Tag Archives: habits

September Learning Challenge

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Because hey – one challenge is never enough, right?! But since I’ve got Inktober, NaNoWriMo, and Christmas (cards to make…!) taking up the last three months of the year, it’s now or never with this one!

Anyway. Over on Habitica (and there’s a blog post I must unprocrastinate over ;)) I stumbled across a challenge based around the article, How to Learn Something New Every Day (And Actually Do Something With It).

stack-of-books-images-clipart-panda-free-clipart-images-NzH2Cp-clipart (1)First you pick your learning style – for me, reading is always the start – and topic. Ah, topic, singular? Well, that sounds dull! Or easy 😉 In case you haven’t noticed, this is a blog (sort of) about being a Scanner – someone with more interests than time. Doing the same thing for 30 days sounds like torture! Well, actually, it sounds like a really sensible plan, but let’s not let that stop me! No, me being me, I’ve got at least three topics (and quite frankly I could have had one for each day, I think!), and they might look a bit familiar from the links at the top:

  • Coding – always a priority for me, I think it’s high time I tackled javascript in a slightly more structured way.
  • Writing – Nano is coming (the new Stark motto), and there’s never a better time to learn some more about the craft.
  • Headology – aka ‘other stuff’. I’ve just started a stress management course (which is entirely appropriate for this madness right here!), and summarising those lessons should help them stick. I’ve also got a new book on habits, so a bit on that too.
  • Randomness – splitting the above into 2/week left me with a spare day. I could repeat one of my topics, but… while I can see it goes against the whole idea of a fixed curriculum, (a) I’m usually fully booked on a Friday, and (b) there’s always something that’s caught my eye to read later during the week, so let’s have a bit of a pot luck day!

Curriculum, you say? Why yes! Part of this is to lay out your plan of attack in quite a detailed manner before starting. Which has taken me HOURS (and almost put me off doing this whole thing quite frankly ;)) but here you can see the results of that toil:

learningChallenge

Phew! So far so good, but there’s another part to this challenge: you have to SHARE what you learn! Gulp!! This is another reason I wasn’t quite so keen to stick to one topic. Or rather, why I was reluctant to just pick coding – talking about coding is way harder than actually just, y’know, coding o_O

Some points for myself:

  • this is a *fun* challenge, for me by me. Don’t stress about it!
  • the curriculum is not carved in stone. See above, and move what needs moved
  • in fact, let’s have a weekly review and be willing to totally shake things up rather than give up!
  • the ‘Today I Learned…’ (TIL) posts should be short – I have to read/view/whatever AND write a post, AND continue with real life. I believe the original intention would have been a paragraph or so on e.g. Medium, but since this site is here (and a little less public…! o_O)

So. All going to plan (hah!) you can expect a slew of blog posts over the next 30 days. Well, I was almost certainly due a catch up 😉

Wish me luck!

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On Habits

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I’m currently reading – and enjoying – Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better Than Before (BTB), so of course I’m thinking about habits. I guess I sort of abandoned my 52 Changes experiment – not purposefully, just through lack of attention, but that does imply that it wasn’t entirely working for me. I think once I got to 7+ ‘dailies’ it got a little much… what a surprise! 😉

One of the thoughts I’d had (and blog posts I intended to make!) was about a ‘Hierarchy of Habits’, based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (no learning is ever truly wasted, right?!). So, there’d be a set of core habits that would help with all the rest, and in terms of my daily progress, it would be most important to hit those ones first. Then I could add ‘tiers’ – say, writing – that would be slightly less important to stick to if I got to the end of a day exhausted, for instance.

In BTB I discovered the Foundation Habits suggestion – four areas where forming habits would make everything else easier. Great minds! 😉 I also love the areas she highlights, and they do correspond to ones I reached for first instinctively: sleep, move, eating/drinking better, and uncluttering. The latter might seem less obvious, but totally works for me: it’s about your environment, and by taking control of one small area you get a sense you can do more.

I’d give the book a recommendation. I’m still reading it, and taking notes, but I’ve still to process how I’m going to apply this to my life. It’s more a discussion on habits and suggested tools for developing them, rather than any kind of actual system. The key takeaway seems to be: know yourself, and figure out what works for you – here are some suggestions.

That was probably the aim of 52 Changes, too: an experiment, see what does(n’t) work for you.

