Having rested up from my vacation, it’s time to do my sleep check-in for the month of July. During my last check-in, I set the goal of hitting my sleep target at least 10 times in the month.
Let’s see how I did:
July proved to be a good month for sleep! I hit my target 11 times out of 31 days, or 35%. This is the best I have achieved since I started tracking my sleep at the start of the year.
Having said that, I do want to provide some context that will dampen the accomplishment a bit. The blocks of sleep at the start and end of the month (6-days) were during vacation periods – the start of the month was the Canada Day long weekend, and the block of time at the end were when I took 2-weeks off from my jobs and went to the cottage with my fiancee. Because she took time off, we both were able to sleep in and get lots of rest.
This means that had I not had that time off from work, I would likely have only hit my target around 5-6 times, which goes against my stated aim last month of hitting my sleep goals by being more mindful and intentional with my bedtimes.
So, while I can celebrate this month of more concentrated rest, I have to keep in mind that my habits themselves have not changed around sleep.
Therefore, I will keep my target going, and I will aim to hit my goal another 10-times in August. This will be a better measure of whether I can keep the trend going strong.
I was reading Mark Manson’s latest post last week and I connected with a simple truism that I often lose sight of. While I wouldn’t say that “hacking” productivity is the main thing I’m concerned with, if you were to poll close friends of mine, they’d probably label me as that kind of person.
You can read the full post here, but I’ve bolded the important part here:
There is no such thing as an optimum life. Sure, there are some habits and actions that are healthier than others. But the 80/20 here is pretty simple: just don’t fuck up the big stuff.
My fiancee and I had an argument recently. We were arguing over whether we should consolidate our cellphone plans under one carrier and share any of the benefits it may afford. Of course, the argument itself was a little stupid because what we were arguing over was slightly deeper issue around my desire to be in control. I may be laissez faire in many things, but my fiancee is often finding me stubbornly pig-headed in a few key areas that relate to finances and things I consider wasteful (overpaying for cell services I don’t actually need, using the AC all the time, leaving lights on, etc.).
Most instances of control around finances for me stems from wanting to set up systems that take care of the critical items – loan repayments, paying off other debts, savings, etc. I want to set up systems so that when they are up and running, I want to ignore them and focus on other things. I don’t want to go back in and have to constantly tweak the system to make up for bad habits and behaviours on my part.
Yet, sometimes my focus on the system can lead me to concern myself with the stupid nitty-gritty details. In this, I can focus too much on the little things and end up having stupid arguments about how I don’t want to switch a cell carrier because my system already works for me.
It’s important to remember to get the big things right and not sweat the small stuff. Rather than thinking I can set up an independent system (a relatively little thing) it’s more important for me to focus on the big things like having open conversations with my partner as we plan our future together, rather than taking pride in being unreachable by phone outside of major cities.
Back in January, I bought a new pair of running shoes for the gym. I had owned my old ones for a *long* time – I remember using those shoes more than a decade ago when I was exercising before my trip to Kenya. Those shoes were… well beyond worn.
I elected to get some Converse shoes as I hear that they are good for things like deadlifts, where you want solid contact with the ground (some of the pros deadlift barefoot). Since I like deadlifts, I thought I’d listen to people who seem to know what they are doing, and so I bought new shoes. I remember the feeling I had when I exited the store. I immediately wanted to hit the gym and try them out. There is something about new clothes that gives you a bit of a motivational kick.
Fast-forward to the present, I’ve been struggling a bit with maintaining a consistent schedule with going to the gym. Last week, I was checking out some blog posts from a fitness YouTuber that I’ve recently started following – Jon Call, aka Jujimufu. Seriously, the guy is freaking inspiring to me; I love his attitude and personality on camera. I’m not ashamed to admit I also may have a bit of a man-crush on him.
Try training in new outfits. When you feel like a bad ass because you think you look cool, you perform better. Owning the idea that you look great motivates you. Beef up your training wardrobe and suddenly you’ll want to train sometimes exclusively as an excuse to wear cool training outfits. Cool outfits kill training boredom.
Crimson Zubaz pants + wrist bands + face paint = Just another Jujimufu outfit.
I remembered back to when I bought the shoes, and how jazzed I felt to hit the gym, so I took this advice and hit up a local sporting goods store. To aid with my training, I bought three Under Armour tee-shirts, a pair of shorts, and some wrist-bands for wiping brow sweat. I like the design of UA shirts, and I find their fabric blend helps keep me cool in the gym.
