Day 403: Flow to the Door

February Sprint continues! I haven’t had coffee yet, and part of that is for Reasons, but also a revelation midway through the morning.

I shoveled snow for exercise this morning, and did a little spin for good measure. Then I was thinking “just shower now and get it done,” and on the way to do that, it occurred to me that maybe I should organize my morning with an outward flow.

By which I mean do things in the order that lead me to the front door, and then out the front door. I often find I exercise, then go make coffee, then do the podcast, then have a shower and get dressed, then make lunch… wouldn’t it make more sense to exercise, shower, and then just move room to room toward the kitchen and the door out of the house?

I’m going to try that… it means coffee comes later, but that’s not a bad thing, necessarily. Exercise, shower, dress, computer stuff including podcast, then coffee/breakfast/lunch, then out the door. No doubling back.

It make a sort of intuitive sense; so much that maybe most people just do this already and it’s a bit dumb of me to stumble on it now. But there y’go. I’m’a do this.

Day 296: Failure Analysis

Well, I’ve had a great 24 hours with the not-new rules. Got up this morning, read my “SUCCESS!” poster, and proceeded to do all the things. So far, so good!

But I know I’ve been here before. And I’ve fallen off before. So I think I might take a few minutes this morning to look at the Daily Weight tallies and see if I can see a pattern in terms of starting and stopping weighing myself. It will be a general indicator of overall adherence, because weighing and food logging are usually the first things to go.

So maybe there are trends? Maybe not. Maybe I’ll peek right now…

…wow, I was SOLID from March through April. Nine straight weeks. Then off for 10 days in May, on for a week, off for a week, first week of June, on and off in July, and pretty solid in August. Rock solid for the last three weeks of September.

Notes from that:

  • I make progress when I track. For sure. Its totally visible.
  • I haven’t been as bad as I thought, over time. I would have guessed I spent 50% of my time with weighing, when it’s more like 75%. I’m better than I thought! I should be easier on myself.
  • There’s no real easy pattern like “three weeks on and then I fall off”. I clearly did best in the first two months of weighing. I tend to stop on weekends, if there’s a trend to be seen easily.

I’m… not disappointed, but I was hoping for something more easily observed. Like “watch out after the first three weeks!” kind of thing. But it seems like I’ve had a few start-of-month renewals, and some pretty good long runs. Saturdays and Sundays are the days to watch for sure!

So no immediate lessons, but it’s good to see that I’ve been better than I thought about it. Back on that horse, this time with daily affirmations…

 

 

Day 290: The Work

Talking with a friend about a daily project that she’s been trying and struggling with recently. And how it ties to this one, obviously. She’s been trying to do work she’s proud of every day — visual arts — and my take on it was that it’s not about the daily work as individual pieces. It’s about the body of work over time.

I’m clearly not ashamed of this. Every morning I sit down and write and record something that doesn’t embarrass me. But I’m able to do it because I know that every morning isn’t going to be stellar. Sometimes I write and record something quite good. Sometimes it’s just a short check-in. But I give myself the latitude to be mediocre at times, because I know I’m going to be good at other times.

The body of work over time is the project, not the entry. The entry is obviously necessary to the project, yes. But it’s not the project. The project is the scope of doing this for however long I can. The rest of my life? Who knows.

Which is not to say I’m lowballing this every day. But it’s apparent that this isn’t the result of hours of lavish audio production and planning. It’s a daily check-in, not Theatre of the Mind.

And is that a good analogy for diet and exercise? It’s about being mindful of it, even if every day isn’t excellent. I beat myself up for having off days, but the important thing is to have every days, even if some days are off.

 

Day 234: Activities of Daily Living

Yesterday’s fast went well! I had a mini-cave at the very end and ate a banana, two tablespoons of peanut butter and two cookies because I was afraid that a completely empty stomach would kill my sleep. But on the whole it went well. “Avoid the kitchen” was the key thing.

Today’s back to regular eating, and not “eat two days’ worth of food” eating. So logging again.

I was thinking about ADL on my run this morning. ADL is “Activities of Daily Living,” which is a term I heard a lot back when I was working with pharma. It’s used as a measure of people’s ability to function with certain conditions. Stuff like taking a shower, doing the laundry, grocery shopping, walking to the store. ADL is basically the business of life. It’s used as a yardstick to see how adversely people are affected by conditions: if your arthritis is keeping you from getting your groceries, that’s a measurable impact on your ADL.

