0450 – practice taking pauses

I’ve been taking a break from writing for a while but now I’m back. I initially hoped to have August be my “perfect streak” writing month, but I just got really tired and writing started to feel like a chore so I stopped. But now I’m back, and I don’t want to agonize too much or waste time with self-flagellation. There’s always time for that later.

So I’m back, and I’m fresh. What am I going to do? What do I focus on, with regards to this project? Before I stopped, I wrote one fiction piece and hoped to write many more fiction pieces. I felt a bit overwhelmed at the prospect and it seemed a little premature. So maybe I won’t do that yet.

I mentioned in a piece of writing- not sure if I published it- that I want to split my writing into “motivations”, “observations”, “hypotheses”, “howtos”. Maybe more buckets than that, but that’s the rough breakdown.

My highest priority in life at the time of this writing is to get enough sleep, to eat healthier and to hit the gym.

I had a week about two weeks ago- when I first stopped writing- where I’d sleep really early every single day. And that was good for me, I got a lot of mental clarity from it. And then I got a little sloppy the week after- I was meeting friends and just “enjoying” having time and space to myself (since my wife’s away right now). I will still be meeting people this week, but I’ll try to sleep as early as possible nevertheless.

I know very clearly now that this is the number one thing I want to solve. I don’t want to finish 1000 word vomits but still be writing at word vomit 999 that I really ought to be sleeping better. I’ve been writing about that for almost 10 years now. Solving sleep is the most important, high-leverage thing I can do for myself. I’ve hit the gym two weeks running, doing big heavy compound exercises. It feels really good. I look forward to getting stronger. It’s something I’d like to do at least once a week indefinitely. Let’s commit to 12 sessions (so that’s 10 more that need to happen) before I’ll write a report or finding of some sort.

Motivations. I’ve even feeling a little sentimental the last few days, nostalgic and all. I think it was a passing phase, and it was necessary, maybe. I don’t want to overthink it, just acknowledging it and moving past it. I want to do more to help myself, help my colleagues. I want to continue to improve my information diet. There’s really nothing on Facebook that’s worth reading. I’d prefer instead to read Seneca and Montaigne and so on. I need to revisit my personal todo list, which I haven’t done in a while.

Why not? Why isn’t that already a part of my daily routine? I guess it seems or feels somehow uncomfortable, somehow unpleasant. Why? Because it involves thinking about things that I haven’t done, which is uncomfortable. But I know intellectually that I need to do uncomfortable things. I don’t need to spend hours watching skilled people at work, or talking about their work, or reading articles written about such people. I need to develop my own skills. I don’t need to worry about local politics, which ultimately doesn’t affect me as much as it’s tempting to think.

I sometimes still post comments and such in spaces that don’t really matter.

I paused for a second right there to look for distractions. It’s a sort of sugar craving, a craving for some sort of interaction to busy myself with. What I’m trying to do (and what I just did) is to pause instead, to turn away from whatever I’m doing, to focus on breathing and to just pay attention to my mind. A sort of micro-meditation. And almost always I find that my breathing has been shallow, and that my posture is usually slouched. So what I’m trying to do instead, when I feel the urge to be distracted, is to interpret that as a cue to straighten up. Grab some water. Stretch. Eat some peanuts. (This is also the little space where I used to smoke cigarettes.)

I think a big mistake I’ve been making is pretending that I can just ignore these gaps, these little bursts of “I want distraction”. They were always there and they’ll probably always be there. The only times they don’t seem to emerge is when I’m playing video games or I’m surfing the Web in a non-directed way, and in both of those cases I’m constantly getting all sorts of exciting feedback. It’s the classic slot machine sort of situation. I always want to see what’s next. I’m a junkie for that sort of thing.

Pause.

I’m reminded of my boss’s suggestion of using a “brain dump” to just throw in all the random ideas and thoughts that come into my mind when I encounter them. I tried it for a while and it seemed to work for a bit, but I never really stuck with it. Why? I think it’s because I wasn’t framing the problem before. I convince myself that I have all these exciting tangential ideas that might be useful. And sometimes I do. But most of the time the truth is far less interesting, much more mundane. I’m just itchy. For me to scratch the itch, I don’t to introduce something genuinely useful. It just needs to be different. When I’m confronted with something difficult or challenging or boring, anything different is endlessly interesting. This is how I’ve been systematically robbing myself. (Reminder: no self-flagellation- that too is distracting from problem-solving).

So… a big part of the solution is to start by framing problems properly, in the smallest possible chunks. This always feels silly or trivial to me, but I have enough experience now to know that it’s far sillier to keep trying to wing it and fail, over and over again. There’s a seductive part of my brain that refuses to pay attention to the evidence- it keeps thinking that tomorrow will be different. It won’t.

The behavior is pathalogical. Every time I think I’ve got it under control, I’m wrong. But I’m going to solve this. I know I haven’t got it yet, and I probably never will. I’m going to work assuming it’ll always be a problem. But I will get on top of this.

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