How to transform your life in 12 weeks (7 Habits)


According to writer Chris Bailey, productivity advice generally falls into one or more of three categories: time, energy and attention management.

What to do

Transform your life in 12 weeks by adopting 7 habits that optimize your time, energy, and attention.

Why it works

After graduating from University, Bailey (pictured above) went on a year-long mission to explore how to become as productive as possible. He spent the following 12 months conducting countless productivity experiments on himself, interviewing some of the world’s most productive people, and reading a ton of books and academic literature on the topic.

On his blog “A Year of Productivity”, he would also write each day about the lessons he learned. At the end of that year, Bailey realized that every article he wrote could be classified into one (or more) of three categories: how to better manage your time, how to better manage your energy, and how to better manage your attention. 

If you want to thrive on a daily basis, Bailey writes in an article on the lessons he learned during that year, all three categories are essential: if you’re not good at time management, you won’t work on the right things; if you’re not good at energy management, you will drag your feed; and if you’re not good at attention management, you’ll constantly be distracted and procrastinating. Against this background, here are 7 of the best habits I know for optimizing your time, energy and attention.

How to do it

  1. Create your 3-3-3 plan for the day. Productivity isn’t about squeezing in more things, but doing the right things. A great way to win your day is Oliver Burkeman’s 3-3-3 Method: spend 3 hours a day on your most important thing; timebox 3 shorter tasks (e.g. email); and plan 3 maintenance activities (e.g. health-related). Learn more about how exactly to pull this off here.
  2. Do Intermittent Digital Fasting. Practice Intermittent Digital Fasting (IDF) to cut your screen time in half (or more). Put your phone into its own bedroom (not yours!) 1 hour before bed; let it “sleep in” for at least 1 hour after you wake up. You’ll win back 14 hours a week – and dramatically improve your sleep. If you want to delve deeper into IDF, check out my recent how-to article.
  3. Get light right (10-10-10 rule). This is vital for optimizing your cortisol and melatonin levels. You’ll have more energy during the day and fall deeply asleep easier at night. To do so, use our 10-10-10 rule: Get 10 minutes of sunlight into your eyes before 10 am and avoid bright, blue light after 10 pm. Learn more about how this works here.
  4. Put in 90 minutes of deep work. That amount a day doubles your overall productivity, McKinsey found. Follow our 30-3-11 Rule and pick one of three times to focus deeply: ~30 minutes after waking, ~3 hours after waking, or ~11 hours after waking. These times are when you’re best able to focus (due to your “circadian rhythm”). Learn more about optimizing for deep focus here.
  5. Use the physiological sigh. It’s the quickest and most effective way to turn off stress in real-time. Here’s how: inhale deeply through the nose for 2 seconds; inhale again through the nose for 1 second; then exhale fully through the mouth for 6 seconds. I do this 1-3 times whenever I’m stressed during the day. It works like a charm. Learn more about the technique here.
  6. Drink 2-3 liters of water. Insufficient hydration causes fatigue and even anxiety. Nobody needs that, right? Women should go for 2 liters and men for 3 liters a day, says the Mayo Clinic. For better sleep at night, drink most of your water in the first 10 hours of the day. Learn more about all things hydration here.
  7. Go “Hell Year or No”. Do you often find yourself stretched too thin and over-committed? That makes two of us. Entrepreneur and writer Derek Sivers has a brilliant rule: “Hell Yeah or No”. It’s dead-simple: When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than “Hell Yeah”, say “No”. The rule is a terrific way to determine what (not) to spend your time, energy and attention on. If you want to delve deeper into Sivers’ rule, check out this article.

Following these 7 habits for 12 weeks will transform your life by optimizing your time, energy and attention.