Habits : Making things hard on ourselves

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Lately, there seems to be a trend on youtube, people mocking people who practices morning rituals which consist of the following : meditation, reading, or journaling. (may I add sheepishly..these are all the rituals which I currently enjoy). It seems to me that these days, people feel indifferent to making poor lifestyle choices, because it has become the new norm.

I hadn’t always be this way, waking up early, meditate, starting my day with a walk, cutting out alcohol…even thou I’ve been pretty consistent with these habits, but still, they don’t feel “natural” to me. A friend recently complimented me of the progress I’ve made, stating how difficult it is for her to change her habits. I wish I could explain, building habits is a lifelong journey, certain habits still takes tremendous cognitive effort for me to perform daily.

For example, even thou I have gotten used to the habit of sleeping and waking up early, there are days that I wish I can grab my kindle and indulge in my reading instead of getting the 30mins meditation in. (Both are good habits, nonetheless) While I generally gravitate towards healthy lifestyle choices, I still have a million other issues I’m trying to fix (particularly on my obsessive behaviours around food)

When life doesn’t challenge you, it’s very important that you challenge yourself. Challenges can come in many forms, I remember an interview I heard from Danny Lennon’s Sigma Nutrition podcast, featuring Nicholas Gant, the director of the Exercise Neurometabolism Laboratory. He mentioned how the simple ritual of meditation can be a good challenge for our brain to improve our cognitive function, and let me tell you, sitting still for 30 minutes does not come naturally for me.

Our day to day life can be rather monotonous, we perform our tasks intuitively without much effort. This is why I think imposing rules on ourselves, doing things we don’t feel like doing, can drive personal growth.

People often say it gets easier over time, that’s not the case for me, there are definitely impulses that I have to intentionally suppress on day to day basis, when I’m able to resists and reinforce good habits, it feels extremely rewarding for me. I want to end this post with a great passage from Ryan Holiday’s book, “Ego is the new enemy” which I really relate to :

“My friend the philosopher and martial artist Daniele Bolelli once gave me a helpful metaphor. He explained that training was like sweeping the floor. Just because we’ve done it once, doesn’t mean the floor is clean forever. Every day the dust comes back. Every day we must sweep.”

A millennial’s approach to Digital Minimalism

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It was back in March that I read Dr.Cal Newport’s book, “Digital Minimalism”, and my first blog entry, chronicling my digital minimalism journey, was dated back in April. Ironically, it is the hashtag #digitalminimalism that has linked me to alot of people who adopted the lifestyle, and graciously share their experiences in the digital world. It is definitely a catch-22 phenom, because without the internet, I wouldn’t be able to discover Digital Minimalism.

I have drawn alot of values not only from the book, but from people who manage to integrate digital minimalism into their lives, yet maintain their social presence and stay connected. I want to focus solely on using social media with this post, because as a millennial, who have alot of friends who are also millennials who are glued to their phones (I say this lovingly as a former addict), I want to share some practical tips on how you can adopt the Digital Minimalism philosophy to better your life (without feeling deprived)

Limit your time on social media

Set aside a designated time for social media, whether it’s posting, or browsing. While it’s completely up to your preference, I personally advice against logging in too early in the morning. Your phone shouldn’t be the first thing you grab when you wake up in the morning. I find that it is simply too distracting and if you come across a negative post, it has the potential to disintegrate the rest of your day.

Be selective with who, and what information you keep up with

I want to focus on instagram here, because it’s the primary social media platform I now use. (My personal facebook account has been deactivated since March) I believe to truly extrapolate values from social media, we have to be intentional with who and what information we follow. One tip I have is to think of your brain as a garden you are trying to nurture : you only want the best information to enter it, so you can nourish it.

Be picky with your following list, and use the mute function generously. That way, you don’t feel overwhelmed with the constant information overload, with topics you have no interest in. Still, if you want to keep up with your friends and their babies, you can still go to their profile. Or even better, like Dr. Cal Newport has mentioned in his book, make a conscious effort of meeting them for a coffee and interact with them in real life.