It’s also the “wasted” time, in my head, a lot of the time. Making lunches. Doing the dishes. Not recording a radio show, but uploading it, writing the description, hitting “post.”

There’s an old Zen saying: “before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” Doing better as a whole doesn’t change the fact that you’ve still gotta do all the dumb stuff you gotta do. But I think it changes your internal approach to it.

So I’m trying to be a bit less resentful of ADL and a bit more embracing of it. I’m not saying I’m going full “seek your bliss while mopping the floor,” but I could be leaning into my routine tasks more. Be more present while doing the dumb stuff I gotta do. It might make it all a bit more fun.

I don’t have a specific plan for this, it’s just a general thought I had. Kind of like “do easy” a while back, it’s a good philosophy to noodle on from time to time.

Day 198: Steady On

Things are about to get real with the half-marathon training. 5k tomorrow, then 12 on Thursday; repeat Saturday-Sunday. Next week we start getting into 18k; running will be steady on until then.

I’m kind of excited; I also kind of stupidly set my fake “race” to August 22, so I might have to just move that up to Sunday, August 20 and not tell the app. I still have no idea what I’m going to do for the run itself. Just get a car for the morning and run in one direction for three hours, then have my wife come and get me? I dunno.

So the arthritis diagnosis plus the more serious running ahead is definitely a good impetus to lose weight. And I’m feeling positive about it. Behind goal a bit right now, but that’s okay; it’s going to be a good week.

Steady on til run time.

I’m rowing on rest days, which is probably fine? Opinions seem to be mixed. Not sure if I should be exercising on rest days, but I enjoy it, and the rowing is definitely good full-body.

Strength training eludes me. I just… don’t want to do it. That’s kind of the obstacle. My complete unwillingness to do strength training. I know I should. Meh.

A friend of mine has been seriously talking up TRX, which sounds, frankly, really friggin’ cool. But I’m having a hard time seeing whether this is “I can get into this” excited, or “if I spend money I’ll do something” fallacy.

So time to get to strength training. I gotta do it.

Productivity update: I might check out a new podcast featuring Ursula K Vernon, in which she’s exploring productivity options with her husband. I know Ursula from my brief time in comics, when I was doing The License for Graphic Smash while she was doing Digger. I’ll keep you posted.

 

Day 100: 100 days!

So this is what 100 days feels like. A good time to take stock of what’s gone on so far, and take a beat to think about what’s working well, and what’s not working well.

100 days of sobriety:

Working well This was what I thought would be hardest, and 100 days in, turns out to be easiest. Maybe because it was the thing I was mentally girding myself for.

Key lessons:

  • Don’t drink. That’s a probable truism. But that simple decision, made daily in an affirmation, was pretty damn useful.
  • Don’t freak yourself out. Overthinking it, burning your brain out on never again? isn’t helpful. “One day at a time” really is a powerful tool.
  • Tell people. Don’t get preachy about it, don’t declare things. If you need to be socially diplomatic, “I’m trying a thing where I don’t drink for a while” is a good out that doesn’t unnerve people and makes them feel okay about their choices.

Future:

Keep on keepin’ on.

100 days of exercise:

I’m doing something every day, sometimes just stretching, sometimes not working as hard as I could. I think there’s a factor here, a fourth pillar, that I need to get into starting on day 101.

Key lessons:

  • The metaphor of running 10k by running 5k in one direction is a good one. Set myself up for exercise in ways that are hard to get out of. Make appointments with friends to run.
  • Try to figure out my fine line between “take it easy and don’t hurt yourself,” and “go hard and work for it.” I don’t know how to navigate that yet.
  • As much as I hate it, I need to have stretching and strength as part of the routines, not just running/rowing.

Future:

Give myself a few more ease-into-rowing sessions, then set myself up with RowPro or a rowing app so I  have rowing appointments that will be hard to break.

100 days of eating sensibly:

Ugh. This is the boondoggle. The beast. I thought this  one would be easiest, and it’s hardest — maybe the most insidious of the areas. I’m still not great about diet, snacking, etc.

