Bored and Brilliant challenge 4: app addled

Previous posts on the challenge:

An idea came to me for a work thing while I was out walking without my phone. It works!

Today was the day to delete the app. The tough day that was coming . . .

That app.

The one that you use too much. The one you use to escape—too often, at the expense of other things (including sleep). The one that makes you feel bad about yourself. Delete said time-wasting, bad habit app. Uninstall it. (Bored and Brilliant page 107)

Woah!! Makes me feel bad about myself? That’s pretty full-on! I don’t think I have an app that does that.

I already knew what it would be without doing any of the tracking exercises in this challenge. (Yeah, it was my homescreen . . .)

For many people, it’s a game like Candy Crush or whatever the latest iteration of that is (I don’t play games so I have no idea what’s big in the world of games) and for others, it’s a social media app. Facebook, I’m looking at you. I deleted Facebook from my phone a long time ago and have been pretty good with regulating my use of it on my computer. There was a time I cheated and logged in on the browser on my phone but I realised that doing this wasn’t really addressing the issue of mindless scrolling and liking and getting sucked into things that drained my energy away from things I wanted to be doing. So far, since the last time I logged out of it about a month ago, I’ve been disciplined enough not to do that again.

So in the absence of Facebook, I turned to Instagram. I have three accounts. Straightlinesgirl is for my attempts at learning photography, where I follow a lot of professional accounts and people who share the same photography interests as me. Then there’s my Hobart Street Corners project, where I don’t follow anyone and don’t spend a lot of time other than posting my photos. The other one is almost a Facebook substitute. Most of the people I follow there I know so I see a lot of their photos I missed by not going on Facebook as much. But this feed has a lot less stuff I don’t want to see or am not interested in than what comes up in Facebook.

I do spend a lot of time on the app. (Observe my screenshot from last week. A lot of time.)20190330 Monemt screenshot_

My first instinct when I pick up my phone is to scroll to my last screen of apps and into the last screen of the folder I hid it in to make it harder to get to (hint: that doesn’t work if you want to reduce your use of an app), and scroll. Often through the same photos and often through my entire feed over and over just to make sure I’ve caught up with everything and not missed anything, even if I don’t spend a lot of time actually looking at the photos. I feel like I’m not getting a lot of value out of the time I spend on Instagram and it’s just a convenient way to occupy my mind for a few minutes when I have nothing specific I want to do.

My experience echoes that of Sandra, who is quoted in the book as saying “I check that app far much more often than I actually need to and I’m not even sure why.”

I think Instagram is a two-edged sword. On the one hand it serves as a platform where I can keep up with my friends in the same way as I would on Facebook, which is great. But it also instils in me this need to keep checking it to see if anyone has posted anything cool, or has commented on one of my photos or one of my comments on theirs. That is not what I want to be doing with my time. It’s fine, as long as I’m not on there multiple times a day.

In my other world, Instagram also shows me photos from people whose work I love and am inspired by that I may not have otherwise seen. But the sheer volume of photos is overwhelming and the app is set up to be fast-paced, to scroll, look and like, without taking the time to fully appreciate the photos. I mean, you look at them on a tiny screen so you are never going to experience them as a work of art, which many of the photos I like to look at are. It doesn’t do the photos justice. But then again, a phone rarely will. But even so, it’s not set up to encourage you to linger and look at an image for very long. And good luck trying to find it if you want to look at it again and consider a comment you might want to make after you’ve thought about it for a couple of days. (The save feature is a bit handy here, just saying.)

So . . .  Wednesday morning I sat down to do my meditation practice after my walk and decided that would be the fateful time. I hesitated and thought I should check my feed first, but I breathed deeply and didn’t think any more and deleted it. For good measure, I deleted Tweetbot as well because I knew that, in the absence of Instagram, that would be my go-to app, in the same way that Instagram became that app after I stopped going on Facebook. I can do without it for a while too.