Schedule a designated time for emails/watsapp etc

I have to be honest, while I am fine with not using social media, I am less frugal with my time spent on emails/watsapp. I still have a tendency to repeatedly log into my emails and reply my watsapp messages on the go. But I am definitely more aware of my behaviour. Chances are, if people need to reach you urgently, they will call you. I find that if I batch reply my emails and messages, I am much more patient with my replies and I string better sentences. (Great way to practice writing)

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Limit distraction on your phone

Nathaniel Drew has a great video on Digital Minimalism, on minimizing distracting apps on your phone. For instagram, I uninstall and reinstall it only when I want to use it. (The inconvenience alone is enough to withhold my impulses of constantly checking it) And I’ve removed all social media apps (emails/watsapp etc) from the first page on my phone.

A 6 months follow up since integrating Digital Minimalism into my life 

Even thou the lists above may seem short, but even just incorporating them into my life, I have feel significant improvement in my pursuit of bettering myself. My prep was better because I wasn’t constantly comparing myself to others on social media, (nutrition and bodybuilding has always been my interest, and I have been fortunate to feed my “garden” with the best evidence based information only) I never have a deadline and my productivity with work has increased significantly. I no longer feel overwhelmed that I have to “keep up” with postings on my photography social media, I put in more thoughts and I curated a feed that I actually like. I became more conscious with my postings on social media, because like how I’ve drawn values from other’s sharing, I want my posts to bring values to others too. I have since enrolled in Mac Nutrition Uni, and I am working towards my goal of being a Mac Uni certified nutrition coach.

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Privately, I am much more present with my family. I no longer have the impulsive thoughts of constantly reaching for my phone, documenting every fucking thing. One of my favourite moment that I look forward to everyday, is to visit this neighbourhood park near my house, and my husband and I would sit side by side and talk to teach other, without the distraction of our phones, while watching Anya plays.

I hope I have convinced you to start your path on Digital Minimalism, start with the book, and check out how other people have integrate it seamlessly into their lives. (I personally highly recommend both Nathaniel Drew and Matt D’avella’s videos on digital minimalism) There’s also an app called Forest (you plant a tree and whenever you touch your phone, the tree will wilt, it’s an great app when you try to focus on a task, the reward mechanism helps cement the habit)

Animal Instincts

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I rarely watch movies these days, a while ago, I took netflix off because I find it was too addictive, I would much rather spend the extra time I have by reading or writing. If I decide I want to indulge in a movie, I either get pirated DVD locally (which you can still get in Sibu), or purchase from Itunes.

I watched “The Professor” last night, I was both amused and enlightened by it at the same time. It was a simple and short movie, and as always it’s delightful to watch Johnny Depp act, I thought he portrayed the character splendidly.

After learning he has six months to live, a college lecturer transforms into a rebellious party animal. To the shock of his wife and school chancellor — and to the delight of his students — he leads a crusade against authority and hypocrisy. “

It’s a very simple movie, after getting diagnosed with cancer, he decided to just “live life”. Where he took drugs, indulged in drinking, had affairs, (and even experimented with having sex with a man) , it was both hilarious but sad at the same time.
I get a completely different message out of it. I was reading “Socrates in Love” by Christopher Phillips, and I came upon this passage, in relations to Eros (The Greek, meaning “desire,” comes from “to desire, love”, of uncertain etymology)

“Eros is knowing what you should desire, and acting in such a way that you overcome all those other desires of yours that conflict with it, so you can come closer to realizing your “higher desire” 

Think about this, if we give into our impulses all the time, is it truly “living the life we want?” Is that the kind of life we aspire to have ? What sets humans apart from animals is we have higher thinking and we are better at controlling our impulses. It does get significantly harder these days, as we are constantly bombarded with stimuli and temptations.

