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Uncommon Wisdom: Nikola Yanev

“Uncommon Wisdom” is about sharing those habits or stories that we wouldn’t normally think to share. There’s so much talk about morning routines and self-care practices these days but a lot of it can seem kind of superficial or maybe just predictable and repetitive.

This is why we asked a bunch of high-performing creatives and entrepreneurs a few questions about awareness, energy, and productivity. We wanted to learn something a bit more unexpected, and here’s what we found out.

Who is Nikola Yanev?

Nikola Yanev is the Marketing manager of Eleven Ventures, a VC fund. He grew up around startup companies, building ecosystem pillars since the age of 17, one of which is the online media In 2014 he dropped out of university and built his own life-long educational program matching his interests and goals. He loves sailing, skiing and road cycling.
Nikola Yanev

#1. What's something unexpected or uncommon that made you more aware?

I would say time. Time to stop and think. Nowadays, the world is so fast-paced that it’s easy to race through life on autopilot. Anytime I stop and spend some time thinking about what’s important to me and where I want to be better as a human, it helps me to become more aware.

#2. What's something unexpected or uncommon that gives you energy?

Apart from the obvious – sports and time spent in nature, my number one energy giver is teaching someone a new skill. In my case that’s teaching presentation and pitching skills to startup founders. This charges me up with energy like nothing else in my daily life.

#3. What's something unexpected or uncommon that makes you more productive?

Speaking of day-to-day productivity, my game-changing “secret” is splitting my week between Manager days (calls, meetings, emails, structuring stuff) and Creator days (creative work, writing, making stuff, deep work, strategy). I never mix the two roles, because they require a different state of mind.
Nikola Yanev

#4. What does your morning ritual look like?

My morning routine has been pretty much the same for the past 9 years:
  • I get up around 8:00am although I do like the concept of an earlier start – 5:00am or 6:00am. I just don’t seem to be able to combine it with my social life and other activities, while still getting enough sleep.
  • If it’s a winter (cold) month, I will make a cup of steamed herbal tea with ginger and a squeeze of lemon. If it’s a summer (warm) month, I will prepare a glass of warm water with a squeeze of lemon.
  • After the water or tea, I prepare my breakfast. I’ve been having the very same breakfast for over 9 years now, almost every day of the year, except for some instances when I was traveling. It’s oats with warm water, nuts (almonds, cashews or walnuts), seasonal fresh fruits, seeds, honey, and coconut oil.
  • While preparing breakfast if I am in the mood I might play some music, an audio book or a podcast. Most times I choose to enjoy the quietness.
  • While eating my breakfast I find it useful to combine this time with either learning, so I might read a few pages of a book, or reflecting on my thoughts, so I might open up my journal and write down everything that’s on my mind.
  • Until I finish my breakfast I do not turn my phone on and so it’s still on airplane mode from the night before.
All of this takes around 1.5 hours and very much helps me to automate the start of my day, also allowing for some quiet time before I go to war.

Here are some rules which support my morning routine:
  • No meetings and calls before 10am
  • No phone for the first 1.5 hours of the day
  • Always stock up on my breakfast essentials
Nikola Yanev

#5. What does your evening ritual look like?

My evening routine is focused on minimising my brain’s exposure to stimulus, so I could wind-down and prepare for a healthy sleep.
  • I go to bed between 11:00pm and 12:00am every day.
  • Right before bed I take a warm shower, most times I even finish with a hot one which I find relaxes me (I am not a fan of cold showers).
  • As I find it hard to shut down my monkey brain before bed, after the shower I spend 5-15 minutes trying to relax. I sit down with my eyes closed and try to notice what is happening in my thoughts, but without drilling down. I just notice and let go of anything which comes to mind.
  • After I finish this I go to bed.
Here are some of my rules which support my evening routine:
  • I make sure I have dinner no later than 8:00pm. The earlier I have dinner, the better I sleep.
  • No screen time after 9:00pm – Blue light is the enemy of a night’s rest.
  • No email after 7:00pm – Most of the business world shuts down in the evening, so there’s nothing I can do about an urgent email until the morning. It only causes anxiety and worsens my sleep.
  • I leave my phone on the other side of the bedroom, so it’s out of hands reach. I use it as an alarm in the morning, so having it so far away forces me to get up and turn it off. This guarantees that I won’t oversleep.
  • Airplane mode goes on at 10:00pm.
You can find Nikola at @nikyanev

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