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 670: Implementing…

I have this plan, now I just need to do the plan. I’ve been good about the exercise, pretty good about food (post-Hallowe’en means a lotta loose candy floating around).

Print the thing! Post the thing! Read the thing every morning!

That’s… it, really. Stick to this plan, see results, be motivated to stick to it more.


Day 552: Canoeing, Hopefully

Hopefully I am in or close to a canoe right now. That’s one vacation thing that I didn’t get around to, largely due to a crazy heat wave here — getting out on the water. But I’ll be at a cottage today — right now, actually, as this is a scheduled post/prerecord.

I’m taking the Full Focus Planner with me, which is a thing my wife bought for both of us and we’re both pretty keen to try. It seems pretty cool. We’ve read about it and gone through the training videos — yes, it’s a scheduler that comes with an hour of instructional videos. One of the amazing things is that I’ve actually adopted, or considered, like 90% of what’s in there already.

Mainly, you’re paying for a printed, well laid out and well organized set of common sense ideas about how to organize and go about your day. It’s flawed in the premise, in that it’s made for a “work is life” lifestyle — a Monday-Friday 9-5 job is the sole focus of life, weekends can be entirely spent on relaxation, etc. It’s not really constructed for multi-job people, or people like my wife, who is a shift worker.

But that’s okay — part of the fun will be seeing how this flexes. If it doesn’t meet my needs, I’ll keep what works and work on solutions for the rest. For now, it’s just a matter of clearing the 30 minutes a day to spend on the journal, and the 3-4 hours a quarter to close a period and start a new one.


Day 520: Big Morning Chores

I beat Beethoven this morning — not really, but ran an 8k in under 45 minutes, so I’m confident I could. Then I did a bunch of chores, including insulating an exterior furnace pipe, varnishing stumps, baking bread and more… right now, listening to the older cat growl at the younger cat from behind the barricade we’ve set up.

Talking to a colleague about optimizing yesterday — context being a swanky new journal-organizer thing I saw online. I’m deeply tempted, because I’m always questing for a magic bullet. But I’m also also… let’s say “frugal,” because I don’t want to describe myself as cheap. Paying over $40 for a three-month diary when I can just do the same thing either with my design skills, or a Hilroy notebook and some planning, seems… I don’t know.

It’s an investment thing, right? I want to _invest_ in something, because then I’ll be obliged to use it… right?

Well, that hasn’t worked so far. I have a variety of musical instruments and unfinished Udemy courses showing that just putting some money into something doesn’t equal follow-through.

So I’ll think about this planner thing. If I have a work colleague doing it, and if my wife is also interested, the mutual reinforcement thing might be good. But analyzing what makes it work and trying to homebrew something would be a lot more financially sensible… in many ways, I’d rather have $40 in a long term retirement account than tied up in a day planner.

Day 322: Snowy Sunday

Snow’s on the ground, which means winter is officially here. This is one of those Sundays where there’s a lot to do, but not a lot of things that specifically have to be done, which means girding my loins for a big clean-out of the garage, moving things in for the winter, etc. It’s also Leaf Week, and I, er, did not get to the leaves. But that’s okay. Mulch, right?

My digital life is much more rewarding than my physical life in many ways. At first, I was thinking “that sounds sad,” but is it? I just have better aptitude for things like making websites than raking leaves. And I do have substantial physical presence — I build furniture, I walk and cycle, I exercise. I guess I just feel my natural aptitudes are more digital than real-world.

As usual, I think the best course of action is to set myself some goals for the day. “Church” with my wife, of course, and I have to get way ahead of studying for the class I’m taking online, because I’m going to be gone next weekend.

So it’s still fairly early in the morning — a good time to set some concrete goals for the rest of the day, and block out an hour-by-hour plan to get them done. I know Sundays are for relaxin’, but I feel better at the end of the weekend if I know what I’ve accomplished.