Daily stoic

“A mind that isn’t in control of itself, that doesn’t understand it’s power of regulate itself, will be jerked around by external events and unquestioned impulses.”

“The most powerful control we can ever attain, is to be in control of ourselves.”

Book Notes : Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

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Image by rowdykittens.com Who also wrote a fantastic review on the book.

Book notes from Digital Minimalism, written by Cal Newport.

I am forever grateful for this book, it has made me re-evaluate my relationship with digital tools (esp social media) , and many practical tips that I can implement into my daily life.

Book notes from Digital Minimalism

As Socrates explained to Phaedrus in Plato’s famous chariot metaphor, our soul can be understood as a chariot driver struggling to rein two horses, one representing our better nature and the other our baser impulses. When we increasingly cede autonomy to the digital, we energize the latter horse and make the chariot driver’s struggle to steer increasingly difficult – a diminishing of our soul’s authority

In the end, I just accepted the fact that I would miss some events in their lives, but that this was worthwhile for the mental energy it would save me to not be on social media

“I figured I didn’t need to know the answer to everything instantly, ” she told me. She then bought an old fashioned notebook to jot down ideas when she’s bored on the tube.”

Rebecca transformed her daily experience by buying a watch. This might sound trivial to older readers, but to a nineteen-yearold like Rebecca, this was an intentional act. “I estimate that around 75 percent of the time I got sucked down a rabbit hole of un-productivity was due to me checking my phone for the time.

Running is cheaper than therapy.

Solitude is about what’s happening in your brain, not the environment around you. Accordingly, they define it to be a subjective state in which your mind is free from input from other minds.

Conversations enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius

We’re wrong to consider intimate interaction as the sine qua non of human thriving. Solitude can be just as important for both happiness and productivity.

Calmly experiencing separation, he argues, builds your appreciation for interpersonal connections when they do occur.

I am here alone for the first time in week, to take up my “real” life again at last. This is what is strange, that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened Without the interruptions, nourishing and maddening, this life would become arid. Yet, I taste it fully only when I’m alone.

We enter solitude, in which also we lose loneliness.

We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas ; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.

Only thoughts reached by walking have value. To underscore his esteem for walking, Nietzsche also notes: “The sedentary life is the very sin against the Holy Spirit.”

The more you use social media to interact with your network, the less time you devote to offline communication.

Where we want to be cautious…is when the sound of a voice or a cup of coffee with a friend is replaced with ‘likes’ on a post.”

Humans are naturally biased toward activities that require less energy in the short term, even if it’s more harmful in the long term-so we end up texting our sibling instead of calling them on the phone, or liking a picture of a friend’s new baby, instead of stopping by for a visit.

Because our primal instinct to connect is so strong, it’s difficult to resist checking a device in the middle of a conversation with a friend or bath time with a child-reducing the quality of the richer interaction right infront of us. Our analog brain cannot easily distinguish between the importance of the person in the room with us and the person who just sent us a new text.

when you spend multiple hours a day compulsively clicking and swiping, there’s much less free time left for slower interactions. And because this compulsive use emits a patina of socialness, it can delude you into thinking that you’re already serving your relationships well, making further action unnecessary.

Smarter use of digital communication tools, not blanket abstention.

Similarly, if you adopt conversation-centric communication, you’ll still likely rely on text-messaging service to simplify information gathering, or to coordinate social events, or to ask quick questions, but you’ll no longer participate in open-ended, ongoing text based conversations throughout your day.

I don’t think we’re meant to keep in touch with so many people.

It’s now easy to fill the gaps between work and caring your family and sleep by pulling out a smartphone or tablet, and numbing yourself with mindless swiping and tapping.

Spending an hour browsing funny Youtube clips might sap your vitality, while-and I am speaking from recent experiences here-using Youtube to teach yourself how to replace a motor in a bathroom ventilation fan can provide the foundation for a satisfying afternoon of tinkering.

You are not quitting anything or losing access to any information, you’re simply being more mindful of when you engage with this part of your leisure life.

