Ever since I left school, the complexity of my life suddenly blew up by a factor of 10. I found myself going through a complete chaotic system of never-ending to-do’s and problems-to-be-solved. Most of my problems are not that hard, but the sheer volume of it is just something else. I always manage to procrastinate and push little tasks for the next day until it finally calls out for my attention at most inopportune time. It has a similar effect to a very stiff shoulder; you don’t notice it until you can barely move your shoulders due to the pain that compounded over time.
I had to change how I was dealing with my shit. This felt like the early stages of my life spiraling out of control. This has been my mission since 2017, that is, I have to somehow figure out how I’m going to address all commitments I have. This is such an open-ended question and because of that I didn’t really have any ideas on where to start, so I just decided to focus on one problem and tried out a few solutions for it.
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Effective Self-Improvement Initiatives
Looking back, here are some problems and the steps that I have taken in order to develop my own system of dealing with things.
Problem #1: Late Afternoon Energy Crash
I have always had this thing where my body just decides to crash every afternoon, this was a big problem for someone that works a 9-5 job because the afternoon is where I’m supposed to close out some of my tasks that I started in the morning. Also, this makes my drive back home a very risky proposition because I’ve become so sleepy while driving.
Initially I thought sleeping early was the most obvious answer to this problem. If I was sleepy during the day then it is because I wasn’t getting enough rest at night. But the problem is, back then I was always on emergency calls for work going over midnight at times. So, sleeping early is not a valid solution for me. Due to this, I tried out other things and here are the three things I tried to help with my problem:
A Change in Diet
I minimized my sugar intake at work, that is, I stopped taking sugar on my coffee and I stopped eating sweets at work. Along with that, I made sure that I didn’t eat delicious meals at work. I had a period where I just ate mixed seeds all day at work. I realized that when I eat big meals then I get tired, slow, lazy and all I wanted to do is nothing. I figured if I’m hungry while working I will be pissed off and I can use that as fuel to complete my work.
Exercise for 30 Minutes or More Once or Two Times a Day
The change in diet really shed off a lot of the excess weight that I was carrying. All the clothes that I bought before as a When-I-Lose-My-Weight shirts are now fitting me. I figured that I’m probably fit again to perform some physical activity. I started running again and this worked wonders for me as it provided me the energy boost during the morning plus, I feel good after having a huge accomplishment even before coming to work, a huge confidence boost. Along with running, I also do DDPYoga. After listening to the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast’s interview with DDP, I forced myself to do yoga and I ended up subscribing to DDP’s system and this definitely is a game changer. It helped me maintain the weight that I lost and also stretched out the tension in my body. It gave me an excuse to relax and calm down.
Cat Naps During Work Hours
Diet and exercise is great, but since I only sleep about 4-6 hours a night, I’m still way behind on my recharging time. So, I always make sure I sneak in little cat naps during my work day. All I need is a 10-minute nap and I’m golden. I recommend looking up “10 minute guided meditation videos” from Youtube and that shit will knock you down in less than a minute. Also, make sure you have an alarm set when doing this, you don’t want to oversleep at work. I figured if people took 10-minute smoke breaks, there shouldn’t be a problem with 10-minute nap breaks. Lastly, bring a toothbrush or mouthwash at work if you decide to implement this, you don’t want that funky breath at work after a nap.
Problem #2: Level of Productivity
After implementing solutions to my afternoon crash problem, I found myself being more productive and sharper. But it wasn’t enough, I still needed to do more because I’m still not resolving all my commitments in time. So, I had to resolve my next problem, that is, the level of productivity.
Winning the morning battle
The main prerequisite for resolving commitments is time. Since I only have 24 hours in a day, I had to wake up early to give myself more time to work on my stuff. This really worked wonders for me because no one is awake in the house from 4:30am-6:00am and it allowed my mind to be focused on whatever task I had to deal with. I call this the morning battle because waking up at this time is really a tough mental battle. But winning it gives me a huge confidence boost throughout the day, I feel like I’ve accomplished the toughest task already. Plus, coffee just tastes great at this time for some reason.
