It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, so I’m taking the week off to enjoy time with family.
I’ll be back next week with a regular post.
It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, so I’m taking the week off to enjoy time with family.
I’ll be back next week with a regular post.
Despite the missing data in August’s check-in, I was able to meet my 10-night target for the month. This month I just barely missed my 10 nights target. I had hoped to get the last night on September 30th, but sadly I had stuff to do Saturday morning that got me up earlier than I would have liked.
One thing I noticed is how poorly I sleep when I have a head cold. This may be obvious to people, but it wasn’t until I saw it graphed out just how much of a toll it takes on sleep when your body is trying to recover. Not only that, but I saw the benefit of using cough medicine at night, where in the days before I took it, my sleep was disturbed fairly regularly, whereas after I started taking medicine, I was able to get longer periods of sleep in before I became restless.
Check out my stats from Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (pre-cough medicine) versus Thursday night (post-cough medicine):
On Thursday, I felt more rested after taking cough medicine at night despite having less sleep overall. It just goes to show how important it is to maintain uninterrupted sleep cycles.
Last week I discussed some thoughts on being busy. Near the start of the post, I made an off-hand comment about why I’m typically busy:
It’s often less of an issue of seeking achievement, and more the result of me absent-mindedly saying “yes” to obligations without regard to the impact it has on my time and calendar.
This is the perfect example of an answer to those interview questions of “what is a weakness of yours?” It took a lot of self-reflection to realize that a lot of stuff I do is less because it fits within a plan, and more because it sounded like a cool thing at the time. It was a habit I formed when I was single and life was simple. However, as things started piling up, it made it really difficult to prioritize. The most important things in my life (love, sleep, exercise, etc.) end up taking a back seat to those things that seemed cool when I said “yes” to an ask.
I was watching a video from Jon Call, aka Jujimufu on YouTube, and he was discussing email tips that he uses to stay organized. However, around the 3:30 mark of the video, he drops a fascinating insight:
“If I said yes…, I’m basically saying ‘no’ to (my wife) Sam, I’m saying ‘no’ to (my friend) Tom, (and) I’m saying no to you guys…”
Whether you are talking about your email inbox, your work, or the important people in your life, it’s important to reflect on what you are saying “no” to when you decide to say “yes.” It’s a hard lesson that I am still struggling with, and I’m thankful with how patient my loved ones have been.
I invite you to reflect on your own life: what are you saying “no” to?
Right off the top, I want to make clear that this post is not intended to be a humble-brag. I’m hoping to use the observation in the title as a jumping-point for a meditation on my career and professional life.
I’m a busy guy. It’s often less of an issue of seeking achievement, and more the result of me absent-mindedly saying “yes” to obligations without regard to the impact it has on my time and calendar. I find it satisfying to be involved in all sorts of cool projects, but I also rationally know that “being busy” is a cop out.
Busy people are often flakey.
Busy people often use it as a status marker.
Busy people are often less effective than they believe.
That’s not to say that effective people aren’t busy. However, I bet that the ratio of effective people to the merely busy is skewed. But that’s besides the point.
The other day, a coworker and I were talking about career advancement and our track-records for interviewing for jobs and getting turned down. I commented to my coworker that they could invest more in themselves through courses at the College. They dismissed the idea as it didn’t fit their current career position (they are mid-career, so the investment in training has a lower return in their mind), but commented that it’s a good strategy for me. Then they dropped the line from the title:
“You’re an over-achiever.”
The comment was meant in the context of working at the College, working as a bouncer at a bar, teaching, taking a class, podcasting, etc., and it wasn’t meant to be dismissive or condescending.
The funny thing is that I don’t associate “over-achiever” with me. It’s not that I reject the idea being applied to me, but more that if I’m to associate words to describe me, it’s not one I would have thought of. My colleague also referred to me as “ambitious,” which I would agree is a closer description of me, except I would code that word to be synonymous with “foolishly hoping for a good outcome”.
The problem I have with the concept of being an “over-achiever” is I associate it more with outcomes instead of process. “Over-achievers,” to me, get results irrespective of how hard they may or may not work. I’m critical of my successes because I don’t think I achieve a lot (especially relative to the effort I put in – how busy I am).
That’s the disconnect for me. I often feel that for all my busyness, I’m not making a lot of headway. I’m not landing jobs that I interview for, I have a lot of projects that are idle or slow-moving, and I’m constantly filling up my evenings with stuff to do while also wishing I had more downtime.
This might not be a fair evaluation of my professional life, but it’s a reflection of the standards I have on myself. From a career perspective, I feel adrift and treading water. Each day slips by as more time I didn’t use wisely towards some further goal. Having these feelings hasn’t yet translated into action or a change of behaviour, and I don’t know if and when that might happen.
Other people I know (I won’t name names), whom I consider to have achieved something with their professional life, are also called under-achievers by people who know them best. When I heard that, I compared it to my own life, and felt bad. If they are under-achievers, what does that mean about me?
All is not lost. During orientation at the college, I joked with some engineering students that I have two philosophy degrees and three jobs, so clearly I’m beating the odds. I know that, rationally, I’m doing just fine; that I’m being too hard on myself, or I have unrealistic expectations on myself. Progression through one’s career is about building (skills, knowledge, connections, etc). It’s slow and methodical, not characterized by leaps forward. I need to keep reminding myself of this.
