I'm always starting (and ending) new habits and campaigns. I tend to write about them when I first start or first see results, but I'm not always good at follow up. Sometimes, too, the progress isn't really exciting enough to warrant special mention. Today I thought that I'd follow up on all of those that I can think of (probably biased towards ones I didn't quit, since they're the ones on the front of my mind), and that maybe as a collection they would be interesting.
I started working out on January 9th. Since then I've gained fourteen pounds, mostly muscle, and have increased all of my lifts by 50-100%. I haven't skipped a single workout (or even a set) while in San Francisco, but I was probably at about 50% in Japan and 80% in Austin. My diet adherence has been around 95% in SF, 25% in Japan, and 90% in Austin. The breaks in Austin and Japan were small variances to be social, and in Japan I decided to not worry about it.
I had planned to stop working out permanently at the beginning of the Japan trip, but I read that working out increases willpower, and the results have been fantastic, so I'm continuing indefinitely.
As much as I would like to take credit for my success with working out, it's 100% due to Dick Talens, founder of Fitocracy and fellow SETT blogger. My independent efforts at gaining weight have never worked, but he got me results within the first week.
Writing Every Day
Almost exactly a year ago I decided to start writing every single day and increasing posting to twice a week. I haven't missed a single post in that time, but I have not written every day. I'd say that I write 80% of the days, with trips being the main thing pulling that average down.
Posting twice a week has been really good for me, and hopefully really good for you as well. It's allowed me to try a few experimental posts, knowing that if someone doesn't like them, they don't have to wait a full week to get something new.
Writing almost every day has been really positive as well. I think I've become a much better writer, not so much in terms of maximum skill, but mostly in ability to generate a good post quickly with no burning inspiration. I also have over 100 posts stashed that are good enough to hit the blog, so I could easily auto-queue them all in SETT and take a year off if I wanted to. Being post-rich allows me to write with no stress at all and choose a post that fits my mood.
Violin progress has been slow but satisfying. Sometimes I go a week or two without playing, and then sometimes I feel inspired and I try to figure out a new song. I figured out "Somewhere over the Rainbow" just by hearing it, and I learned "Castle in a Cloud" from sheet music. I don't play either one very well at all, but I really enjoy playing Castle in a Cloud.
About a month ago I heard Violin and Piano Sonata in A Major by Cesar Franck and was floored. I've never impacted so much by classical music. I immediately got the sheet music and tried to learn it myself, but found it to be very difficult. I scheduled a violin lesson with my old teacher to have him help me through a few things. I'm also going to record him playing it so that I have a reference.
I will probably never be good at violin, but I hope that within 2-3 years I can play the first movement of this Franck piece well enough that others will enjoy hearing it. If I get to that point, I will learn the fourth movement as well. The primary reason I play violin is to give my analytical brain little breaks and have a positive way to procrastinate if I need it.
I forget exactly when I decided not to date, but it's been at least a year. The rule is that I can't put any effort into dating until 2015, which predictably leads to zero dates. I'm doing this to help myself focus, and it serves that purpose well. There are times when I feel like I'm missing out, but that's probably 1-2% of the time at most. Whenever I see other people's moods or habits being affected by girls, I'm glad for the rule.
Somewhat related, I've also decided to give up pornography, probably forever. It's been around six weeks now (maybe I should be keeping better track of these things), and I don't miss it.
I gave up watching movies in theaters in October 2012 until Jan 1 2014, but I will probably extend that, possibly indefinitely. Like dating and pornography (and other things like alcohol, sugar, etc), movies have fallen into that category of things-other-people-do-that-aren't-in-any-way-part-of-my-life. I don't feel positively or negatively towards them-- I just don't think of them.
I have watched a few movies on my computer (Les Mis, which was great, Skyfall which was not great, and maybe another one), as well as some documentaries. I wanted to watch Gatsby because I liked the book, but I was glad I had my rule when my family came back from the theater and said they didn't like it.
Four or five months ago I started meditating every day for five minutes. It's become such a reflex that I don't really even notice when I do it anymore. Unfortunately that means that I forget when I didn't do it, too. Yesterday I'm pretty sure I meditated, but since I can't remember it I'm not sure. I'd estimate that I do it 90% of the time. I used to have a rule that I couldn't check my email before meditating, but I gave up on that after the Japan trip, so now sometimes I get caught up in email and forget to do it. Since I just realized that, I will implement the rule again.
I don't feel like I've really gotten better at meditating. I still find it difficult and a little bit frustrating, although I don't find it unenjoyable anymore. I have definitely noticed that it gives me a second to observe all impulses before acting on them, which I find very valuable. This prevents me from spending an hour browsing ebay, eventually thinking, "Wait... shouldn't I be working?"
