The Concept

A Lights Spreadsheet is like a “container for your habits” – and a very reliably effective self-management tool.

The first concept for a Lights Spreadsheet was designed by Ultraworking cofounder Sebastian Marshall in Toronto in 2013. He’d just come off a month-long speaking tour to universities and tech spaces, which was exciting and fun and productive – but his habits were a mess. His bedtime was off, he wasn’t hitting the gym, was eating too much of whatever was around instead of healthy food, wasn’t working on his most important work every day in the aftermath of that whirlwind time.

So he sat down and made a list of everything that, if he did it every day, his life would go better. Plan the day, take a walk, do a little fitness, work on the most important thing – stuff like that.

Then he asked, “How do I actually get myself to do this?”

That’s how Lights was born. Since 2013, Marshall’s been on Lights for over 180 weeks – almost every single week since creating it (he missed a few after surgery). After blogging Marshall about it, it was adopted by a large number of people including engineers, startup founders, executives, military officers, creatives doing things ranging from writing to translation to making music, students, managers, and a whole host of other people – often with staggeringly powerful gains.

“Your Lights spreadsheet idea has been one of the most useful things I have done in my life. I've been running on it uninterruptedly for exactly two years this month and it's helped/helping me build better habits, drop bad ones and track how other things in my life are going.”

– James K, Translator, November 2017

Lights offers a ton of benefits – so let’s run you through setting yours up, some best practices, and some pitfalls to avoid.

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