Importance of journaling

Last ten days have been a bit gloomy for me.

I am slowly feeling better. What has helped me is putting my thoughts down in a 960-word essay on what is bothering me and how I intend to deal with it.

I wrote my post in the morning. Incidentally, Scott Berkun, one of the writers I admire, has tweeted this in the afternoon.

In my case, I do not want to forget anything but I just want to pen down my thoughts and clear my mind. I am so proud of what I wrote. So proud that I read it countless times since yesterday. Unfortunately, the post is too personal and is for my reference. So I published it privately. It will ever be read by only two people besides me. It has reminded me the importance of journaling and its benefits.

It is immensely satisfying, once in a while, to go back in time and read my past thoughts. I derive a great pleasure from it.

Here are the places I journal my life.

This blog – I write personal topics that I am comfortable sharing publicly. I try to avoid negative topics as much as possible.

Dayone app – Personal topics that I am not comfortable to share publicly. May contain some negative thoughts and concerns I have.

iPhone camera roll – My phone’s camera roll tells me the visual story of my life. I upload the photos regularly to three places: Flickr, Google Photos,  and OneDrive.

Twitter – My tweets are a way to capture my short-form thoughts. They are cheeky sometimes. Some of them sound preachy but I am really talking to myself, publicly.

Facebook – I share personal photos for myself and my extended family.

My Flickr feed – I mostly put the food photos on Flickr. While it may look like I am showing off the exciting dishes I am having, each photo reminds me of the people I shared the table with and the good and bad times we had.

Yahoo Mail Inbox – I have all the  text chats and text messages we exchanged during our courtship. Text chat has a special place in my life.

Mindful November

At the end of October I finished reading this book titled Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. So during this month, I hoped to practice some of the things I learned from this book. Hence Mindful November.

I liked the idea of conserving mental energy that’s otherwise wasted on small stuff so we can use it for the things that really matter. The central theme of this book is to help keep the little things from taking over our lives.

I picked twelve things to practice during November. These rules sound like truisms, but as with all truisms, the challenge is in practicing. I failed miserably multiple times when situations have arisen. Lately some of my ducks are getting out of row (if they aren’t, they are not ducks, are they?). I would have saved a lot of mental energy had I applied some of these rules. But alas, such is life!

It is not all bad though. I did well in some of them. For example, I am not an aggressive driver but I am neither sagacious. I received a rather expensive speeding ticket in mail during the Bay of Islands road trip last month. Much earlier to this, since the start of the last year I decided not to honk at anyone on the road, regardless. Who knows what the other driver is going through. Everyone does mistakes sometime. So there is no point in getting zealous with horn as if I am saintly.

However, I was only not honking. I am still disturbed within when I see bad or dangerous driving. This morning someone cut in front of me in the traffic. But this time, instead of feeling angry, I recalled the following from lines from the book and instantly felt better.

Why not simply allow the driver to have his accident somewhere else? Try to have compassion for the person and remember how painful it is to be in such an enormous hurry. This way we can maintain our own sense of well-being and avoid taking other people’s problems personally.

And from the essay 57,

…you end up saving no time in getting where you want to go.

Nevertheless, I am an optimist and believe in practice. So I will get going.

Here are the twelve things I will continue to practice.

Let others finish.
Don’t interrupt others or finish their sentences.

Let others be right.

Let others have the glory.

Let others be more enlightened.
Imagine that everyone is enlightened except you.

Choose being kind over being right or being intelligent.

Praise and blame are all the same.

Become a less aggressive driver.

Think of what you have instead of what you want.

Look beyond behavior.

If someone throws you the ball, you don’t have to catch it.

When trying to be helpful, focus on little things.

Mind your own business.
Avoid analyzing or trying to figure out other people.

/now page

I am now part of the /now page movement started by Derek Sivers. I created a What I’m Doing Now page on this blog.

I felt this is a brilliant idea because it made me pause, think about what is important to me and write how I am spending my time.

Here is Derek’s Now page. Here is the list of sites with /now pages.

