My work requires deep, intense concentration and creativity. R&D is like digging for gold; optimism and hope are offset by disappointment and failure respectively, as with most things in life. It’s an infinite, repetitive game** — often mundane but each step builds upon the last. All you can do is leave dots that will connect and form something unique and perhaps, leave a small mark on the world at the end of your life.

Lately, I’ve been more interested in neuroscience and understanding how the brain functions so I can be more productive and happier; to increase my rate of reaching the state of ‘flow’. I want to know what I can I do on a daily basis to get that extra dopamine (reward) to motivate me throughout the day. I want to hack the happy chemicals in my brain in the most organic way.

Here’s my list:

  1. Listen to music that I don’t understand. One less element for the brain to dissect.
  2. Bowl of Pho in the morning. Eating silently is very meditative, it makes me happy.
  3. Avocado + Banana smoothie. The best lunch and pack some great nutrients.
  4. Last km of a 5km outdoor jog. Awesome state-of-flow.
  5. Unsubscribe and all notifications off. Clearing the clutter improves concentration and reduce anxiety. If it’s important enough, people will call.
  6. Listen. I try to speak less these days and listen more. Usually, people just want to vent, be heard or seek validation.
  7. Puzzles. Small wins, win. Puzzles can exercise one’s brain, though I dislike chess cheaters…
  8. Exotic animals. Still awed at the type of delightful birds I often discover in the community parks near my house or the sound of birds chirping in the morning.
  9. Conversations with old people. As people transition into old age, they let go of the ‘self’, be more honest and focus on helping others. It’s very refreshing.
  10. Playing an instrument. A piece of string can produce so many tones, so many frequencies. Endless possibilities.

** Most people prefer finite, repetitive games as there are specific milestones and a clear destination but when you reach the end, it’s game over.