Was My “Really Good Day” Healthy?

Last week, I discussed how I felt really good after a particularly productive day.  Just as I was drafting the post, I shared my thoughts with my wife.  She was happy for my sense of accomplishment and expressed encouraging words about the value of feeling fulfilled, productive, and useful.  But, I didn’t just marry her to build me up; my wife is also my best sounding board to check my intuitions.

In her wisdom, she asked if that kind of feeling of satisfaction is a healthy one.  I knew what she was getting at right away.  She wasn’t expressing skepticism about this one instance, but instead she was gesturing at a longer trend of mine.

I have a mindset and set of expectations on myself that are dangerously close to being unhealthy, to the point where I know I would never try and convince a person to adopt it themselves.

You see, I hate feeling like I’m wasting my time.  I don’t mean this in a hustle/grind sort of way, nor does this mean that I don’t waste loads of my time (hello YouTube; you are my true weakness).

I hate napping because I feel like it’s a waste of my time.

I should qualify that a little bit.  When I say a waste of my time, I don’t mean that napping isn’t good for me.  I know that sleep is good.  Sleep will rejuvenate you, help your brain work better, help you feel better, etc.

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting and text
A friend conveniently shared this meme on Facebook while I was brainstorming this post.

When I say that napping is a waste of my time, I mean it in an existential sense.  When I sleep, I am unconscious, and when I’m unconscious, time slips past me faster.  It’s almost like time travel.  I go to sleep and wake up in the future.  All the time in the middle is gone, and I can never get it back.  I have done nothing, and made no memories.

This line of thinking extends to downtime.  I don’t handle downtime very well, often feeling guilty to take time to myself to mindlessly indulge in “non-productive” things (the aforementioned YouTube, movies/tv, videogames, etc).  When I give myself permission to focus on fun things, it’s always clouded with the knowledge that by taking time to do a fun thing, it’s time not spent on something productive, and no matter how much fun I have, I know that those tasks and projects I need to work on will still have to be done.  I’m not trading off tasks; I’m delaying progress because time runs linearly.

My wife (rhetorically) asked if this line of thinking is sustainable, and it is obviously not.  Indeed, she rightfully labelled it as a stupid worldview to hold.

The real problem is that while I would never advocate for anyone else to frame their worldview in these terms, I want to (and choose to) do it for myself.  I think this is largely because I’m so disordered in my productivity and I’m always battling against my akrasia (a fancy Greek term for making bad decisions due to weakness of the will).  It’s my way of punishing myself for not focusing when I want to focus.

The reason why I mentioned that this is an existential problem for me is because when I think about my mortality, I know that every moment that passes is bringing me closer to death.  Every moment that I spend watching YouTube videos instead of getting stuff done is non-renewable time that I can’t get back and exchange for time on more important things like my wife, my dog, family, friends, or leisurely pursuits.  Realistically, I have finite time, a finite number of heartbeats, and no way of buying more.  Instead, decisions like not going to the gym, not sleeping, or eating unhealthily have the opposite effect and are likely shortening my life.

I know this is stupid.  I know this is unhealthy.  And I don’t have a good solution to address it.  This isn’t a case of believing that hustling for the sake of hustling is inherently virtuous.  Quite the opposite, I think grinding away should be in service of something higher than itself.  This is, plainly, a different flavour of a fear of missing out.  I’m worried about missing out on things by not being productive.

I don’t have an adequate response to the charge that my worldview is not good.  At least I have some semblance of self-awareness and a great partner in my wife that calls me out on my shenanigans.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

 

 

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Locus of Control – I Re-Assembled the Elliptical!

While I have recently joined a new gym in our new city after the move, I have used it once as of writing.  I have yet to work out a schedule that allows me to easily pick up the habit of exercising.  This is, of course, a terrible excuse to not exercise.

Exercising at the gym will either be something I do before work, or something done after work.  Each of these options have complications that provide just enough friction that implementing them is stopped by my slothful lizard brain.

In order to exercise at the gym before work, I’d have to wake up earlier.  This is hard for me for a few reasons:

  • Because I work at the bar a few nights per week, my sleep schedule is variable, so keeping a consistent bed and wake-up time is challenging.
  • I’m a heavy sleeper, so finding a way to wake me up without disturbing my partner is difficult.
  • I’ve developed a habit of snoozing when my alarm goes off.
  • Being late to work is bad, so if I’m late to get to the gym, it throws things off for me.
  • I’m lazy.

In order to exercise at the gym after work, I have a few barriers that I’d need to overcome.  Ideally, I’d go straight from work, but:

  • On days when the dog is at daycare, I’m usually the only one who can pick him up before they close since my work is closer.
  • On days when the dog is at home, I need to go home first to take him out to relieve himself.
  • Because I’m the first one home, it makes more sense for me to start dinner.
  • I have the habit that once my “pants come off,” or if I sit on the couch, it’s hard for me to get up and go again.
  • Exercising after work is challenging if I’m tired from work.
  • I wouldn’t be able to workout on days after work when I also work at the bar or have board meetings (mornings are more likely to be clear of other scheduled activities).
  • I value spending time with my significant other over going to the gym.

