Day 866: Personal Focus Goal, Jerkpod in One Go (Day 4 of 100)

It’s rare I just do this in the morning.

A normal Jerkpod consists of me sitting down, turning my computer on, opening a web browser, logging into this site, then opening my email in another tab, then writing the title for today, then possibly checking another site, or MetaFilter, or looking up some bit of trivial information that wandered across my brain.

I almost never do this in one go: sit down, computer on, browser open, write then record, upload, and post. I’m trying to do it today and it’s actually hard. I have every temptation to just check my email super quick or find out whether or not Huey Lewis and the News released any albums after “Fore” or… something.

The social media diet has helped with distractibility, but it’s clearly not a cure-all.

So today, I’m forcing myself to do this in one go: write this post, record it… all the steps up to being done and online. Again, it’s difficult. It’s almost like my hands are itching.

I do have an attention span! If I need to focus on a project at work, or at home, I can crack away no problem for long periods of time. But my mind wanders a lot during creative processes — even just a simple blog like this one. Which is a good thing, I guess. I wind up wondering, though, if there’s just a baseline resistance to self-reflection, even after 860+ days, that pushes me to distraction when I do this exercise.

Day 854: Game Substitutes

It’s been a couple of weeks since my big burnout day, and I think dropping video games (and podcasts) has been good for me since then. It’s a bit like food (and booze) — can I find healthy substitutes?

Unhealthy substitutes to date:

  • Garbage movies. I’ve dropped my Netflix subscription, so unfettered bad content is no longer at my fingertips, but I have have access to a friend’s Plex server and have been ravaging it for diverting, “nutrition-free” science fiction and comedy.
  • Comics, either on my iPad or from the library
  • Books! I mean, like, novels. This gets weird, because it dives right into literary snobbery and kind of crappy hair-splitting. I’m reading In the House in the Dark of the Woods right now, and I’m not sure whether that’s candy or a vegetable, or even if I should be trying to draw these distinctions.

Healthy substitutes:

  • Educational books! I really should finish Ryan North’s How to Invent Everything, because it’s great and I feel like I’m a better person when I read it.
  • Like, really serious novels for serious people, like I read The Good Lord Bird and felt like I was reading Important Books.
  • Non-garbage movies. My friend has Boyhood as well as Neighbors on his Plex server. Guess which one I watched?
  • Practicing a musical instrument
  • Working on figuring out how to make electronic music on my computer
  • Working on my danged book
  • A few other projects/hobbies
  • Canoeing / outdoors time

I guess I’m still hoping for a magic transformation where I become a doer of culture instead of a consumer of not great stuff, or at least a consumer of great stuff. How does that happen?

Planning, probably.

My wife’s also encouraging me to read “The F*ck It Diet”, which I’ve kind of read — it’s now in a category of books I think of as “Blinkists”, where there’s a good idea, and about 250 words of actual content in every chapter, and 10,000 words of anecdotes, repeating the same thing in different ways, and personal rambling to pad it out to book length. But the core is interesting. I’ll get into it another time.

Here’s an interesting question for me to ask myself: it’s May. What, in September, would I regret not having done this summer? It’s a good way to find focus.

Day 849: Breaking up (with video games) is hard to do

Here’s the thing: I decided about a week ago that video games were a terrible distraction in my life, and not really doing anything for me other than momentarily distracting me from things I should be addressing and that were causing me to seek the distraction.

That’s a messy sentence… let me try another run at this.

That’s how my brain goes. Or went. I’m trying to quit video games, but it’s hella hard and also I’ve discovered that there are LOTS of ways to distract myself that ultimately aren’t super productive…

  • Adding artist images to artists on my Plex server
  • Reading comic books on my iPad
  • Reading “real” books by grown-up authors, without pictures

So clearly quitting comics (and podcasts) is not a panacea that leads me directly to more productivity and focus; it just leads me to different kinds of distraction. I think my hope is I’ll bore myself into submission and start cleaning the basement or something, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Day 710: Cyclical

Got up at 4:00 (wife has an early shift), drank water, exercised, fed the cats, made coffee. Business as usual, or it should be! 

Those of you who have been along for the ride for a while probably know that I’m happy to be back on track. The interesting question is “…but for how long“. 

I’ve been bad about daily tracking for QUITE A WHILE — yikes, September — and it has NOT GONE WELL in the interim, weight and exercise while. So time to dust that off. 

