On this page:
  • Weekly review: Week ending August 29, 2014
  • The ingredients of your life
  • Routines
  • Appreciation and imagining loss - (3)
  • Tweaking the way I write
  • Woohoo, closure!

Weekly review: Week ending August 29, 2014

Great week for wrapping things up and planning next steps. =) Next week: citizenship ceremony and more coding, yay!

Blog posts

Sketches

Link round-up

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (54.6h – 32%)
    • Earn (41.3h – 75% of Business)
      • E1: Demo
      • E1: Work on second video draft
      • E1: Work on polls
      • Earn: E1: 2.5-3.5 days of consulting
    • Build (12.0h – 21% of Business)
      • Drawing (11.1h)
        • Practise drawing faces
      • Delegation (0.0h)
      • Packaging (0.0h)
      • Paperwork (0.9h)
        • Check on Brock Health claim
    • Connect (1.3h – 2% of Business)
  • Relationships (8.3h – 4%)
    • Go to Emma’s party
    • Go to Hacklab’s party
    • Investigate dishwasher options
    • Pick up dishwasher and drop it off at Hacklab
    • Update Brock Health claim
    • Contact more places that offer slipcovers
    • Cook at Hacklab?
    • Follow up with Eric re cleaning, kitchen
    • Talk to my mom regarding dividends
  • Discretionary – Productive (2.4h – 1%)
    • Emacs (0.0h – 0% of all)
      • Review Emacs Chat transcript
    • Apply for Ontario photo ID
    • Reread Latin textbook chapter now that I’ve picked up more vocabulary
    • Call R to adjust billing
    • Prepare papers for citizenship ceremony
    • Attend citizenship ceremony
    • Apply for passport
    • Tidy up dying plants
    • Go to R for test
    • Writing (1.9h)
  • Discretionary – Play (4.6h – 2%)
  • Personal routines (24.1h – 14%)
  • Unpaid work (14.4h – 8%)
  • Sleep (59.6h – 35% – average of 8.5 per day)

The ingredients of your life

You can make many different recipes from the same basic ingredients by choosing different subsets of the ingredients in your pantry, combining them in different proportions, and using different techniques.

Isn’t life a little like that, too? It’s easy to think to yourself, “Ah, this is the recipe that I am used to.” But it might be good to take a step back, take a look at the ingredients in your pantry, and see what else you can make with them.

2014-06-23 Potential

2014-06-23 Potential

I’ve become quite comfortable using some combinations of ingredients to make things that people like. I’m in my “web development – social business – automation” phase in consulting, which is quite a bit different from the “visual thinking – drawing – social media” combination I experimented with. That’s also different from the “workshop facilitation – community management – backend development” combination I used at IBM, or the “teaching – writing – experimenting” combination I used while teaching. But there are so many more ingredients to try and recipes to explore.

Some people like focusing on a small set of ingredients, learning how to discern quality, developing their favourite versions of recipes and their preferred brands and types for ingredients. (There’s some heated discussion around the best flour to use for pizza, for example; the answer depends on the kind of pizza you like, which is itself a matter for experimentation.) I like getting reasonably good at using the ingredients I have, but I also really like collecting new ingredients that turn out to be surprisingly useful. I get a kick out of having just the right spice at hand, or a good enough substitute.

Like spices, your ingredients can spoil or get dull if they sit unused. So it’s good to try different things out, creating more opportunities for you to discover new favourites. Sometimes you try something and decide it’s not for you. Sometimes you get a hint of something you might like, and you try different variants to find something that fits. Sometimes you find a new comfort food, or something that takes you right back home, or something that tickles your palate in just the right way.

It’s surprising to find out you have lots of ingredients in your pantry, especially if you’ve gotten used to only working with a few. I’m looking forward to learning more combinations and developing a deeper appreciation for things, and to picking up even more ingredients. How about you? What are the ingredients you can use when making your life? =)

Routines

Routines are like solidified learning, the habits shaped by little pay-offs. You make all these decisions one at a time, and as you find things that work, they get absorbed into your routines.

I love having fairly stable routines. They minimize thinking and allow me to estimate time well. For example, my regular breakfast is rice and one fried egg, so it’s easy to make sure I’ve got both in stock. My morning routine takes me about an hour from the time I wake up to the time I head out on my bicycle or go to the subway station, although I can compress it by skipping blogs and having cereal instead of rice and egg. It takes me about fifty minutes to get downtown. My evening routine involves an early dinner (heating up stuff from the fridge), some exercise, cleaning up, and some writing or drawing. My weekends are a little more flexible. As long as groceries, cooking, laundry, and tidying up happen, we’ll be set for the next week.