For actual practical getting-on-with-something, I’ve joined the site HabitRPG – all about ‘gamifying’ life, ie setting up tasks/habits/daily activities and giving yourself points when you do them. That sort of thing appeals to me!

And for habits, well: I’m back where I started – sleep! The first habit I want to hit is getting more/better sleep. To do this, my intention is to start heading for bed nice and early (~9pm) giving myself plenty of time to read and get the light out earlier than currently. As someone once said, more or less, the worst thing that can happen if we get more sleep is that we become better human beings!

8/52 Changes – Mindful eating (1)

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8/52 Changes – Mindful eating (1)

Still not fully back on the horse, so to speak, but pressing on nonetheless. Happy to report all the health stuff went well, and sleep is returned and helping immensely! 🙂

In this phase of low energy, it seemed like an idea to stop adding new things to my daily to-do list (especially when I wasn’t exactly doing the old things…!) and instead try the _not_ doing. We also had the start of Lent, which after all these years still says, “Give up chocolate” to me – I may not hold the same beliefs these days, but a set period for change is right up my street!

I haven’t fully renounced chocolate, even for the 40 days, but I realised that it was turning into a daily thing. Now, I’m hugely opposed to the idea of ‘diets’ (in the common definition), but I would care to lose a bit of the flab. So cutting out the sweets and random snacking seemed like a grand idea!

To begin with, it went pretty well: we have a fruit basket in work, so I tucked into that more (yeah, I know fruit is full of sugar, but as a first step it’s a great change!). I gave myself the slogan, “Embrace the smug” – y’know, that sense of angelic pride that you’re avoiding the random temptation 😉

Okay, so it’s slipped a little as things went on – a scone to celebrate clear MRI results, cake on a birthday, accepting a handful of chocs at the cinema. I’m okay with that, to be honest: this isn’t about depriving myself, it’s about healthier choices as the norm, and the extras as rarer treats.

There is *so* much room for this habit to grow – hence the ‘1’ in the title. I intend to start measuring my rice/pasta portions, for instance – another quick fix. The book goes further still, including things like eating in silence – it’s my prime tv-watching time, so might build up to that one  (or not!), but I am finding it almost easier to say my ‘default’ choice should be the healthier one, unless I am very desperately craving something – and y’know, that genuinely happens way less than you’d imagine!

Last thought for this one: a lot of the ‘choices’ start with the shopping list. I bought chocolate – I ate chocolate (but only at the weekend!). Thankfully I really enjoy cooking, and filling my shopping list with healthy veggies. Can you see me embracing the smug right there? 😉 LOL!

Trying to share some of my healthy cooking over at my newish blog, ApplyJellyJam

. There’s been no apples, jelly or jam so far, but lots of soup. Growing weekly – pop by and say ‘hi’ 🙂

6/52 Changes – Learning… and pause!

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6/52 Changes – Learning… and pause!

Last week I chose my 6th change habit – learning – and merrily planned my week of learning all these wonderful things that intrigue me. My list of things I’d like to ‘learn’ is huge, from brushing up on work stuff, new coding stuff including mobile apps, revising old maths and data stuff (yeah, I am a total geek! ;)) and then a random course called ‘Intro to Dutch’ flashed up that also intrigued me, plus an in-depth investigation of the Much Ado About Nothing performance I’m booked up to see soon.

It’s a big list. It’s an overwhelming list, at times – and that’s without including any of my ‘wanna’ creative hobbies that could just as well be classed as learning, be it new card-making techniques or guitar playing. The 52 Change focus on habits, though, makes it all seem that much more attainable: one thing at a time, just a little bit – but *consistently*. My evenings are already pretty full, but if I could commit to a longer session at the weekend (say, the coding) then the busy/tired evenings I would do five minutes of reading – not the best way to learn, but still familiarising oneself with the topic and language of it.

Sounds perfect. Shall we begin?

No. Instead, we’ll hit a period of insomnia. I’m getting to sleep fine (and more or less aiming for those week 3/52 early nights!), just waking up too much and too early. I’ve been super-tired, tetchy and grumpy. Doing any of my habits was a struggle – let alone one like learning.

It’s not been a total loss – I haven’t totally given up trying. But it does leave me thinking about how to cope with weeks like this. Do I press on with the new habit, or focus in on the earlier choices?

