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Monthly Review: April, 2019

Reading sessions

30 days out of 30 (30 points)

Books read

4 books.  Monthly target = 5 (24 points)

Daily writing ritual

29 days out of 30 (29 points)

Green Shakes

20 days out of 30 (20 points)

Deep Work Session

27 days out of 30 (27 points)

Gym Sessions

9 sessions out of 12 (23 points)

Meditation

350 minutes in 30 days (30 points)

Cold Showers

30 in 30 days (30 points)

Flossing

28 in 30 days (28 points)

Pool Practice

18 Sessions (18 points)

259 out of 288 (89.9%)

Summary of my Performance this Month

  • Holiday!  - The numbers are worse this month because I had a four day trip to Taiwan which messed up few of my habits, especially the green shakes and deep work.
  • 78 day chain of daily meditation - this is my first run at meditation where I've lasted over a few months without missing a session.  Making good progress on this front
  • Struggling with book target - my 5 book per month target was missed mainly due to what I've been reading rather than a lack of consistency.  I managed to read consistently (everyday) in April, but the books are very detailed accounts of complex topics that take me quite a long time to digest and finish. 
  • Levelled up my pool game - practised pool 18 days out of 30 during April and ended up winning a few competitions as a result.  Deliberate practice seems to be paying off.  The downside is that my sleeping schedule took a hit.

Key Points for April Review

Waking Up Early - my Keystone Habit

Poplarized by Charles Duhigg in his book "The Power of Habit",  keystone habits are those that have a positive cascading effect on the rest of your day such that positive action more easily follows.

For example, James Clear (one of the self development authors I follow), has mentioned a number of times that working out is keystone habit for him:

  

“When I worked out, I wanted to eat better. Even though I could have rewarded myself with chocolate bars and ice cream, I felt like eating real, healthy foods.

I also slept better. And when I was awake, I seemed more productive. Especially in the hour or two after working out, when my mind seemed to think clearer and my writing was crisper. Thoughts flowed easily.”

Clearly, it's worth taking some time to consciously identify what your keystone habits are because they represent a high point of leverage for success.  ​​​​

You can focus on the most important things such that success is likely to follow. 

For me, I've come to realise that waking up early is one of my keystone habits.  

When I wake up early, I'm more likely to meditate.  I'm more likely to hit the gym regularly, read, do my writing and even do my deep work sessions.

If I wake up late, however, the opposite is true.  It's a real struggle to get myself going.  Not only do I take a hit psychologically, because I always feel like I'm in a rush against time, but I also seem to feel lethargic and have less energy. 

This realisation really came to light to me during April because I spent most of the month on a nocturnal schedule similar to that of a hamster in order to play all night pool matches against other players in here in Manila.  

In "the home of pool" I've been taking advantage of the plethora of extremely talented local players that are only too happy to part me from my money.  It's great practice for my game, but these matches are nearly always throughout the night.  

At the worst point, I would wake up at 1800 local time, spend five hours doing my habits and work and then head to the pool club at around 2300.  Often a game can run through until 06:00 the following morning at which point I'd retire home, hitting the sack at around 10:00.

Trying to keep up with my self development work while living this "hustler" lifestyle on the side didn't work well.  At the time it was an absolute battle to get through my habits and resulted in quite a number of slip ups.

Getting up late really seems to hamper the quality of my day.

Learning point:- I'm going to attempt to keep a consistent sleep schedule (something I've always struggled with) and wake up early over the coming months.  

Drinking vs Meditation

Last month I said "I'm going to give alcohol a miss in April".

Well, long story short, that didn't happen.

Some of the best times of my life have been spent just hanging out with a bunch of friends, playing pool, enjoying their company and having a beer.  And that's why I find it quite hard to completely kick it on the head.

I'll go to meet a bunch of friends with the best of intentions.  I might even decline the first few rounds.  But inevitably at some point in the night I'll give in and have a beer.  I'll then usually have a couple more too. 

In April, this happened with more regularity than I'd like to admit.  

What I've come to realise is that the morning after I've had a few beers (I'm not talking about much here - let's say a few small bottles of lager) my meditation sessions suffer.

It's harder to focus on the breath, the monkey mind is more active, takes longer to settle and my resistance to the practice is far greater.  

Of course, this makes perfect sense.  In a way you can consider meditation and drinking alcohol as polar opposites.  ​

Drinking alcohol floods the brain with dopamine triggering the release of dynorphin, a natural painkiller that numbs our ability to feel pleasure.  Net result:- we need more external stimulus to feel enjoyment.

Meditation practice teaches us to pay attention and increases or sensitivity to sensations in the body and ultimately our ability to enjoy.  A meditation master, in theory, can derive enjoyment from merely paying attention to the breath.  Net result:- we need less external stimulus to feel enjoyment.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I need to kick alcohol on the head.  But it's my wonderful vice and I haven't quite found a way of doing it permanently yet.

Social Media Update

I deleted Facebook at the end of March for reasons that I cite here.  So far, after over a month off the platform, I can say that I don't miss it at all.

It hasn't been plain sailing though.  I've had a few difficulties:-

  1. I'm still on Messenger  

    It would be really quite difficult for me to remove all association with Facebook because of the network of friends that I'd lose touch with.  

    I've also had a number of situations where I've met someone for the first time and I'm asked for my Facebook.  

    For both these reasons I continue to use Messenger.  

    I admit that I'm uncomfortable using Messenger knowing that conversations are being algorithmically analyzed.  Ideally I'll find a way in the future to solve these problems so that I can delete the Messenger app.

  2. Half my accounts on other sites stopped working

    Historically I used Facebook authentication to log into various accounts that I own online.   It seems, however, that most of these apps haven't got anything in place to handle instances where the user decides to delete their Facebook account after signing up.

    This was quite a major headache.  

    One particular instance involved spending a good few hours and a number of interactions with Airbnb.com customer support in order to try and recover my user account that I originally created with Facebook authentication.  I can assure you that after spending three hours trying to book some accommodation (something that would usually take 15 minutes at most) I was highly tempted to throw in the towel and reactivate my account.  I held firm though and managed to create a normal login for my account.

    Another instance of this is still unresolved: I've lost my typing practice account (see video for more info about this) at 10fastfingers.com.  Travesty!

Despite these difficulties, I'm sticking to the social media account diet.  I'm more productive and haven't lost anything meaningful.  Those mindless news feed browsing session are not missed!

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