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

 

 

 

Book Notes : 59 seconds by Richard Wiseman

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I was never a fan of self help books…never say never, because I have been able to reap so many benefits from self help books, I am now a convert. I still prefer fiction books thou, it provides a different stimuli and I get to let me imagination run wild.

If it wasn’t because of my withdrawal from social media, and severely limiting my screen time (except for Kindle) , I wouldn’t have half the concentration and discipline I have with reading. English in particular is hard for me since it’s not my native language, but then, on second thought, what better way there is to improve my English?

It is comforting to know as long as I am willing, there will always be a book for me. There isn’t an expiration date attach to books, and I can read anywhere, anytime (I must admit perhaps it’s not wise (and possibly illegal) to read in between traffic lights.

59 seconds by Richard Wiseman

Buying experiences made people feel better than buying products.

If you want to cheer yourself up, behave like a happy person.

The children who were offered the medals thought something along the lines of, ‘Well, let me see here, adults usually offer me rewards when they want me to do something I don’t like doing. An adult is offering me a gold medal for drawing, therefore I must not like drawing.’ The effect has been replicated many times, and the conclusion is clear: if you set children an activity they enjoy and reward them for doing it, the reward reduces the enjoyment and demotivates them. Within a few seconds, you transform play into work.

Presenting weaknesses early is seen as a sign of openness.

It seems that modesty, rather than honesty, is critical for positive aspects of your past. By delaying, it appears you would rather let your strengths emerge naturally, while playing your trump cards early is seen as boastful.

Although it may sound strange, this curious phenomenon, referred to as the Franklin effect, is theoretically sound. Most of the time, people’s behaviour follows from their thoughts and feelings. They feel happy and so they smile, they find someone attractive and so look longingly into their eyes. However, the reverse can also be true. Get people to smile and they feel happier, ask them to look into someone’s eyes and they find that person more attractive. Exactly the same principle applies for favours. To encourage others to like you, ask for their help.

When you gossip about another person, listeners unconsciously associate you with the characteristics you are describing, ultimately leading to those characteristics being ‘transferred’ to you. So, say positive and pleasant things about friends and colleagues and you are seen as a nice person. In contrast, constantly bitch about their failings and people will unconsciously apply the negative traits and incompetence to you.

Gossip. Know that whatever traits you assign to others are likely to come home to roost, and be seen as part of your own personality.

If you want to help yourself, you should help others first.

When you experience an event that has the potential to make you feel angry, try the following exercise to ease the pain and help you move on. Spend a few moments thinking about the positive aspects of the event you found hurtful. For example, did the event help you . . . • grow stronger or become aware of personal strengths that you didn’t realize you had? • appreciate aspects of your life more than before? • become a wiser person or strengthen important relationships? • become more skilled at communicating your feelings, more confident or encourage you to end a bad relationship? • develop into a more compassionate or forgiving person? • strengthen your relationship with a person who hurt you?

‘For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: It might have been.’
There is an old adage that happiness is about wanting what you have, not having what you want. It seems that for the maximizer, even when they get what they want, they may not always want what they get.

Being praised for effort is very different to being praised for ability.

All praise is not created equal. Some praise can have devastating effects on a child’s motivation, while other praise can help them achieve their very best. Telling a child they possess a certain trait, such as being bright or talented, is not good for their psychological health because it encourages them to avoid challenging situations, not try so hard and quickly become demotivated when the going gets tough. In contrast, praising effort encourages people to stretch themselves, work hard and persist in the face of difficulties.

The ability to delay instant gratification and focus more on long-term success is vital for achieving important aims and ambitions.
Visualize yourself doing, not achieving People who visualize themselves taking the practical steps needed to achieve their goals are far more likely to succeed than those who simply fantasize about their dreams becoming a reality. 

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 : Reset your mind and change your mood

Some personal observation and experiment in regards to changing my state of being.

I am about a month into my contest prep, most of my musings tend to revolve around dieting, it’s definitely difficult to not be food focus while you’re in a dieting phase, for me, it is a requirement. However, most of these strategy are effective and can be apply to many aspects of our lives.