To repeat a line from the New Yorker writer George Packer, “Twitter” scares me, not because I am superior to it, but because I don’t think I could handle it. I’m afraid I’d end up letting my son go hungry. ” If you must use these services, however, and you hope to do so without ceding autonomy over your time and attention, it’s crucial to understand this is not a casual decision.

Dropping in to extract value, and then slipping away before the attention traps set by these companies can spring shut.

As many have discovered, the rapid switching between different applications tends to make the human interaction with the computer less productive in terms of the quality and quantity of what is produced.

Dunbar number of 150-a theoretical limit for the number of people human can successfully keep track of in their social circles.

Adopting digital minimalism is not a one time process that completes the day after your digital declutter; it instead requires ongoing adjustments.

Cultivating a life worth living in our current age of alluring devices.

Digital minimalism definitely does not reject the innovations of the internet age, but instead rejects the way so many people engage with these tools.

 

 

Prep journal : Training without the phone

No music, no videos, no selfies 

I have started enjoy going to the gym without the phone more and more these days

I used to be the gym chick (I feel good calling myself a chick) who has her headphones on  all the time, I train with very loud and angry music, often contains very colourful language, which explains why I curse alot. But I am reformed now, I try to restraint myself these days.

David Goggins says training with music is cheating. I didn’t understand it at first, but once I took my headphones off, I immediately understand why. I was able to focus better, I was able to listen to my own cues, I was able to motivate myself instead of relying on music. The quality of my session improved tremendously.

There was also the selfies and the videos…obviously I had a rather severe attention deficit symptom, with all the half naked selfies and workout videos posted to my instagram (which I’ve just deleted) The only way I could describe it, is that I felt like a cocaine addict, refraining from taking gym selfies was honestly a challenge for me, I do admit by saying that I am aware that I live a very good life. I am honestly ashamed of my pathetic addiction, and it’s not completely eradicated yet, but I am definitely on the right track.

Each time I whip out my phone and about to take another selfie, I’d think to myself :”Really, Simmy, do you need another selfie? ” No more reasons for selfies since instagram is gone now, problem solved. To completely minimize the distraction, I leave my phone at home.

There are some videos here and there, especially with the main lifts just for the sake of form checks. I used to joke that I didn’t really care about my form, all I cared about was how good I look in the videos. I wasn’t really joking. Was there natty lighting ? Did the angle make my butt look bigger? If I didn’t look good in the video, I wouldn’t post it no matter how good my form looks.

One step at a time, one day at a time

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Digital minimalism : Becoming the person I like

I’ve been enjoying going through all the blog posts about digital minimalism, I find it comforting knowing so many people are struggling like I do, and it’s inspiring that people are so self aware : Self awareness and self reflections are the antidote to the struggles we face.

Like most people, I have tried to take social media off in the past. My work is deeply intertwined with my personal life, people I meet from work often adds me on facebook or instagram, clients follow my personal account…and so on. For the longest time I didn’t know how to separate the both, I’d go on my personal instagram, then toggle to my work instagram, then I get on my facebook account, then manage my facebook page from there….I could list so many examples, but you get the idea.

Turning on the screen time was definitely a huge turning point for me, at the time, I was averaging at 3-4 hours a day…to say I was shocked is an understatement. From then on I started become more mindful of how much I use the phone..and still, it always comes up to about 2 hours daily. By this time I was researching on how I can be more efficient with social media for work, I started using planners, and only work from my browser. Once I developed a flow, I started working on my personal account…which was much harder than what I anticipated.

