I am big into nutrition right now. I may or may not be depending on how great my craving for cookies is in the next couple of months (seriously, I have less nutritional discipline than a Biggest Loser contestant without extreme external-monitoring) but for right now I'm big into nutrition.
Each day I eat a balance of proteins and fiber, less carbs (gotta look good for bikini season) and plenty of water. It wasn't until I was enjoying one of my colorful meals with my paramour that I considered: what if the food pyramid could be applied to our time budget?
I often speak about priorities here on CFiST but today I'd like to give you a tool to make that concept a reality. So even though Time Pyramid would make an awesome 80's sci-fi title, in this context I'd like to harken back to the now retired food pyramid.
Start by considering all the different activities you do during the day. For example, my list would look like the following:
It's pretty busy to say the least. Now, here's how I would break that down, carrying the food analogy:
The essentials. Require the most servings and form the building blocks of your happiness.
The enriching activities. Substantial, colorful, and tasty!
Essential, but fewer servings. Build mental strength and get some "culture". Get it? Yogurt joke.
Delicious, but to be partaken of... sparingly.
The result is a coherent metaphor for time "nutrition"; a way to balance out your activities in the best way possible using knowledge you already know. Pretty cool, right?
So how about you? What does your time nutrition look like? List your activities and try breaking them down into these groups and see how many servings you get in an average day. Feel free to post the results in the comments below and think about eating healthier. I have a hunch that you'll be glad you did.
Pancakes are great. There are many ways to make them, but the same basic recipe remains the same. They taste about the same every time (delicious) and to make things even simpler, the word "pancake" never changes definition, thus averting confusion. They have the same basic toppings, go in the same place after being eaten, and for all these reasons are one of my favorite dishes to make.
Humans are not pancakes.
You see, we come up with recipes for our everyday lives. I, for example, had my productivity tools utterly figured out over the past few months as I established new habits, endeavored to get more done, and did my best to squeeze my hobbies into my life. Things worked like a well-oiled machine, until recently when I realized that a few of my productivity tools were actually preventing me from getting my work done.
I had established my habits, learned my lessons from the process, and was not endeavoring to reshape my life by paring back down to what was essential and necessary. I had changed and my productivity tools had to change with me.
Context: this particular post was written a couple of weeks ago while the misses was away for a business trip and my work was exceedingly stressful. The commentary is, however, no less universal today than it was then.
Barring a stroke of pure genius, welcome to my ham-fisted introduction, pounded out beligerently on the keyboard well past my bed time on a school night. I'm tired, my head hurts, my eyes are extremely dry, and the cat will, not stop, jumping, into, my lap. At this point, it's hard to appreciate my tea or find the patience for studying Japanese, my physical circumstances simply don't permit my attitude a sliver of optimism or enthusiasm. Yet, at the same time, I cannot ignore that my perspective as a self-improvement junkie, aspiring polyglot (knower of many languages) welcomes the reluctant learning as a badge of honor; a moment when my willpower and intellectual curiosity won out over my physical circumstances.
You see, today was a difficult day. Besides the brow-beating a 9-to-5 work environment can regularly lay on unsuspecting victims, the absence of my paramour (business trip) has made maintenance of my usual (pardon the term) "swagger" exceedingly difficult. Physically drained, emotionally exhausted, and mentally taxed beyond my usual burn-the-bitch-at-both-ends work style, normal circumstances simply aren't what they would be in the right lighting. My persistent pesimism born of a physical inability to muster a smile makes crackers bland, tea uninteresting, and conversations labored.
On the flip side, my usual sunny demeanor has its benefits, pardoxically serving as a hindrance to my dispassionate evaluation of the world around me. The same day, viewed with a good night's sleep, a warm hug from mah bebe, and a fresh batch of esoteric albums to listen to would taste the same crackers with delight, sip the same tea with appreciation, and lead to joke after hilariously delivered joke (I'm a God damn delight). Unfortunately, what this means is that regardless of the circumstances, you and I both are bound and determined to have our subjective evaluations swayed more by our physiology than by the flavor of crackers in front of us (I'm really hungry and all we have are crackers).
I'm big on avoiding burnout. It's a problem that's plagued me for years and years and years, hamstringing my productivity at the worst times and forcing me to take a break from the hobbies and pursuits that I enjoy most.
There are simple ways to avoid burnout in the short-term, but a long-term solution requires quite a bit more understanding of how success is constructed.