20190403 No more social combo

Now you see it . . .  now you don’t

I know I’m not going to stay off Instagram forever, but I hope that a few days without it will help me reassess my relationship with it and set some boundaries about how (and how often) I use it, and what I allow into my head.

Just out of interest, since last week, the Moment app has recorded the following amounts of screentime. It paints an interesting picture.

Thursday: 4 hours 22 minutes

Friday: 5 hours 10 minutes

Saturday: 5 hours 6 minutes

Sunday (first day of no phone in transit): 2 hours 47 minutes

Monday (no phone in transit): 2 hours 9 minutes

Tuesday (no phone in transit, no photos): 2 hours 7 minutes (no photos didn’t make that much difference)

Wednesday: (no phone in transit, no Instagram): 1 hour 9 minutes (hmmm . . . )

Thursday (no Instagram, taking some photos): 1 hour 56 minutes

Friday (no Instagram but taking photos of a special event): 2 hours 59 minutes

 

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19 for 2019: week 10 update

Week of 4 March

Well, things took an unexpected turn this week, with a no-coffee experiment being unexpectedly thrown into the mix. You can read about that in Saturday’s post.

Everything else is going slowly, with my main focus this month on getting more sleep, avoiding alcohol (thing 13), and doing at least 15,000 steps a day for the Cancer Council’s March Charge fundraiser.

To get more sleep, I’m attempting to move my bedtime back from sometime between 11pm and midnight to closer to 10pm, with my interim goal being 10.45. I achieved this every day last week, and most of those days I was in bed well before 10.45 but decided to read for a bit before I went to sleep, so the times I’ve recorded are the times I’ve turned the light off, not the actual time I was in bed.

I’ve also been trying to turn my computer off no later than 9.45, to give myself an hour of screen-free time. That has been less successful, so I’m looking at things I can do to make it easier to do.

Here’s last week’s tracker:

Day 4 (Monday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 15,618 | Bedtime: 10.45

Day 5 (Tuesday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 15,421 | Bedtime: 10:45

Day 6 (Wednesday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 28,311 | Bedtime: 10.45

Day 7 (Thursday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps:19,963 | Bedtime: 10.30

Day 8 (Friday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 16,775 | Bedtime: 10.45

Day 9 (Saturday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 15,825 | Bedtime: 10.45

Day 10 (Sunday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 15,916 | Bedtime: 10.15

I’m also tracking my wakeup time and my computer off time, as well as keeping an hourly record of what I’m doing and what my energy levels are as Chris Bailey describes in Chapter 3 of The Productivity Project. The purpose of this is to determine what my times of highest energy are so I can make sure I’m working on the things that are most important to me at these times. After ten days, the results are inconclusive. There were a couple of unusual things that probably threw a couple of days’ results off, and Chris also notes that if you’re making a switch to no alcohol and no caffeine, the first few days might not be entirely accurate as your body adjusts to being without those stimulants. So I’m planning to keep this up for a month and see if things become more consistent later in the month.

So much tracking!

20190308 Waterfront from Mac 2 3 edit

A morning walk

Onto other things on the list.

  • Photo course (thing 1): I watched two videos (day 17 and 18) but haven’t done any more assignments.
  • Reading (thing 5): I finished three books this week, one fiction and two non-fiction (The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey and The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz). I’ve now read 12 books this year but the brief was six of them had to be fiction and I’ve only read five fiction books, so I don’t consider this thing to be complete.
  • Wellness program (thing 6): I guess cutting out alcohol and coffee should contribute to reducing my stress levels and helping me stay calm, even though they are not specific issues that have been covered at this time. My main focus is on building up strategies I can call on when I get overwhelmed so I can better deal with those situations. I haven’t done a lot this week.
  • 2018 photojournalism (thing 11): I stuck a couple of collages in the book.
  • Beer books (thing 12): I entered one more book into the spreadsheet so I’ve finished six books, with four to go.
  • Explore a track on kunanyi (thing 15): I already did this in February but I got another opportunity this week to accompany a group of kids from Kramstable’s school on a day bushwalk on the Pipeline Track so I can tick this one off again!
    20190306 01 View from the Pipeline Track edit

    Pipeline Track, kunanyi

    20190306 07 View of the Mountain from the Waterworks edit

    Looking back at kunanyi from the Waterworks after the Pipeline Track walk

  • Lightroom (thing 19): I haven’t done anything specifically new; I’m just getting familiar with it by using it.

