Unplugged : Daily walk without distraction

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So I am an avid walker, I am not even sure if that’s a thing. People who walks eventually turns into joggers or runners, I just kept on walking. I can’t even remember when I’ve started the ritual, these days, If I don’t get my walk, I feel antsy and uncomfortable. Like how most people need their cup of jo to start their day, my daily walk help me orient my day.

After I read the book, Deep work, by Dr. Cal Newport , I’ve started walking without any stimulation. I used to listen to alot of podcasts on my walks, I read alot, too, I took pride in my ability to multi-task on my walks. After learning how I can use my walk to unplug, and use it as a time for self reflection, solve problems, or even writing (infact, most of the blog posts on this blog are drafted in my head as I walk, including this one) I have come to enjoy my walks even more and it has become a non-negotiable daily routine for me.

Sometimes, I’d have some reading material with me, especially those revision study from MNU, but I always make sure to get a minimum of 30 minutes of uninterrupted, stimuli-free walk, before I read. I am not gonna lie, I was so used to distracting myself and in the beginning, it felt very unnatural to me, but there is just something about walking and thinking. As Nietzsche said: “It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth”

If you find sitting still challenging (meditation), maybe walking without distraction is worth a try. I have also come to appreciate having the music or podcasts completely turn off while I drive, being constantly bombarded with information and advertisement can feel overwhelming at times, and unplugging once in a while can be invigorating.

Teach yourself not to rely on stimuli once in a while, learn to be with yourself wholly, a.k.a : learn to be bored 

 

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)

An update on Meditation practice

A compilation of my meditation practice back in 2017

When I first started this blog, I wanted to document all things personal development related, at the time, I was in a transition of building new habits, I was inspired after reading the book Digital Minimalism by Dr. Cal Newport, and James Clear’s Atomic Habits.

There were a couple of habits that I wanted to work on, social media addiction is one thing (there will be another update soon), but I want to write about meditation, for I find that it is the backbone of how we can be more aware of our behaviours, thus bettering ourselves in all aspects of our lives.

I am not a stranger to meditation. Back in 2017, I’ve hired an online coach Olivier Goetgeluck. He has prescribed daily meditation practice as part of the training program for me. I believe the Universe knew what I needed then, that’s why I was connected to Olivier. At the time, I had no problem adhering to all the physical training he has prescribed for me, but I struggled with the meditation practice.

I remember how anxious I felt each time I had to start meditating, thoughts were constantly running through my head, it felt as if I was having an anxiety attack, I remember I could barely sit for 3 minutes in the first 1-2 weeks.

I’ve made great progress overtime, I’d meditate for 20-30 minutes atleast 3/4 times a week, sometimes I even took my practice outdoor. I felt so proud of myself, it was even more satisfying that any fitness achievement.

After 6 months with Olivier, I eventually moved back into powerlifting/physique training, I tried to keep up with the practice, but I relapsed. I was doing it very sparingly, until I stopped doing it completely.

Fast forward to March this year, after reading Atomic Habits, meditation was the first habit that I wanted to cement. There are so many helpful tips from the book, but the three main points that has helped me the most was :

Master the art of showing up

Repetitions

Habits Tracking

To summarize the three points as listed above : I only have to show up, duration didn’t matter as much, with that, I’ve gained enough repetitions, which then help the habit stick. I’ve also used bullet journaling to help me stay accountable.

Referring to my blog posts on meditation, I’ve started back in early April, I’ve probably only missed 3-5 days since then. I prefer to do it first thing in the morning, before I even brush my teeth, for 20-30 minutes a day. On days that I have to go out early for work, I simply move it to the end of the day.

It is the single, most powerful tool you can use anywhere, anytime to improve your mental well being, better than any supplementation or medication intervention.

What are the benefits ? I didn’t really care about all the scientific research on meditation, although they may help further convince you to start. What I’ve noticed with myself is that, I am much more aware of my behaviour. Take driving for example, I used to be very hot headed on the road, other drivers used to piss me off easily, not anymore. I use to look for distraction (browsing on the phone…horrible, I know) with every brief stop in between traffic lights, I’ve stopped doing that either…there are many many other examples, but you get the idea.

That doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated and angry. I do, more often than I like. It’s definitely much more easier for me to catch myself thinking certain thoughts, if I feel angry, I would be giving myself a pep talk, :”Why are you angry? It’s not going to help the situation.” By then, I would have already calm down. This has been incredible in terms of managing my emotional intelligence…thou I have to admit, I am forever a work in progress.

That’s the whole point, when we aim to become a better human being, there is no final destination, it’s a constant work in progress.

I will be going for a meditation retreat, probably not as hardcore as 10 days silent retreat, (I just can’t do that to Anya) but a weekend away just to learn to skill would be very beneficial for me. I feel I am finally ready.