In line with my desire to take positive steps for my career, I’ve been exploring options on how to get more experience. One option available to me is to take classes at work. A great benefit of working for a college is that you can have amazing discounts on classes. At my college, support staff can take classes for a flat rate of $20. How could you not take advantage of that?
When I started this blog, I was taking a biology course to prepare for my entry into paramedicine. Having since abandoned that career path, I haven’t seen the need to enroll in classes. However, when I missed out on some recent career moves, I thought the time has come to see what courses I could take.
Looking through the course offerings, I stumbled across some management courses. One stood out to me:
MGMT1960 – Performance Management
This subject will focus on performance analysis, counselling, constructive feedback, conflict resolution, performance management systems and overall strategies for performance management.
Given my recent job shift towards student advising, it seemed like a good option to pursue. My boss signed-off on it, and now I’m course-loaded for a management class starting on Tuesday. The course is thankfully offered online, so it’ll give me some latitude to fit it into my schedule.
This also means that I am straddling three different areas at the college. I’m continuing my main duties as a administrative support staff, and I’m slated to teach another round of Quest for Wisdom online, and now I’ll also be a student. If nothing, I seem to like things interesting and keeping busy. Let’s see how this goes.
It’s sleep check-in time! After the progress I made in July, I was curious to see if I could both hit my target 10-times, and if I could hit it intentionally, rather than the result of vacation rest.
There was a hiccup in my plans, though, as I had to finally retire my old Fitbit unit when the patch job I used to keep the band from separating from the hardware gave out again.
When the unit started showing signs of damage from the band coming apart last year, I had notified Fitbit’s customer service and they sent me a replacement unit. The watch itself wasn’t damaged, so I used glue to repair the band and continued to use it. However, over time the adhesive wore off, and I figured it was time to make the switch.
That wasn’t the hiccup, though. The problem I had was that I didn’t do a final sync to transfer data from the unit before I deleted the unit from my phone and synced up the new device. As a result, I lost about a week’s worth of data.
The unfortunate result is that 5 days of data is gone. Of the missing days, I think I can charitably say that I hit 7-hours or more of sleep once (on a Sunday). However, without the data to show for it, I’ve decided to live with the loss.
Nevertheless, of the data that remains, I hit 11 nights of sleep for the month, hitting the target I set for myself! A small disclaimer that deserves to be mentioned: my vacation from work spanned the last week of July and the first day of August, meaning that the first day of the month where I hit over seven-hours of sleep was during vacation time. Similarly to last month, I don’t consider this typical as I’m trying to be intentional with my sleep schedule while juggling my various responsibilities.
Regardless, I consider this a successful month and am looking forward to carrying the momentum forward into September.
I enjoyed writing my last reading update from back in June, so I thought I’d give an updated list. In full disclosure, I have only completed three of the five books I mentioned (the two outstanding books are Brooks’s Character and the biography of Cato), so I won’t include those on this list.
Here are five more books I’m reading at present.
Considered the father of the modern essay, Montaigne has popped up in various references during my reading, from stoicism to observational commentary and timeless meditations. I’m a sucker for biographies, and this book was recently released in English as a fairly authoritative account of Montaigne’s life, not as an extraction from his essays, but as a picture of the historical figure.
William Tecumseh Sherman: In Service of My Country: A Life by James Lee McDonough
Did I mention I’m a sucker for biographies? This was a birthday present to myself last year, but I’ve only started digging into it. Sherman is held up as an exemplar of restrained greatness. He’s considered great in equal parts from talent, study, and luck (though often it was luck that helped him out). But the reason why I picked this up was how he is often held up as a contrast to Ulysses S. Grant, another U.S. Northern Civil War General, who mismanaged his life and the U.S. Presidency after the war, whereas Sherman quietly continued his duties in the army until retirement and didn’t seek political office (or so I’ve heard, I haven’t read very far into the book). Like Washington before him who declined to be the first king of the United States, I like reading about figures who manage to avoid the hard fall from grace after they acquire fame, power, or authority. Also like Washington, I think it’s important to understand a full picture of history, warts and all.
168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam
I don’t actually own this book. It was laying around my fiancee’s office for about a year, so I decided to start reading it one day and take it home. I don’t expect a lot of insight from this book, but I do like reading anecdotes of how other people manage their time so that I can glean possible tips and tricks to apply to my own life. In the last year or so, I’ve started being more mindful of my time, hence why my reading lists include a disproportionate amount of productivity and personal development books.
80,000 Hours: Finding a Fulfilling Career That Does Good by Benjamin J Todd
I’ve also been more mindful of my career recently. With losing out on a few jobs recently (before and after interviewing), I’ve been considering my options for improving my career prospects through opening up opportunities, strategic skill acquisition, and relationship building. While the content of this book is entirely online for free through the 80,000 Hours website, I purchased the book anyway to have all the information in one place.
Middlemarch by George Eliot
This book is brand new to the list as I only grabbed it from the library this past weekend. I read about George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans) in Brooks’s Character book (from the last list) and I was struck by her lauding of the average person in her fiction. I, like many others, have found myself buying-in to the aspiration to greatness narrative – that to have a good life also means to be great, have impact, and cement yourself in history. Middlemarch, and many other books by Eliot/Evans, chooses to laud the quiet efforts of the average person, who does their part and is praiseworthy in their steadfastness. Brooks quoted the closing lines of Middlemarch in Road to Character that celebrated humble lives,
“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who life faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.