With my new shirt in hand, I drove straight from the store to the gym to try it out. As expected, I felt really good wearing the shirt and I had a good workout.
While I can’t use this strategy all the time to find motivation, I’ll have to keep it in mind that shaking up the wardrobe could be just the trick I need in the future.
For more suggestions on how to kill training boredom, I suggest reading the full article or searching out Jujimufu online.
At the close of my May sleep check-in, I indicated that if I didn’t improve my sleeping habits over June, (that is, to be more mindful of the process), that I would set targets in July. Let’s see how I fared.
On the surface, I would say that I’ve done better during June than I did in May. In May I only hit 4 nights of 7+ hours of sleep, and in June I hit my target 7 times. Superficially, I have succeeded.
However, I don’t consider this a success as I’m clearly not mindful of my habits. You can see this manifested in where I’m most commonly hitting my targets: Sundays. Four out of the seven instances where I slept 7 or more hours were on Sundays where I was allowed to sleep in, and I didn’t work at the bar the night before (where I would normally be awake until 3am or later). This is not the result of me being busy most of the week, but instead the result of me not being mindful of my night-time routines and not getting into bed until 11pm.
And so, as promised, in July I’m setting a target. I will be aiming for 10-nights of getting 7+ hours of sleep. It’s a little ambitious as I typically don’t do better than 7 nights per month, but I think it is a manageable target.
Happy Canada Day weekend for those who are observing it!
In preparation for the holiday, I’m writing this post a little early as I will be sans networked connection at the lake. As of writing, I don’t yet have all of my sleep data recorded for June, so the typical sleep update will be delayed one week.
Instead, I want to briefly give some further health and fitness thoughts that I’ve been mulling over recently, in no particular order.
1. “I’ve put on some weight…”
Exercise was a bigger part of my life last year, but I’ve recently recalled that my gym habit waned in the days before heading off to Scotland in July 2016. Prompted by the realization that July starts next week, I looked up my weight stats for this time last year. Ugly truth time!
Needless to say, that’s a little disappointing. Finding a system that I can stick to has been a challenge for a number of reasons that aren’t particularly compelling, and I’m disappointed in my progress so far.
2. Goal Setting with a Deadline
I realized that last Saturday was exactly 63 weeks away from our wedding day. I’m hoping to leverage the not so far off wedding date as a concrete goal in my mind to spur action. Every week that I do nothing in regards to exercise or fitness brings me one week closer to the wedding where I didn’t prepare. With lots of lead-in, I have plenty of time to exercise safely to look good for my future-wife.
3. Tracking Excuses
I found a nifty idea on Reddit that I’m implementing in my notebook called the Excuse Log. This will have the dual purpose of aiding purposeful reflection on why I don’t exercise when I plan to, and what I can do about it in the future. In my notebook, I’ve penned in the table below:
*What is the reason why I’m not going to the gym?
*Is this a legitimate reason? I.e. would a good friend or professional excuse my absence based on this reason?
*If the excuse is not legitimate, reframe the problem to better reflect reality for next time. If the excuse is legitimate, what solutions can you implement to help you in the future.
This will help me be more mindful of those times when I didn’t exercise as I planned because I let my baser monkey brain trick me (you’re too tired, YouTube is more pleasant, you ate too big of a lunch, etc.).
4. Enjoy What You Do
I stopped rowing, ultimately, because I don’t enjoy cardio exercises all that much. While it might be true that I like rowing over running, I truthfully don’t like rowing or running that much as compared to lifting weights, especially when it’s the only exercise I’m doing.
Going to the gym to lift weights comes with a whole host of mental barriers that I’ve thus far proven to be weak against. I give in to temptation when I’m tired, I don’t have the discipline yet to hit the gym in the morning, I’m still self-conscious around others, and I seem to have an aversion to sweating. Stacked together, I’ve got a lot of friction to fight against just to do the right thing.
A trick I’ve seen consistently in the exercise literature and the self-help sphere is to pick activities you like to do, because you’ll be more likely to stick to them. I genuinely enjoyed going to the gym when life was simpler a year ago. Now, having been away for so long, it’s hard for me to build up to the same level where I can coast on the routine. I need a catalyst to help push me forward. I need something I enjoy to be the keystone habit/activity that will force me to exercise. John Green talked about it recently after completing his first half-marathon on his 100 Days YouTube channel. In the video, he takes the advice that sticking to your fitness habits can be aided by signing up for competitions that you need to train for.
