Quarterly Sleep Review: July-Sept

Back in May, I thought I’d give a sleep update for that quarter to see what kinds of trends would shake out when taking a longer view of my sleeping habits.  I missed the opportunity to give an update for the April through June span, so instead I’ll skip it and give the update for July, August, and September.

In the first quarterly sleep review, I was showing some pretty terrible numbers, with an overall success rate of 25/120 days, or 20.8%.  Let’s see where we are now.

Jul-Sep sleep

Here, we see a much better hit-ratio.  Between the months of July and September, I hit my target two out of three months, for 31 out of 92 days, or 33.7%, a more than 10% jump in sleep.

Some of my success in this quarter is because I’ve tried being more conscious of my sleeping habits, though I will admit that I still don’t do a good job of maintaining a night-time routine to get myself into bed at a decent time.

The sleep results for each of the days of the week are somewhat consistent from the last quarterly update, with the most sleep occurring Sundays, where I’m usually not up late and I can sleep in the next day.  Thursday continues to be a bad day for sleep since I’m still working at the bar Wednesday night’s.

The biggest improvement that was unexpected was my Saturday sleeping.  As I noted in the last quarterly update, Saturday’s typically suffer because I work at the bar, and so being up late usually means I won’t get a full 7-hours in.  In this quarter, I have fixed that issue somewhat, though admittedly not intentionally.  My best reason to account for this change is that I often take early cuts at the bar when we have lower patron turnout, so I’m able to go to sleep earlier than I otherwise would have.

A final caveat on my sleep results is that my July and August results are good because of the vacation I took from work.  The two weeks off between July and August meant I was able to keep a regular sleeping schedule, go to the gym twice per week, and have time with my partner, all while still being able to get work done from my to-do list.  That two-ish week period is a little bit of a deviation from the norm, which resulted in a higher sleep ratio for the month.

All in all, I’m happy with the results, and am looking forward to the next quarterly sleep review to close out 2017’s sleep tracking.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

Advertisements

What You Say “No” To

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?

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

 

“You’re an over-achiever”

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.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

What I’ve Been Reading (as of August 21st)

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.

Montaigne: A Life by Philippe Desan 

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.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

Big Picture on “Productivity”

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.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

What I’ve Been Reading (as of June 19th)

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.

Here are five books I’m currently reading:

Reading the Humanities: How I Lost My Modernity by John Greenwood

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.

 

Mort by Terry Pratchett

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.

 

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

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…

 

 The Road to Character by David Brooks

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.

 

 

Rome’s Last Citizen by Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni

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.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

Blog -Disrupting Routine

Remember how I was going on last week about starting a new routine in the morning?

As luck would have it, the day after that post went live, I came down with a cold.  Normally colds don’t bother me, but it was enough for me to cancel all of my Wednesday engagements to recover, then spend the next two days at work a tired, drippy, stuffy mess.  Apparently, something is going around the Region (and our office) because many people have been off ill or discussing it online.

I had an interesting moment last week as I decided to call in sick.  Normally, I’d try to push through and save my sick days for when I was genuinely incapacitated or in need of a mental health day.  I always feel guilty conceding to being sick.  But I realized that a.) much like with sleep, it’s important that I listen to my body’s cues, because in general I feel better when I respect my body’s natural rhythms; and b.) I have a big boy job that not only pays me to stay home when I’m sick, but also expects that I respect the office and not bring sickness to it.

So, rather than pushing it, I decided to take the week and weekend off from trying to be productive.  This morning, I resumed my rowing and reading, even if I wasn’t yet up to 100%.

Slow and steady.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan