Hacking Yourself

If you know me at all, you’ll know I’m a man of fads. Example: once upon a time, I decided it would appear intellectual to read The Times, and for a period of a few weeks, I carried a copy of The Times with me wherever I went. I then decided to go one step further, and carried both The Times and The Guardian with me, wherever I went. There was the time I’d only drink Costa coffee. The time I’d only buy clothes from certain stores. The time I’d wear suits to college.

Or there was the time when I got into fitness training. Every morning I would do skipping and running, and bought all the equipment I needed including a stop watch. Suffice to say, that all now lives in a sports bag in the closet!

What I have come to know about myself is that I’m obsessive. When I get into something, I immerse myself in it and become as close to an expert as I can over a very short period of time. The trouble is I often do this to the neglecting of other priorities in my life, and it is because of this that my wife Faye is so wonderful because she completes me and brings balance to my obsessions. The benefit, however, is I have acquired a spectrum of in-depth knowledge in random things, which is really useful when I meet new people because I have a wealth of experience in different things to connect to them with.

It was at the beginning of 2009, when Faye and I needed to get our finances in check, that I had the revelation that I can control this obsession to my advantage. In other words, I hacked myself. I put immense focus for a month into budgeting and being very strict – but the result now is that we are beating our budget – something we’ve rarely done before.

I’ve written about how GTD saved my future. The way I did this was to obsess about getting things done, sticking to a system, and forcing everyone to email tasks to me, rather than text or by voice. I hacked what has been a weakness, and made it a strength.

How do I control my obsession? Firstly it is through my obsession, that I obsess about controlling my obsession – if that makes sense! Secondly I have multiple obsessions at once – that way I don’t over balance on one over the other. For areas in my life, like work or running a particular project over a long period of time, I inject new obsessions into it in order to stimulate my creativity and motivation. I also have time everyday where I disconnect and just relax.

I am an obsessive person, so my question is, how can other people hack themselves who aren’t like me? What traits, personalities, feelings, obsessions can you manipulate in order to gain results where you previously had failure?

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