Paradoxically, while I find doing lots of this stuff tends to make me less keen on doing this stuff, the only answer I can think of is MORE JOURNALING. Really getting into that comment column in the tracking sheet. Here’s what I can see from previous breaks: 

  • Work business/stress
  • Bad diet leads to breakdown
  • Bad sleep (probably from above) leads to breakdown

It’s not very conclusive, though. I feel like something a bit more “diary-ish”, like the one-sentence journal approach, might be helpful. 

Today, though, getting the jump on the new year’s resolution by getting back on the water/exercise/food tracking track. 

Day 367: New Year’s Day Three; Scheduling Fail

So far, so good with this “scheduled life” nonsense. Well, so far, so okay, in that my wife wasn’t feeling up to going out last night, so a scheduled outing turned into a night in. She was okay with me going out, but we’re a team and blah blah blah I did mention I was a homebody, right?

But it’s not a bad approach… after only three days. 10 days is when the wheels usually fall off these things. Today after the podcast I’ll be trying to schedule the weekend, which is going to be tricky.

The central idea here is going to be this “church” thing I’m doing with my wife on Sundays, because that will probably be a “let’s both plan our weeks” thing, including the following weekend.

Not getting distracted will be key — I just lost 10 minutes to my short attention span. Focus, fool! Focus!

Day 319: Bed and Start

One thing I’ve been good at this week, which I’m pretty happy about, is getting up and getting busy.

Initially, I thought the key to this was “no electronics between waking and exercise.” And that was helpful! But I’ve discovered that there are no end of things I can do to defer exercise. The Internet was merely one! Comic books, tidying the kitchen, books… all of these things have been delicious distractions on the road to a workout.

I’m getting better at just getting up and getting to it. It’s better exercise when I do that, too. The less time I have to spool up a bunch of bullcrap in my brain, the happier I am working out.

The other key recently has been work out to music, as opposed to podcasts or Netflix. I know there’s a “music is a crutch” school of thought. But I like the crutch. The thing about crutches is that they’re helpful. I don’t know who started giving crutches a bad rap. Go crutches!

The theme of this week seems to be shaping up as anti-distraction. I just caught myself trying to click on a tab in my browser because “crutches” reminded me of something, and I had to pull myself back on task.

Focus really is key. I just wanted to Google “focus is key” to see if there’s something cool there in terms of quotes. Fight it! Focus!

Part of this is my work, where minor urgent fires pop up constantly that don’t always need to be put out, but it’s helpful if you nip them in the bud before groups of people turn a molehill into a mountain. I’m kind of trained to keep task-switching (not multitasking, that’s not actually a thing).

Is there such a thing, I wonder, as focus practice? It seems like a thing that should be A Thing.

Day 191: Morning Distractions

Checking in first, quickly, on the water drinking thing. It’s going well! Much harder when I’m at home than at work, but I’m powering through.  I’m getting bad about morning distractions, though.

I got back from a run at 6:15, had coffee and breakfast, and was upstairs at 6:30. It’s 7:00 now; I got sucked into an article about the National Lampoon (which I don’t care about) and testy emails with a service provider trying to bill me for something I cancelled a week ago. Which I do care about, but shouldn’t be caring about right now.

It’s a bit maddening, because I actually enjoy the stuff I should be working on. I like doing it! So it’s weird when I get pulled into… static. It shouldn’t be this hard to stay focused.

Morning distractions lead to evening stress.

Morning sets the pace for the day. That’s not a big genius revelation. But it’s something that’s helpful to remember. Mornings that I get up and get going and feel like I’ve accomplished something lead to great days. I like to leave the house feeling like I’ve already done stuff.

And I guess I’m short-selling the blog/podcast: I am doing stuff! But this is kind of doing stuff about doing stuff. I don’t know if it counts. I’m neurotic.

But I don’t want to feel rushed or stressed in the evening, which means getting stuff done in the morning is kind of my secret weapon.

I don’t know if I have a fix here. There’s a Chrome extension that blocks sites at certain times of day… maybe I should hook it up to keep things on lockdown until 7 a.m.?

Oh! And I haven’t gotten anywhere on the to-do-list/Gantt chart/whatever yet. Frankly, it kind of slipped my mind. But I should get back on top of that.