Next 30 day challenge: social media/news cleanse

For January 2015, I tried to declutter around the house for 15 minutes a day. We now have a couple rooms that are much cleaner, and I gave away a bunch of magazines.

For February 2015, my 30 day challenge was to go on daily 15 minute walks with my wife. That was nice.

Lately I’ve been spending more time than I’d like on social media and reading news sites. So for March 2015, I’m going to do a social media and news cleanse. I’ve done a social media cleanse several times before and it’s usually quite helpful for getting re-centered.

Here’s the steps that I’m taking:
– I’m using the StayFocusd Chrome extension to limit myself to 15 minutes a day of Google News, Twitter, Google+, Hacker News, Techmeme, Nuzzel, Reddit, and Imgur.
– On my R7000 home router I’m using the “block site” functionality for several of these sites. It looks like the R7000 can block HTTP sites, but not HTTPS.
– On my phone, I’m removing the new tab thumbnails for these sites. I’m also removing some social media apps from my home screen.

I figure that either I’ll get some good stuff done, read a lot of books, or die of boredom. I may (rarely) drop a link on social media, but if you see me just hanging out, please remind me to close my tab and move on. :)

New 30 day challenge: “hermit mode”

I’ve been spending more time surfing the web on my laptop than I’d like to. I’ve also noticed more emails that lure me into short tasks, but eventually eat up a large chunk of my day.

I’d prefer to be spending more time working on projects, reading, and unplugging. So my new 30 day challenge will be to enter a sort of “hermit mode” where I don’t spend more than an hour a day on my laptop. I’m also going to try to say “no” more often. My hope is that if I turn down a few meetings for a while, I’ll end up working more on projects that I want to tackle. I don’t know whether that will work, but I’m going to try it. I might still write a few blog posts or say something on Twitter, but I want that to be a conscious choice, not just something I back into.

This challenge will be a hard one to judge for success, but my hope is that at the end of the month, I’ll be making more active choices about how I spend my time, and tackling more things that I want to do.

30 day challenge wrap-up: writing

So how did I do on my 30 day writing challenge? Well, the picture tells the story:

Completed calendar

Not too bad! I did miss one day, but here’s a secret about 30 day challenges: if you miss a day or two, you can just keep doing the challenge for another day or so at the end. Or don’t worry about it: you’re trying out something new, and you only have to answer to yourself.

What went well this time? Well, I finally wrote down a few things that I’ve been meaning to publish for years, from Scott Adams’ financial advice to my own hard-won financial tips, and from a piece about a level playing field to how to buy viagra online. Some posts were like hairballs that I just needed to get out of my system.

I also liked my running tips post, my post about dial tone moments, and my tips to protect your account security. I even got to pick on active.com for their Active Advantage membership program. I also enjoyed loosening up a little bit (“fuck Columbus Day”). It’s so much more fun to write when you don’t put as much pressure on yourself.

What didn’t go well? Well, I meant to do some journaling, short stories, and private writing, but somehow this challenge morphed into a public blogging exercise. That’s okay. I like that I wrote a bunch of new things. I still put too much emphasis on polish (or at least correct spelling/grammar) in my writing. Part of my goal was to lower my bar a little bit so that I could knock out a quick blog post whenever the mood strikes. I partly met that goal. Overall, I’m glad that I did this challenge.

30 day challenge: writing every day

For October 2014, my 30 day challenge was to write a compliment a day for my wife. I liked that challenge because it was a good chance to be thankful for my wife after 15 years of marriage. It’s all too easy to settle into a routine and take things (or people) for granted.

For November 2014, my 30 day challenge is going to be to write something every day. It’s been really cool to see Gina Trapani and Andy Baio and others blogging more often.

My goals are:
– it needs to be longer than a tweet.

– but putting out something short or rough is fine–even encouraged. Trying to polish essays until they’re shining gems is often what causes problems. I’d like to push a few thoughts out of the nest, even if some of them clumsily hop around on the ground because they’re not ready to fly yet.

– it doesn’t have to be on my blog or for public consumption. This isn’t a “do a blog post each day” challenge. Maybe I’ll do some journalling. Maybe I’ll play around with writing posts in Google Docs (it can be a hassle for me to upload pictures to my WordPress install in the way that I want).

– I’m not planning on writing about SEO, by the way. Plenty of other people do that. :)

I think that’s it. Oh, just so I can reconstruct things later: I didn’t do a 30 day challenge in September 2014. Sometimes it’s good just to take some time off.

30 day challenge for June: treadmill desk!

Okay, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. Let me tell you about the 30 day challenges I’ve been doing and what I learned:

March 2014: I went back to doing no external email, and I learned this one weird, simple trick that helped. In previous “no email” challenges, I relied on sheer force of will not to reply to email. That didn’t work so well. In March, I tried something different: I used Gmail filters to take outside email, add the label “march2014″, and then made the outside emails skip my inbox.

It turns out that getting those emails out of my default view was critical. A while ago when I was losing some weight, I noticed that small nudges could make things easier. Instead of leaving chips or snacks lying in plain sight, I tucked them away where I wouldn’t see them. The principle of “out of sight, out of mind” can really work for you! Even better was to skip buying certain snacks. In theory, I could get in the car and drive somewhere if I really wanted a treat, but in practice I rarely did.

Archiving email out of your inbox has the same effect. Now if I’m done with my internal work-related email, I might click through to check out the outside email at the end of the day, but it doesn’t sit right in front of me begging for a reply like it did before. I’ve kept up this practice after March.

April 2014: This is going to sound crazy, but I wanted to figure out how to make quirky eyebrow expressions (watch what Emilia Clarke can do with her eyebrows–it’s crazy!). Unfortunately, I only practiced in front of a mirror once or twice, so April was a total crash and burn. But so what? I still tried a couple times, and not every 30 day challenge has to be deep or meaningful. Fun is fine! Maybe I’ll circle back around to this one again down the road.

May 2014: My challenge for May was to get eight hours of sleep a night. I only hit that goal about half the nights. But I became much more aware of when I was trading off sleep for a meaningful activity, like getting up at 4 a.m. to drive to Vallejo for a triathlon. Or more often, I realized that I was trading off sleep to answer emails or surf the web. As a bonus 30 day challenge, I biked into work almost every day in May.

Which brings me to my 30 day challenge for June! In previous months, it would take me about three hours a day to battle email to a standstill, and I’ve also noticed that I end up surfing the web for at least a couple hours a day. All told, I spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer, which might not be the best for my health.

For June 2014, I’m going to try to convert some of that computer time to at least an hour a day with a treadmill desk. I have a treadmill at home and I slapped a couple plastic risers and a piece of plywood across it–instant treadmill desk! So the incremental cost was only like $20. I set the treadmill speed to one mile an hour, which is fast enough that my Fitbit can detect I’m walking, but slow enough that I can still think and work. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Is there any new habit or experiment you’d like to try for the next 30 days?

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