Part 2: Basic Needs

My least favorite part of "startup culture" is that ignoring your basic needs makes you look more motivated. Everywhere I've worked, people are chronically sleep-deprived, eat garbage office snacks, don't exercise, and regularly drink to excess. I'm over it. A candle burnt from both ends is brighter, but not as bright as someone who decides to stop lighting themselves on fire and use a high-power flashlight instead.

My basic needs are:

If these aren't met, good fucking luck doing anything else. I used to be caught in a vicious cycle of not getting my needs met:

  1. I would feel low-willpower about making hard decisions.
  2. Feeling low willpower would lead to being inconsistent about what I did each day, so whatever was "most-immediate" got my attention.
  3. I would find myself awake at 12:30 AM and realizing I got nothing done or didn't exercise.
  4. I would then decide to sacrifice sleep to do whatever I needed to do, usually doing a worse job.
  5. I would be sleep-deprived and low-willpower the next day, repeating the cycle.

I needed to break this cycle, but it was hard. However, I noticed that willpower was only required when I had to make decisions; there was no room to fail if there was no decision. So I decided to focus on making as few decisions as possible and trying to habituate one thing at a time. Habituation makes consistency easy.


To break this cycle, I first and foremost committed to getting enough sleep every night, at the same time. No more sleep deprivation. When bedtime rolls around, everything stops, and I am in bed. Not showering. Not checking my phone. Not "in 10 minutes". Now. I focused on getting this and only this right before anything else.

Now, getting my 8 hours of sleep every night at the same time takes precedent over all other priorities. I will not compromise on this for any reason.


Once I was well-rested, exercising became easier. I couldn't put it off until the last minute because it would be too late when bedtime came around. To make exercising regularly even more accessible, I:

I do martial arts for fitness. It's "fun," which reduces the willpower it takes to do it regularly. It also gives purpose to other related exercises (running, calisthenics, and weight lifting), making them less willpower intensive.

Exercising at the same time every day with a personal trainer avoids willpower issues in having to decide when to exercise, what to do, or for how long. My trainer helped me develop my morning workout (some time of cardio, usually running, plus calisthenics or bag drills), which I do without him. I make it a goal to be sweating profusely by the end of exercise (so I don't trick myself into doing some less strenuous activity and saying, "that's enough for today.")

I exercise Monday through Friday in the morning and in the afternoon, and never on the weekends.


Exercising a lot forces me to have a healthier diet. I had to stop drinking La Croix and eat high-sodium food because I'd feel like garbage while working out the next day. Knowing that I have always struggled with binge eating, I structured my diet to require minimal prep time and no decisions. Freshly and Mealsquares made this super easy.

My daily food/liquid intake is 12oz of Athletic Greens and 2 Freshly meals after my AM workout, 2 Freshly meals after my PM workout, and a Mealsquare at some point in the afternoon. I drink roughly 8 liters of Hibiscus-Licorice iced tea throughout the day. On Saturday, I allow myself to eat sushi and fresh, unprocessed produce as a kind of "break," but I go back to following my diet on Sunday. I don't count calories.


In 2020, I decided I didn't want to live with anxiety anymore and saw a psychiatrist, who started me on Lexapro. This is one of the best decisions I've ever made. He and I also worked Adderall XR into my routine. Adderall can be tricky to get right, but I've found that it works best if I take it every day after morning exercise and take one day off per week.

My daily regimen includes these, plus caffeine, melatonin, and some vitamins. I take exactly the same amount of caffeine every day (in pill form) and do not consume it from other sources, including coffee (because I like it too much). I gave up alcohol in October 2016, cannabis in January 2017, and refined sugar in December 2019. I have never used nicotine regularly.

Social needs

I tend to be relatively introverted and don't need much social stimulation. Thankfully, my girlfriend has been very supportive of my approach to structuring my time. She is wonderful. I see her at the same time every week. Otherwise, COVID-19 keeps me from regularly interacting with other people.

Final result - a working schedule

To make sure all of the above fell into place, I created a schedule. This didn't work until I already had my sleep and exercise habituated into place; before that, it was just another thing requiring willpower. Once I had some things that were going to happen inflexibly at a specific time, scheduling around them became more comfortable. Making myself do something at a particular time requires a lot of willpower, so I'm only vigilant about exact timing on big things and not smaller stuff; I must exercise and sleep on time, but everything else is "as soon as possible."

In addition to my schedule, I also have some other strategies for minimizing decision-making and increasing consistency:

<- Part 1: Digital Minimalism

Part 3: Motivation ->

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