Matt Marshall

3 Posts with Tag goals (All tags)

Journalling 002- Via Negativa

As it turns out, I'm way too impatient to wait a week for my next journal prompt. Today's prompt is Via Negativa. According to AoM this term originally comes from Christianity where one explains their god by focusing on what they are not. This term, then, can apply to personal growth by a focus on not doing things. Ie avoiding bad habits. Today's journal will thus be discussing a habit that I want to get rid of, a habit that's holding me back, and how I plan to eliminate it from my life.

My habit, funnily enough, is idleness. Those closer to me may sound shocked by this, as I'm always dipping into personal projects; and I'm famed in particular for my early rises in order to undergo my morning strength training ritual. I'm generally thought of as being in quite early to the Lab, which is how I justify extending my personal evening time by leaving at 1600. However, as my training schedule has developed over 2016 I've begun training literally half as often as I used to. I now train two very heavy days (Monday and Thursday) whereas I used to include the Tuesday and Friday as well. This means I've not had motivation to wake up early on those days, and have used the time to "get myself some extra rest" as part of the catabolic phase of my weekly training/life. Don't get me wrong, this has had some very good impacts on my training and I've continued to improve steadily. My problem stems from the empty space that has been left behind. I resort to laying in bed, watching YouTube or Netflix to "chill out" before work and inevitably wind up spending way longer than I want to and have thus developed an unfortunate habit of arriving into the lab a bit later than what I'd normally be comfortable with. This has been consistent since September at least, but I think it was creeping up on me beforehand.

On top of this, the non-habit of empty space means that I feel frustrated that I've resorted to consuming entertainment instead of working on my goals or projects. It's not that I feel that I can't enjoy entertainment at all, it's just that I want a particular balance of production and consumption in my personal sphere that's been thrown off-balance. One of my goals is also to read more philosophy and more fiction, instead of video. Provided that I go to bed early enough, I can still give myself extra rest by sleeping in until 0630 and then working passively and at peace that I'm actually doing something that has purpose for me (purpose being a key element in happiness).

Sorry again for another Guardian link. Of all the broadsheets that review things they're often the first in my searches, and are at least not explicitly right-wing

I think the main steps to producing a blueprint of eliminating my bad habit is to replace it with a good one. I mentioned that I'm sleepy when I haven't trained, so until I'm already in the habit of meditating then I'm not comfortable jumping in there. This also provides space for a greater variety of activities in my life, by using my mornings better. The goals that spring to mind at the time of writing are:

  • Stretch more
  • Meditate
  • Read more, either philosophy / politics, or fiction
  • Listen to more podcasts
  • Get a better handle on dusting my bedroom (as opposed to expending the energy picking up after my flatmate)
  • Write more code for Brimstone
  • Journalling (meta!)
  • Meal prepping

Since I'm a creature of schedule and habit, it's probably best for me to produce a weekly schedule of these morning activities. They have to be completeble by about 0730 so that I can get into the lab nice and early to begin my day there; giving me more time in the evening (We'll deal with idelness in my evening routines later...). Having a few weeks, or a month, of performing each of these activities on a daily rotation will give me a good overview of where my priorities are and what is sustainable (as well as which activities can be performed concurrently). Here's my proposed schedule:

  • Monday Strength Training (routine established)
  • Tuesday Podcasts + Stretching
  • Wednesday Reading and tea
  • Thursday Strength Training (routine established)
  • Friday Journalling

I've deliberately left of my Saturday and Sunday schedules, as they're often dependant on a work schedule or how late my partner returned from work the night before. I've also deliberately left out certain goals, in order to really focus on the low barrier to access ones. All of them are really low barrier to be honest, but in terms of the physical or cognitive grinding; I've chosen the easiest.

What I need now, is accountability for these. I could check in with a close friend / colleague each morning; just by sending a message telling them what I was up to and what time I woke up? That's the positive aspect of accountability. I need a consquence as well, and that's the tough part. Conversations with colleagues before have resulted in them being uncomfortable with the idea of donating my money to a nasty cause, and there's nothing else really they could do. I could ask them to walk over to my desk and yell "Shame!" at me?

I will need to reflect on this further.

goals reflection journalling challenge vianegative habits

Fasting Pt 3: Towards my Media Fasting goals

This is the third and final post describing my future plans for fasting on two fronts. The others are located here and here. The previous two posts focused on my need to fast, and the details of how I'm planning out my dietary fast. This post will outline my first cycle of re-evaluating my relationship with consuming media, through an 'entertainment fast'.

The motivation from this comes from a concept that I read about concerning an 'Information Fast'; wherein the person fasting stimulates their output and creativity by deliberately removing themselves from all forms of information input. The reasoning behind this being that in this age of fast information flow, it's easy to become overly focused on getting a piece "just right" in planning before moving to execution. In academia this looks to me like "Oh I'll just read a few more papers before getting started on my Lit Review chapter" and in my personal life like "Oh I'll just look up a few more carving/smithing/etc videos before getting started on that project."