I’ve always thought journaling was for little girls, because my sister kept a diary. But I came across the Jim Rohn’s “How to Use a Journal” and it opened my eyes. I now carry a journal everywhere and write stuff down as much as I can. This helps me clear my mind by forcing myself to convert my ideas into something physical. In turn, this gives me an explicit instruction to myself on what to do, when to do it and why I’m doing it in the first place
Recently, I came across David Allen’s “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” and this was another game changer. I’m just in my beginning stages of implementing it, but what this gave me is a system of dealing with all of my commitments that I can rely on. I can now see all of my obligations on a high level which allows me to determine which is something I can say yes and no to. I’ll share some of my experiences with this method once I really get into it, for now I’m just starting it out, stay tuned!
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Problem #3: Maintaining the System
Finding solutions for my problems above is great and all. But I know myself, and I know that eventually I will hit a wall that will get me off the rails and set me back to where I started. Things will somehow breakdown and I’ll find myself back in a chaotic system. So, I need to find a way to keep things up and recognize that I’m fucking up.
Battling my inner bitch
I listen to people like Joe Rogan, David Goggins, Jocko Wilink for motivation. These guys are the people that I look up to because they get things done and that’s all I wanted to do; I want to be on top of every aspect of my life. I listen to Joe Rogan and his interviews with different people from various fields to get some inspiration.
David Goggins and Jocko Wilink are my go-to guys whenever I find myself quitting a lot of my commitments. Just hearing these guys talk, makes me want to work harder and do better. Check out Goggin’s book “You Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds” and Jocko’s (along with Leif Babbin) “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win”.
My daily commute adds up to about 2-3 hours depending on how bad traffic is. I use this time to listen to audiobooks or podcasts and learn new things. I’ve mentioned some books already above, here are more podcasts/audiobooks that can open your mind:
- History On Fire by Daniele Bolelli — My favorite series in this podcast is about the Conquest of Mexico. Daniele describes this in a very cool manner and his Italian accent just puts it over top as well. This is the perfect podcast for long trips.
- Front Burner (CBC podcast) — This gives me an update on the world from the Canadian perspective, they dive into different news stories every day and Jayme Poisson is not annoying to listen to for a news podcast at all.
- The Phoenix Project (Gene Kim, George Spafford, Kevin Behr) — Ever since I started working in IT, this book was critical in developing my confidence and communication skills with my team. This highlights the common problems that IT teams deal with and describes mindset changes that each team member can do to have a more productive time at work. I highly recommend this to people working in IT.
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield — Listen to this audiobook and start battling resistance!
Closing social media
Distraction is the biggest resistance that is really holding me back. Right now, the main distraction in my life was social media (i.e., Facebook). When I got rid of all my social media accounts, it really opened my eyes to how much I was missing out on my own life. Plus, I finally don’t have to see other people’s bullshit anymore! This act made me realize, how unimportant other people’s day to day lives truly is. It doesn’t add anything to my productivity goal, it actually takes away from it. The time I spend reading about everyone else’s lives are is really time wasted. Fuck that, I got my own shit to deal with.
The solutions I’ve described really done wonders for myself. It helped me organize my life better and more importantly, it bought me time that I use to spend with my wife and daughter. It’s all I can ask for at this stage in my life. I am not even close to my goal yet, but I’m making good strides towards it.
Hope this helps you out in finding what works for you. Good luck!
About the Author:
Alberto Alinas, MSc. is the husband of the main author/owner of the blog FilipinainCanada.com. He is a Certified System Architect. He graduated Bachelor of Science in Applied and Industrial Mathematics from University of Ontario Institute of Technology. He completed his Master of Science in Modelling and Computational Science from the same university. Connect with him and see more of his profile at LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/albertoalinas/