“Actions express priorities” | January in review

Creativity, economics, Fitness, Motivation, productivity, writing

Well, we got through it: January’s done. How was it for you?

Mine was good. At the start of this year, I set myself the goal of doing more. That’s what I figure it all boils down to. January’s been pretty successful on those terms.

Here’s some of what I’ve been doing:

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I drew, I wrote, I lifted heavy weights, I slogged through some tricky assignments, read some good books, listened to interesting podcasts and great music, and tried to stay present throughout. I’m meditating more consistently than ever at the moment. Getting here has genuinely been a transformative process. These days, I rarely find myself lost in thought, a state which has been the norm for the majority of my life. It’s refreshing to feel focussed, determined, and happy instead of anxious, depressed and worried. I’ll link to some resources in the notes below if you’re interested in learning more about meditation.

Here’s today’s thought: remember that regardless of how your January went, it’s over. You can’t change it. The future, however, is yours. So take a moment to consider what went well well last month, what you might have handled better and what your goals are for February. After you’re done thinking, consider the quote below:

“Action expresses priorities.”

-Mahatma Gandhi 

What are your priorities? Are your actions in line with them?

Here’s a way to approach February:

  1. Decide what you want your month to look like.
  2. Think about the specific things you need to do to make it that way.
  3. Set your days up so that you have scheduled time for those things.
  4. Get to work!

Links/notes:

Here’s a short video summarising some of the benefits of meditation, and one of the best introductory guided meditations I know of (if you’re ready to give it a go):

Jon Kabat-Zimm is the founder of much of modern mindfulness practices. Pretty amazing bloke.

This meditation is only 8 minutes long, and Sam Harris is an excellent guide:

By the way, if you’re interested in my drawings/artwork, the best place to see more is my Instagram. Expect 28 new drawings this February:

How (and why) tidying your room will improve your life

Creativity, Miscellaneous thoughts, Motivation

The world is chaotic. It’s loud, dynamic and confusing. There is only one place you have total control – your room. This small area that’s entirely yours is an external representation of who and what you are, as much a part of you as your arm or leg. By taking the simple action to tidy up, you are asserting control over your environment, creating your identity, developing confidence, and bringing order to chaos; both internally, and externally.

Three key benefits of taking this simple, powerful action:

  1. Bring order to chaos (mental state follows action)
  2. Develop personal pride (surround yourself with the things you love)
  3. Allow yourself to focus (optimise your personal studio)

Watch this video by psychology professor (and Youtube sensation) Dr. Jordan Peterson – he can explain the concept far more eloquently than myself:

If you’d like to hear more, his Youtube channel is an incredible resource. I’ll include some of my favourite lectures, seminars and podcasts in the ‘Notes’ section at the end of this post.

It took Dr. Peterson’s vocalisations to make me realise this was something I already knew. When my world has felt the most chaotic, random and cruel, the last thing I needed was to come home to a disorganised mess. So, on these occasions, I’d do some sorting. Nothing crazy – just organise books, fold clothes or throw away rubbish. Within that process, you can almost feel your mental gears shifting to a different zone entirely, getting ‘unstuck’. Peterson describes feeling ‘disintegrated’. In tidying, I almost feel like I’m assembling my atoms together again.

A messy room is the epitome of chaos. You can’t find the things you need, you see nothing around you you enjoy, you feel cluttered and unsatisfied. There’s an itch, a nagging feeling that will prevent you from doing what you know you need to. So maybe you’ll scroll through Instagram or Snapchat instead. In procrastination lies the death of dreams.

Ayn Rand wrote about a NY Times writer’s routine in ‘The Art of Nonfiction’:

When she sits down she knows she does not want to write. Here is what her subconscious does to “save” her from that difficulty. She thinks of everything she has to do. She needs to call a friend on business, and does so. She thinks of an aunt she has not called for months, and calls her. She thinks of what she has to order from the store, and places the order. She remembers she has not finished yesterday’s paper, so she does. She continues in this way until she runs out of excuses and has to start writing. But suddenly she remembers that last summer (it is now winter) she never cleaned her white tennis shoes. So she cleans them.

Circumvent ‘the white shoes’ problem by ensuring your environment is conducive to whatever you want to do. Set your priorities, and organise your space to support that. Someone who’s done an incredible job of that is Casey Neistat. His studio is incredible. Is there a better representation of who he is than the space he’s created to sustain his incredible work ethic? Importantly, this space is constantly evolving, growing and changing. It’s not stagnant, nor should it be… Exactly like us.

Caught up in the ‘new year, new me’ hype, I recently reorganised my desk. I’m in a student house, so the space itself isn’t everything I’d want – but I’m making the most of it. Now, I’m happy and proud every time I sit down to draw, read or write. I’ve surrounded myself with the equipment I need to be productive, things I love and that inspire me. The massive benefit to this kind of process oriented organisation is that once you’ve had that initial tidy, it doesn’t take long to keep that way, just a few minutes each day to put things back where they belong.

