14 Elements of Life Design

14 ways to design a life you desire and is worth waking up to every morning.


Khawaja Saud Masud

3/18/20245 min read

A higher quality of life, more productivity, more energy, less complexity, less stress, etc. are all desired outcomes of a well-designed and more importantly, a well-lived life. We have covered the why. Who will do it? You. How may you approach it? Here are 14 tried and tested ways:

1. Walk Away

The day-to-day life is full of inertia. A new life's vibe and vision cannot be easily explored when drenched in status quo thoughts, routines, eating patterns, interruptions, judgements, etc. Take a day off once a week and go for a walk or hike by yourself. Seek solitude to boost your signal-to-noise ratio so you may get clarity on what you need to shed and gain going forward - what is it that you truly want out of your time on earth? Be patient as there is no formula for how many hours, mantras and exercises that will turn this walking away into a walking toward!

2. Be Selfish

Dream big and bold. Your vision must be born out of an almost childlike, unapologetic and no-holds-barred state of mind. It must be about you first and it must generate a pull you can't escape. Guilt has utility but not at this stage. Right now, you have to find your authentic voice against your suppressed energy. That's a handful so focus on you.

3. Be Positive

Positive does not mean always happy and smiling. Positive means growth oriented. Drop everything that hinders your growth, from people to procrastination. Think like a seeker, act like a servant - you will remain humble, curious and productive, all positive attributes.

4. Be Real

Keep an inventory-check of your strengths and weaknesses and commit to ruthless objectivity. Call out your BS early and often. Don't be offended if you don't initially like what you see in the mirror. Real people are courageous and vice versa.

5. Be Kind

Self-compassion is a key building block in life design. As you become more aware of the role you have played in your suffering, it is often easy to judge oneself harshly and sometimes with impunity. Forgiveness lightens us - aim to carry minimal baggage ahead.

6. Manage Energy

Energy comes from what we consume (food, content, company, stimulus, etc.), what we do (work, socializing, exercise, etc.) and when we do it (time of day, month, year, etc.). When you fuel your mind and body right and engage in meaningful work and activities, your time windows gradually align. Night owls underperform in the morning. Morning persons often experience energy dips between 1-4 pm. Know your energy cadence and avoid mismatches like having an important meeting during energy air pockets or engaging in creative work when distracted.

7. Manage Priorities

Remember if you have more than three priorities, you have none. Your time has to be in service of these priorities, not the other way around. Take time out for what matters most, not do what matters most when you have time.

8. Manage Risks

Take chances in life is easier said than done because most people get burned and bitten before they crawl back into their comfort zone shells. Understanding and managing risk is a life skill, which should be taught since childhood. From our relationships to business and health, we often endure avoidable pain because we misjudge risks given poor or no frameworks. Apply mental models like pre-mortems, inversion, opportunity cost, and second-order thinking, to name a few. Living an over-hedged life chokes the living out of it!

9. Power of No

As the saying goes "yes is found in the land of nos." Learn to say no to all that is neutral to marginally supportive of your life's vision. Say no to want-shopping versus need-shopping. Say no to draining and unproductive social gatherings. Say no taking on projects you don't resonate with or can't add meaningful value to. What you will be left with will most likely be a hell-yeah! This is what will drive the higher return on your attention, time and energy.

10. Become Tribal!

Your tribe is not necessarily one you are born into but one you build around you over time and seasons. These are folks who are net-feeders of energy and support. They may believe in you more than your vision and that's fine. They root for you behind your back. These are people to whom you don't write-and-delete a text because you fear judgement or ire. The quality of such core relationships directly affects your life and health span.

11. Habit System

We become our habits, which is why a sustainable life model depends on synergistic habits. You may combine habits like listening to music and cleaning the home or walking and having conference calls or you may serialize them like stretching for 5 minutes after waking up and journaling for 5 minutes after stretching. You may also time block habits like walking or exercising 45 minutes before breakfast or setting aside 2 hours for deep work in the morning or 1.5 hours after lunch for replying to emails and taking care of day-to-day chores. Your habit system may be as unique as you but it should serve you throughout the day matching your energy levels. Only then does the conscious load of thinking and doing shifts to the subconscious - where the magic happens!

12. Gratitude

A good life is a grateful life. Being thankful for what we have helps us escape the negativity blackhole that awaits all who experience inadequacy, failure or weakness from time to time. Gratitude is the antidote to anxiety and stress. Bathe in it regularly in writing and thoughts.

13. Vision

A vision should not be merely additive in nature, i.e. have $X by year Y. It should have a healthy composition of what needs to be subtracted from your life and sometimes forever, e.g. to focus on finances, no international vacations for next 5 years or to avoid toxic impact, permanently delete B, M & T from the social circle - use the power of block. A vision, therefore, has to be architected with well thought through boundaries and filters. The letting in is just as important as the keeping out or the vision gets diluted fast. The walks you did in 1 should produce a harmonious and inspirational state for your soul to thrive in. Make sure this mental and spiritual sanctuary is kept hygienic and intact.

14. Iterate

Whatever is designed on paper must be tested in reality. Pivoting and iterative tweaking will likely follow. Vision creep is common. Habit system rework can be exhaustive at times. Awareness blind spots pop up regularly. Your circle of influence and circle of competence shifts over time leading you to revisit what you truly want and how you may want it. Life is evolutionary by design and so are we. The aim is to live fulfilled or as they say, 'live full, die empty.' Iteration is just a natural part of the process of dying empty. Embrace the dynamic discomfort.

In summary, life design revolves around building self-awareness and discipline through inner work and habit system while being a continuous improver and learner. It's a mouthful, may even appear daunting but it's not only worth it but also as simple as this...