2014-08-20 Routines

2014-08-20 Routines

I have a lot of routines, but I don’t want them to ossify. I like turning my attention on one routine at a time, being mindful during it, looking for little ways to tweak it. For example, there are lots of ways I could tweak my evening routine, especially during jogging days. If I make the sequence dinner-tidy-read-jog-exercise-litterbox-shower-snack-draw, I think that would work out better in terms of winding down – less waiting for my hair to dry. I If I can juggle the timing so that the jog happens before the library closes, bonus!

2014-08-20 Evening routines

2014-08-20 Evening routines

I’m tweaking my thinking/drawing/writing routines too, so I expect some growing pains – things might get a little weirder before they become smoother. It’s good to anticipate this, because otherwise you get stuck at a local maximum instead of being able to explore. In particular, I’m experimenting with drawing more reflections during the week, and then using them as springboards for writing during the weekend. This should spread out my computer use a little bit, encourage me to practise drawing, and possibly lead to interesting places.

It’s fun to be deliberate about your habits. You get to ask yourself, “Why do I do things that way, and in that sequence? How can I experiment with this?”

Appreciation and imagining loss

The Stoics have this practice of imagining loss in order to become accustomed to it and be less attached to these temporary things. You start by imagining that the loss of small things, and then move on to imagining larger losses like the death of a loved one. Seneca writes in his Moral Essays:


He robs present ills of their power who has perceived their coming beforehand.

and Epictetus advises in Discourses:


This is what you ought to practise from morning till evening. Begin with the smallest, the most vulnerable things, like a pot, or a cup, and then advance to a tunic, a paltry dog, a mere horse, a bit of land; next yourself, your body and its limbs, your children, wife, brothers. Look about on every side and cast these things away from you. Purify your judgements, lest something not your own have become fastened to you, or grown together with you, and cause you pain when it is torn loose.

http://puffin.creighton.edu/phil/Stephens/OSAP%20Epictetus%20on%20Stoic%20Love.htm

You might think that this kind of meditation is depressing. I think it enhances my appreciation of what’s in my life, and thus contributes to my happiness. Reflecting on loss–or even non-existence–helps me appreciate how things and people have influenced me.

 2014-08-13 To know something's distinctiveness - #philosophy.png

Tangential story applying this to my life:

Actually, keeping my cool around cats and people is pretty easy. Probably the thing that I most need to practise patience with is Internet Explorer, as I occasionally feel annoyed and frustrated about it. (Not super-frustrated, but still pretty grumbly.) Maybe the next time I find myself peeved by cross-browser differences, I can remind myself of things to appreciate about IE. I’m sure the Internet would have grown slower without a default browser on lots of people’s computers, and IE keeps lots of people employed or consulting–all the things that need to be tweaked. And things are getting better now! At least I don’t have to code for IE6 any more, or even IE7. Besides, IE makes a good basis for humour. ;)

Philosophy. Not just for the big questions–also for the little tech annoyances opportunities to practise patience.

Tweaking the way I write

Through writing, I want to:

  • Learn more effectively and efficiently by taking notes and chunking my thoughts
  • Understand and be able to articulate what I’m thinking
  • Keep notes for future reflection and time travel
  • Connect with people who have similar interests
  • Help other people save time

I’m pretty happy with how I’m doing this so far, although it would be even better if I could write more efficiently and effectively. What would that look like, and how could I move towards that?

I pick up a lot of information from reading and from trying things out. If I spend more time reviewing notes and experimenting with concepts, that will help me get more out of the time that I spend reading. Wouldn’t be neat if my personal stash of quotes (my digital commonplace books) linked each note with a blog post reflecting on what I found interesting about it, how I’ve applied it, and what it’s related to? I think that would be handy.

Sometimes I find myself particularly interested in an idea, and writing is easy. Other times, the spark isn’t quite there, or the kindling is scattered. I have a massive outline/list of things to write about. Sometimes it seems a little odd writing about stuff, though. Lackluster? But maybe giving myself different recipes for blog posts can help (a personal story, a book quote, etc.). I can also look at it as practice. I have years and years to write, and I can learn a lot when I practise deliberately and dispassionately.