Most of the people I admire aren’t even on social media. I remember how agitated I feel whenever someone picks up their phone obsessively when I sit across them, sometimes I look around during red lights, and I swear, almost every driver I see are looking at their phones, if that is not an addiction, I don’t know what is. I self reflect alot, what am I doing? Do i want to become this person that I hate? Irritable, anxious, constantly looking for entertainment after entertainment, mindless scrolling and browsing, posting every food that I eat, I couldn’t concentrate on reading my book because I have this fucking urge to take a picture of the book and post it to instagram to show people that I am “well read”. I would take intermittent breaks, but I always go back. I’d justify my behavior by saying things like “I’m just going to use it for the information.” But who am I kidding? Out of all the posts that I see, perhaps 10-20% are actually useful to me…compared to the harm it causes me, it just makes no sense to keep using it.

In just a week, I’ve listened to more podcasts/audiobooks than I’ve had in the past few months combined. I read, I write, I invested time in my swim practice, I am much more focused and relaxed and I am actually pretty happy being bored. I only have to charge my phone every 2-3 days, and my screen time is reduced to under 30 mins a day…slowly, I am becoming the person I like, the person who is confident, productive, and not constantly comparing herself to others. I used to look at older folks and admire how they’re able to just sit and do nothing at parks (which is a rare sight these days), and slowly, I am becoming one of them. (Well…not as old, yet)

This is a learning process for me, and I am just getting started, I strive to do a little better everyday.

Personal development : Digital minimalism, kicking off social media addiction

For the past 3 weeks or so, I’ve started paying more attention in how I use the internet. I began deleting apps on my phone, limiting my screen time, decluttering my facebook feeds, I then moved on to re-organising all my back ups and external hard drives. I did it very progressively and methodically, I’ve picked up so many great tips along the way, and I want to share a few things I have learnt which has helped me tremendously.

Work/Instagram feed

Since I do use social media for work, (instagram/facebook), I set them up so I can manage it on my desktop instead of my phone. Google chrome has a instagram extension where I can access my instagram online. I’ve also started using feed planner, so I can schedule my posts, and have them posted automatically. (Buffer or planoly are great)

This has greatly reduced my impulse of mindless browsing, I do admit as photographers, I do enjoy viewing other photographer’s work, but instead of having access to it all day long, I allocate a time for it, via dekstop only.

As of this point I am uncertain whether I want to keep my personal instagram feed, while at the moment I am keeping it deactivated, I am formulating on how I can use it better to benefit me, as of this point, it is a form of distraction that doesn’t add value to my life. (such as posting half naked selfies, and try to justify my behaviour by writing super long captions that no one is ever going to read. 😀)

Facebook

After cleaning up my feed (including removing tons of old photos), and saving only those which adds meanings and values to me, I’ve also installed another chrome extension for facebook (newsfeed eradicator)  Now my facebook feed looks like this :

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Again, this completely eradicate my behaviour of mindless browsing, but if I do want to see what my family and friends are up to, I’m still able to do so. I also removed facebook app from my phone. Although I can still access it through browser, it just isn’t as appealing to me anymore.

Inbox 0 

Inbox Zero is a rigorous approach to email management aimed at keeping the inbox empty — or almost empty — at all times.
Inbox Zero was developed by productivity expert Merlin Mann. According to Mann, the zero is not a reference to the number of messages in an inbox; it is “the amount of time an employee’s brain is in his inbox.” Mann’s point is that time and attention are finite and when an inbox is confused with a “to do” list, productivity suffers.

 

After learning about Inbox 0 via Nathaniel Drew, I cleared up my inbox…and was horrified to learn I keep old emails from as far as 2013…again, this doesn’t mean I don’t hold on to things, I only want to keep things that adds value to my life. I labeled my folders accordingly, and archive as many emails as I can. Here’s how my inbox looks like now.

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I perform the same decluttering process with my dekstop / macbook / iphone, removing unwanted apps/files, keeping only the essential, and honestly, I already feel like a huge load is off my shoulder.

While I do the same with my physical stuffs (one in, one out), donating stuffs I don’t need / use, I am far from achieving minimalism, however, I can certainly strive for essentialism : keeping only the essentials in my life. I will definitely log my progress here.

The resources that has helped me tremendously

Jamesclear.com

Nathanieldrew.com

Dr.Cal Newport