken word. This can take a bunch of different shapes. Podcasting, stand up, consulting, etc. Even this post right here, is a way for me to express this skill I cared about developing.
Now the younger me would want to make sure to highlight this...just because I am saying no to opportunities now doesn’t mean that I would be doing it the same way at the start of my career.
10 years ago, I was a “Yes” man in the fitness industry. I opened up the gym at 6am every Saturday and Sunday happily.
It served a specific purpose at that time to build sweat equity. But I would never ever take on that type of responsibility now. You couldn’t pay me $100,000 to do that again. Because it doesn't fit into my life. And it would conflict with the types of things I'm focused on doing.
If I said yes to the $100k to open up a gym at 6am…my health would deteriorate. I'm usually out doing standup 4-6 nights a week into the wee hours of the night. Taking on an opportunity like this would give me less longevity in my craft.
It would also mean less time spent with my significant other. These tradeoffs aren’t worth it to me. Lifestyle design can help you find creative solutions to use your artistic skill sets for business purposes.
Use unstructured freedom to immediately upgrade your life
As much as I post about productivity, you might be surprised: my day isn’t mapped out perfectly for every minute of the day.
I learned all the efficiency stuff so I didn’t have to do that.
I’m in tune with how I work, create, and connect. I’ll wake up in the morning and no text message can throw me off.
The first 3-4 hours of my day are sacred. It's tough to logistically pull this off. But part of your design might be finding ways to create a version of this. Give yourself at least an hour.
I meditate for 23min. Go get my coffee from Dunkin Donuts. Put on my headphones and get to writing.
This is a non-negotiable. Are there times where I may have to address something….sure. Do I then get cranky? You have no idea.
But it's a firm boundary I keep for myself most of the time.
The other thing I make sure to create time for every day is unstructured freedom.
This space is sometimes a few hours. Sometimes a 30min. The effort is to protect this time as much as I do the creation part of my day.
It is time reserved for just doing or being whatever. Having the choice. That’s the important thing. You make a choice and there's no judgment for it. You’re not supposed to be doing anything else right now.
If you recall back to your younger days, this was called playtime.
Play is extremely vital to the brain for creativity and overall health/longevity. Inject this into your day somehow. I understand that people have kids and lives to juggle with this. Figure out how to make it for yourself long term.
If you scale these two things for yourself, you’ll probably notice an immediate sense of satisfaction.
You’ll know it works because you feel good. You feel relaxed. You’re not fighting to be in two places at once.
So as you can see, lifestyle design is a top down approach. And it is wildly flexible because there is no right or wrong. Just trade-offs.