I know I’ve been basically MIA for the last month, but I have not been idle. I started re-reading “4-Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss and started to take the lessons to heart. Instead of just reading the book I started taking the proactive steps that he recommends to accomplish my long-term goals.
There was one question asked in the book that really struck home and pulled me away from blogging for a while. “Are you inventing things to do to avoid the important?”. Sadly, I was doing that, a lot. This blog was one of the things that I would use as an excuse for why I wasn’t writing my book. I justified ignoring my book on the grounds that I wrote for my blog, but the result was zero pages of book and dozens of blog posts of varied quality. I was using my creative energy towards something that wasn’t in line with my long term goals.So, I wrote that question on a post-it, stuck it to my monitor, and got to work.
Another concept in the book that altered how I work throughout the day was going on a “low-information diet”. I realized that I spent hours on sites like Facebook each day and it really didn’t benefit me. What did I gain through hours of scrolling and reading articles? Sure, I was “informed”, but how did that help my life? The information I read online would anger me or tempt me into debating someone online for no reason, but that create anything. It didn’t help me with my book, it didn’t earn me more money, it didn’t increase the quality time I had with my partner or friends. All it did was take up my time and drain my mental energy.
Now, I have a Chrome app that only allows me to go on Facebook for 10 minutes per day. The result? I still get the information I need to be “informed” and if I need to get in touch with someone or ask for help on Facebook then 10 minutes is plenty of time to do it. I got hours of my life back each day and I have been redirecting that energy towards improving my daily life and working on my long term creations.
The most important accomplishment in the last month was my writing. I finished the first draft of my book. I went from a blank page to about 40,000 words in 25 days. I would trade over a year of Facebook time for a completed first draft, a month was a very small price. My second accomplishment is my meditation practice, it is still incredibly difficult but I meditated 28 days out of November and I’m up to 20-minutes a day. I have also started training myself to dance with poi, which at this point has done little more than make me realize how uncoordinated I am with my left hand, but I’m enjoying it.
There were other accomplishments as well… cooking new meals weekly, running or biking almost every day (including a 10-mile run), relearned Trigonometry and pre-Calculus on Khan Academy, started a daily Stoic reflection, and teaching myself GIS and data visualization on Coursera. By re-evaluating what I spend my time on and discarding the things that weren’t in line with my goals I ended up with plenty of time in the day. Instead of scrolling Facebook, doing dishes three times a day, or checking emails, I’m working on things that will help me move forward in life. I still clean and check emails, I just don’t do them as a way to put off the difficult work I should be doing. I had to ask myself, instead of spending 15-hours per week (or more) surfing Facebook, what else could I do with my time? How would my fitness level improve if 1/3 of that time went to exercise? Could I become fluent in a foreign language, subject matter, or musical instrument if I spent an hour a day focusing on those instead of reading political blogs? Am I using my time in a way that is going to help me experience the things that I want to experience?
So, now that I have my time somewhat under control, what are the other pain points in my life? What behaviors do I have that are not taking me to my goals? The first one that stands out is alcohol consumption. In November I consumed 52 alcoholic drinks (and I’ll probably drink a couple tonight at Naughty Bingo). I am not saying I should abstain, alcohol consumption can be justified as both a goal of life (it brings pleasure) and as a tool for long-term happiness (helps make friends), but it is clear that isn’t the case for ALL my drinking. Those 52 drinks last month equal about 2.5 lbs of fat from calories (roughly), and it also cost me around $200. Not only that, if I drank more than 3 drinks in a night my average time running the next day was 9 minutes, if I drank less than three drinks my average running time the next day was 25 minutes. Drinking clearly comes with some direct and indirect costs. My plan for December is to cut alcohol consumption in half, so only 26 drinks during the month and only one night with over 3 drinks.
How I spend my money is another place that could be improved, particularly when it comes to books. Right now my bookshelf has 44 unread books, 3 books I’m currently reading, and 16 completed books. All of these books were purchased in the last two months. I need to re-evaluate how I decide to purchase books. So, I’m taking all my credit card information off of Amazon. If I want to purchase a book I need to enter in the card information by hand each time. I’m also going to try and put a 48-hour waiting period on all purchases (is there an app for that?). I can’t think of a single scenario where I need a book in a tight time frame. Also, no new book purchases until my “unread” shelf is down to ten books, which means I either read 34 books or I realize that I will never read them and I donate them to the used bookstore down the street.
I also need to figure out how to make friends, as lame as that sounds. It is tough as an adult in a new city to meet people, particularly when I work from home. I’ve started working through Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and it has some great tips that I’m going to proactively use, but I’m such an introvert and homebody that it is hard to force myself out of my shell. Luckily, Wilmington has a ton of opportunities for me to do social things around my interests (Dungeons and Dragons, board games, yoga, fitness, rock climbing, vegan, spirituality, etc). This isn’t really an area that I’m wasting time or energy, it is an area that I haven’t dedicated resources to like I should. Instead, I have gotten in the habit of focusing all my friend energy into Facebook (don’t get me wrong, I love my connections on there, but I need something more physical in my life).
So, that is how my November went. I didn’t announce a lot of this stuff ahead of time because I’ve found that announcing something actually discourages me from accomplishing it. Saying “I’m writing a book!” feels like it is productive when it really isn’t. It is better for me to write a book and say “I wrote a book!”. Looking forward to making that announcement is an incentive for me.
I’m looking forward to December and to seeing how my new goals and projects work out. I may try to blog a little bit, but only if I feel a real drive to do it. It can be stressful sometimes, but I try and remember to not take any of it too seriously. The point of life is to have fun, not to be 100% productive. If I have a few days (or more) where I accomplish nothing, that’s cool. Sometimes you need to lounge in front of Netflix with pizza and Oreos instead of going to the gym. Immediate pleasure is sometimes reason enough to do something.