As I am still not tracking food at this point, when it comes to dealing with hunger issues, I have to rely heavily on internal cues. There is also a difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger. I have realized I deal with physical hunger much better than emotional hunger. Currently, the cue that I give myself is, “If you still feel like you want more food after your meal, then you’re in the right place, stop right now.” At a surplus or a maintenance phase,  I simply just add more food, there was definitely more flexibility.

Change your environment

Walking away from more food doesn’t come naturally for me. The strategy I use currently is immediately clean up after my meal, (make dish washing/cleaning up part of my eating routine.) And I would often walk right after my morning and evening meals. I am rather inspired by Stan Efferding when it comes to implementing walks or activity around meal times, as it improves digestion and insulin sensitivity. As soon as I move away from my dining table, clean up, then proceed to my neighbourhood stroll, my urge of wanting more food is greatly reduced. Switching up the environment definitely helps.

Use music

Sometimes when I’m feeling abit down, I listen to happy, upbeat music. I find that music is quite powerful when it comes to picking me up, this is why I tend to avoid moody music (especially love songs about heart breaks) I appreciate sad music definitely, but I find that it does nothing for my mental well being. So most of the time, I gravitate towards happier tunes.

Change your physical state 

Our physical being has alot to do with our mental well being, as soon as I get up and move, I feel my mood is instantly lifted. This ties in with walking, as soon as I pick up my feet and starts walking outside, I can feel my entire being switch. Movement is medicine.

When distraction doesn’t work

I hear people say the best thing we can do when we’re trying to change our mental state is get distracted, this has never worked well for me. With distraction, I find that the underlying problem will persists and haunt me whenever I have down time. I realized sometimes I just need to face my problem head-on, a form of mental training almost, to “grind through it”. Whether it’s hunger, or certain habits that you try to eradicate, you just have to “get used to it”, putting in the reps, until you’re not as effected by it anymore. This is a learning curve for me definitely.

Nature is your best friend

I am fortunate to be in the tropics, where weather is good for daily walks and activities. I used to be a hermit, my days were mostly screen-filled, indoors. I now enjoy a myriad of outdoor activities, on most days I start and end my day with a walk, and whenever we travel, I try to include an outdoor activity which we both can enjoy. Being outside alone, helps tremendously with mood and depression. It is not a coincidence that more people are diagnosed with depression these days : people are less inclined to go outside due to technology. Sunlight and nature is incredibly healing.

I work hard on making these habits sticks, putting in the reps day in and day out, untill this comes naturally for me.

#17weeksout

 

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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Bullet Journaling : Building good habits

When I look at what people do with their journals…with all the fancy drawings, different types of pens, etc…I feel intimidated. This is why I often start and fail my journaling project, even thou I work in the creative field, I can barely write recognisable letters. Kind of like doctor’s handwritings, maybe even worse.

I got the idea of bullet journaling through James Clear’s book  “Atomic Habits”. The idea seem simple enough, you list a list of things you want to work on, you just cross them off daily, no fancy drawings needed. Then I went online and saw what people do with their bullet journals..and again, I was flabbergasted at first. There are some fancy people out there, doing very fancy things with their journals, but I realise I don’t have to be fancy, as long as it serves its purpose. After some browsing, I settled on making my list on a google spreadsheet. Printed and taped on my bedroom’s wall.

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It is the first thing I see when I wake up, and the last thing I see when I get into bed. A daily reminder or some sort. After a few weeks of experimenting, I can finally share some thoughts about my experience.

Does it work ? It’s a complicated question for me. I have listed 14 habits I want to build on my spreadsheet, and I rarely ever get the perfect score. Some examples on the list included : daily walks, daily meditation, reading, no spending, limited screen time, no junk food, no eating out…just to name a few. My average score is mostly between 11-12. Do I see it as a failure? Not really.

Perfection was never my goal, I wanted to be aware of my habits, and I want to put in conscious effort daily to build the habits I want to acquire. A life not examined is not a life worth living, here I am, examining my life and try to make improvements daily.

I am definitely so much more aware of my habits once I started doing this, and just before I wrote this blog post, I’ve just renewed my list, seeing how certain habits are now cemented (meditation, screen time, daily walks, reading), and I want to hone in on certain habits I have yet to build.