I’m taking a week off from work next week (today’s Saturday). I want to spend that time really getting to know myself better. Cleaning out my brain-closet. Throwing out whatever is no longer relevant. Saying thank you and farewell if necessary. Tidying up whatever remains, and figuring out how to make the most of what I have left.
I want to live a good life and die happy. To do that, I need to earn my own respect. To do that, I need to face my fears and do difficult, challenging things. I need to break out of the box that I was born into and raised in, and become as much of a free agent as I possibly can. To do that, I have to correct the bottlenecks that are currently limiting me. My #1 bottleneck is sleep. When I don’t sleep enough, I am unable to function effectively. Some people can do it. I can’t. I have years of experience telling me so. Enough so that my new years’ resolution from 3 years ago was to sleep better. Well, the past 3 years haven’t been great for me sleep wise. So it’s 10:34pm now, and I’m in bed, and I’m going to switch off the lights and sleep the moment this word vomit is done.
Once I can consistently sleep well – and the important thing there is to make it a priority the moment I get home from work, or the moment I have dinner – I think my next biggest bottleneck is mindfulness. Even when I sleep well I still sleepwalk through my days, reacting to random stimuli. That doesn’t cut it. Again, I have years of evidence that prove that being reactive is suboptimal. I need to be proactive instead. To be proactive I need to properly set aside time for reflection, evaluation, planning. I have been keeping up a weekly habit of reflection so far. It’s doing okay. But to do better I need to zoom in on the specifics. Particularly my daily calendar and the tasks I do on a day to day basis. To make a dent in this I need to have a clearer routine in the morning when I wake up, and again when I get to office. I need to be precise about these things before I start replying to emails, opening up a bunch of tabs. I need to spend more time offline so that I can be more effective in the time that I do spend online, working.
I also need to learn to enjoy doing one thing at a time. Right now I still have a bunch of tabs open. I’m going to take a few seconds to close everything else… alright, that’s done. Now I have everything closed except this single Evernote window that I’m typing in. Doesn’t that feel good? It does. It feels good to focus on a single thing. I’ve turned off my Wifi so I’m not going to get any notifications, and I’m not going to be able to Cmd+Tab into chrome and then open up Facebook or Reddit or anything else. That’s another habit that I need to change. I need to get into the habit of really focusing hard on one single thing at a time – mono tasking – and then get my pleasure from completing each single thing one at a time. And then I need to build chains of these completed tasks. That would make me much, much more effective at a faster rate that I can even imagine right now. But it starts with one thing. As Steve Vai said, your success at a thing is a function of how well you were able to focus on it.
I was reading an essay by Charlie Munger earlier (summarized/notes at visakanv.com/blog/munger) and he has this bit about how it’s natural for humans to use approximations and shortcuts rather than rigorous thinking. And doing that is like being a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest, it guarantees that everyone else will take advantage of you. (Here I’m thinking about banks in particular, with their credit card shilling and their interest rates and so on, and also just consumerism in general.) He also used a great analogy about how “just winging it” is like playing golf by just swinging in a ‘natural’ way. If you want to realise your full potential as a golfer, you’re going to have to break down your swing – your grip, your posture, the twist of the waist and so on. A proper golfer swing is very ‘unnatural’ in the sense that you won’t get it just by throwing yourself into it. You have to break it down piece by piece by piece. And so it is with guitar, too. Deliberate practice comes to mind.
I find myself thinking about something else now – I was listening I think to a Tim Ferriss podcast and someone was talking about excellence – how the way we do something is the way we do everything, how it’s important to get the little things right. And I’m reminded of my boss asking me about my personal feelings about punctuality. It’s all connected. My truths might be contained in boxes, but my lackadaisical attitude isn’t – that, somehow, permeates everything I do. My goal in life right now then is to take the isolated truths and then apply them, apply them in such a way – consistently, systematically – that it permeates everything else in my life, and in the process snuffs out the shitty attitude that I still struggle with. It starts with sleeping early. It starts with deciding to do one thing and then doing it. It applies even with little things like deciding to go to buy dinner at 8pm, and then doing it instead of delaying it. I need to respect my own word. My subconscious needs to respect my own word. I might feel like I can do another word vomit after this, but the point is that I wanted to finish one and then go to bed, so it’s important that I do exactly that. So that my subconscious learns that I am to listen to myself when I say that I’m going to do something.
Well, we’re done here. Now to go to bed. See you tomorrow.