I’m going with the latter. I’ve picked well, I think, for my own wants, needs, and lifestyle. If I manage nothing else, let’s make sure meditation is in there. If I’m struggling to find time of an evening, do the exercise and leave the writing for a day or so. And most definitely prioritise sleep when I need it! These are the habits that I feel are core to improving my life, so there’s absolutely no point in letting them slip for the newer ideas.

So, a rough week. But I’m pleased to find that even in a week of exhaustion, I’ve still done a few zumba sessions, written a few pages, etc. And I still want to press on with the whole idea! This week ahead, though, I’m not going to pick a new habit, or even push too much with the sixth: I’m going to try and stick better to the earlier ones, and sneak in ‘learning’ sessions when/where I can, without worrying too much if they’re daily habits yet.

Onwards!

4/52 Changes – Writing

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4/52 Changes – Writing

Week 4 and I’ve gone entirely off script already! 😉

Writing has become a bigger part of my life of late, since I’ve been not just participating but helping run the Edinburgh region NaNoWriMo. The latter, I think, convinced me that since I was trying to encourage all these people to write then I should possibly do a little more myself. And beyond that, it’s just not satisfying any more to do a manic month of disappointing quality and never really feeling I’m improving. So, I came up with my own challenge: a page-per-day journal, and every day I’d fill a page with random fiction or ideas.

Hey – doesn’t that sound like a habit? 😉

I’ve actually been doing this one for an extra week. I bought the journal and it seemed daft to wait an extra week, so I considered it a practice week. And it was fun! I got some random nonsense out, made a few notes that might be useful in times to come, and started to see some patterns in my writing, already. Each page is only holding about 200 words, which is manageable even when I’m sleepy. I love the accumulating pages of my handwritten scrawl, the crinkling as I flick through; and I love the feeling that I’m making time for a hobby that means a great deal to me.

I’m just exploring ideas at the moment, getting into a habit. I’m hoping eventually to pick an idea that I want to grow.

My actual week of this habit – last week – was less successful on the habits front, all ’round. I dunno – maybe I was needing a wee break? Exercise was the biggest, struggle, but even the early nights were slipping. On the latter, actually, I think I found my goal a little too fuzzy: was it to get to bed by a certain time, the no-screen time, the several things in my routine? So, need to concrete that one up going forwards – I’m more tired again, and it does make things more difficult.

But then I sat and worked out what I had done (my motivational tracking has been patchy – think I need to move it offline), and realised I hadn’t missed as much as I thought. More, the extra lazy time hadn’t made me happier, so I hit Sunday and new habit day with a fresh feeling of commitment.

Between habits and just regular life, things can get busy. But even if I stick to these things imperfectly, every little really does help. As someone once said, we tend to overestimate what we can do in a day, and yet underestimate what we can do in a year – if we keep doing those little bits.

Consistency: a habit I’m pushing on with 🙂

3/52 Changes – Sleep

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3/52 Changes – Sleep

From fretting over what order I should follow the chapters/suggestions, I’ve found it’s started to flow quite well – not always easily, but I’m still going and I’m still psyched up!

Starting with meditation is turning into a key enabler: there are so many times following a ‘programme’ like this starts to feel like adding to the daily harassments, and then I give up, but a few minutes of breathing calmly really does help. I’m still strugging with exercise, but again, a few moments and I can accept that five minutes isn’t going to kill me, while remembering how essential I see this habit to my life-quality in general. And absolutely that the aim is for the tiniest of habit-steps (five minutes!) and just one at a time (ahem).

So for week three’s new addition I just went with the feeling that “Get More Sleep” was calling to me! It’s actually chapter 26 of the book, but – especially since the Christmas break – I’d been aware of staying up too late doing useless things, and my all-too-familiar constant refrain of “I’m shattered!” as I grumbled blearily through a day. So, more (or just better) sleep? Yes please!

The chapter has several suggestions for getting more sleep. First is assessing how much you get now – a bit vague, methinks, as the recommended 8 hours isn’t always enough, especially if it’s – like mine – tending towards broken (there’s a whole other topic on non-sequential sleep hours, but not today). Nor am I impressed with the idea of taking naps: this can make it harder to sleep at night, even if you can fit such things into a working day! I’ve never found napping easy or useful, personally. And getting up earlier is an end result, not the start for me – and tends to happen as the mornings get lighter.