For me, this methodology definitely holds true. By removing input and working only with whatever I currently have, I end up producing more things or just doing more things that bring my greater peace of mind. I mentioned in my earlier posts that my evenings were the nexus of fragility in my tasks, chores, routines, and goals. I'm tired by the end of the day and all I want to do is consume media. Usually this takes the form of TV shows and YouTube videos, and specifically I have an issue with consuming too much video media in my diet. Other forms of consumption bring a much deeper feeling of joy when I make time for them in my life, and I always seem to get more done in terms of chores when I limit video media.

My plan going forward then? I suppose I can outline things that I want to limit, and things that I want to increase.


  • YouTube
  • Netflix


  • Reading
  • Cleaning / Tidying
  • Podcasts
  • Handiwork hobbies

On the surface, it appears that the solutions going forward are obvious -- Podcasts should take the place of video media as my immediate relaxation technique in the evening. I adore listening the Podcasts, I'm not sure exactly why. I like listening to people talk, I love the subjects that they deal with, I like how it gives my eyes a rest from a screen. Moreover, Podcasts also let me free my hands for doing stuff like Cleaning and Tidying, and also small handiwork things. Some handiwork things will require a degree of concentration meaning listening to Podcasts is not advised, but surely I can just carve out (heh) the space for them first and deal with the nuances later?

In terms of reading, I think that this will work wonders as well. Podcasts do a lot for me, but they're substantially less "moreish" than video media. Largely because currently there's very little prompting me to watch one more. With Netflix and Youtube there's autoloading and suggestions -- they're actively trying to keep us hooked. I use a 3rd party app to parse Podcasts so I have a set number of channels that I like, and I construct my own queues. When they're done, they're done. That means when the queue ends at a predetermined time of the evening, I should have finished my chores and be ready to read.

My partner is around on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. Luckily, Fri - Sun are basically "off routine" in terms of how I live my life, since a lot of my chores and goals can be met prior to the evenings on weekends. This means that for four days a week, I'll be effectively creating a space for myself in my evenings where I only let certain things in, and no "Watch next" can derail me.

I'm excited for this -- I'll update people as and when it's appropriate. Probably after a week, then probably after a month.

goals happiness fasting media addiction slowness lifestyle

I'm going to run to Mordor

For a while now I've thought about my overall fitness goals, as opposed to just my strength goals. I've been strength training since Oct 2012, which is a little over three years and I've never particularly done cardio. I'd heard cardio interferes with strength gains, and I've been deathly afraid of that. The truth is, however, that my training is beginning to plateau and I still haven't conquered the Pull-up, which requires a good weight-bodyfat ratio. I'm also a bit sensitive about what I perceive as a bit of a gut developing, since my large waist protrudes a tad when I sit. I also get out of breath way easier than I did when I began training, probably due to the extra mass I'm shifting around.

tl;dr I need to up my game on the fitness front.

I've set a goal that by the Equinox this year (March 20) I will have shifted all of my strength-based calisthenics training to a single circuit, instead of a two-day split. If I leave some of the CC2 bolt-ons like my grip training to the second day (giving me more time overall to deal with it), it also frees up the majority of that time for a bit of cardio. I hate running, but it's a handy skill to have down and I've attempted it in the past too. This time I plan to nail it, by having a good goal but taking it relatively easy. I'm going to run to Mordor.

I got the idea from Nerd Fitness, where they calculate the distance from the Shire to Mordor in miles (eurgh) and advise making it a goal for walking. I'll be running it in stints in the morning obviously, but I think it's kinda cute and motivating as hell.

The Plan

The distance between Hobbiton in the Shire and Mt. Doom in Mordor is 1779 miles according to Nerd Fitness. They're US so they obviously use a filthy imperial measurement, let's update that:

1779 miles is 2863.023 km

Ouch. Sounds like a lot more, but a nice standard metric instead of imperial bollocks :-P (Sorry US-friends!). Problem is, that that .023 km on the end bothers me. For the purposes of goals and nerdy role-playing I'm also saying that once I'm in Mt. Doom I'll need to do my business and get a safe distance away. So I've rounded up to 2865 km. Goal set, awesome.

Now the attack plan. Aside from grip training, I'll have a whole training session of up to 1hr total in order to run a distance. I'm a creature of habit, so having a standard distance to run laps of will help a lot. I've not got access to a track immediately (plus they get muddy), but my street is set up with roads and back alleys that can be used as a loop. Cracking. This also feeds into my role-playing as some sort of urban ranger type, nice. I did some measuring on Google Maps, and one loop of the "track" is measured as 646 m. To be on the safe side, let's round that down to 640 m per lap. Attack plan set, let's calculate.

  • (2864*1000) / 640 = 4476.5625 laps *

Ouch. That's gonna take some doing. I've mentioned before that I don't like those decimal points hanging on. Let's round up.

  • (4477640) / 1000 = 2865.28 km

So, by rounding up I'll have run a total of just over my set amount. I doubt there's a way I can ever ensure both figures don't have hanging decimals so I'll leave it there lest I go insane.

So, that's how I'm going to get to Mordor. To keep me motivated on the way I'm going to code a bit onto the site in order to log progress, and keep a few extra milestones along the way -- stuff like distance from Newcastle to various landmarks etc. All I need now is some decent running shoes!

training diary goals