Retrospective on 2021 goals to date

The primary takeaway is, if you’re trying to balance goals to achieve more than one at once, you have to set explicit priorities on them. The 4.0 GPA goal has been eating the others. I wasn’t expecting it to push everything else aside, but I had a rough Spring B semester.

understanable. i think we’ve mentioned before how having one clear first priority usually leads to everything else taking aback seat

Full disclosure: I didn’t figure this out, Boneflour told me it was time to let go and start cutting some things, but I still give myself full credit for taking good advice when it was offered. He actually wanted me to prioritize something else, but I pushed back on that part of his advice because school was objectively the most important thing I was doing at the time and therefore the 4.0 GPA was the priority goal. I then excused myself from all social commitments, put my nose to the grindstone, missed my second half-Ironman, abused nicotine and caffeine a bit more than I’m comfortable with, and scraped out an A-plus, an A, and two A-minuses. As of last semester, my GPA is back above that precious 4.0 number.

sounds like a success story to me

Another reason I missed the half-Ironman is because I made a bad training decision and hurt myself, but I ascribe that to the stress at the time. (Lesson from that is never make impromptu training decisions under the influence of endorphins.)

now who’s an old man lol?

I was born old. My mom says I came out all wrinkly. It was very sad but I talked myself through the emotions on paper and felt all cathartic by the next day, which is itself a sort of success.

emotional maturity. more proof of oldness

Another lesson from this year has been to protect my bandwidth. Big parts of my new routine that really work for me:

1) Just think about stuff until 10 AM. I let my thoughts sort themselves out, no matter how strange or unproductive they seem at the time. Probably a creative person problem, but the upside has been great. When I spend this time thinking through whatever’s on my mind things just happen smoothly like magic. It’s great. I get at least as much done as before and it’s more fun.

not unprecedented. i once read that bill clinton did the same thing while he was president
now, “thinking” might have been code for something completely different on his schedule, but surely once in a while he actually did it

You may not like it but this is what peak performance looks like. Anyway, it turns out Brian Tracy was right: thinking really is the most important thing we do. And it turns out there’s an optimal amount of time to do it.

2) An hour of relaxation and visualization after working out. If part of this turns into a nap, even better. The visualization bit has been key because I hate school, so I’ve been propagandizing myself to like it. I’ve noticed significant hits to my motivation after missing just one day, and that usually translates to inefficient work, frustration, and procrastination. But one of my best times of day to work on coding/etc. is right after doing this visualization session. It’s not uncommon for me to blow through a coding task in half the time I was expecting. Part of that productivity depends on having designed the thing in my head and on paper in the morning though. But it’s surprising to perform well so soon after a hard cardio workout. In fact, I’ve had the problem recently of getting my coding done so quickly that I don’t know how to use the extra time, and I end up squandering it.

3) The treadmill desk. Have I shared this gospel with you before?

i’ve heard of its wonders but i can’t recall if it was from you
how is it?

If you have ADHD, it’s like being on Adderall. My theory is that it’s because it gets your heart rate up around 90 (about the same as coffee) and dispels the stress of frustration through the impacts of your feet. Doesn’t hurt endurance numbers either, although it hasn’t been boosting them as much as I’d hoped it would. Walking must train fairly different muscles than running. Well, one notable exception: it’s helped me make the transition to barefoot running a lot easier. (Not really barefoot, I wear the zero-drop shoes. Because I’m a SWPL now. Also this is related to the injury I mentioned)

just having another source of stimulation probably helps too

Yup. It’s great for shallow work, which is the majority of work. But I’ve stopped using it for deep work, because it narrows my focus too much. Associative horizon and introspection go out the window.

4) I treat deep work like coding the way I treat cardio. Instead of trying to do marathon sessions or take breaks or whatever, I schedule out sessions with the expectation that I’m going to be rested at the beginning of the 1 to 2-hour period and mentally tired afterward. So my first one might be at 10 am, then I’ll do another at 6 pm after a hard workout and visualization/nap. And I never sit down to the computer without knowing exactly what I’m going to accomplish, with a pretty good idea in my head what the final product will look like. If I have a session scheduled and I haven’t written the thing in my head already, I spend as long as I feel like staring out the window and designing in my head until I feel the keyboard pulling me toward it.

Again, the effect of all this is I spend about the same amount of time overall, but it’s more enjoyable. The old way was to spend a big chunk of time hacking away at something, getting frustrated, procrastinating, losing motivation, and finally finishing whatever three hours later. The new way is to spend the first hour just thinking, the next hour meditating on what I’m trying to accomplish and why, and the last hour breezing through the actual work. Hence the importance of protecting my bandwidth. If people hear you’re spending three hours in the morning just thinking about stuff, they get dollar signs in their eyes. But no, that way lies burnout and A minuses.

Last note on that, I suppose: Another thing that helps is to think through the designs of the bigger projects earlier in the week so I can slow-boil them while I work on all the little, stupid stuff. Slow-boiling is the great secret.

always good practice.

About Aeoli Pera

Maybe do this later?
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2 Responses to Retrospective on 2021 goals to date

  1. aiaslives says:

    Treadmill desk alternative: subwoofer against wall/desk/whatever your legs touch + post-rock

  2. aiaslives says:

    Being tired after coding just means that you’re not interested. Using an editor with a very easy and expressive syntax (like Emacs’ Elisp) bridges this gap. You’ll be stuck to the computer.

    > And I never sit down to the computer without knowing exactly what I’m going to accomplish, with a pretty good idea in my head what the final product will look like. If I have a session scheduled and I haven’t written the thing in my head already, I spend as long as I feel like staring out the window and designing in my head until I feel the keyboard pulling me toward it.

    Break it into parts and finish the easy parts first. Use comments as section breaks (emacs’ outline-minor mode and org’s literate programming really helps out here).

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