Status for week 10

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed: 4 (7, 8. 9, 15)
  • Things I progressed: 7 (1, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 19)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 2 (2, 16)
  • Things not started: 6 (3, 4, 10, 14, 17, 18)

19 for 2019: week 9 update

Week of 25 February 2019

After my two mid-week posts, it’s time for my regular weekly update on 19 for 2019.

You most likely would have seen my posts last week about starting my 30 days alcohol-free (thing 13) and how I’m using that to try to get to bed earlier. Cleverly, I picked one of the longest months, which also happens to have five Fridays, five Saturdays and five Sunday, which are the days I’m intending to restrict drinking to once this month is over. (No drinking on a school night!)

March is also the month I’m taking part in the Cancer Council’s March Charge fundraiser by walking 300 km in March (15,000 steps a day) as well as trying to get more sleep by going to bed earlier. The three are all linked, because to be able to walk 3000 steps per day more than I normally do (that’s about an extra two km), I will need more energy. To get more energy I need more than six hours sleep a night; to get more sleep I need to go to bed earlier; and to go to bed earlier I need to cut out drinking so I don’t get caught up in that “just one more”, “oh, I’ll just watch this YouTube video”, “I’ll have quick top-up because the video hasn’t ended,” “this video looks interesting, I’ll watch that while I finish my drink” . . . “oh no! It’s 11.30 and I have work tomorrow . . .” spiral.

So. Today is day four. Day one was helped a bit by the fact that I felt really unwell on Friday and didn’t want anything to drink.

Day 1 (Friday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 15,180 | Bedtime: 10:40

Day 2 (Saturday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 15,858| Bedtime: 10:50

Day 3 (Sunday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 19,324| Bedtime: 10:00

It’s a bit soon to be drawing any conclusions at this stage. I also need to work out a fancy tracking system so I can keep track of things.

In other things:

  • Photo course (thing 1): My flash arrived so I completed assignment 11.
  • Read 12 books (thing 5): I completed book 9 (2001 A Space Odyssey), which is my fourth fiction book. I’m now reading books 10 and 11, both of which are non-fiction.
  • I got a new electric oil burner to replace the one I smashed and am keeping it in my room rather than the bathroom so if it gets knocked off it won’t shatter. I’m trying out different scents to see if any of them affect my mood or my state of mind. I did some of the journalling work this week (thing 6).
  • Photojournal (thing 11): I printed weeks 30-48. I stuck a couple of collages in the book. This is really a low-energy task that I have to remember to do if I get a few moments when I’m not sure what to do, rather than reach for my phone and get sucked into social media.
  • 33 Beers (thing 12): Book 5 completed. (5 down, 5 to go) I appreciate the irony of the fact that I am having a month off alcohol yet spending time updating a spreadsheet of all the different beers I have tried over the past four years.
  • Lightroom (thing 19): I’m still using it.

Status for week 9

Things completed this week: 0

Things I progressed: 7 (1, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 19)

Things in progress I didn’t progress: 2 (2, 16)

Things not started: 6 (3, 4, 10, 14, 17, 18)

Things completed: 4

  • Thing 9 (9 January)
  • Thing 8 (21 January)
  • Thing 15 (1 February)
  • Thing 7 (12 February)

You can expect me to be posting more frequently in March with updates on the no-alcohol challenge and how I’m going with my walking.

