was the most transformative and productive year I've ever had. I finally started taking action on what I've been dreaming about for a long time.
A year ago I learned about goals systems and discovered Notion, software that I can use to build such a system. It was my turning point. Since then I've developed a life operating system that made my life organized, meaningful, and productive. It helped me to figure out what I really want to achieve with my life, grow as a person and stay consistent even when I stumble.
In this article, I'll share the insights from my journey, explain each part of the system and share techniques and tips that helped me to break from procrastination hell.
## Life OS template
It is my desire to share my knowledge, insights, and experience for free. You can recreate the system following this and other blog posts I've written during the last year.
Each section has a link to a blog post where I explain the topic in greater detail.
If you want to **save time and support my work**, you can purchase [the full life operating system template](https://maray.gumroad.com/l/life-operating-system) and start right away. I've spent hundreds of hours making it a holistic tool that addresses many problems you and I face on the way to a productive and goal-oriented life.
If it doesn't work for you for some reason, you can always reach out so that we can figure out the obstacle together.
Enjoy the reading!
## What you'll learn
- What is a life os and what are the benefits
- How to design a lifestyle based on the identity
- How to stay consistently productive
- How to manage personal knowledge
- How to track progress
- How to use a life os on a daily basis
## What is a life operating system and why use it
A system is a set of principles and rules that guide certain elements to work together as a whole. A life operating system is a holistic approach to organizing, growing, and tracking life-related elements.
A life os would be beneficial if you want to:
- Structure your life in a way that makes sense to you
- Grow your identity and align it with your goals
- Set and consistently achieve goals
- Strive for productivity and reduce procrastination
### Benefits of using a life OS
To illustrate why a system is more efficient than just a tool, let's take productivity as an example.
Productivity is one of the biggest elements of my life os. The difference between a productivity element in a system and a separate productivity tool is that the former targets several problems at once, while the latter usually targets only an isolated issue.
Here's a more detailed example. Pomodoro is a technique that helps breaking procrastination and, therefore, increasing productivity. But here is the problem. If you don't find the reason *why* you procrastinate, then this technique will fail you eventually every time. It won't work for you consistently because the underlying problem of procrastination is still there. You take a painkiller instead of dealing with the source of procrastination. Another problem is that one usually starts using productivity tools when they feel inspired or motivated. Once that feeling wears off, the productivity techniques stop working. It makes a small difference for a short period of time but takes you back eventually.
The same technique in a productivity system works better because you'd not only work on the symptom, but also on the root problem. A root problem can be related to your identity, health, goals and/or habits. Once you figure out the fundamental issues, you then might not even need a technique. Even if you do need it, it’ll simply work better.
So how does a system address many things holistically? Every element in it solves a problem and is connected with the next element. All elements together create a feedback loop. One thing informs the other.
Here are the problems I had that my system helped me to solve.
**First**, the life OS defined a specific structure for my life. I had a starting point.
**Second**, I analyzed what I know about myself and what I don't. I found things about my personality and health that I wasn't aware of.
**Third**, I outlined a lifestyle that is based on my identity. I set specific fundamental goals.
**Fourth**, I built a productivity system to implement my lifestyle ideas and goals. I needed a framework to stay consistent and make progress.
**Finally**, I was able to track my progress. I not only know where I am at but also how fast I move. Progress, no matter fast or slow informs other parts of the system. It creates the loop.
The main goal of my life os is to lead a meaningful and goal-oriented life. It's about building a lifestyle that motivates me and aligns with my identity.
### Elements of the life os
1. Identity, goals and lifestyle.
2. Productivity system that is based on the lifestyle and goals.
3. Second brain to organize knowledge and experience.
4. Progress tracking and reviewing to inform identity, goals, and projects.
### Principles of a life os
We've covered the elements of the system. Now let's see how they work together.
Here are 3 basic principles that make my system run.
- **Principle 1.** Make it simple. I stripped down all the unnecessary components so that it still works as intended and delivers the best outcome possible. It has to be frictionless so that it sticks.
- **Principle 2.** Make it efficient. I want it to make me more productive. I made things like capturing information, reviewing, and creating tasks simple so that I spend my time on what matters the most: taking action. Less planning and more action.
- **Principle 3.** Set a few basic rules. These rules make the system run. You can't break them. Later, I'll explain the rules that I set for myself. They help me to stay on track no matter what. Even when I do procrastinate a little bit.
Implementing a life os is a habit. The simpler it is, the easier you'll build that habit.
## Life goals and how to design your lifestyle
Since I was 14 or even earlier I had a goal of becoming an architect. So I finished an art school, applied to a university at age 17, graduated at 23, worked in China for 4 years, and started to question if it was my goal altogether.