The better (for me) suggestions included using exercise – although not right before bed! – to ensure your body is tired out during the day. Well, we’ve started the exercise habit and while I can’t say it’s tiring me out yet, I’ll continue to work on that one!

But for this first stint at the habit experiment, I’m focusing on two steps:

Go to bed earlier — the Internet will be fine without you.

And:

Establish a bedtime ritual. It takes time to unwind the body and mind. At least an hour before bedtime, start slowing down… This kind of ritual helps establish in your mind that it’s time to sleep, and your body takes this cue and begins to prepare itself.

So for the past week I’ve been trying to do two things: first, and a long-standing “I know I should” is to get the pc off far earlier – at least by 9pm was my goal. I also tried to stop using my phone to play the odd game, or just check something later at night – making a ‘no screens’ space.

My ‘ritual’ then involves all the prep for bed (teeth brushing, etc), stretches, meditation – sneaking another habit in! – then writing and reading in bed. I know some advise against such things (in bed), but it works for me, not least because the bed is then nice and cosy when it’s time to snuggle down and turn off the light.

Best success of the week saw me not even turn the ‘pooter on after work. I ate, watched something on the tv, and found myself feeling tired and cold, so just went to snuggle under the duvet – even though it was only half eight! I had the most relaxed couple of hours scribbling and reading that I fell asleep easily and slept better than usual – ah, yup: I get it!! Okay, not the most practical of daily practices, but it was nice mid-week, and did indeed make me less grumpy, etc that during the day.

Conversely, I spoiled my own goals last night with the usual “It’s Friday so I ‘should’ stay up late ‘cos I can!”. I’ve spent most of today headachy and lethargic. Hah!

I remember reading a quote a while back about such things – I can’t recall who said it, but to paraphrase: “The worst thing that could happen if we got more sleep is that we become better human beings.” 🙂

2/52 Changes – Exercise

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Chapter 2 in the book is ‘Unprocrastinate’, but I’m putting that off 😉

So, after some debate – which I imagine will be a weekly thing now, knowing me! – I realised the benefit of following the book’s suggestions more or less. For one, it saves me doing all the ‘glamorous’ stuff up front and then hitting a lower motivational period with only less attractive options left to me. Secondly, as I read ahead I realise that there is a flow to a lot of the suggestions, as well as a good mix of various types of activity. So far I’m adding little 5-10 minute habits to my daily schedule, but there is a danger of overwhelm if that keeps going!

I was equally tempted to skip chapter three, as Walking implies outdoors which really is NOT appealing in Scotland’s freezing January weather! Instead I decided to make my week 2 habit-experiment the more generic Exercise.

It’s kind of a traditional New Year’s Resolution, and one that I – among many others! – rather fail at, every year. But it’s also kind of a core habit to develop: there are SO many benefits ranging from helping with sleep (chapter 26), mindfulness (week 13), to quite probably extending your life – I mean, c’mon: of COURSE this should be more a part of my daily life!!

Minion hearts zumbaAnd again, the approach – that I’ve read a million times but only now is sinking in at a ‘real’ level, it seems! – of small and frequent is totally helping. Instead of dragging myself to the gym – too easy to excuse myself out of – I’m dragging myself to a simple 5-minute (just tiny amount of time!) zumba warm up in my living room. Doing it as soon as I’m in from work (trigger!) gets it over with, helps me warm up after the walk from the bus and before the heating’s fully kicked in, and means I can shove my dinner to cook while I’m in the shower and have a lovely evening in my jammies relaxing 🙂

The week didn’t work as well as week 1, as I was out late three night. Two included large amounts of walking over my norm, so exercise still done, but I did slack on the meditation – only 4/7 on that this week.

So, week 3 I want to continue with both of these things – in fact, these two are ones I want as core, all the time things for me now! For my new habit – and believe me, the new thing every week lack of boredom is hitting my scanner buttons in all the right ways! – I’m rebelling again and going for chapter 26’s Get More Sleep, or at least the setting up of a sleep routine.

And a final thought on this week… this morning I ran out of pages in my journal book, and looked back at what I was doing this time last year: Happiness Project, 101 Changes, and Joy Diet all got mentioned. What happened to any of them?! All were great, but clearly not as good a fit for me as this one is so far. Instead of already forgotten resolutions and feeling like January has disappeared in a haze, I have a feeling that I’ve already started to accomplish something this year – and I’m still excited about continuing the experiment! 🙂