Recently, I participated in a crash course introduction to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with some friends. To say that it kicked my ass is a bit of an understatement; I was a hot, sweaty mess afterwards. As of writing I still have bruises and broken blood vessels marking my upper arms and chest, and in the days afterwards I felt as though I had been run over by a mid-sized American pick-up truck.
And yet, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. In the past, I had also participated in a similar session for Krav Maga, and while I enjoyed it, too, the BJJ session was a lot more fun for me. Despite what you may think about me moonlighting as a security guard, I’m not a big fan of striking combat. I prefer grappling and restraint over throwing punches, so BJJ spoke to me on some level.
I’ve since looked up the fees and schedule offered by the recreation centre and I’ve been pondering whether I would want to join in on some of the drop-in classes. To keep up and learn BJJ (or any martial art) would require me to improve my flexibility, mobility, and cardiovascular endurance; I’d also be more inclined to hit the weights to gain strength as well. I haven’t made any decisions or commitments yet, but it’s something that’s been on my mind.
Of course, this is all talk. My problem is that I don’t translate talk into action. All the best laid plans come unraveled when you can’t put the rubber to the pavement (worn cliched metaphors and all). Or, as Mike Tyson has quipped, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. In this case, lacking a solid fitness plan opens me up to the punches of day-to-day life, where every available excuse becomes a valid reason to not commit to exercise.
As I review this post, I realize the order I laid things out in creates a pretty good reflection of 1.) identifying the problem, 2.) setting a realistic timeline, 3.) anticipating roadblocks, and 4.) setting good plans of action.
I don’t know where this will go, but I’m curious to see what comes of it.
Drawing inspiration from Marginal REVOLUTION, a blog co-maintained by economist and author Tyler Cowan, I think I’ll insert an occasional update of the books I’m reading. While Cowan and Alex Tabarrok update the site several times each day, and you’ll see these lists from them at least once a week, I do not have plans to update with any regular frequency. However, I’ve been reading books at a decent pace, and I have enough books on the go that I can make a short list here from time to time.
For all the books I read last year, see My 2016 Reading List. You can also follow my reading on my instagram account, where I post the covers of books as I finish them.
This book was authored by one of my former professors from way back in first year of undergrad. I still owe him two papers from the class I took with him – it’s the only class I failed at university (surprise, surprise). I found myself in the university book shop on a recent visit to campus and decided to pick this up and check it out. It’s exactly what you would want and expect from a professor who teaches literature and meditates on various topics relevant to life. It reminds me a lot of what you see from The School of Life.
I’ve been taking in the world of Terry Pratchett by audiobooks as of late. It helps me pass the time on the commute to work, and I enjoy fictional books delivered by audiobook, as listening to the story is easier to absorb than nonfiction. The titular character Mort is alright enough, but I’m really in this story for Death. Everything about the character Death is awesome to me, especially his dry humour and the metaphysics that goes into explaining a character who reaps souls.
This book pops up in a lot of self-improvement and self-reflection blogs and books, so I think it was inevitable that I would read it eventually. This is doubly so because she name-drops Aristotle on the cover (virtue ethics for the win!). I actually stole this copy from my fiancee’s mother, so I should finish it and put it back on the bookshelf before anyone notices. Amusing sidenote – I stole this book from her a couple months before Christmas, then my fiancee received a copy from her mother as a Christmas gift. Really, I should just read the one we have a home…
Another book related to my future mother-in-law. This was actually a book I had mentioned to my fiancee that I was interested in checking out and was planning on swiping from her mother (I really seem to have a problem with theft and books, specifically the books owned by my future mother-in-law…). Well, my fiancee told her mom that I was interested in the book, so I received it as a gift for last Christmas. Funny how things work themselves out.
I believe I saw this book recommended by Ryan Holiday on one of his monthly reading lists. Last year, I was on a big stoicism kick, so the life of one of Rome’s most famous stoic practitioners appealed to me. I am finding the read a little slow as there is a lot of extra history that is included to give context to the events of Cato’s life, but I’m still finding the book interesting and insightful.
Feel free to comment below with books that you are reading that I should check out. I’d love to hear about them and grow my reading list.