Baby steps

So I’ve now publicly confessed that I’ve become somewhat more relaxed about sticking to some of the healthy life choices I’d been succeeding with, and have had a good hard look at why it might be a good idea to make some changes to get things back on track (she writes with a glass of wine in one hand).

Good. Recognising that there’s something not right and, very importantly, identifying why I need to fix it is a good first step. But now I actually have to do the hard work, decide what I’m going to do and (shudder) do it!

But where to start?

There are loads of areas I would like to have better habits in, but I know if I try to change everything at once, I’m not going to succeed. It will be too much in too short a time. There’s some reason out there in brain research world about why this is. It’s something to do with our caveman brain getting very agitated if things change too fast, and sabotaging our efforts because Change = Danger. So, the theories go, we have to trick caveman brain into thinking it’s safe by making only very tiny changes that don’t register with it.

If this is right, the baby steps approach is in order. And absolutely no stepping on the cracks, because caveman brain would notice that kind of dangerous behaviour and step in to try and keep me away from danger.

A concept I’ve read about in several places when you’re contemplating trying to make a change is, rather than looking at what you want to do, to ask yourself who you want to be, and then ask yourself what that person would do.

Gretchen Rubin refers to this in her book Better Than Before as “the Strategy of Identity”. The basic idea is that: “Your habits reflect your identity, so if you struggle to change a particular habit, re-think your identity”.

Ms Rubin gives an example of a way she changed her own thinking:

For years I thought of myself as someone who “hates exercise”, but at some point I realised that I hate sports . . .  I don’t mind exercise .  . .  Thinking of myself as someone who “enjoys exercise” allowed me to change the way I viewed my nature, and that helped me to become a regular exerciser.

Neat hey.

I looked at the main habits that are causing me concern – the afternoon snacking, the extra glass or two of wine every night, and the late nights – and I considered who I wanted to be in relation to those habits. This is what I came up with:

  • I am someone who doesn’t regularly eat food with refined sugar.
  • I am someone who doesn’t drink alcohol at home during the week.
  • I am someone who gets 6-7 hours of sleep a night.

Oooh! Dotpoints! This is serious.

I think that if I tried to become that person in one big swoop, caveman brain would notice and would strongly resist, and I’d fail. Again. So I’ve decided to be that person on Mondays. The rest of the week, caveman brain can stay safe with the familiar.

(Maybe I need a name for caveman brain, which is looking out for my best interests and keeping me safe by making change so damn hard, so that we can become friends. I know it’s just doing what it was programmed to do and thinks it’s acting in my best interests. I mean if I was suddenly jumpscared by a tiger, caveman brain would be right there trying to save me.)

So now, what would dotpoint person do on a Monday?

She would make sure she has a nice healthy snack on hand so that when she gets the after lunch craving, she has something else available. (*Puts almonds on shopping list.*)

She might also think about taking all the cash out of her wallet when she goes out, so it’s slightly more difficult to buy the item in question. (She has a reluctance to EFTPOS small amounts, which might turn out to be a useful thing for this situation.) She also might decide not to walk past any tempting shops when she goes out at lunch time (including a certain clothes store).

James Clear refers to the practice of setting up your environment in a way that will support your desired (healthier) habits as “choice architecture“.

Having succeeded at not indulging in the afternoon, our hero would feel pretty good when she got home. (OK, hero might be overstating things a bit. She resisted eating cake. She didn’t save someone’s life.)

Yep, today she’s someone who doesn’t eat refined sugar. The same someone also doesn’t drink on a school night, but by the time Monday evening comes around, she’s tired and would quite like to relax with an alcoholic beverage. However, she knows that one leads to two leads to three leads to staying up late and being exhausted in the morning.

Knowing the flow-on effect of one drink on her ability to be someone who gets 6-7 hours of sleep, she also has to be someone who doesn’t drink. She has learned about choice architecture, and so she thoughtfully set up her teapot, tea and cup near the kettle, which she filled up before she went to work in the morning. They’re all there, making it easier for her to make the choice to drink tea rather than beer.


