Matt Marshall

2 Posts with Tag improvement (All tags)

Journalling 011 -- Distractions

Today's prompt is to reflect on the distractions in my life, even if mildly beneficial, and to understand how they eat up my time. This is something I've been reflecting on a bit recently, as I've just been through a roughly month-long catabolic period of my life and have had some downtime to think about it. I'll start first with mapping the distractions that I encounter at various points in my week and/or day, as I've got a fairly regular schedule. I will then outline a few of the solutions that I want to begin implementing, including one that I will definitely do today because I've found that even talking about things into the future gives me that sweet dopamine rush I need to ignore the problem for another week.

I suppose that I can't really unpick what distractions are if I don't outline what my goals are. What's a goal for some might be a distraction for others, and vice versa. I have some short-term and long-term goals:

Short Term + Build and craft more things, on a weekly or twice-weekly basis + Go through an entire week without spending a penny more than what I budgeted for + Finish my accounting software for my PhD + Get rid of a bunch of items I don't need + Write about 10k more words in my thesis + Train my arse off at Pull-ups + Stretch a bit + Begin boxing + Reach the point where snacking is a rarity, occurring once a month or less

Mid-term + Save money for a 12%-15% mortgage deposit on a cheap flat + Take 30 hours of sailing lessons and buy a small boat + Finish my Phd with a straightforward, solid, thesis.

The short term goals are the ones that are the most easily derailed in this, as they are the ones that are more easily put off until another day. These are pretty easily divided into Morning, Daytime, Evening, and Weekend periods of time. It should also be noted that I feel myself revving up into an anabolic phase of the year; one where I have high energy and relatively high focus. This means that I can seize the opportunity to make headway and lay the groundwork for when I retreat back into low-energy mode.

Distractions in the Morning

I've already discussed distractions and goals in the morning. To summarise; since mid-2012 I've built my morning schedule around waking at 0500 in order to train, and recently my training schedule has become condensed to the point where I have several mornings free. I've used the time to catch up on sleep, but the gap once occupied by training has lead to a stagnant period of time that I often don't make the best use of. I enjoy the extra sleep, but I waste the time in the morning I leave myself.

These distractions often take the form of YouTube videos; they're easily digestible with a cup of tea in the morning and I actually find myself watching various craftspeople a lot so it feels productive at the time. The problem with this is that watching things makes time speed up, and I end up at 0830 without realising what happened.

Part of the issue is that it's very tempting to just grab a cup of tea, and then head back into bed with the laptop. My first step will be to ensure that I take my tea in the main room of the flat, on the sofa. I'll then use the time when it's brewing to stretch, and listen to podcasts, whilst planning for the next hour (see previous goals)

Eventually, I will have a Japense futon instead of a bed and part of my wake-up ritual will be to fold it away. This means I won't be able to lie in bed at all. Baby steps, though, and first I think just leaving the room is a good idea.

Distractions during the day

I get my first round of distractions when I arrive at work early. If I arrive before 0800 (as I do following a training day, notice how my morning sets the entire tone for my day…) I will often spend a few minutes browsing for articles to read, usually news articles, or if it's a Monday I'll catch up on the weekend's My excuse to myself is that I'm revving up to do some work and just starting my engine by engaging with consuming content on the computer. This inevitably leads to the same sort of problems I describe with morning YouTube; I end up with around 10 tabs open waiting to be read. Ofc, these are usually good articles and neglecting them is a bit silly too -- but there must be a better way of revving up my engine than this?

My initial thoughts are that I should spend 10 minutes at the end of each working day giving myself tasks to do on the following morning, to get myself into gear. I could also begin utilising Pomodoro for a bit and see how that works out? I think revolution is better than evolution here.

Distractions in the evening

My main distraction in the evening is akin to my distraction in the morning -- consuming video content. This time, it's usually more focused on raw entertainment such as Netflix, rather than entertainment wrapped up in the guise of being a tutorial for me to convince myself is worthwhile… ahem.

Anyway my non-partner evening routine kinda looks like this:

  1. Get in
  2. Cook, or not, depending on the day
  3. Convince myself I'm going to read or craft
  4. Turn on the laptop "for a bit"
  5. Realise it's 0830 and I haven't done anything.

