Saturday, 1 January 2011

2011 Arbitrary Dividing Point In Time Resolutions

I decided to change a couple of things this year compared to 2010. Firstly I have restricted myself to 3 resolutions, the 7 last year were probably a bit much and diluted my focus. Also as i mentioned in my 2010 Summary, i think focusing on daily habits that will enable future goals will be more successful than listing longer term abstract goals that might change or disappear.

The main reason for posting these online is so that i am accountable and i will be trying to tweet daily updates on the success or failure of the above with an #ADPITR hashtag. If you notice that i fail to tweet or fail any of the above resolutions please kick my ass!

Here are my Arbitrary Dividing Point in Time Resolutions for 2011:

1. Mind - Learn Ruby On Rails Every Day
About half way through last year i started learning the Ruby On Rails framework. While i have completed a couple of books and Rails For Zombies i don't think i have retained much of what i learned as i haven't been using it regularly. I have stopped learning for weeks (occasionally months) at a time and during those breaks i'm sure i forgot a lot. So by making sure i learn/use RoR daily, i should hopefully learn and retain more. I considered putting a time requirement on this resolution, but while it would be nice to do 2-4 hours of programming every day, i suspect just by thinking/reading about it every day, i should achieve the desired effect.

The flip side of this is that i need to plan what i am going to learn better. Last year i ended up on some pretty epic tangents; learning about version control (Git), setting up servers (Fedora) and lots of other somewhat related things (RVM, Vagrant, Amazon Web Services etc). While these tangents were interesting and potentially useful in the future, they aren't strictly relevant now. To start with i need to learn more about Ruby (Why's [Poignant] Guide To Ruby, Programming Ruby etc), refresh what i know about Rails (re-read Head First Rails and Agile Web Development With Rails) and deploy an actual application.

2. Body - Don't Drink Calories
One of the first pieces of advice in The 4-Hour Body is not to drink calories and it tends to be the foundation of a lot of other diets too. While it might seem a relatively easy resolution, it is bound to cut out a lot of calories from my diet (Red Bull, Fruit Juice, Beer and Wine) and i can always add other restrictions to it throughout the year if it gets too easy. On the upside it means that i will still be able to drink nice black coffee along with plenty of water and herbal tea. On the downside it means that i will have to give up alcohol as even spirits contain calories.

Interestingly this was the last resolution i decided on and only came about due to the next resolution.

3. Spirit - Write 750 Words Every Day
I think this will be my favourite resolution, it kind of combines last years Moleskine and blog writing with an awesome website (750Words) and Morning Pages. "Morning what?" you might ask, the best summary is from the 750Words About page:
Morning pages are three pages of writing done every day, typically encouraged to be in "long hand", typically done in the morning, that can be about anything and everything that comes into your head. It's about getting it all out of your head, and is not supposed to be edited or censored in any way. The idea is that if you can get in the habit of writing three pages a day, that it will help clear your mind and get the ideas flowing for the rest of the day.
Seeing as my handwriting sucks and i normally only manage around 50 words per page in my Moleskine, i'm glad that 750Words is there to save me time and money.

So far i have done two days (did a practice run yesterday) and it has been useful. I had decided on resolutions 1 and 3 over a week ago and i though i should have a third. In my morning pages today not only did i spot the potential for a Mind, Body & Spirit link but they also helped me narrow down and chose resolution 2. So far both sessions have taken just under 30 minutes each and it seems like a worthwhile investment in time.

The main reason for this resolution is coming across, however it is so awesome it deserves a post all of it's own!


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  2. Great resolutions Steve! I totally agree with you that little and often is the way forward for learning and retaining new skills and the same goes for changing other behaviours, gradually re-wiring your neural networks.

    What did you think of the 4-hour body book? I've read the 4-hour work week and quite enjoyed it and have been curious about his 4-hour body book. Since I'm an exercise addict who enjoys "volume" training do you think the book would just irritate me or perhaps there is something of interest for me too?
    How is resolution no. 2 going? Do you think it could be useful to have some exceptions to the rule rather than ban those beverages completely? Maybe you could have a couple of "cheat"/ joker cards you can play each week where you're allowed a beer/ whatever. In my experience total bans on things can make you want them more and make it harder to stick to whereas a sustainable change in this behaviour could be what you're looking for here?

  3. I really enjoyed the 4-Hour Body from a geeky perspective, not sure what from it i'll actually end up using, but it will definitely be my first stop if / when i decide to lose weight or get fit.

    It is written in a very similar style to the 4-Hour Work Week and focuses on finding the 80:20 (more like 95:2.5) for health and fitness. I suspect it probably would irritate you; pretty much the number one rule is to find the 'minimum effective dose' and do no more than that. Most of the time he suggests that the 'minimum effective dose' is much less than you would expect, which runs counter to "volume" training – i just had a look and one of the sections is called; The Journey From High Volume To Low Volume ;-). The section on endurance training is particularly counter-intuitive, it proposes a training regime of sprints of no more than 400 metres each to prepare for a marathon. Though i suppose in the same way that he wasn't proposing cutting work to 4-hours a week if you enjoy your work, you shouldn't reduce training if you enjoy training.

    Having said all i think you might find it interesting as well. I'm sure there will be parts you disagree with (there is some pretty 'out there' science), parts you know already (data is awesome), but there also might be the occasional useful tip or ideas to try as experiments to see if they work for you. If you do end up reading it i'd be interested to know what you thought about it.

    Resolution 2 is going great so far, i kinda failed on the 1st and 2nd (New Years Day and my birthday respectively) but for the last 28 days it has been pretty easy to stick to. I'm a bit 'all or nothing' when it comes to changes (ask Alastair ;-) ) and for me exceptions tend to be the start of a slippery slope to complete non-compliance. There are two things i'm finding are making it easier to stick to than i expected: 1) Drinking coffee - i love coffee and starting the day with a nice cup of black coffee means i really don't miss the glass of orange juice i used to have. 2) Sparkling water - i think what i miss about soft drinks is the fizz rather than the sweetness or flavour, so sparkling water has all of the refreshment with none of the sugar.

    PS There is also a pretty heavy endorsement for Vibram Five Fingers in the Reversing Injuries section of The 4-Hour Body … Though i did break my big toe over the summer running through the woods at a paintball site, so maybe not appropriate for all conditions ;-)

  4. Thanks Steev. I think I will read the book. Out of curiosity and for strength training tips. I find strength training so dull so a maximum gain/ minimum effort approach could be a winner :-).

    Aha yes I had considered the "slippery slope" aspect of making exceptions. Great that you have found a way to stick to your rule. Good coffee and nice sparkling water sound like great solutions.

    Good luck! I am tempted to start 750 words as well after reading this. I'm working on "mental toughness" mainly for sport but also for life. I found this book really useful. I think I'll start off just trying to write in a book, like you did. Thanks again!

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  6. There is plenty of efficiency based advice in terms of strength training, so if it works, it should cut your gym time substantially.

    Regarding the resolution, you got me thinking that the slippery slope might be due to the gradual increase in unplanned exceptions. Maybe if i included them deliberately from the start i would be less likely to slip. I might try including deliberate exceptions the next time i experiment with something.

    Good luck with the 750 words, i have found it really useful in the last month – which reminds me i am due a blog post about it.