She sits with her tea and writes in her journal.

And when her 9.30 pack up alarm* goes off, she doesn’t have half a glass of wine left that inevitably seems to get refilled, or the decreased will power that alcohol appears to inflict on her, and she actually packs up and gets to bed by 10pm.

A successful mission.

These are the smallest of baby steps. In isolation, this is no big achievement. It will only benefit me if I keep being this person every Monday. I’ve already noticed how much better I feel on a Tuesday when I’ve had more sleep than I get on other nights. Wednesday morning me wants to be like Tuesday me, so Tuesday me will have to have almonds instead of cake and herbal tea instead of beer, and will have to go to bed on time. And within a few weeks, I’ll be that person I want to be without caveman brain Betty having noticed.

It sounds easy. I’m sure it won’t be. So, in the spirit of trying new things out, this is an experiment to find out if thinking about who I want to be rather than what I want to do is an effective way to change a habit.

If you think this might be a helpful strategy for a habit you want to change, tell me about it in the comments, and we can cheer each other on.

Who do you want to be?

* The packup alarm is supposed to remind you that you need to be getting up in 6/7/8 hours, and that it’s time to pack up, turn your screens off and go to bed. I have several of them. I ignore every single one and carry on. (Bedtime alarms really is a thing. Google “bedtime alarm”.)

Challenge 8 – Crosswords Day 15

I’m now half way through the crosswords challenge and have started puzzle 22 today. I completed three puzzles this week, one of them I cried out for help on Twitter because there was a clue I just couldn’t get:

“American runners from Alaksa wearing cruel smiles (8)”.

I got that there would be AK (Alaska) in there somewhere but couldn’t put the rest of it together. The answer is “sneakers” – AK in cruel smiles (sneers) = American runners. I was thinking of runners in the sense of athletes, not in the sense of shoes.

Thank you Annie!

I have a long way to go. But I’m enjoying it. I’m especially enjoying wrestling with a clue and then going back to it a couple of days later and immediately seeing the answer.

I’m finding it a lot easier to pull out the crossword book when I have a spare moment or two than I do to pull out the sketch book and try to draw something. So I’m going to give my morning “learning” time back to drawing and use spare moments that crop up during the day to work on my crosswords.

What I learned this week:

  • I need to get back into my evening routine and 10.00 bedtime.
  • I read a fascinating book called Untrain Your Brain by Mike Weeks. One line that stood out for me in the book was: “Even when we seemingly lose all choice over what life presents it’s crucial to remember that our internal response is and always will be ours to choose.”
  • Adélie is a species of penguin
  • If I sleep in and miss my morning routine yoga/meditate/walk/draw/me-time, my day doesn’t go as smoothly as normal.
  • When I’m cutting bread with a sharp knife, I shouldn’t take my eyes off what I’m doing (ouch).

And to round everything off, here’s my progress against my goals for this week:

Get a new yoga mat

  • I looked but I’m not sure exactly what I want, so this is on hold for now.

Get as far as I can on at least 6 more crossword puzzles

  • I’ve started four new puzzles and completed three (two of which I had already started).
Draw two faces
  • I drew one face and several eyes.
Complete steps 5-7 of Living With Intent
  • Completed and I did step 8 and started step 9.
Write a blog post on where I’m up to with the “clarity” challenge
  • It’s all in my head.
Write a blog post on what I learned this week
  • You’re reading it.

Goals for this week:

  1. Listen to the Asian Efficiency Podcast on creating a manifesto and start to write these 5 documents.
  2. Make a start on the last three “easy peasy” crosswords in my crossword book.
  3. Write a blog post on where I’m up to with the “clarity” challenge (i.e. actually do it this week).
  4. Write a blog post on what I learned this week.

