QS – Christopher John Payne


Many years ago I started building a printed binder I called My Life Squared to document my ideas, insights, etc about life…

My Life Squared

This web page contains some notes about My Life Squared based on a presentation I did for the London Quantified Self Meetup Group at the Google Campus…

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… which was organised by the amazing Adriana Lukas.

One of the most important lessons I have learned in life is to write things down: if I don’t write my ideas down when I have them, I generally forget them.

Equally, I have spent a small fortune attending seminars and conferences, and buying and listening to audio programs. If I don’t write down my insights, and some tasks to implement, most of that learning fades very quickly from my memory.

Have you noticed that this is true for you too?

So I created the My Life Squared file to…

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The file contained…

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Here are 40 headings, together with some explanations. I hope you’ll find at least a few to be worth starting yourself…


– what have you accomplished in life?

– create a heading for ages 0-5 years, 6-10 years, 11-15 years etc so you review all ages of your life

– use the following headings of what I call the LifeGrid to give you ideas

– Money, Career, Growth, Setting, Health, Partner, Relating, Fun

LifeGrid Explained

– also use trigger words/phrases to help you remember events: friends at the the time; music you listened to; holidays; clothes; teachers; relatives; sports you played

What I’ve created

– essays you’ve written, books you’ve written, handbooks, scrapbooks, journals

Key daily/weekly/monthly metrics

– list the numbers that matter: new prospects called, words of a book written, number of blog posts written, percentage conversion of a sales page, number of signups to an email list

Dumb things I have done

– and what you learned as a result

Funny things that have happened to you

– in each of the 8 areas of the LifeGrid

Times I caught my memory out

– list times you find notes that you had completely forgotten you’d written

– list times when you had a memory of an event, then found evidence that your mind had actually misremembered!

The best advice I was ever given

The worst advice I was ever given

Favourite movies

– and rank your top 3/5/10. See if they change over time

– you can add notes below / next to each movie to detail what stood out for you; lessons taught; etc

Favourite books

Books I read in 20xx

What I believe…

– what do you believe to be true about life?

My mission in life…

– what is my overall purpose for being here on this planet

I felt truly inspired… or Peak experiences

– at a particular concert, reading a certain book, a moment doing a sport, birth of child, a romantic time

Kind words

– what have people said about you? Write down what you remember them saying.

– type out kind words from cards you have received, or copy text from emails

Dear friends

– go through your current and past address books and see who you have forgotten about

People who I can turn to for advice

– in each of the 8 areas of the LifeGrid

What works in life…

– for example: doing, say, a meditation or visualisation each morning for 10 mins or more, going for a run, doing exercise every morning for 20+ minutes, planning your day the night before

Lessons I have learned in life / Lessons to teach my children

What makes me unique

– what is unique about you?

Limiting beliefs I have had…

– what limiting beliefs have you had over the years

– use the 8 headings of the LifeGrid to come up with them

– see how you have evolved

– rate how strongly you believed them out of 10

Daily habits

– what habits do you want to have every day from now on or soon which will move you forward

What I love about my partner

– list all the traits you appreciate

– list all the kind and loving acts they have done

– list times they challenged you and how it benefitted you

– list times their insights saved your arse

I am grateful for…

– in all 8 areas of the LifeGrid

Favourite quotations

– list quotations that you love, or inspire you

– type them into Google and find others which are similar by the same or different author

Favourite jokes

My goals for 20xx onwards

– in all 8 areas

Challenges in each area of my life

– where have you been challenged in life — at all ages

People of note I have met/spoken to

– book authors, business leaders, community leaders, etc

If I won $/£100m on the lottery

– what would you do?

– list in detail

– then see which ones you could implement now, even without the money

Inspiring future

– pick a day in the future – perhaps in 3/6/12 months time – and write down what is happening that day

– list projects and tasks you’d need to do to make that day become a reality in due course

If I only had 1/3 months/weeks to live…

What would I dare to do if I knew for certain that I could not fail

Questions I want answering

– such as ‘”What is the best way to support a teenager to cooperate round the house?”

– I got my 2 sons to do a list of 10-20 questions each, then aim to find answers to 2 of their questions online every week

Software I use

– and have spreadsheet columns for: current skill level, skill level wanted in 6 months, ‘wanted minus current’

– then you can sort on that final column so the programs you want to improve with the most go to the top of  the list. Then you can list tasks you can do over the next few months to reach your goal of higher skill

I would like to learn how to…

– list in all 8 areas of the LifeGrid

– examples: type 50% faster, read twice as fast, implement the GTD (Getting Things Done) system, become proficient at Pilates

My own/next website

– list ideas for what you could put on your own/next site

Treats to buy

– in all 8 areas

– we often don’t treat ourselves enough, rewarding ourselves for work well done

– list what you’d like to accomplish to get a particular treat

New product ideas

– what book, course etc could you write?