In this article from the blog Study Hacks, the author details a study conducted by psychologists at the Universität der Künste (the Wolverines if I'm not mistaken...). The short version is that the most successful individuals studied spent their time hyper-focused on one task at a time instead of overloading themselves with many tasks at once.
But while this may be hard to stomach or comprehend, it's the truth, and it is exactly that psychological bias that causes us to stay in patterns of burn-out. According to a recent article in Psychology Today, if you have to exhaust yourself physically and mentally to slow down, you may be relying on faulty assumptions such as the desire to be perfect, the belief that you should not feel stressed, and the need to delay relaxation until all tasks are done.
I am not running for Congress, that much is clear. I'd like to begin with this statement because the following piece is going to seem like a pretty bald-faced "art in schools" speech. I'm not protecting the glee club, I'm not pushing for bigger arts budgets, and I'm not campaigning for mandatory music and art education.
Then again, maybe I am.
I'll let you figure it out. Over the past several months my already kindling interest in graphic design, art, music, and photography has grown exponentially. I've found websites to stoke the flames, engaged in conversations with friends that cultivated my young ideals regarding the topic, I've even entered the creative "conversation" myself with my music and writing. The result has been difficult to ignore: either by accident or as a consequence, my demeanor has calmed, my relationships with others have grown more profound, and my appreciation of the little things in life has grown. In short, I'm discovering the fourth human necessity.
My interest began with a graphic designer and musician by the name of Scott Hansen. His blog, ISO50, featured unconventional art and photography, regular music posts, case studies of design in consumer products and publications, and a consistent and inspiring thread of fulfillment. Scott Hansen doesn't just observe art, it is an extension of him.
[caption id="attachment_453" align="aligncenter" width="470"] Because I'm sick of looking at snow.[/caption]
It's snowing. Again. It's always fucking snowing in the state of Iowa. At least, that's how it feels this year.
So in order to vent my cabin fever, today's post is about Spring. Spring cleaning to be specific. You see, as of late I have spent a good deal of time trying to get organized, scheduling and rescheduling perceived obligations, and looking for holes in my personality that have led to such a challenging few months.
But the truth is, as I've mentioned before, sometimes the problem is not as simple as it appears.
One approach, featured on the Happiness Project blog, approaches the organization problem with a simple strategy: don't get organized. Don't keep things around that you don't need and be honest with yourself. I mean, what are the odds that you're going to use that five-year-old coupon to El Pollo Loco?
[caption id="attachment_446" align="aligncenter" width="470"] When you leave the mirror, leave the mirror.[/caption]
Today's message is simple:
Sometimes when you ask, "what is wrong with me?" the answer is, "nothing."
This is a personal anecdote, no hard scientific evidence, but a full week of grappling with this question, finding no answer whatsoever has enlightened me to its importance. Often when we cannot find the answers we need, we are asking the wrong question. In my case, the question was not "What is wrong with me?' but, "What is causing me to feel this way?"
Our circumstances have a powerful effect in our lives, but it takes maturity to remember that.
Each day we enter some kind of social interaction (unless you live in the forest in which case the red-backed deer-tick does not count). In the course of that interaction we form opinions about the other person based on their behavior, courtesy, responses to questions, and personality. Often times these perceptions are based largely on assumptions, a way for our mind to fill in the blanks when we possess incomplete information.
I'd like to challenge you to buck assumptions.
It's difficult, it really is. Assumptions save us brain-power and are an adaptation that allows us to make decisions without full information when survival is necessary. But outside of the damn jungle, their use is questionable. A rude checker may be a jerk, or he may be having a bad day. What does this assumption get us? A lack of compassion for our fellow man.
Further more, I'd like to present you with a thought:
[caption id="attachment_390" align="aligncenter" width="470"] The world is kind to those who don't "give a fuck".[/caption]
“When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” – C. S. Lewis
I've quoted this before. It's re-emphasis is not without purpose. You see, I've known many incredible people in my lifetime, and what continues to strike me is the frequency with which they insist that they were, at one point, "too embarrassed" to look silly.
It's a poignant remark in my eyes because (and this is not bragging), the idea of looking silly is one that has not entered my mind in probably a decade. The concept that anyone would be embarassed by who they are, afraid to express their thoughts or personality is mind-boggling. We are who we are in the same way that a pear is a pear or a tree is a tree, nothing can change that.
So truly what requires more effort? Being yourself in the face of possible ridicule, or maintaining an unnecessary and futile facade? How much energy are you wasting a day being someone else when you could be the beautiful, powerful you?