I bumped in to Derek when Leo tweeted:

I then found and liked Derek’s No more yes. It’s either HELL YEAH! or no post and started following him in twitter.

Gutted

I feel sick in my tummy as I write this.

Both my grandparents, who raised me, are dealing with an unfortunate health conditions. My grandfather had an eye surgery recently and is recovering. But my grandmother’s situation is what is making me sick.

She was operated yesterday as she broke her hip. She was knocked down to the floor by an electric shock while she was trying to switch on the water motor.

I spoke to her yesterday on phone just before she was taken to the operation theater. She spoke very briefly in a feeble voice that she is going to be operated soon. She then handed over the phone to my aunt saying she can’t talk anymore.

Now she is in ICU after surgery. The surgery went well but she is suffering unbearable post surgery pain. Doctor said this pain is expected after operating on such a weak body. But she is finding it very difficult to cope with the pain.

She also needs some blood and my family are trying to find it. Apparently to be able to draw some blood from a blood bank, we need to first give the equal amount. My family is trying to donate and get some blood in return, as I write this.

She is about 75. She broke her leg once and has to drag one of her legs to be able to walk. The day before yesterday’s mishap aggravated her situation. I felt the helplessness in  my grandfather’s voice. They both are supposed to reunite at their home after my granddad’s eye surgery but fate had other plans.

I am feeling terrible to see something like this happening not just to one but for both at the same time. And for a silly reason. She absolutely has no reason to turn that damn motor on. There are other people around who would have done it if she did not bother herself. But she is not a kind of person who mucks about. And it cost her dearly.

Hopefully this is it and I can’t wait to see them getting back on with their simple lives.

Exercising enough

I used to wonder if exercising only three hours a week is enough. Now I am convinced it is.

I exercise on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. I train equally hard on all three days. But the after-burn (that nice and mild pain in the muscles) of Thursday’s kettle-bell workout lasts until Sunday. So if I push myself hard enough on Thursday, the seemingly long three day break between Thursday and the  Monday allows my body to recover from the worthy suffering.

I sometimes dilute the exercising gains by making poor food and sleep choices. Although I am aware of it and am making increasingly wiser food choices, I am far from eating sensibly. And eight hours of sleep a night continues to be elusive.

Nevertheless, I am convinced quality, not quantity matters for exercising too.

Loving Coffee Again

I started drinking coffee in August. I had a coffee everyday except Tuesdays.

It took a lot of mental energy to continue not drinking coffee. I missed the routine more than caffeine. And I couldn’t find a substitute routine. I tried very hard. I wasted more than fair share of my day’s cognitive budget on just deciding whether to have coffee. How silly is that! So I told myself this struggle is not worth it. I am now back to sipping coffee every workday except Tuesday – I fast till evening on Tuesdays. However, this is not the only reason I took the U-turn.

I did not go looking, but all the following posts came my way. Two of them appeared on my twitter feed. The other two were written by the people I admire.

Moderate doses of caffeine is exactly what I drink, as mentioned in Reaching Peak Productivity Is Easy (5 Simple Strategies) :

Our mind and our bodies are intertwined and Davis encourages us to focus as much on our physical health as our mental health. He recommends the usual: stay hydrated, eat smaller meals more often, moderate doses of caffeine and moderate exercise.

“Do keep drinking coffee”, suggests this post titled 11 Morning Habits That Will Change Your Life (And Make You More Creative), among other useful tips. It elaborates:

Caffeine makes us more alert, yes, but perhaps more importantly, it also increases our brain’s production of dopamine, which gives us a feeling of reward and motivation when we start having good ideas. Making it a habit to grab a morning latte in the morning adds structure to a morning and helps create the aforementioned windows of creativity.

Structure is what my coffee break adds to my morning.

Jeff Finley, who coached me on how to wake up early, wrote a great post on why he started drinking coffee. I can relate to some of the thoughts he shared.