And I hope I’ve convinced you to start.

 

 

Week 2 : Coffee abstinence, Deep work, time blocking method

I still can’t believe years of coffee addiction is eradicated as easily as sweeping the dust off the floor. Another week flew by without coffee, and I have never felt better.

I still need abit more time to see how my sleep pattern progress, the noticeable difference for me currently, is my energy level, as mentioned previously, I no longer experience the highs and lows, my energy level feel more stable throughout the whole day.

As with all other habits I’m trying to build, the biggest takeaway for me is to just grind through the beginning, cup by cup, day by day, use substitute if you need (for me, it would be low caffeine tea/cocoa drink), eventually the habit will stick.

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Time Blocking Method

I’ve had a pretty hectic week, Anya’s holiday threw me off my routine, and I thrive on routines. I had to learn how to adapt to not let it stress me out too much. I am also experimenting with Dr. Cal Newport’s “Time Blocking” method, where you schedule your day hour by hour, and I must say, I am enlightened how it has helped me to feel more centred, especially with my “deep work” time.

Everybody have different obligations to full fill everyday, and we each have our own preferred schedule. We can apply the concept to tailor to our own needs.

I want to share the example of my typical day.

If I am not out on the field on an assignment (which takes either half or whole day depending on the nature of the job), most days, my schedule is flexible, depending on how I arrange it. It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed when you are a freelance worker like I am, as I don’t really have a rigid “9-5” working hour.

First, I decided to simplify my life into few sections :

 

 

Daily Tasks (this includes Anya, food preparation, eating, daily rituals such as meditation or walks etc)

Digital Tasks (emails, watapps, social media management, so on and so forth)

Deep work (I reserve this time exclusively to work on my personal project, which I will share in future)

Work (photo processing, client’s follow up, etc)

Family time

Reading. I have also included reading into my daily routine, and I even separated them into two categories : Leisure reading vs non leisure reading)

From 5pm onwards my routines is more clustered, but atleast I’ve planned out the bulk of my day.

I usually draft out my day the night before, or the morning itself. I do not do this everyday, especially over the holidays, and like today, where we spent the entire day just doing family stuffs.

Digital Tasks

There are certain things that I am not rigid, esp with watsapp messages. Sometimes I do reply messages, even thou I schedule my “Digital tasks” in the afternoon, before I start my work.

It’s still a struggle for me currently, separating my life away from “digital tasks” instead of letting it grapple with my attention throughout the day intermittently. I will elaborate more on my experience with social media addiction soon. (yes watsapp is a social media tool, alot of Asians don’t realize that, esp Malaysians)

I realize I don’t need to be 100% all the time, things comes up and schedule does changes, but atleast this gives me a sense of how I can spend my day more efficiently.

PS : After Digital Minimalism I went on to read Deep Work by Dr.Cal Newport. I highly recommend you to read both books, I am particularly grateful for all the practical tips that I can immediately apply to my life, and they have already improved the quality of my life tremendously. 

 

Atomic Habits : Meditation

These days, I really look forward to sitting down and writing on this blog, although I think I lack focus and my blog posts feels rather scattered, but these words, they represent a fragment of my present thoughts.

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Instead of a “tick”, I now use a rating system for my habits bullet journaling.

Progress on meditation 

I have moved up to tracking the quality of certain habits I’m trying to cultivate (such as meditation and reading), instead of just tracking the days I do them because I have been very consistent with them. Just weeks ago, I was struggling with sitting still for 5 minutes, these days, I start everyday with a 20 mins meditation and on days I feel agitated and flustered, I’d often end my day with a short 5-10 minutes meditation as well, even thou I am often interrupted by my lovely toddler Anya.

It feels rather vague, tracking quality instead of quantity with meditation, however, after weeks of experimenting with it, I am confident to say I can now distinguish between a poor session vs a good one. Some days I am simply “not there”, despite forcing myself to sit longer, while some sessions feels short but I am more present and focused.

The benefits I have noticed definitely motivate me to keep the ritual going : less anxiety, better concentration, better anger management, (if you have a toddler like mine, you’d understand) I just feel more level-headed.

Meditations comes in many forms, I particularly enjoy meditating in the car (eyes open, transfixed at one point, in between traffic light). I began enjoying walking and driving without any music or podcasts, I have gotten used to letting my mind wonder (content with being bored) instead of reaching for distraction every minute of the day. Each night, we’d sit in the park and watch Anya play, and we enjoy a brief conversations about our day without the distraction of devices.

I stop thinking about wanting to “fix” myself. I am a constant work in progress, but I am not broken in anyway.

“I like to think the best of me, is still hiding up my sleeves” John Mayer