I was happy neither with lifestyle nor the profession. I knew that I had to change certain things in my life but I didn't know where to start. Nobody taught me how to change and discover myself, set the right goals, or stop procrastinating. It took me a couple of more years in hiatus and inertia to finally do something about it.
Then, finally, 3 things happened. I took a 1-year sabbatical, read Atomic Habits, and learned about Notion. In hindsight, without all three things, I would probably not be able to be where I am now. I had free time, the right framework, and a tool to build a system to make me more consistent and productive with my life and goals.
For more than a year I've been using a life operating system to organize my life. I capture goals and ideas, set and track habits, plan and take action. The steps I took helped me to understand myself better and iterate my goals until I found the core things that motivate me the most and make my life more exciting.
The life OS helped me to do that in a few ways. First, shift my identity through consistent action and habit building. Second, stay consistently productive and goal-oriented. Third, review my goals and iterate them once I have more feedback on my life.
**The system creates a feedback loop.** The identity sets your current goals. The goals define habits to be installed. Habits and a productivity system make you productive long-term. That leads your goals closer. The closer you are the better you understand yourself and your goals. Then you review and adjust them and the loop starts again.
Identify → Goals → Habits → Actions → Identity
1. Set or adjust a goal
2. Define habits that you need to achieve that goal
3. Assing a project
4. Divide the path into manageable milestones
5. Assign actions
7. Listen to the feedback
8. Adjust your identity
9. Repeat 1-8
The secret of setting the right goals is to understand yourself better. It took me more than 20 years to realize that. I had goals that were set by society and other people, had beliefs that were misaligned with the goals, and had parts of my identity that I didn't know of.
**The feedback loop reveals the necessary changes** in your identity, goals and life in general. You become aware of things you didn’t know about and it helps to refine or redefine your goals. That, in turn, helps with procrastination and productivity.
In the next chapter, I'll explain how I finally started improving my life through consistent action and how my life operating system helped me do that.
## How to shift identity to align with goals
Taking action is the most productive way to change your identity. My problem was inconsistent action. I used to start a side project and never finish it. I would set ambitious goals while being a person who is not patient and consistent to achieve them. My days, which I think are the ultimate units of productivity, were not on par with my goals. So I had to change my behavior first.
Luckily, I learned how you can build healthy long-term habits with small actions. They became a crucial part of my growth. Instead of setting and conquering unrealistic goals, I tried another approach. I focused on **consistency rather than quality**.
Journaling was the first habit that I set to build after reading Atomic Habits. I defined a template in Notion and had to spend 2-3 minutes a day to create a new entry.
Once the routine was automatic and consistent, I started improving the quality. I added affirmations as part of my morning journaling routine. They helped me to shift the way I think about myself. Instead of saying that I have a bad memory and reinforcing it, I say that every day I easily remember and extract information from my memory. Instead of thinking that I procrastinate, I reinforce that every day I am productive and goal-oriented. It's not a magic pill but I believe it promotes change by brute force. It shifts your thought process.
Next, I added gratitude practice. It helped me to appreciate my efforts and my life in general. I realized how interconnected the brain and body are and how difficult it is to maintain life. I accepted the flaws I had and instead of self-loathing, I started working on my identity. This [episode of the Huberman Lab](https://youtu.be/KVjfFN89qvQ) podcast explains how gratitude practice works from the neuroscience perspective.
After some time I realized that I am not a lost cause. Journaling proved that I can be consistent. I transitioned from "I can't do this" to "If I could do that then I can do this". Once I installed one habit, I started bundling other healthy habits.
Building habits and journaling involves a lot of repetition. Templates eliminate a layer of friction and make the habits easier to perform. Additionally, tracking habits and checking off boxes brings a layer of satisfaction, one of the techniques that James Clear talks about in his book.
My life OS linked habit building with my goals. I knew what kind of habits I need to build to increase the probability of my goals.
Related: [how I built journaling habit as part of my morning routine](https://www.maray.ai/posts/daily-journal-in-notion).
### How goals inform habits
Goals usually require something that you don't have or do to achieve them.
Here's an example. Let's say I have a goal to gain financial freedom. To achieve that, I have to build a product or a project that can generate a monthly income.
Before, when I didn't have that goal, I used to say that I feel tired or find some other excuse to work on my side projects. I had to change that so that I can work on those projects and drive my goal. Otherwise, the same thing would happen. Motivation and hype would wear off and I'd be on the same old track again. To avoid that I changed 2 things in my life with 2 small habits.
I started to go to bed earlier and work for an hour on my side projects. I used to sleep at 12 or 1 AM and wake up in the morning with just enough time to get to work. So instead of watching Netflix or browsing social media, I was in the bed at 10-11 PM. That helped me to wake up at 6-7 AM instead and have an hour of peaceful and productive time for my projects.