Challenge 5: Overview

This challenge (30 Days of Fixing What Bugs You) hasn’t really been great in terms of things I’ve actually been able to write about. I haven’t kept much of a record of what I’ve done. I feel like maybe it was a bit abstract to take this on for 30 days, because doing something depended on something happening that I had to react to. So, with some notable exceptions, most things that have annoyed me have been little blips that I struggled to remember at the end of the day.

Having said that, I think “fix what bugs you” is a really great philosophy to subscribe to. It’s certainly better than complaining about something that either I can fix or I can’t do anything about (or I could fix with a bit of effort but can’t be bothered, so I’ll just sit here and whinge about it thank you very much).

I have taken some small proactive steps in one area of my life that I’m pleased with, and some of that has spilled a bit over into Challenge 6 (Clarity), so I might say more about that later on.

30 Days of No Complaining should have ended on about 14 September, so I could start challenge 7 on the 15th, but last week was a big week and I had other things that were more important. Challenge 7 will start tomorrow, and this will be something practical that I can do every day and measure.

Tonight we had our final yoga class for the term, and won’t be restarting until mid-October. Last term I had good intentions to do some yoga over the holidays, but we went away and it didn’t happen. When we went back to class this term, I really felt like I hadn’t done any yoga for three weeks. It wasn’t good. I want to keep it up this time, so I’ve decided to exchange my morning walks for morning yoga (and reduce my daily step goal to 12,000 during this time). This is something I’ll be much more able to keep track of, and it shouldn’t add any extra time requirement into my day, which means (in theory) I should be able to incorporate it into my morning routine fairly easily.

And finally, here’s something I learned last week. Remember when I wore the bright pink lacy leggings to work as “something I wouldn’t normally wear” as past of the #yearoffear challenge and no one noticed?20160912-yellow-leggings-attract-more-comments-ig Change “bright pink” for “yellow” and everyone notices!

Evening routines: day 29

The evening routine challenge is just about over. Here’s Day 5 of the Asian Efficiency evening routine challenge. It addresses a key issue that your routine needs to help you stick to it: Your why.

One of the reasons a lot of habits don’t stick is because you don’t have a clear reason for why you want to cultivate the habit, so there isn’t a real incentive to do it.

In the post Zachary asks:

Why is it so important that this evening ritual is strong? How does making the small, smart consistent choice to get the rest you need give you more of what you want out of life? More health. More abundance. More opportunity. More gratitude. More growth. More learning. More fun. More service. More romance.

More of you.

 

I realised that part of the reason I wasn’t very good at sticking to my evening routine and bedtime was that, along with it not being very structured, I wasn’t being very clear on why I needed to do it.

“I should go to bed earlier because I’ll be tired in the morning, oh but I can’t be bothered, screw it, I’ll have another glass of wine…. Oh shit it’s midnight and I’ve just sat on the couch all evening and done nothing.”

Very non-comittal.

This has gradually turned into an 11-step routine that starts at 9.20 and gets me into bed before 10.00pm.

But why?

Because I need to get enough sleep to function the next day, and I need to wake up early to get three of my most important things done before my day starts: meditate, move, create. I now look forward to getting up early to do these things, and most nights I look forward to going to bed several hours earlier than I used to.

On Tuesday night, I didn’t do the routine (mainly because I was filling in my paper Census form and watching the drama of #censusfail unfold on Twitter) and I felt very out of sorts as a result. I struggled getting to sleep that night, and I put this mostly down to the fact that I didn’t stick to my routine and specifically that I was on my devices right up to the time I went to bed. Either that or it’s a mighty big coincidence that it was the first time in ages I’ve had trouble sleeping.

So there’s my why; the final part of my evening routine, which ties it all together. In the Asian Efficency post, Zach suggests that once you’ve done this to:

“Set a calendar reminder to review what you wrote in a couple of weeks. Re-read and revise your “why” whenever you feel your motivation or execution slipping.

 

I think that’s a good idea.