Key lessons:

  • I can’t keep snacks in the house. Period. It sounds childish, but having my wife hide the jellybeans and mete them out every evening was the best move I’ve made, foodwise, in 100 days.
  • I clearly have undeniable stress eating issues.
  • Keeping bad food out of the house is key, and avoiding food when out of the house is also key.

Future:

Food logging is going to be key. I have to tackle why I’m not doing it head-on, and aggressively attack any thing that’s preventing it from happening. This will be a major endeavour — it’s going to involve meal planning, more time in the morning, and a solid partnership with my wife.

100 days of sleeping poorly:

I don’t think of this as taking on more, I think I’ve been trying to build a stool when I should have been building a table. The fourth leg is sleep. I’ve always thought of sleep as a value-add: it’s great to have, but I can do without. I’m starting to realize I’ve been wrong, wrong, wrong about sleep. Sleep’s a foundation.

Key points:

  • I need to be less churlish about sleep aids, especially ones that are supposed to prevent middle-of-the-night wakefulness. Not get hooked on ’em or anything, but be open to them as a tool.
  • My bedtime wrap-up needs to be something I take more seriously, rather than just being on devices up to the minute I hit the hay. Less electronics, more books and writing.

Future:

Better sleep.

100 days in summary:

The above is kind of necessarily self-critical, but I feel good. Right now, but also in general. I feel better than I have in a while. An older version of me would be despondent at not having reached all my goals by now; current me is learning, slowly, to look at the trend lines. The trend lines are good.

I’ve got a table instead of a stool now, and some solid objectives in every area.

Bonus challenge:

No Netflix except for stuff I watch with my wife until the next milestone. I’m burning too much time on shit TV.

250 days is the next milestone.

Let’s do this thing.

Day Seventy-One: Evening Reboots, Revisited

A while back, I was thinking about Morning Me and Evening Me. The takeaway was I was thinking about ways to disrupt automatism. Stop Evening Me from just sort of sliding in. Evening reboots are the new thing.

I tried setting a phone alarm for 6 p.m. marked “reset for evening.” It didn’t work. I forgot about it. It’s been busy.

Time to revisit that idea.

Because I think the problem isn’t actually a distinct evening personality. It’s mindfulness. As I get tired and distracted, mindfulness slips. Short-term gratification starts trumping medium-term goals. Since I’m non mindful, I fail.

Evening reboots could really help.

When I sit down for dinner, I should just take 10 seconds (like I do here). I should re-check-in for the evening: what are my plans? An evening reboot doesn’t have to be about work, work, work. If I’m planning to play video games, or read, I should plan that.

I’m talking about three points in the day now. Morning check-in, which is this. Evening check-in, between work and dinner. And before-bed check-out, where I think about how the whole day went.

There’s a bit of scope creep in all of this. I’ve gone from a short morning check-in to about a minute a day of various processes.  A minute still isn’t bad, but I don’t want to get trapped in a lifestyle that’s only about my lifestyle.

I’m going to try this today, though… sitting down for dinner should be my trigger. A quick look at my evening. Figure out in half-hour chunks what I intend to do. Then do it. If I’m mindful about what I’m about to eat, and what I’m going to do, that should cut down on the automatic grazing.

We’ll see what happens! Again, I don’t want my life to become an endless series of check-ins and check-outs. But I need to beat automatic activity. Experiment ho!

Day Eighteen: Tiny Upgrades

I’m trying to be a bit more “see a problem, solve a problem” this year.

A quick f’rinstance: USB cables make me nuts. I have to rearrange stuff from time to time. Figuring out which end goes to which thing is a tugging, follow-the-wire, jerk-ass exercise in frustration. So last weekend, I did this:

Tiny upgrades - USB plug tagging
Now I know which USB plug belongs to my external hard drive. Small improvements!

Tiny upgrades are easy, and pay off in the long term.

The stickers had been in a drawer for about five years. It took less than five minutes to do all my external devices. Four colours of sticker, and single/double stickering, means I can do up to 20 devices. And the dividends are going to be paying out to me for the rest of my computer-using life.

I’d even done this at work, months ago, when I was dealing with microphone cables and got hacked off. I numbered the ends of each cable. I don’t know why it took me so long to bring this idea home.

At any rate, I’m trying to be more attentive to tiny frustrations. I’m the sort of person who will be careful to step over the lifting edge of the carpet for years. I should be the sort of person that gets a hammer and a carpet tack and tacks it town.