These are all excuses.  They are in no way real impediments to going to the gym.  Instead, they provide just enough friction to stop me from making a change.

Another option would be for me to workout at home.  Until recently, we’ve been limited in what we could unpack while the renovations were ongoing.  However, now that the renos are done, we are in a position to reclaim more space in the basement.  The disassembled elliptical was buried behind boxes of stuff, and there was little extra floor space that could be used to set up the machine.

Last week, I decided that I wanted to finally set up the elliptical so that I had no excuses for skipping some form of exercise.  I wanted to take back some locus of control for my fitness.  Everything listed above is coded in language that suggests I have no control over my situation.  There’s always a reason outside of myself that prevents me from committing to exercise – “if only things were different, I’d exercise.”

But this is wrong.

In truth, there is nothing stopping me from exercising.  I’m making excuses on why I’m not modifying my behaviour.  Instead of whining and whinging about why I can’t exercise, I need to address the nagging feeling that I am drifting about in my day to day life.  I don’t feel in control of things, but this is false.  I tend to react, without intention.  I act as if I don’t have an active agency in how I spend my time.  By not making decisions about how to fix my behaviour, I’m still making a decision – only now I’m pretending to be a victim of circumstance and pushing off ownership of that decision to do nothing.

And so, last week I decided to take back some locus of control and re-assemble the elliptical and go for a run.  This is not a behaviour change, but merely a first step.  (Or several steps according to my FitBit…)

Now, I must be responsible for continuing to take those steps.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

2017 Sleep Check-In

This is it!  I’ve finally hit the end of the sleep challenge and I can finally look back at a year of data and see if I can spot anything interesting from the data.  This post will give the quarterly update from October through December, and then I will look at the results from the entire year.

For those just coming on-board with this post, in 2017 I set out to track my sleep each month with the target of sleeping for at least 7-hours.  I used a Fitbit Charge HR to track my sleep and I gave monthly updates on my progress.  I also used a few quarterly updates that looked at data over longer periods of time to see what sorts of trends and patterns I could extract from the results.  While I wanted to try and maximize my sleep, in truth I am terrible at keeping a nightly routine, so at the mid-point of the experiment, I set the goal of trying to get at least 10 nights in each month where I hit my target of 7-hours.

To see a recap, you can go to the individual posts below:

You can also see my quarterly updates:

First, let us look at the fourth quarter’s results.

Fourth Quarter – October through December

Q4 sleep
Note: 1’s denote nights where I hit my target.

The fourth quarter results fall in line with what I’ve been seeing over the course of the year.  Sundays prove to be the most consistent night of 7+ hours of sleep, followed by Saturday.  Monday usually gets a high number of hits, but this time around it appears that I’m not sleeping as well when I transition from weekend to work week.  I don’t have an explanation for this, other than I probably am going to bed too late (as opposed to lost sleep due to anxiety of going to work the next day).

And now, time for the final reveal!

Sleep Results for 2017

The grand total for the year are:

January – 4
February – 8
March – 6
April – 7
May – 4
June – 7
July – 11
August – 11
September – 9
October – 8
November – 7
December – 10
Total: 92

Out of the 365 nights of sleep for 2017, I hit my target 92 times, for a 25% success rate.  This is a very strict number, which reflects poorly on the overall experiment, but one bit comfort I take from this is that, as I have pointed out a few times over the course of this challenge, the data is skewed when we look at the time I spent asleep, versus the amount of time the Fitbit tracker tracked me as asleep.  Any amount of sleep disturbance or restlessness meant that the device wasn’t counting it as sleep time.  So, while I might have been asleep for over seven hours if I had any kind of restless sleep, the quality sleep tracked came in under 7-hours.

Is there another way of seeing the data to determine if the 25% rate is overly skewed?

Time spent Sleeping

We can adjudicate this by looking at the actual time I was asleep, versus the target sleep.  This way, any nights where I slept more than 7-hours would pull my averages up and cancel out some of the nights where I slept less than 7-hours.

Screenshot_2018-01-21-20-36-37

 

sleep
*Note: for simplicity, I rounded the sleep values to the nearest hour.

For 2017, the Fitbit tracked me as sleeping 2,137-hours.  If I assume 7-hours for all 365 days, this would give us 2,555 hours of sleep.  Viewed from this perspective, I hit 84% of my target sleep, with only a 418-hour deficit of sleep spread over the 12 months.

The problem with tracking only the successes throughout the year is that it ignored any sleep that falls under 7-hours.  Month over month, my progress tended to looked bad and reflected poorly on my ability to set goals and maintain progress.  While it’s true that I was failing in hitting absolute targets of sleep, the presentation almost suggested that if I didn’t hit my sleep target it was because I wasn’t sleeping at all.

So, while I was only 25% successful in hitting targets, I was able to get 84% of the sleep the target would imply.