I think, all I really need to do here is to just decide on a day and force myself not to turn on the laptop. I have two evenings a week to myself fully; Tuesdays and Thursdays. If I go with Thursdays being no-laptop days, I have to force myself to do some more interesting things. I've actually laid the groundwork for me to engage in other stuff, look:

  • Practice ocarina
  • Carve, or work on my forge for blacksmithing
  • Batch cook, or prepare for curry night
  • Read philosophy, or fiction
  • Go out and do a martial art like boxing
  • Cycle to the coast

I've spent a lot of time slowly adding features to my life that make it interesting, yet I often ignore them in lieu of watching Always Sunny in Philadelphia or other people crafting on Youtube.

Actually, yeah. Fuck it. Today's Tuesday. No laptop.

Distractions at the Weekend

Weekend distractions are a strange beast for me, as I like at least half of them to be relatively low-energy things like walking about and reading. The distractions in this sphere generally come from a few sources:

  • My partner sleeping in, and me desiring a cuddle, so spending an hour with her from 0930 to 1030 (even though I've been up since 0700).
  • My dad wishing to visit, me agreeing out of guilt, and him taking up like 4 hours of my time that I wanted to spend doing something out.
  • The Playstation, if I feel the desire for it; I like the idea of spending a few hours on it as part of a larger day, but can't really do portion control.

Solutions to this are actually pretty straightforward: get up, and make my partner a cup of tea without getting back into the bed. Limit my father's visits to once a month, or so, and just limit the Playstation for an after-dinner thing.


Seems easy. But it won't be.

Starting on it today. No laptop after 1600.

reflection journalling distractions trials improvement anabolism catabolism

Journalling 013 -- Kaizen and Handstands

Goals are nice. Goals are inspiring, and they can often form the motivation to get you to perform that first set of push-ups, or write that first 1000 words of a thing, or begin Googling how to learn a skill. For me, I have a tendency to visualise myself at the end point of a journey having achieved everything that I want to achieve in that sphere. I breath it, I think about it before going to bed, I fantasise about it at work. Then, usually, after three or four days, nothing has changed and I've taken no steps towards the thing.

Of course, I blather on about growth and how I've developed all the gorram' time - so how can both things be true for me? The goals that I've achieved, and areas that I've developed in, have consistently been due to their nature as progressive journeys that are undertook and not a 'state' of being. The prime example for me is my strength training. Another would be my forays into crafting and making, or journeys into philosophy, socialism, and feminism(s). In each of these areas, I have managed to develop a strong habit of 'doing' or at least achieving what needs achieving to grow in them (usually reading or performing an action). The Japanese have a word for this; Kaizen (Edit 20/10/2017, due to the events described in this post, I have decided to include another reference to Kaizen. If you require a more accessible site than Wikipedia, please use this link for your definition of Kaizen). Continuous improvement. Usually westernised as the 'get 1% better every day' approach to improvement. In my language; making a goal into a journey. Today's prompt is to take something that I want to achieve in my life and speculate on a Kaizen approach to making headway towards that goal.

For a while now, I've been trying to motivate myself to get into doing handstands. The context for this is that Handstand Push-ups (HSPUs) are the final movement in my strength training system that I need to incorporate in my routine to give me a strong basis in most human movements. It's obvious to me that it's time now, and has been time for a while, to begin my handstand journey. To look at me, I have a relatively developed musculature around my upper torso and arms; however the muscles associated with vertical pressing (ie handstands and HSPUs) are under-developed compared to the rest. My shoulders are tiny compared to my triceps. More importantly, I can feel this with the movements I perform on an everyday basis and during training; I'm weaker pressing than I am pushing, or even pulling now.

So how to proceed? Kaizen would teach that I need to do three things:

  1. Start doing the thing
  2. Keep doing the thing
  3. Get a little better at the thing each time.

The issue I'd normally have with training a new movement is finding the time to slot it into my strength routine, but since the first level of HSPUs is simply learning the headstand; I think I can get around this by making it an everyday practice to drill home the motor skills. Little and often.

Starting today here's my plan:

  • Perform a headstand every day, working towards the goals set out in Convict Conditioning
  • Attempt to perform the headstand in the evening, scheduled for 1800.
  • Once intermediate level has been achieved (defined in Convict Conditioning as holding position for 1minute), begin performing two headstands a day, morning and night.

I'll probably check in with my training partner-in-spirit D, to keep me accountable.

journalling challenge improvement hand-stands kaizen