So it’s the first weekend since I’ve turned 27. I spent Friday evening having chicken wings and beers with my colleagues, which was a good time. I got home feeling quite focused and inspired to do some good work (of any kind), but somehow I didn’t end up doing it.
I ended up staying up pretty late at night with the wife. I can’t quite remember what we were doing. We might have been watching Netflix, I don’t know. But that was a bad decision that I don’t want to make anymore. I know objectively that I’m better, more productive and make better decisions when I sleep and wake early. I slept at about 10pm last night (saturday) and woke up at 6am this morning. I went for a run, which felt good. Then I got home and did some writing, which also felt good. But then after that I generally dawdled around unproductively. When I say “unproductively”, I don’t mean that I need to be spending my weekends doing the same work that I do on weekdays. But rather, I should be doing one of 4 things – becoming more effective at work (doing planning-type tasks that save me time), resting fruitfully (no screens – maybe reading a book, exercising, listening to music, that sort of thing), working on my personal goals (writing), or spending time with friends and family. That’s going to be how I measure the quality of my weekends moving forward.
I find myself thinking “I need to do more tracking”, but do I really? I need to schedule time for my weekly reviews. My daily reviews. I need to plan my days before I start them, I need to evaluate my days in the middle of them, and at the end of them. I cannot afford to play by ear any more – I know from experience that “play by ear” for me means allowing myself to be pulled in the directions of whatever seems most pressing and urgent. I’ve been living like that for far too long and that needs to stop.
That’s easy to say, I’ve said it a dozen times. How does change happen? Well, the biggest bottleneck for me is sleep. I’m reminded of something Terry Crews said in a video I was watching while doing the dishes – HALT! When you’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired, that’s when you’re most susceptible to making bad decisions. Anger is rarely an issue for me, I can calm myself down quite easily. Loneliness, I know how to deal with – I just reach out to people and have conversations. Hunger is something I’m often bad at noticing, but I’ve gotten better at it. I haven’t really had to deal with terrible crashing low blood sugar in a longish time. So the main thing I have to contend with is sleep.
That sounds like a boring problem. But it should be acutely interesting to me. If it’s so easy to solve, why haven’t I solved it? I find myself thinking about something Jon Kabat-Zinn said – if you think the breath is boring, just hold it for about a minute or two and see how exquisitely interesting it gets. Similarly – if I think the sleep problem is boring, why haven’t I solved it? There’s some meta-problem around me not sleeping better that I haven’t solved yet.
Lebron James supposedly sleeps 11 hours a night. It makes sense for a professional athlete whose body needs to heal. I definitely can’t function on too little sleep myself. I get slow. I get sloppy. I make poorer decisions. I stare into space. I get cigarette cravings (because they perk me up). I can’t rely on coffee because it raises my heartrate without making me much more alert. When I’m too tired and sleepy, I don’t feel like I can exercise – that too feels like it fucks with my heart somehow. I don’t know the precise science behind it, but I trust my body.
The funniest thing is – it’s not like I’m sleeping too little because I’m overworked by hard shift work or something. I’m usually sleeping late because I’m a little bit anxious, and I have some energy, and I feel like I should put it to good use. I started this vomit at 1130pm, which is actually a bad practice I think – the proper routine/behavior should be me going off all screens by about 9pm, and then getting to bed at like 1030, lights out. Sleep. Wake at 6, write, run or lift, eat, plan my day.
But I’m writing this because I want to remind myself. I want to remember. I want to send a message to my future self saying hey, this is where we start changing things. We start by going to bed. You’re already in bed, good. Just keep going for 200 more words, hit publish, set the alarm, turn off the lights and go to sleep.
Everything is just cause and effect. If something is not happening, if you’re not happy, if you’re frustrated, if you’re feeling some sort of ennui, there are reasons for it. You can identify what the reasons are. You can trace them to their origins. You can make changes and you can do better. You know that you want to do better. That is not a maybe-maybe-not feeling, you’ve wrangled with this on and off for years and years, it’s long enough for you to know what the truth is. And you know it. You want to sleep well. You want to wake well. You’ve just been fumbling because of poor decisions you make earlier in the day. You put off your work for last, when you should be doing it earlier. Make simple schedules and stick to them, and reward yourself for sticking to them. You already know all the principles, you just need to believe in yourself and execute on them. If you’re scared or nervous because you haven’t done it before, remind yourself that there are other things that you had never done before – and then you went on to do them. So do them.
You can do it. Good night.