Reading Every Day
My reading for the year has fallen behind. I read from midnight until I get tired every day, or 2am, whichever comes first. My progress was stunted by getting 2/3 of the way through two 300+ page books, deciding they weren't worth finishing, and then giving up, and by slogging my way through Better Angels of our Nature. Better Angels was a great book, but it was so dense and repetitive that I often fell asleep after only 30 minutes. I think it took me two full months to get through it.
I was hoping to get to 100 books this year, but it seems like I'll end up closer to 50. The absolute number doesn't really matter to me (or I wouldn't read 900 page books like Musashi and Better Angels), but I do feel like I've been sleeping earlier and thus not reading. Working out has made me more tired, so that's probably a factor as well.
This has been going on for about seven years now, but people still ask me about it. I still live in my RV and I still love it. I've done several new insane RV projects, and we're probably about due for another video. The only project on the horizon is the curtains that my sister is making for me.
For somewhere around 120-150 days I tracked everything and planned every day like Sebastian Marshall. This was a HUGE win for me and really revolutionized my productivity overnight.
However, I'm not doing it anymore. The enormous rate of gains that I experienced initially tapered off as it became less novel and more routine, and that coupled with some trips knocked me off the schedule. Planning and scheduling everything made me so reliable that there was really no point in recording times anymore because they were the same every day.
The part that I miss, though, was loading up my todo list first thing every day. It doesn't feel like that big of a deal, but I've noticed that on days I do that (probably only 10% of days now), I get more done. So for the past few days I've restarted the daily todo list, and I plan on keeping it up.
Blocking all Sites
Six weeks ago I blocked all sites besides what I needed for work. Ben Yu bet me that I wouldn't stick with this, which eliminated any chance that I would fail. I do have to open up a second browser quite frequently for things like unsubscribing from newsletters, looking up programming questions, etc., but my waste-of-time browsing has been cut down to virtually nothing. I am allowed to browse any sites during lunch and dinner, but I find that these days I tend to just read. Breaking the cycle of visiting sites like Reddit and Hacker News daily has drastically lowered my desire to read them.
I think there's another 6-8 weeks left in the bet, but I plan to keep all sites blocked forever.
I stopped Japanese at the beginning of the Japan trip, having learned about 1000 new words. I intend to switch back to Chinese for a few months, but I was spoiled by the awesome Japanese Anki Deck I was using (modified core 2000). The Chinese ones are far worse, so Todd and I are considering hiring someone in China to make one like Japanese Core 2000.
I've started doing ballet every week. I chose ballet because I've noticed that everyone who is even moderately proficient has great posture, great discipline, grace, and a good outlook on life. I could definitely use some help on posture, and more discipline is always a good thing. I took one class just to see if I'd like it, but I'm now on my fifth or sixth and I intend to continue at least until I'm good enough to perform at a recital or small student performance.
Written down these seem like a ton of things to keep track of, but it's almost all second nature by now. I just add them one by one, get to the point where my default is to adhere, stop being insane about perfect execution, and then add some new ones. These things are all so positive (for me, anyway) that they don't seem like hassles, but rather like pillars of a happy, productive, and pleasant life.
Photo is Samovar's Golden Phoenix Oolong tea. Drinking tea every morning (but not always such a great one!) is another habit that I really love.
If you have a SETT blog and haven't tried AutoQueue yet, go to your blog settings and set it up. It's my favorite SETT feature.
What kind of routines are you doing? Is it like starting strength or something else?
It's pretty much exactly this with the pyramid option: http://sett.com/dicktalens/8-week-training-program-for-lifehacker-q-a
Dick customized it to me, but it's very similar.
Hey Tynan, I'd love to hear about your current investment status/strategy. If I remember correctly you were in LendingClub for a bit, then Berkshire Hathaway and last time you posted about buying BP stock; what's going on there?
Tynan, I admire your self-discipline and flow of work. Still, isn't there a danger that this tremendous focus on productivity will make your life a bit too predictable? Personally, I enjoy the feeling of adventure, of unpredictability. It seems as though you do, as well, on a deeper level - which is why you like to travel. At the same time, in your writings, I sense some sense of "guilt," when you just relax and go with the flow, a feeling that you're not being productive enough. This is the deep rooted protestant work-ethic kicking in, and I am hard-wired in the same way. Keep in mind that the journey, not the destination, is what matters the most in the long run.
My average default day is very predictable now, which is a good thing. It's efficient and I don't waste time. I love working and I've tweaked my day over time so that my default day is great. I'd say my happiness ranges from a 9-10 on almost every day.