For reflection and review, I can write regular snapshots of what’s going on in my life and what I’m trying to figure out. These usually give me enough anchors to remember more.

To make it easier to connect with other people, I can ask people if they blog, and I can post more of my personal stories on my blog.

I’ve been writing more selfishly rather than focusing on saving people time, but I’m sure that balance will shift at some point too. I tend to find it easy to blog helpful things when I’m immersed in projects or in answering people’s questions, so it’s probably just a matter of focusing on open source again.

As I write more, I’ll get faster, and I might even get clearer. :) I can build on what I’ve previously written. I’ll get a better sense of what I like and don’t like in writing, and I’ll experiment with the influences of other writers.

So let’s say that it takes me about an hour or two to follow a thought and write it down. I’m not really looking for speed here. I don’t need to be able to crank one out in fifteen minutes. It might be good to be able to work in small chunks (headline, outline, snippets) to take advantage of the moments that come up during a day. It would also be good to be able to work coherently – to build up to more complex thoughts, to untangle harder questions. That’s probably what better writing looks like for me. As for beauty form and flow, I can probably pick that up through analysis and practice, but it’s somewhat reassuring to know that people can think (and share) complex thoughts despite being inelegant writers. (Almost impenetrable, even!)

How do I want to change how I write? Well, I can use my phone more, writing instead of reading when I have a free moment on the go. If I feel a little blah when writing at my computer, I can open my book notes and expound on a passage. I can also pick something from my outline and sketch out the next level, tell a story, or look for ways to test it in life (and add a reminder to come back and write about the results). I can embrace the way that many of my blog posts are more like “here’s where I am, there’s where I’d like to go, here’s what I’m going to try” rather than fonts of wisdom. Hey, maybe it will be amusing (or even useful) looking back, forty years from now. We’ll see!

Woohoo, closure!

Several of my long-running open loops wrapped up in the last few days in a combination of personal milestones and external results. It feels great closing off all these background processes and resolving uncertainties.

Looking back, I don’t remember all that much hard work. More like kicking things off, then being patient for a while. (Isn’t a fuzzy memory a wonderful thing?)

In other news, Hacklab is finally moving. Technically, the vote was on Aug 11, but it still feels coincidentally close to all of these changes. =) Other people did all the hard work for that one, so I can’t claim any credit for it, but it also feels like a threshold-crossing.

2014-08-23 Closure

2014-08-23 Closure

The ends of things and the beginnings of new ones are good opportunities to stop and evaluate. What new opportunities are available? What can I do based on the resolved uncertainties? What other areas open up for exploration?

2014-08-23 So, what's next

2014-08-23 So, what’s next

The biggest change, I think, is that I can lean in more in terms of business if I want to. I’m curious about other business models, and may explore them after this consulting sprint. Maybe along the lines of Software as a Service, perhaps focused on something useful and nifty involving the Web? I also want to get even better at making the most of leisure time for learning, thinking, writing, drawing, and sharing, so that probably means a lifestyle-business-type balance.

I’ve also been thinking about how I want to celebrate progress and milestones. It’s good to celebrate the little things and reward persistence/patience. On the other hand, it’s also good to treat these things as normal and part of everyday life. I don’t see going out for dinner and/or a movie as a special treat. (Such a homebody!) I’m not keen on parties either (although taking specific people out for lunch or dinner as a way to thank them can be nice). I like rounding off accomplishments with reflection, writing down lessons learned and looking ahead to what’s next.

Sometimes I look further back to get a sense of the journey that’s taken me to this spot. For example, the road to citizenship here in Canada started with wanting to go for a master’s degree and reading research papers while in Manila, meeting my future research supervisor in Tokyo, studying at the University of Toronto, dealing with homesickness, making friends, dealing with distance, and building a life with W-. With savings, I can remember what it was like to come to Canada with just the research assistantship and some cash from my parents. With taxes, I can trace my learning back to the first tax return I filed, the first correction I got from the CRA (who helpfully pointed out that I’d forgotten to apply the education tax credit, so my refund was bigger than I expected), and how I learned to prepare slightly more complex tax returns (including the ones for my business).  I remember planning my projects and experiments, too, sketching out the different uncertainties and what I might do in various scenarios.

So I guess that’s the kind of celebration that suits me well. I like taking a moment to say to myself, hey, actually, that worked out. I learned a lot–and I can’t wait to see what’s next.