Day 306: Fasting Went Okay

Fasting went okay yesterday! Having your wife in on it definitely helps. Now I just need to not let that be an excuse to be The Food Monster today, but that’s what the (shameless) consistent logging is all about, right?

After ten solid months of looking at this every day… I’m cautious. More cautious than I was back in January. Mainly because I seem to build systems that work well when things are going well but don’t hold up to stress.

If I look at times things have fallen down for me this year, there’s always a reason:

  • Illness
  • Extraordinary stress
  • Family issues
  • Injury

I’m not spontaneously saying “screw it, brah” at any point. Things are happening and knocking me off-course.

So now, when things are going well, is the time to think about throw-off-course factors.

It’s back to the balance between being ambitious and not wanting to take on too much. My old patterns are to take on too much and flame out. That’s still my pattern at work and in volunteerism, which I need to work on.

So now’s the time to think about how I’ve failed over the course of the year to date. And ask myself how things will be different when the same stuff happens. That’s a tough question. But I’ve got a set of conditions that I can point at that throw me off-course. Bad colds. Muscle pulls. Work nightmares.

Internalizing strategies to get past these now will be helpful when they happen again. I doubt I’m going to never get sick again. I’m pretty sure I’m going to pull a muscle. Work is bound to get… extreme at some point.

So I need to start laying some interior groundwork now for taking all that on while I’m at the peak and not wait to dig out from the trough, so to speak.


Day 287: Church

I’m an atheist. Not one of the asshole kinds; I’m fine with religion. Some people believe there’s a central organizing intelligence behind the universe. Some people don’t. Either one’s fine as long as you’re not being a jerk about it.

But I was raised religious, and in the context of this project, I’m seeing a lot of value in church. Church as setting aside a dedicated amount of time every week to focus on both yourself, and on community.

So my wife and I are going to start trying “church” on Sundays. This will be our dedicated time to plan our week. Food, primarily. But also to look at our social calendar and see what we can do to connect with our community.

There’s some obvious advantages over traditional church. No travel. No offering plate. No awkward conversations with people you don’t like but are forced into contact with.

But these are kind of features as well as bugs with church. Travel gets you time to get your head in it. Being somewhere else that’s not home means no distractions. Giving money regularly requires financial self-management. And I think that maybe we should spend more time face to face with people we don’t like. The Internet has really eroded social behaviour by making it easy to retreat into echo chambers.

So I’m going to do this, and then pitch that maybe we leave the house and go for coffee or something to do this thing every week. Treat it a little more like church and a little less like another thing we do around the house.

Anyway, I’m excited to try it. I’m messing around with OneNote as an organizer, which seems like it’ll lend itself well to this process. I’m interested to see where it goes.


Day 219: Short Week

It’s a short week at work — holiday Monday, followed by vacation on Thursday and Friday. Short week planning is a bit rough; there might be some late nights at work. Or early mornings. It really depends.

I like getting things done, is the thing… one reason to burn through vacation time in the summer. It’s not great to think of vacation time as something you gotta get through. But that’s where it’s at. I kind of like my job, and I like doing it well. But it’s been systemized as something that needs full-time attention, not part-time.

So a short week can be rough for planning. And when I feel hectic, I start slipping up in other areas. I haven’t been great about weighing and food tracking for the last week… doing well in other areas, though. But I’m in for a couple of stressful days, as I try to pack a five-day workweek into two days. Now is the time to set my mind to success personally if things get squirrelly professionally.

I got up early and got some rowing in, then made dinner for tonight and tomorrow, so that’s accounted for.

Food’s on lock. Exercise is more or less accounted for. I have my plan for the week. It’s just a matter of making sure I don’t make stupid stress eating decisions.

Short week planning is anticipation.

I want to set my mind now, so I can not run into problems down the line. The last thing I want is a mini-spiral inspired by short-term stress. That’s no good.

So setting myself up for success now means meal planning through Wednesday.

Tomorrow, I’ll be putting my mind to good self-management for the weekend out of town. But today’s about getting my head right for 48 big hours of work.