Lifestyle design: iteration two

I’ve spent 20 days trying to follow the routine I set up in iteration one. It didn’t work.

Well maybe that is a bit dramatic. It didn’t work as expected, but I learned a lot about how time tracking an entire life really works. As usual, I’ve been slightly too enthusiastic. So I need to tweak my formulea based on what I’ve learned.

What I learned one: Sleep is hard

I planned to sleep 8 hours and spend an aditional 1 hour per day in bed to relax.
I mananged an average 6 hours of sleep and I felt like shit. I was lucky if I spent more than ten minutes relaxing before I needed to sleep.
This isn’t really a fault in planning, just an observation that I’m not disciplined enough. I need that sleep. It’s the foundation of everything else.

What I learned two: No one works 8 hours a day

Now when I say work I mean active time being productive. Since all my work is digital I’ve been able to track every minute of work. And let me tell you, whenever someone says they work more than 40 hours a week, what they really mean is they spend that time in proximity to work.

  • At 4 hours a day I work great. A lot of things get done and I’m nice to collegues.
  • At 6 hours a day I work sporadically. Some things get done but I get easily distracted and I’m a bit of a grouch.
  • At 8 hours a day I don’t work well. Little things get under my skin. My solutions are equally brilliant and idiotic. I’m easily angered and everything stresses me out.
  • At 10 hours a day I’m mad. Everything pushes my blood pressure through the roof, and little real work gets done.

Thankfully I also tracked the number of tasks that got done. I’ve edited out the small stuff and most of these tasks were about as much work.

  • At 10 hours: average of 4 tasks.
  • At 8 hours: average of 6-8 tasks.
  • At 6 hours: average of 12 tasks.
  • At 4 hours: average of 15-25 tasks…

Working less apparently forces me to focus better. A lot better. In fact I’m slightly shocked at the difference.

What I learned three: Media is not rest

I had 3 hours of play, or rest, planned per day. But after 8 hours of focused work, I ried watching a movie or reading a book. Both of which made me even more tired. Media, it turns out, is not really that restful.

We spend a lot of time with media, as relaxation, as a social event. So much time we take it for granted that we should. But at least for me, I’ve found that media doesn’t relax me at all. On the contrary, it keeps me focused and alert, spending more of my energy.

Perhaps more media is not the answer.

What I learned four: This is going to take forever

I can’t keep testing this slowly. Or I will never find a balance that works. Thankfully a tip from my friend Michael gave me an alterantive strategy.

From now on I will try to plan only the next day, and evaluate how it went each night. I’ll keep tracking my time and use Day One to plan and evaluate my days.

 

Lifestyle design: iteration one

Like most beginnings, this one has been rocky for me. But the foundation is now in place.

My economy is in the black again. My home slightly redesigned. So now what? Oh yes. It’s time to tackle the big step. Time to redefine how I wish to live.

This took me quite a few days pondering and procrastinating, even though the result looks simple enough. But I view this as a first iteration, my first test, and I expect it to have rough edges or even gaping flaws.

I think any lifestyle redesign needs to be different enough from ones old life to create a different outcome. But like diets, have enough margin for the occasional slip up. So I based this on three goals:

  1. I want to create extraordinary things.
  2. I want to play more.
  3. My health must be in balance to create fertile ground for the first two.

The first one is not that difficult. I need focused time to work. And limits on that time so I don’t burn out.

The second one is hard. Play is not something you can really plan for. But hopefully meditation will help me here.

The third one is really hard. I work out quite a lot, and eat well. Have done for the last few years. But I also have onset insomnia making me sick and tired often. Creating a balance where this affects me less will be very difficult indeed.

To achieve these goals I plan to structure 80% of my time. Laid out weekly, that means following this schedule for 5.6 days and leaving the rest unplanned.

Every day I will try to live like this:

  • 8+1 hours of sleep (the 1 is for getting into and out of bed)
  • 8 hours of focused work, probably in chunks of 4+2+2
  • 2 hours for food preparation and eating.
  • 2 hours spent at the gym, or on off days learning something new (I’ll try Italian and the guitar)
  • Which leaves 3 hours for play.

Now I’m sure this doesn’t take everything into account. There’s no time for grocery shopping or just cleaning my apartment. But it’s interesting to write it all down like this.

Also, it doesn’t really look that different from a “normal life” does it? To test this I’ll be using the Hours app on my iPhone to track the amount of time I’m putting into each segment.