For over a year, this small habit helped me to write around 50 blog posts, publish 8 digital products, and earn $3,000 as a side income while having a full-time job. Plus, a few other ongoing projects.
Habits helped me to shift beliefs about myself and align actions with my goals. The life operating system promoted consistent action and made me aware of the problems that I had to solve in order to succeed.
The next problem I had to address was procrastination and project/task management. I needed a system to manage projects, assign tasks and complete them.
Related: [how I set and track habits with a dashboard in Notion](https://www.maray.ai/posts/notion-habit-tracker).
## Productivity system and how to be consistent
I love procrastinating. I've done it my whole life and I do it now when I am tired or don’t feel well. It's okay to procrastinate.
When our basic needs, such as food and shelter are met, there's not so much motivation for long-term goals. Instant gratification and rewards are more valuable from the survival and evolution point of view.
There are many other reasons as well. Health for one. Bad sleep can lead to procrastination. Fatigue can be demotivating. I, for instance, have a very difficult time motivating myself to do something I don't enjoy (hello ADHD). Sleep quality, breathing exercises, and cold showers improved my productivity a lot.
My productivity system addressed the following problems. First, it gives a tangible form for the goals. Second, it makes the goals less overwhelming by dividing them into smaller and manageable parts. Lastly, a task management system that is linked with the other parts of the system promotes consistency.
Here are the three main pieces of my productivity system.
- Milestones | Outcomes
Let’s see how each part of the system increases the chance to achieve the set goal.
Related: [How to Create a Clean Notion Goal Setting & Tracking System in 2021](https://www.maray.ai/posts/goal-system-notion)
Projects are the tangible form of a goal. If the goal is financial freedom, a project can be a digital product or a blog. Instead of the abstract "Gain financial freedom" goal, you have a project to work on.
I like to think of projects as anything that needs a space to structure information and track progress.
Once I complete a project, I use it as a knowledge source in my second brain. Projects are the real drivers of your goals. They, coupled with tasks, are the actions of the system.
I review my projects weekly and monthly. If none of my projects progress then it's a signal that I don't take enough action or have an obstacle.
### Milestones | Outcomes
Milestones and outcomes help to divide goals into smaller outcomes. They make the goal less overwhelming. Milestones are also used to measure progress. And finally, it's proof that your actions are goal-oriented.
My goal to "Build a successful blog" can take years. It's very difficult to stay motivated when the reward is so far in the future. Instead, I have a smaller milestone of "Write 20 blog posts" which I can achieve in 10-15 weeks. Smaller results bring you closer to the bigger goal but also hit you with dopamine. It makes you more motivated to see the intermediate results.
Whenever I create a task, I have to assign a milestone to it. If my tasks don't contribute to the most important outcome, then I know that I spend my time on something irrelevant. For instance, the design of the blog vs. the content. In my case, the content is more important than the design. The content contributes to the final goal more than the design does. Therefore, I am always aware of where do my efforts go. Do they make an impact or do I waste my time?
Finally, milestones are also a good measure of progress. Tracking them tells you how consistent you are and how many actions you have assigned and completed.
My main dashboard is a task management system that utilizes the concept of Getting Things Done (GTD). The concept of the inbox proved to be the most productive for me. The biggest advantage is that every day it shows your unsorted tasks or items.
I usually assign actions to my projects and define a milestone that I want to achieve.
When I assign tasks I try to be specific so that my brain knows what to focus on. When I struggle, I set smaller tasks, such as "Write for 30 minutes" to eliminate the barrier and not procrastinate. Writing 30 minutes a day (which usually stretches to more than 30 minutes because you are in the flow once the initial barrier is overcome) is much easier than writing for 4 hours straight. In the beginning, consistency is more important than quality. Once I built a habit of writing, I could do 90-minute bouts instead.
Related: [my GTD task management system in Notion](https://www.maray.ai/posts/gtd-notion).
### Productivity system principles
To make the system run consistently, I set a few basic and simple rules.
My first rule is to show up every day. I do it with a **must-perform habit**. I do journaling every day. Even if I don't feel like doing it. It helps me to stay on track no matter what. Journaling works exceptionally well because it's part of my life os and whenever I do it, I remove the barrier and I can also jump into my daily tasks and see what's on my schedule. Habit bundling decreases procrastination.
My second rule is to always capture ideas, thoughts, and valuable information in my system. Emptying my brain from old thoughts makes room for novel ideas. It makes you more prolific. It also helped me to learn more about myself.
The third rule is to create a new task each time I complete the last one. If there are projects with 0 assigned tasks, then it means there's no progress.
My third rule is to review weekly and monthly. Even if it's brief. It tells you how much progress you have done during the past week or month to react accordingly.