“I don’t have time to do X” is my go-to excuse for not dealing with things like this. Often, it’s true. I have to get to work. I gotta shower. I gotta eat. Sometimes I really don’t have time.

So the challenge is really twofold:

  1. Actually engage with an annoyance rather than just instinctively getting around it;
  2. Ask myself if I do have time, really;
  3. Frame it as an investment rather than dealing with a hassle.

I guess that’s threefold. I could go up and change the “twofold” above to “threefold,” but I don’t have time right now. Ha!

Day Eleven: This Is Hard (Part 1)

Welcome to the first of what may well turn out to be one billion “This Is Hard” entries over time.

I cruised through my first weekend more or less without incident, but today. Oy, today. Today was the first time in eleven days that I was just not having it at 5 a.m. with the get-up-and-exercise thing.

Here’s the routine, as it stands:

5 a.m. up, exercise

5:45-6:15 exercise done, kitchen time (make lunch, have breakfast, tidy up)

6:15-7:00 this blog/podcast/some other email crap

7:00-8:00 shower, dressed, other minor project stuff until it’s time for work

The thing about me and exercise, is I really only do it if I do it as soon as I get up, because I’ve discovered the trick is to get started before I am awake enough to invent reasons not to. If I wander around the house for half an hour before getting started, I’ll find something to occupy me. Afternoon/evening workouts? Fuggedaboutit. There’ll always be something that’s “more pressing” than exercise.

This Is Hard: One Day At A Time vs. Just Today

“One Day At A Time” is a great way to power through sticky points — it’s helpful with not drinking, among other things — but it’s got a dark and evil cousin, which is “just today”.

I’ll just take today off, and get back on it tomorrow. 

That was the crescendo in my head this morning, timpani and 1812 Overture cannons and all that. I can just skip today, because I’m exhausted and I haven’t slept well and the cat’s been stomping on me since 3 a.m. and it’s pouring rain outside and this is hard.

And this is hard. It is a giant pain in the tuchus.

So what got me out of bed was partly knowing I had to do this, and having to talk into a microphone and say “well, I didn’t bother with the exercise bit today, because I didn’t feel like it” is just weak sauce.

Another bigger part was that some other voice in my head said “if this is hard, that’s because it’s working.” Go team That Voice, because it managed to drag my lethargic ass downstairs and get me doing pushups before I really knew what was going on. And afterwards, there was coffee.

Answering "This Is Hard", but only after a morning workout.
The sweet post-exercise reward, and another reason to get up and get at it.

If it’s hard, it’s because it’s working. That’s not a bad one to keep in my pocket to use for This Is Hard (Part 2), which is inevitable. But hopefully not soon.

 

Day Nine: when routine tasks go YAGO

I have a criminally short attention span. I like to think it’s a byproduct of some of my more positive qualities — the shadow of creativity and curiosity — but the fact remains that I have the stick-to-it-iveness of a gnat raised on video games. So one thing about this project is I need to avoid YAGO.

YAGO is something I made up last night.

I was trying to come up with a description of what happens to me when I start something I enjoy, but that takes small commitments over time. Like most learning or skills acquisition projects. After a while, I have a brutal tendency to start to resent the time and effort when I plateau or get stuck.

So I was looking for an appropriate phrase to describe the frankly overdramatic way my brain rebels against these things. I don’t go through a phase of winnowing away my enthusiasm, I seem to flip into a kind of fug of despair and malaise and frustration.

YAGO is Yet Another Goddamn Ordeal.

Over time, any task that takes routine commitment risks, for me, becoming YAGO. And once it’s hit that point, it’s hard to bring back. Once something’s embedded itself in your mind as “great, this shit again” it’s very difficult to reframe it as a positive part of your day.

It’s not impossible. Banjo practice (we’ll be talking about my stupid theme song at some point; short version: it’s me, I hate it, and it motivates me to practice) was YAGO for a while. But I’m pulling it back from the brink.

My banjo, YAGO, and motivation
Banjo practice has slipped into YAGO status, but I’m fighting to bring it back.

Do you have a tendency to turn things you should enjoy and learn from into YAGO? How can it be avoided or redirected? I desperately don’t want this podcast to become YAGO, so I’m going to have to start thinking about how to make sure that doesn’t happen.