These kind of themes are also discussed by Admiral William H. McRaven (who is also a NY Times Bestselling author of a book titled ‘Make Your Bed’).

He advocates simply making your bed as soon as you get up in the morning, a habit I’ve maintained for over a decade. It’s the best way to kick the day off with a success, completing an objective. That gets the ball rolling and sets you up to keep ticking things off your list, progressing towards achieving your goals.

Tidying your room is like the ultimate version of making your bed. Create order out of chaos. Feel pride in who you are and the space you create.

Today, your room; tomorrow, the world. 


Notes, links and sources:

First post of 2018! Big plans for this site in the new year… Stay tuned. Been loving the process of creating, through writing and drawing. Here’s some recent work (with progress pics):

Books, podcasts and other links you may find useful:

Planning this article:

Slippage

Fitness, Motivation, Philosophy, Uncategorized

Last night I stayed up far too late watching an awful movie I’d seen before. I didn’t want to do that. But I was tired, and lazy, and travelling had taken it out of me. It seemed easier than brushing my teeth and walking up the stairs to get into bed at that point.

I eventually turned in at half past midnight. I had a gym session planned mere hours later… 5 and a half hours is definitely not a healthy amount of sleep, whatever bravado you want to throw at me. Given that, there were so many ways I could have rationalised the decision to shift my plans about, move the workout to later in the day… But later far too often becomes never.

So, I gritted my teeth, got my head down, set my alarm (and several backups)… and got up on time. On the 4th alarm. I stumbled downstairs, made a cup of strong coffee and cycled to the gym, as planned.

I always train legs first thing on a Monday morning. Why? Heavy squats will beat you down, punish you and put everything else into perspective. It’s easy to focus on completing a piece of coursework, crunching numbers, writing emails or whatever else it is you have to do when you’ve already willingly put yourself under a heavy, crushing weight and willed yourself up, over and over again. It’s building that resistance to procrastination, getting the week started with a bang.

Stephen King writes about a concept called ‘slippage’ in his collaboration with Peter Straub, ‘Dark House’. It’s a feeling of a kind of inevitable, sometimes hard to detect degradation into darkness. Everything is in a state of entropy. So, you’re either working to improve or letting things degrade and break up.

Forcing yourself to do the hard, worthwhile things you know you should, even if you’ve not put yourself in the best decision to do them, is the best way to combat this ‘slippage’. That holds true both in your own life and the way your actions impact the world around you.

Don’t let yourself slip.


Notes

I almost slipped writing this article. It’s late now, but I’m getting it done. Too many ideas vanish into the ether and this is an important one.

So I got it done.

The nugget of this idea came while cycling back from the aforementioned leg workout, so quickly jotted it down on one of these pads. After a long day of econometrics lectures and work on my dissertation, I wrote it in one sitting (with the help of a cup of coffee – pictured).

 

A mass of habits

Creativity, Philosophy

At 7:30 this morning I was up and rolling around on my yoga mat. I’ve got a mild ‘winged scapula’ (my shoulder blades stick out a lot because of some weakness in the serratus [1]). It’s caused some issues with shoulder pain and a slight muscular imbalance. I researched it and I’m doing something about it. It’s not the most fun workout I do, but I’ve certainly noticed the difference already.

It got me thinking about the journey to ‘being in good shape’. What does it mean? Isn’t being something really just a series of activities? Creating a workout plan, maybe a diet plan too, fitting in training around your busy life, not neglecting flexibility or endurance, resisting biscuits, buying groceries, cooking packed lunches, adjusting your plan, getting to and from the gym, sacrificing extra minutes in bed…

“We are what we repeatedly do.”

Aristotle

“All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits – practical, emotional, and intellectual – systematically organized for our weal or woe, and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be.”

William James

So, if we accept that the ‘doing’ in each day ends up defining our lives, it’s important to think about what it is you want to be, and then set up the ‘doing’ portion according to those aspirations. So let’s say you sleep between 6 and 8 hours. What fills the rest?

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Casey Neistat does a fantastic job of explaining this idea here – there’s no bullshit here. It’s such simple advice, and it’s incredibly actionable:

This was the first one of Casey’s videos I ever saw. I’d highly recommend subscribing to him on Youtube. He’s an incredibly hard working, innovative creator. I’ll write about him soon.

You’ve got a certain amount of time each day (24 hours to be precise). It’s up to you how you choose to allocate it, fit stuff in and actually do it. As soon as you have the realisation that your time is scarce, and you have some choice in how you spend it, you can never look back.

If you don’t take action, you’re making a conscious decision that you don’t care about your future.

How do you know what the right things to spend your time on are? Get your thoughts out on paper – it’s cheap.


Notes

For a relatively short essay, this required a lot of thinking, and I’m still not blown away by how it came out. I’ll revisit this topic once I feel I can articulate myself a little clearer on the issue.

As usual, here are the various notes this article came from:

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