Habits, How-To

Eat Your Veggies

I am big into nutrition right now. I may or may not be depending on how great my craving for cookies is in the next couple of months (seriously, I have less nutritional discipline than a Biggest Loser contestant without extreme external-monitoring) but for right now I’m big into nutrition.

Each day I eat a balance of proteins and fiber, less carbs (gotta look good for bikini season) and plenty of water. It wasn’t until I was enjoying one of my colorful meals with my paramour that I considered: what if the food pyramid could be applied to our time budget?

I often speak about priorities here on CFiST but today I’d like to give you a tool to make that concept a reality. So even though Time Pyramid would make an awesome 80’s sci-fi title, in this context I’d like to harken back to the now retired food pyramid.

The Plan

Start by considering all the different activities you do during the day. For example, my list would look like the following:

  • Sleep
  • Eat
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Time with loved ones
  • Work
  • Read
  • Chores
  • Journal
  • Reading
  • Personal care
  • Code
  • Write
  • Television
  • Social networking
  • Online shopping

It’s pretty busy to say the least. Now, here’s how I would break that down, carrying the food analogy:

Grains

The essentials. Require the most servings and form the building blocks of your happiness.

  • Sleep
  • Eat
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Time with loved ones

Fruits and veggies

The enriching activities. Substantial, colorful, and tasty!

  • Work
  • Read
  • Chores
  • Journal

Dairy/protein

Essential, but fewer servings. Build mental strength and get some “culture”. Get it? Yogurt joke.

  • Reading
  • Personal care
  • Code
  • Write

Sweets and oils

Delicious, but to be partaken of… sparingly.

  • Television
  • Social networking
  • Online shopping

The result is a coherent metaphor for time “nutrition”; a way to balance out your activities in the best way possible using knowledge you already know. Pretty cool, right?

So how about you? What does your time nutrition look like? List your activities and try breaking them down into these groups and see how many servings you get in an average day. Feel free to post the results in the comments below and think about eating healthier. I have a hunch that you’ll be glad you did.

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And you look good doing it.
Habits, How-To

Read Dammit

Read.

No fancy lead-in, no great anecdote, just do it. Reading is not only intellectually stimulating, but entertaining and extremely calming.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Pick a topic you are interested in

I love philosophy. Whether I get it or not, I enjoy how cereberal the entire experience of reading philosophy is. Some of us like cooking, some of us like computers, some of us like history. Regardless of what you like, pick it and delve into it. There are literally thousands of books on every topic known to man and the added bonus of your interest will make the habit more rewarding and easier to establish. Do what you love!

2. Start small

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Furthermore, no one likes staring at a 500 foot tall mountain and thinking “I have to climb that?” So give yourself a break when you’re first getting started and  (after choosing something you like) pick something you feel comfortable with! Picking up a 700 page novel can be an exhilirating challenge but if you aren’t in the habit already, start with something you can finish to give yourself the ever-rewarding dopamine prize of an accomplishment.

3. Have fun

Yes, it’s a cliché but it’s also true. If you aren’t enjoying what you’re doing, then why are you doing it? Being open-minded is important, as is having the discipline to keep working on a rewarding book, but if you aren’t deriving pleasure from your liesure activities, then there really isn’t much point in doing them.

It’s a new year, read a book. It’s no secret formula or hidden ingredient to success (or is it?), but I promise, you’ll thank me.

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Willpower is a complicated animal. Sometimes we’re forcing ourselves to accomplish things and this is healthy, sometimes we do the same and it’s not. Personally, I just want someone to tell me what to do with my life.

In this video, the folks over at Epipheo talk about the differences in willpower: “I Will-Power”, “I Want-Power”, and “I Won’t-Power”. Since willpower is like a muscle, tiring after prolonged use without rest, tapping into these different sources becomes incredibly valuable. Personally, I use “I Will-Power” every time I do my household chores, and “I Want-Power” every time I go to the gym and the results are palpable.

How do you get the job done? How do you tap into those personal resources and make awesome stuff happen?

Habits, How-To

Meditation: A Primer

One of my favorite subjects to write about here on CFiST is peace and one of the greatest ways to attain that peace is through meditation.

For some, (even me) it can be a weird experience to try something new. My first tip is very simple: be open-minded. The scientific and psychological benefits of meditation are well-documented, so allow yourself to know that your actions are beneficial on many levels and that millions of people meditate every day.

So how does it work? How do those of us without access to Tibetan monks know what to do? It’s very simple:

1. Breath

Meditation is a very simple thing (achieving meditative consciousness is not but we’re only trying to relax at first). The most important thing to remember is to breathe. Take deep breaths from the diaphragm, taking twice as long to breathe out as in, and focus all your attention on that action.

2. Posture

Sit cross-legged (the lotus position), hands resting either on your knees or in folded in your lap. Sit tall, as if a string is drawing the crown of your head upward. Relax your shoulders. Your back should be strong but you should not be tense.

3. Environment

Find a quiet, well-lit (preferably by natural light) room with minimal distraction. The temperature should not e too cold but also not too warm. You should be comfortable in your space but awake and focused.

4. Duration

As long as you like! There is much to be gained from long periods of meditation, but you have to work up. Your attention span will be minimal, your mind will wander, but after a while you will find that practiced focus comes naturally. Gradually increase your time when you feel comfortable but always focus on clearing your mind and the time will dictate itself.

Again, this is just a primer, but every journey begins with a single steps. Implement these tips for just a moment per day and you’ll find that what starts as a chore becomes a beautiful retreat.

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