My LifeShocks: Pivotal Moments

– list all the pivotal moments in your life: births, deaths, sadnesses, betrayals, etc

…and so on.

Some of the above lists won’t appeal to you, which is fine – but if you start somewhere you’ll soon come up with lists that matter to you.

Pages in my binder look like this…

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On the tech side…

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I also use…

ReadMore app for iPhone to log every book reading session

Time Flies app for iPhone to log how many hours/days it is since I x — and I track…

  • ‘eat seafood’
  • ‘eat fish’
  • ‘eat liver’
  • ‘water plants’
  • ‘last haircut’
  • ‘last changed my toothbrush’
  • ‘have cod liver oil’
  • ‘rang my mum’

…and lots of other things!

DevonThink Professional for Mac for storing snippets. It links to an iPad app.

I use OmniFocus Professional for Mac to create all my outlines. I adore it.

Evernote, WorkFlowy and Roam for storing notes, ideas and outlines.

I also do most of my reading on my Kindle or on the Kindle app on my iPad mini. I highlight a lot and add notes. I then go to amazon.com (not .co.uk) and copy all my highlights and notes and paste them into a Pages word processor file. Each new file goes into a folder called ‘Kindle highlights’ in Dropbox.

In the pub after my talk I was asked…

Do I spend a lot of time updating this folder?

No. Really I don’t. I dip into the folder for inspiration. I flip through it on a long plane or train journey, or while sitting up in bed in a hotel – with my red pen in hand. I do edit files on my MacBook Pro too. But I get the most benefit relaxing on my settee with a cup of tea, ruminating then scribbling.

Why print it out? Why not just have it in digital form?

I could go completely digital, but as it’s in a physical form, and in a prominent place in my home, I remember it more, and open it more. My ‘self’ is different when I’m typing at my MacBook Pro vs sitting on a chair with a red pen so I have different thoughts and ideas.

By referring to the folder regularly memories fade away less. All the research, going back to Hermann Ebbinghaus, and his learning decay curve, shows the importance of regularly reviewing information so you remember it better.

How else has creating these documents helped you?

For example, I have found some key numbers which surprised me…

  1. I had a rough idea that I’d spent $100,000 on conferences, workshops, etc. I created a spreadsheet of all the events I attended and courses bought, and over the next several days I added to it. I was amazed how long the list grew! My total investment in training to date came to $320,000+! That was an eye-opener.
  2. I knew that I mailed a lot and advertised a lot, but I was surprised that I mailed a million sales letters in the UK in one year, and booked more nearly 1,000 ads for my business in national mags and newspapers.
  3. I thought I had created about 20 products. I found I had created nearly 100. Plus, if a customer acquired every one of them, they would own more than 200 hours of me talking. That was far more than I was expecting.
  4. I thought that my best-selling CD set, the first ‘real’ one I created, had done about $1m in sales. By creating the spreadsheet and adding some data, then reflecting on it over time, and adding more date, I found it had done more than $3m in sales.
  5. I found that I had written more than 160 posts for one of my websites, and there were more than 600 photos and 20 videos there.
  6. I guessed I had visited 10 countries when a friend mentioned she had visited 25. I went to Wikipedia to find a list of all the countries in the world and noted down each one I had been in. My total was 22.
  7. I had no real idea of the number of books I owned. So I counted them: 1,300, and that was just the non-fiction ones.

Numbers like these can help establish my credibility when people come to my sites and consider consulting with me. They also help me feel more self assured and grounded.

Bottom line: if you create your own lists you will get some delightful surprises which may give you more confidence, and inspire you to do even greater things.

Other points…

I run every day for a minimum of one minute, though I can end up running 5, 30 or 60 minutes. I ran my first half marathon in early 2020.

I log every meal in the MyFitnessPal app for iPhone.

I use the Lift app to ensure I do…

  • stretches
  • press ups
  • sit ups
  • the plank
  • chin-ups (with a door bar)
  • write a plan for tomorrow
  • list accomplishments
  • read for 20 minutes
  • write my diary in Day One

…and more, every day.

I ensure I accomplish each habit and tick completion in the app. I have an 85-day streak on some of the habits (which means I have ticked that habit every day for 85 days in a row.)

As I log a lot of what I do each in Eternity Time Log, and add notes about the event (such as a phone call), and I list my accomplishments in Notesy, I don’t repeat all this in my Day One diary, so instead I focus more on my insights and feelings.

I mentioned my TEDx talk where I share one of my dumbest business mistakes. You can watch it here.

Contact me via the Contact Me page with any questions, thoughts, insights… or just to say hello. I’ve love to hear from you! 🙂