I'm also always relaxed. I find work relaxing, and I find hanging out with people relaxing. I do prioritize work when making plans, but I don't feel any guilt when I'm doing non-work things. In fact, sometimes I consider that maybe I'm not pushing myself hard enough because I don't feel stressed out at all.
My goal with these campaigns is to make hard work, skill building, and self improvement as easy as possible. It does sound like a lot (and sort of neurotic) when it's all put together like this, but really it's almost all automatic and enjoyable.
Tynan, good job with the working out! If you can just substitute the word "ballet" with "sex", you will be on fire!!!!
How's sleeping without a mattress going? Are you using any kind of padding or pillow and do you sleep on your back?
Tynan, will you create an API for SETT? Would be very cool if I could eg create my own CLI client or integrate SETT in some way in a third party site or app or whatever. Or hell, hook SETT into Zapier or IFFT. The possibilities are endless if you have an API.
Also, creating an API could be a cool way for you to learn some new technology - NodeJs is very well suited to that kind of thing. Or you could of course do it in PHP.
Thanks for the check in and including things that didn't work out. Sometimes I find being aware of why projects did not work is as useful as knowing why other ones did work! I have been focusing on raising my vibration level in the past year - like your daily gratitude idea - and that has helped with making all my projects more fun.
So can a woman really affect your mood, or would it be more accurate to say your thinking, beliefs and concepts about that woman's actions affects your mood? Big difference......
Hey. I agree that sites like reddit can get out of hand -- you can waste so much time -- but I *think* they have some real value: they *seem* to add spontaneity to my knowledge-base and raise my awareness about relevant topics in the news. Browsing reddit every day is akin to skimming a newspaper for me. What do you think, Tynan?
I talk a lot about habits on here-- but there's a certain type of habit that's especially near and dear to my heart. Or a certain frequency of habit, I should say. The daily habit. I've found that whenever I want to make a change in my life, the best solution to it is implementing a daily habit.
My current lineup of daily habits is: floss, write a blog post, record a video, listen to a Chinese lesson, plan my day, play the violin. I also work on SETT every day, but I wouldn't really consider that to be a habit.
Every day really is a magic frequency. It's not just 40% more effective than five days a week-- it's one hundred percent more effective. When you do something every day, you remove a huge portion of possible excuses for not doing it. I know that when I had three-time-a-week habits, I would constantly renegotiate the schedule if I didn't feel like completing the habit on a particular day. You can't do that when you're doing it every day. You also never lose your momentum. If I don't write for a few days, my drive to write goes down. I find it harder to come up with topics, and harder to put the words together. But when I write every day, I'm alway in writer mode. I actually find it EASIER that writing once a week because every day it just comes naturally.
When you do something every day, especially something with productive output, it almost feels like cheating. Most bloggers (including me for 6 years) never have more than one post in the can, ready to go. I have over thirty now. I could die today and keep up my posting frequency for four months. A year from now I'll have almost three hundred posts stored up. That's three years of posting twice a week. Because of the momentum, my weekly writing burden feels lower than it did when I wrote once a week.
A quick little post today on my routine that I go through when I'm stuck. Let's say that I'm programming and I'm hitting a wall, maybe I'm getting frustrated that I can't figure something out, and I feel like I'm spinning my wheels. Despite being a supreme genius of the universe, this happens to me all the time. Now I have a little routine that I go through systematically, and eighty percent of the time or so it gets me moving again.
The first thing I do is I clean up my desk. I hate to admit that I'm influenced by such trivial things as desk clutter, but a nice empty clean desk has a real calming effect on the mind. Sometimes I even wipe it down with soap and water so that it's really clean. This sounds a little bit crazy, but I've noticed a consistent improvement in motivation when I do it. I also clean anything in front of me. In the RV, that's the two front seats and whatever's on the kitchen counter beside me.
Next I drink about sixteen ounces of water, even if I'm not thirsty. Left to my own devices, I drink very little water unless I'm at a restaurant, so I use frustration as a cue that I might need more water. Sometimes I have tea cold-brewing in the fridge, and I might drink that instead. Being even moderately dehydrated brings on feeling of fatigue, which can be confused with (or a part of) not being able to concentrate. Drinking water doesn't always have an effect, but sometimes it wakes me right up.
After cleaning and drinking some water, I play my violin. You can substitute anything left-brained here, like sketching or playing piano. I have theories about why this helps-- maybe it spins up the left brain and starts using it to tackle the problem at hand, maybe it gives the right brain a break to recharge its chemicals, or maybe it's all placebo. Regardless, I find that a good portion of the time after I play some music, I'll think of a totally different solution to the problem that I hadn't even considered before.