Quitting coffee

I did pretty well last month learning to stop drinking coffee.

I had only one small coffee in all of May. This is a significant slash given I was having one coffee every workday.

It wasn’t too difficult to give up coffee, partly because I am not a coffee addict. But I had few urges. Once I even walked halfway to the coffee machine but recalled my claim and returned.

I also found a great post -guess Universe conspired to help me- on my twitter feed titled Everything You Need To Know About How and Why To Quit Caffeine which helped a bit.

I will still drink coffee but mindfully and occasionally, not compulsively.

While all this is good, I am having challenges sticking to the larger goal of which this is only a part. That’s for another post.

Habits Random Thought Thoughts

Adventurous Life

You don’t have to jump off the planes or cliffs to be adventurous. You can also live an adventurous life by not accepting the status quo, not giving in, not listening to cynics, and not stopping to learn.

All it requires is the belief that anything you don’t like at any stage in your life can be changed and a daily dose of action to back that belief.

Besides the hardcore stereotypical heroics, these other “soft” kind of life adventures can also get your adrenaline rushing and give you that sense of achievement.

There is nothing sanctimonious about either of them. All it matters is to be adventurous one way or the other.


Zen Habits Book

Today I received Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits Book. Leo is the creator of one of my favorite and widely read habit blogs, Zen Habits.

This book’s Kickstarter campaign was funded 5 times the pledged goal of ~ 45K USD which is pretty impressive. I pledged $22 which I think was very well spent.

As a bonus, Leo offered one hour live webinar for the project backers at my level. But I had to miss it as it clashed with my Toastmasters responsibilities.But luckily he recorded the webinar and shared the recording, which I am yet to go through.

I will also take a while to start reading this book as I am currently re-reading the last two books I read.

Whoever we are and whatever we are doing, forming and keeping good habits is the key to do more and achieve more. So I strongly recommend you check Zen Habits blog and the book.

Courses Habits Learn Tips

Habit Loopholes

Last December I took the Design Your Habits: A Hands-On Introduction to Behavior Design course on Skillshare. This is a great short course and I recommend you check it, although it is no longer free, at least for me.

It helped me refresh the classic habits stuff like Habit Loop, tiny actions etc. But a new thing I learned in this class is the Habit Loopholes proposed by Gretchen Rubin of Happiness Project.

A loophole is an another term for excuse. So here are the 6 loopholes she says prevents us from doing our habits.

1. Moral Licensing Loophole
I have been so good. It’s okay for me to do X.
I saved so much by not buying X so I deserve to buy Y.

Danger: The reward for doing your habit is you get to not do it. Messes up habit by training brain that habit is painful.

2. Lack of Control Loophole
My kids/spouse/dog is taking up all my time.
The dog ate my homework.
I am too stressed to deal with this right now.

3. Planning to Fail Loophole.
Oh look, I forgot my workout shoes/shorts today.

4. This Doesn’t Count Loophole
Tries to create a special exception to your commitment.
Classic example: I am on vacation.

5. The Questionable Assumption Loophole.
Operates on an assumption when examined closely, is not a valid assumption at all.
I can’t work until my office is clean

6. Fake Self Actualisation Loophole
Tells you to cast off your responsibilities because life is short.

7. One Coin Loophole
What difference will one day make?
One beer won’t make a difference.

I think being aware of these loopholes is important because as someone said, with better awareness we make better choices. With better choices come better results.

Apps Habits Learn Training

Elevate App

Today I am pleased to learn that the Elevate app is picked by Apple as the best iPhone app of 2014. So well done,  people at Elevate Labs. Your work is awesome.

I discovered and started using this app since this May. I broke the streak twice, once around 30 days and the latest at 52 days. But I am glad to hit a 100 day streak yesterday.

It is a very well designed app that trains my brain across a range of cognitive functions like reading, writing, speaking, listening and math. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time and money, so I play the free version which lets me play three bite sized games a day. I can play all three games under 5 minutes and I spend a bit more time if I can, to get excellent scores.
Here is my EPQ:

I strongly suggest everyone to check this app and start using it. It is an addiction that will indeed enhance your smarts and thereby your life.


Learning to make a coffee.

Drinking coffee is one of the habits I formed in the past 18 months. This is less so because I need to calm my nerves or stay awake. My primary motivator has been to learn and operate a manual coffeemaker in the kitchen at my workplace.

Every workday during the 10 minute morning break at 10 a.m. I take my cup, go to the coffee machine in the kitchen. I grind some aromatic fair trade beans into handle, let hot water flow through the crushed coffee powder and collect the decoction into the cup.

Then starts the critical part on which the whole coffee drinking experience depends, which is to froth the milk. Pour some milk into a steel jug. Immerse the steel tube of the espresso machine into the milk. Turn on the knob that dispenses the steam via the tube into the milk. The milk swirls nicely and heats up to the required temperature. Stop injecting steam when the level of the milk raises and is about to overflow the jug. Then just pour the frothy milk into the cup moving the jug up and down. The process is fairly simple, except when frothing process becomes cacophonous and scares the people around. The result could be a jug of yucky tasting burned milk.

It is this process of frothing milk that challenged me and took over an year of consistent practice to master. In the beginning I was terrible. I failed nearly everyday. The noise is unbearable. The coffee is potable but tasted terribly. I kept trying but one day someone at the kitchen table made a sarcastic comment which tempted me to give up. But the next day I appeared at the machine with my cup to retry. I did well. The streak improved and I eventually got better. I do ruin milk occasionally but now I am generally good. I can claim that I can make an awesome cup of coffee.

The takeaway from this learning experience is much more than a cup of java. In this process, I learned the importance of small but sustained practice to learn some damn thing. And how not to give undue importance to others opinions, bouquets or a brickbats. I do get thumbs up from people who occasionally notice how well the coffee is coming up but I just smile and move on.

That’s my coffee making (and thereby drinking) experience. I will continue to practice and hence, drink. But I am sure I am not going to be a coffee addict as my trigger and incentive for this habit are unusual.


Deliberate Practice

I have been hearing about the phrase Deliberate Practice for quite some time now.  Last week I stumbled upon this Lifehacker article which revealed some practice goofs I am committing. So I decided to read it again today. I didn’t bookmark the page last week so I googled the term ‘deliberate practice’ and found a bunch of results of which the Lifehacker page is the third one from the top. I read that article again to reaffirm the tips I read. It did give me some simple and deep insights into how one should be practicing any craft. I strongly recommend this article to anyone and make use of the tips presented. They are definitely worth one’s time.

However, that is not all and there’s more to this story. I discovered something significant and cool when I checked another result from the search result. More on that in the next post.