   
 I’m on my second day now. Sadly with really poor sleep. But hey, at least I’ve started.

 

What TV executives believe about their audience

A few years back I was involved in redesigning a website for a TV channel in Sweden. What they told me gave me a profound insight into the minds of the networks. To bait your click, you won’t believe what they believe.

We met in a conference room in the networks main building. He was in charge of communications for several channels that belonged to the network. I was a junior employee at a highly regarded marketing agency.

We sat down, three of us from the firm, and the TV exec, to discuss what we would be doing. We began by offering a series of ideas about how they could communicate their unique brands and shows, but the exec stopped us half way though.

“No, no. You’ve got it all wrong.” he said “this isn’t why people watch our channel at all”.

We all leaned in. The exec launched into a vague pitch about what made them truly unique, summing it up in a phrase that is forever etched in my mind:

“People stay with our channel, for our programming

I was confused. I didn’t think he meant any coding was going on, but didn’t understand the term, thankfully he explained it. In the view of the network, people tuned into to a channel, and stayed with that channel, because of their unique arrangement of shows and commercials. The programming, is their term for the schedule of material broadcast. Each show, each commercial break and even the ads themselves, are scheduled to reflect the overall feel of the TV channel. This is, according to him, why people like one channel over another.

I was stunned by this. Not the information itself, I’ve always expected every media form to think like this to some degree, but by the thought that these executives actually believed that in the age of the internet.

This was prior to Netflix launch in Sweden, but anyone who had seen any statistics about video usage online, or seen anyone using youtube or torrenting a movie knew that this was completely false. Not just ignorant, but incorrect almost to the point of lunacy. People find and watch specific content because they like that content. They might endure everything else, only if there’s no easier way. But they do not choose their content by association.

I walked away from that meeting in a stunned silence.

Recently I think I have realized how this idea took shape. TV usage is measured by putting a box near your TV that records audio cues from the programs and commercials. This recorded data is later collected and aggregated to find statistically interesting patterns.

The problem, like with most statistics, is of course that this collection method cannot measure intent. So if you were to turn on your TV while you do the dishes, and talk on the phone, and then see one program before you go to bed, you will be measured as staying with one channel for quite some time before jumping to a specific show and then turning off.

Even though your intent was background noise while you do something else, the measurement is easily interpreted as you enjoying the channel and sticking to the programming.

For that network, or at least that executive, the numbers were clear. Their unique programming was what kept people glued to the TV screen five hours every night.

This is not a jab at TV, though they are aging rather badly, but a warning to all of us not to get caught forcing what we want users to think onto statistics, just because we believe our work to be important. Let’s never become so arrogant we start believing our brand is more important than our product. In the end, every business is about creating value for your customer.

(If anyone has similar insights into the TV industry, I’d LOVE to hear it. Please post in the comments below.)

 

Lifestyle design: the plunge

Getting started was much harder than expected. After I got past the first wave of fear & procrastination actual problems reared their ugly heads.

“Problems”

Now there are a lot of people who complain about this word; problems. They seem to believe that by admitting there is such a thing, we stop and give up.

I’ve never believed that. I think we need to clearly state and define every problem and complication before we can do anything about them.

In my experience, the people complaining about this word are the same people who are least likely to solve anything. I might be wrong about this, but it is interesting to note that the larger and more sluggish an organisation, the fewer problems they seem to communicate.

Problems solved

I have things I need to deal with to really get going. The first of these major hurdles I’ve just left in the dust. I’ve managed to clean up my debt and I’m back in the black. It took some radical action, but I’m actually better off now than I have been in years.


Getting ready to celebrate

Happy celebrations

I also managed to celebrate my 31st birthday with a few of my dearest friends. We drank sparkling wine far into the night and both laughed and cries. There was also chocolate cake that might haunt me forever.

Friends

Thank you everyone, I really needed that.

 

Lifestyle design: procrastination and fear

As soon as I had decided to redesign my life. All my creativity left me. All the ideas and opportunities dried up instantly from my mind.

It’s odd how much we’re dependent on a sense of normalcy, of having routine, to help us act.

This is fear, a resistance we feel to change. I’ve never felt it this clearly.

But it’s time to get comfortable with change. Not as a single event, something that happens every once in a while. But something that is constantly ongoing. 

Nothing is ever the same. Not even us.

This week I’ve spent time discussing what it is I want to change with my life. And I’ve realized I feel trapped. By debt, and by living in the same place for 6 years. 

So the coming week, I hope to significantly change that state.