## How I manage my knowledge with the life OS
Second brain is a big part of my life os. I organize various kinds of information in a central space. It allows me to quickly find and use that information later. Before I used to have all my knowledge scattered through notes, bookmarks, and files. Now it's a well-organized subsystem of my life os that integrates very well with my projects and task management.
Writing down ideas and thoughts made a big difference in my life. The more I captured, the more new ideas I came up with. Some of them became projects, some are on the waitlist. Going from 3-4 ideas in my head to 83 captured ideas in a year is good progress.
Related: [here](https://www.maray.ai/posts/notion-knowledge-management-system) and [here](https://www.maray.ai/posts/second-brain) I explain the benefits of building a second brain as your personal knowledge management system.
## How to track growth and progress
Generally, if you want to track your progress, you'd think about how much you've done recently. I can recall what I did the last week and estimate how productive I was, but perhaps nothing more specific than that.
A life os with a good productivity system gives you a much better overview of your past actions. You can **track your history**.
Here are some of my stats for the past year.
**Articles published:** 49
**Monthly traffic**: 10450 pageview/mo
**Projects**: active: 13; future: 12; complete: 7: archived: 5
**Ideas captured**: 83 (some of them are really good)
**Average sleep time**: 8.84733 hours
**Move to Germany and go through the bureaucracy and apartment search**: Done
**Actions complete**: 363 (these are only my side projects)
My first action was created on September 30th, 2020. It was about writing my first blog post. I know what I've done since then to change my life. I wouldn't be able to recall otherwise.
Weekly, monthly and annual reviews give information to reflect on. Each week I rate my productivity and set an agenda for the next 7 days. I write about my weekly accomplishments and what I failed to do. This routine helps to be accountable for your time. Otherwise, by the end of December, you realize that you failed your yearly plans and resolutions. Weekly reviews give you 52 more chances to remind yourself about your goals and progress. It’s a habit worth building.
Life os is a repository of your activity. Whether implemented in Notion or any other software, it gives you plenty of data to track and work with. Track the projects you work on, daily and weekly productivity, goals progress and etc.
## How I use my life operating system daily
My day starts with the morning journal. Once I create an entry and finish the gratitude and affirmation practice, I mark off the habits I've already completed. This includes morning exercise, breathing, and reflecting. Next, I quickly review the schedule and usually work for 30-60 minutes on my projects. When I finish a task, I mark it as completed and create another one.
During the day, whenever I have an idea, I capture it in my ideas database. Insights, knowledge, and other valuable information go into the second brain.
After work, I do my best to work another 30-60 minutes on my side projects to empty the tasks for the day.
Every Sunday I do a review where I spend 5-10 minutes to acknowledge what happened in the last 7 days and capture insights.
Every month I review projects that are slow or don't make any progress. I have to either archive a project, review my habits or give an additional effort. If months go by and there's still progress, it's time to analyze my days to discover the reason. It then can inform my identity: something needs to be changed if I want to achieve that goal.
Managing content is also a part of my Notion OS. I write, edit and use it as a repository for my articles. I wrote a blog post where I explain the [advantages of Notion as a content management system](https://www.maray.ai/posts/notion-content-management-system). My tasks are linked to the blog posts I work on.
###### [Get the full system here](https://maray.gumroad.com/l/life-operating-system). If it doesn't make a difference in your life you can reach out to me to discuss and solve the problem together. Alternatively, get refunded after 90 days of using it.
### Life OS dashboards
My dashboards are divided into several specific pages. I prefer using the dashboards on the need basis rather than making one master page.
It's more productive for me to separate dashboards and pin them on the sidebar. That way I can quickly access a specific dashboard. It's slower to open the master dashboard and then scroll to find a database or a page that I need.
Here's the list of my dashboards.
1. Actions dashboard - GTD dashboard for task management. The most used dashboard.
2. Journaling dashboard - daily morning journaling and planning.
3. Content - content production dashboard where I write and plan my blog posts.
4. Ideas dashboard - a collection of my ideas that I capture throughout the day.
5. Projects dashboard - the ongoing and planned projects I work on.
6. Knowledge dashboard - my knowledge database. Use it whenever I research or find valuable information.
7. Milestones - outcomes of my goals and projects. Review weekly and monthly.
8. Habits dashboard - habits that I am currently building. Review whenever I see that I am not consistent in my Journal.
9. Vision dashboard - my goals. Review weekly and monthly.
Related: [how I organize my dashboard and use them daily](https://www.maray.ai/posts/notion-dashboards).
A life OS structures your life, promotes growth, and helps you to track your life with many different metrics. Based on your goals, it can target different areas of your life.
It proved to be the most productive concept and tool I've ever tried. I hope it can be as transformative for you as it was for me.
I build in public and you can follow my journey on [discord](https://discord.gg/g3pvMKbT2v) or T[witter](https://twitter.com/ayk_martirosyan). Thanks for reading it. See you next time!