One note of caution – if I’ve learned anything these last two years, it’s that I’ve learned and reflected on what it feels like to be sleep deprived.  Running a theoretical sleep deficit of 418-hours for a year might not seem bad, but in practice is something to be concerned about.  Sleep deprivation has consequences that affect me in many ways, such as my ability to resist temptation, my productivity at work, the likelihood that I will exercise, and my interpersonal interactions with friends and family.  There was one time where in my sleep-deprived state, I let a door swing shut before my dog was fully through the threshold, and it caught him in the rear paw.  Despite a yelp of pain from him, there was thankfully no physical damage to his paw.  Still, I felt terrible about my carelessness and it was a reminder that my ability to focus and pay attention is compromised when I don’t sleep.

Moving Forward

Tracking my sleep for this blog was an interesting experience.  I do not plan to continue giving regular updates as I progress through 2018, though I will still be monitoring my progress in my personal notebooks.  I found a lot of value in seeing the aggregate results.  The monthly updates were mostly in line with my intuition, but it was still good to objectively see how poorly I am with sleep.

It will be an ongoing work of progress to do better.  The main takeaways from this experiment are that,

1.) I’m terrible at maintaining a disciplined nightly routines to go to bed at a reasonable time;

2.) working at the bar, even 2-nights per week, dramatically impacts my sleep during the week; and

3.) I need to pay more attention to the things in and out of the bedroom that cause disturbances in my sleep (such a the dog jumping on the bed, evening alcohol consumption, and potential sleep apnea due to my weight).

There are many avenues I can explore to improve the quality and quantity of sleep I get each night.  Perhaps, I will explore them in time.  However, it’s time to put down the measuring devices and enjoy a bit on unquantified time.

Thanks for following this journey of sleep.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

December 2017 Sleep Check-in

My November sleep check-in fell short of my target of 7-hours, so I was hoping to rally stronger in December to close out the year-long experiment.  Let’s see how I did for December.

Screenshot_2018-01-03-19-12-33
10/31 times (December 1st was cut-off on the far left of the image)

Success!

I managed to hit my target of 10 nights, but only just barely.  This is thanks in large part to my time off from work from December 23rd through the end of the year (5/9 nights).  One item of note is that I also managed to get 3 nights on the 14th, 16th, and 17th (Thursday, Saturday and Sunday), which is unusual for me.

On the other hand, I still had long stretches of time where poor bed-time habits and a lack of routine caused me to fall short of my target.  My lack of intentionality nearly lost me the challenge for another month.  This has been a persistent problem with the sleep challenge all through 2017, which suggests a lack of priority in sleep overall (though I’ll leave that reflection for the 2017 Sleep Review).

At the very least, it feels good to close 2017 and kick off 2018 on a positive note.

Happy New Year!

Ryan

November 2017 Sleep Check-in

My stats from the October sleep check-in were below my target, so I was hoping to get things back on track for the month of November.  Let’s see how I did.

Screenshot_2017-12-03-21-40-56
7/30…

Double-ouch!

Not only did I miss my target again, but I did poorer overall than October (8 of 31).  Sadly, this is less an issue of poor quality sleep (you can still see a fair number of nights where I was really close to the target line, suggesting I was in bed for at least 7-hours, but I had disturbed sleep), and more a problem of me not having a solid night-time routine.  This time last year, my problem was that I couldn’t tear myself away from the internet at a reasonable time (remember when I used to shut-off my internet via timer?), whereas this year my problem is that my partner and I don’t get ready for bed at a decent time, and then stay up chatting passed 11pm.

I know that I will be doing better in December since I’ll have time off from work before and after Christmas, which will make up the bulk of the time I hit my sleep target.  Still, I should strive to hit more nights during the work-week, rather than leaving it up to the weekends to catch up on sleep.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

October 2017 Sleep Check-in

After missing my target by one night in September, and doing a quarterly check-in, I was hoping to get things back on track for October in terms of sleeping.  Let’s see how I fared.

Screenshot_2017-10-31-14-55-55
8/31 – Ouch…

Yep, I failed another month.  This was entirely because I was not intentional with my sleep habits.  I didn’t think about going to bed on time, and I didn’t make any effort to structure my evenings around winding down at a reasonable time.  It’s starting to show, too.  I’m finding that as of writing, I generally feel a bit more tired and groggy during the day.

This doesn’t mean it was all bad or completely negligent on my part.  From the above chart, you see many stretches (Oct 4-7, 16-21, etc), where I was consistently not going to bed at a decent time, but you also see instances where I just barely missed the 7-hour bar.

The restless sleeping seems to be an issue for me, and I’m not entirely sure what is causing it.  There are a few issues that could be contributing to it, such as the dog jumping on the bed during the night, or perhaps my weight is giving me some form of undiagnosed sleep apnea.  Whatever the cause, it does have an impact on my sleep targets: I am down for 7-hours or more, but I am logging less than 7-hours of sleep.

However, this is shifting the blame a bit to soften the blow.  The truth is, for every instance where I just barely miss my target, there are at least two nights where I didn’t have a proper shutdown before bed.  Fixing those errors should be my priority, not making excuses.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

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