Category Archives: Personal Development

Goof-On!

Things to do/read when I want to goof off or an bored that would actually be productive without being painful

So when I’m tired, either physically or emotionally, I find that I tend to seek easy distractions. It reminds me of vegging out to whatever was on “the tube” back when TVs were actually tubes and you had to watch “what was on.” Except now it tends to be FaceBook or Instagram. Not that there’s anything wrong with social media, but I’d rather do it on purpose, not because I’m too decision-fatigued to come up with something better to do.

A lot of the time, when I quit swiping through whatever app it is, I regret that instead of goofing off, I didn’t do something just as easy, but more enriching, like go through articles I’ve bookmarked to read later, or read up on some of the tips and tricks linked from my favorite podcast. Call it goofing on. Sometimes the only reason I didn’t is that I would have had to decide on something and then find it.

So this page is my equivalent of setting out my running shoes the night before – something you do when the motivation and will are high, that reduces the barrier for me when I know it will be low. Give some of these a try if you want, and let me know if you have any top links/resources/activities you’d add!

In the vein of tinyhabits.com and coach.me (formerly LiftApp), the habit I’m trying to build is:

When I want to play a game, check FB, etc., I open this list first.

The list of Goof Ons:

Things to do when I have no energy at all (these are listed first for a reason!)

  • Check my calendar
  • Look at the family photo stream
  • Check Safari reading list
  • Check Kindle and/or iBooks for non-fiction I might feel like reading a page from
  • Read show notes from favorite episodes of The Tim Ferriss Show

Things to do when I’m frustrated and need to do something else for a minute

  • DuoLingo
  • Process email (either business or personal)
  • Think of one thing I’ve learned from the most recent thing I’ve read and put one or more action items in my calendar that will help me put it into practice.
  • read Four Hour Chef
  • do one push-up – 5 sec. down and 5 sec. up
  • do one L pull-up
  • do one air squat
  • Check FB saved links (don’t do this when I’m too fatigued, I’ll open FB and get stuck on the news feed)
Three of us goofing off

Goofing off

Habits I’ve removed from LiftApp

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Opinions vary on how long to track a new habit, but I think the best use of Lift is to establish a new positive habit. And, given our limited willpower and cognitive space, it works best to focus on just a few at a time. So I’ve adopted the strategy of no longer tracking some habits once they’re established.

Examples of habits I no longer track in Lift:
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How I made my family a hot and cold breakfast in 20 minutes on the first try

Inspired by Cory Doctorow

So I read

and Cory answers the question “What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?” with “Making breakfast. I make my family a 3-4 course, hot/cold tailor-made breakfast every morning, in 20 minutes flat, with handmade coffees.”

I am no cook, and anytime I do try to make a hot breakfast for my family, I’m always in the kitchen for at least 45 minutes no matter how quick I try to be. So it’s strictly a weekend thing, and even so, we’ve gotten out of the habit because it doesn’t really make sense for Emily to wrangle two rambunctious hungry children alone for 45 minutes while I do it.

I had to know, so I asked him. His response was immediate:

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Daily Routine

Zihang H., who I follow on Lift, posted the following question recently:

How to make our lives more interesting since most of our daily lives consists [sic] of endless routine?

It’s been a long time since I’ve been bored, but I thought about it and posted this response:

During the times in my life where my central activities bored me, I was happiest when I spent as much time in active personal development as possible. Other times, like now, my central activities are incredibly challenging (no boredom possible), so my routine is all about setting up a good foundation for the central activities, getting the mundane stuff done as efficiently as possible, and carving out small-but-workable slices of time for personal development.

Code.org

My story?

My dad bought a TRS-80 Color Computer when I was about 5. I didn’t learn to code, but I saw a modem, heard binary being played on our cassette drive, and learned what a kilobyte is.

Later, I learned Logo and BASIC when I was 8 and 9. Just very simple toy programs. I learned more sophisticated programming in Pascal in high school. I did have books, and Dad got me started, but my schools’ programming classes get at least half the credit.

I started getting paid to work with computers while still in high school. I have made money ever since from working with computers. Even the years I taught ballroom dancing full-time, I wrote software part-time and brought in new revenue at the studio by setting up the website and our first online sales of gift certificates.

Today I live in Vienna and manage a significant software project at the International Atomic Energy Agency. As a job, it’s amazing, and the work is important. I’m writing this from a lovely apartment in Venice where I’m vacationing with my family while the team works without me.

It’s a good life, and I’m incredibly grateful. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t know how to code.

But it’s not just about the good work you can do and the good life you can have. It’s fun. The things we can do now with software are amazing. A programmer in the 80s would be awed by what’s possible to coders now. It’s not just faster computers, it’s the fact that so much of the world is now online. Take something simple like flight bookings: they were computerized in the 80s (probably earlier), but in closed systems. Today, there are so many ways to tie that information together that travel booking sites abound, and the best ones are so good that we can be near-omniscient about our options. We think little of booking, from our couch, vacations with airlines and hotels we’ve never heard of.

Coders regularly produce apps which do things that weren’t possible a few years ago. My phone (an anachronistic name for the hyper-connected supercomputer I carry in my pocket) can augment my reality in countless ways, but the latest is holding it up and looking through it so that all the Italian writing is replaced with English.

What’s next? Imagine writing code to do this:

  • social apps that allow you to point your finger and write in the sky…where all your friends can see it through their glasses or contact lenses.
  • designing toys and selling them online where buyers click to print them out on their 3D printers
  • building the apps to do the designing I just mentioned or building the site to broker the transactions
  • writing code to control swarms of tiny flying/crawling robots to…well, frankly the first of these will all have military or intelligence applications which may appeal to some, but, after that, there will be plenty of environmental and scientific uses.

One tiny action that will improve your life

updated from the original article dated 8/24/2010

What gets measured gets managed.
–Dr. Peter Drucker

a tape measure

photo courtesy of gd365

This is an incredibly powerful statement. It’s why step one in any effort to lose weight should be to keep a food log…and it’s why that simple act is so often the turning point for people. If there’s any aspect of your life that is out of your control, or simply missing, you can make a great stride towards changing that fact simply by measuring it.

Do you feel you’re wasting your life away in front of the television or computer? Is your weight out of control? Do you smoke and wish you didn’t? Does being fit seem attractive, but getting there impossible? Start recording your behavior. Just doing it for a single 24 hour period will be illuminating. The knowledge you gain might encourage you to continue for a week, and then maybe three. If you do something consistently for 3 weeks, it becomes a habit.
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New Year’s Resolutions

The nice thing about the New Year is the strong symbolism of a clean start. The hard thing about the third week of the year is feeling discouraged about anything you didn’t (re)start cleanly.

But every day, every hour, every moment, is charged with the same power. An almost-toddler learning to walk, a baby bird learning to fly, a child learning to ride a bicycle…they all look the same: after every thud, there is a standing up followed by an exuberant thrust. It doesn’t matter if the last attempt lasted 1 second or 100, the thrust has the same energy.

…until it’s time for a snack and a nap. Tomorrow’s play is just ahead.

 

Baby exuberantly learning to walk