Lastly, Jeremy DuVall advises on CNN:

Don’t forget caffeine. Coffee lovers rejoice! It turns out that cup of java may give you more than just an energy boost midday. When researchers gave subjects coffee and then measured their caloric burn, they found that the caffeinated individuals burned more calories than their decaf-ordering counterparts.

I am sure there will be heaps of material on the internet explaining at great length on why coffee is bad. But the above information is from the people I admire and sources I trust. So it is valuable to me. I experienced some of it first hand.

That’s the end of my coffee chronicles. I certainly learned a lot from this experience. Not hesitating to retract from opinions, being the foremost lesson.

Unsubscribe, Unfollow, Unread, Unfriend, Unplug.

One thing I started appreciating after becoming a dad is the value of time.

Like many dads, being the best possible hands on dad is non-negotiable to me. You don’t need a lot of money to be a good parent but you certainly need a lot of time and patience, things money can’t buy. However, this is not the only challenge I have.

I am three decades into my life and still haven’t figured what do I want to do with it. Thankfully I haven’t given up and I refuse to settle. This means besides trying to be a good dad, I also need time to find my life’s purpose. While I do this, I need to make a living, exercise, learn to write well, run errands, form and keep up habit streaks; all while getting eight hours of sleep.

All these things put unprecedented pressure on my time. So earlier last year I audited how much free time I have and how am I spending it. That’s when I realized a relieving fact that I can still put time on the things I want to do and be there for my son.

These are some things I do to free up significant chunks of time.

Unsubscribe to most of the RSS feeds. Google helped me a bit with this by killing the Reader. Now I only read less than a third of my original feeds.

Unfollow most of the tech celebrities, tech blogs, tech journalists and everybody who spam. As a result, I brought down my twitter following count from few hundreds to under 50. This saves a lot of time I am otherwise spending to scroll through twitter timeline. Now I follow only a few interesting people.

Unfriend with Facebook friends with whom I am not in touch for years. It may sound weird but with how many of your 500+ Facebook friends did you attempt to make a genuine connection? How many of them share their genuine thoughts on their feed? Most of them don’t. So I unfriended with all but 30 people on Facebook so I don’t have to deal with their Farmville requests and passive shares.

Unread news. I only spend less than 15 minutes to scroll through headlines of two newspaper sites. The one I grew up reading and the other, to get in touch with current affairs of the country and city I live. I only occasionally read through the main content. Most of it, most of the times is useless anyway.

Unplugging is challenging. Especially when technology is your passion and you have a handful of gadgets around. I would be lying if I say I can unplug when I wish. But I am making slow progress. Disabling notifications in the iPhone is one thing that helped me with this.

Few years ago I always looked forward for the next Apple event and used to waste lot of time reading speculations in technology blogs about what Apple is going to release. Now I did not even know when was the last Apple event and what was it about.

There is always enough time for anything, but not for everything.

Where would you rather be?

Did you ever wish that you would rather be in a different place than you are right now? I did.

I think it is normal for all of us to think of some dreamland where everything is going to be exactly in the way we want. A place that is anywhere but where we are right now. And it is often correct.

If someone gives me the power to transport wherever I want, I know where I will go. It certainly won’t be into my past. Not because I hate my past but because my present has always been better than my past. On that account, I will choose to go into my future. I anyway live so much in the future that I often forget to live in the present. So if anyone offers me a ride in the time machine, why not go along?

I think living in the future is a good thing. When you are excited about future, you rank your future self higher than your current self. Isn’t this what self-discipline and delayed gratification is all about? If you are so obsessed with present and believe that now is what all you have, then how are you going to visualize your future and live in way that future self will thank you?

Getting excited about your future self will give you hope, which in turn will give you courage and strength to tread your present challenges. Because you then think that present challenges are temporary and they will eventually pass. They may not really pass but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you believe in taking action and action is the antidote of despair.

So don’t ever feel bad about wanting to be somewhere else. It is perfectly normal. Grass may not always be greener on the other side but it is surely greener in the future. But don’t hate you present though; appreciate it and keep working. You will eventually reach your ideal world.