I have been reminded lately of the value of setting a timer when I really want to get something done. Guys like Chris Winfield have been talking about dedicated time blocks (he calls them Pomodoro’s) for some time. I have been setting a timer with Alexa every day while doing Morning Pages. The benefits of a timer include:
- Truth. Over many sessions of writing three pages for Morning Pages I know that a focused session without distractions is between 18-20 minutes. So if I set a timer for 20 minutes I should be able to get it done. When the timer goes off before 3 pages it is likely because I indulged in ratholes, picked up my phone, or daydreamed. Without the timer, I can tell myself the story that I did morning pages just fine, but the reality is likely that I took many detours. With the timer, I am far more truthful with myself about my productivity.
- Permission to focus. When I am freezing myself in a cryotherapy session, knowing there is a 3-minute timer gives me the permission to endure any pain that comes my way. I tell myself “I can do anything for three minutes!”. And I do. Because I know there is a timer. Try doing Cryo without a timer. 10X more difficult. Same thing with Morning Pages. When I know the timer is on, I say to myself, “this is my 20 minutes to do Morning Pages, any distractions that come up I can deal with after the 20 minutes, I have the rest of the day for the distractions.”
- Permission to delay impulses. The flipside of permission to focus is the permission to allow yourself to put off random thoughts that come into my mind. I know this time under the timer is dedicated to one thing. The next time block I have can be for the other things. There is time for all. Unless I never get anything done and then it all stacks up. It seems that sometimes my ego would rather have a very long list of tasks and never get anything done because then it can feel important. It would rather I indulge partially every impulse that comes along. But my human mind, my conscious mind, understands that growth, learning, progress, only come with checking things off the list. With completing one thing and moving on to the next thing. So give yourself permission to delay gratification on certain things so you can gain gratification on the thing you are supposed to do now.
In college, studying philosophy was an excruciating exercise in memorization and focus on minutia between different schools of philosophy. It seemed very dry and very dead. The idea that all of these different schools were trying to get at the same thing; how to live life well and what that means was totally lost on me. That is often a failing of the industrial-academic approach to teaching something. I have found it easier to learn something when I have a practical problem in search of a solution. So it has been lately for me with philosophy and I am glad for that perspective. Here are a few practical real life problems for which I have found solutions in no small part from philosophy and especially Stoic philosophy:
I have got to admit I am a big fan of this Pope. Very early in his papacy he was asked why he wasn’t talking about traditionally thorny issues like abortion, priest abuse and gays in the church. He replied ” who am I to judge?” Many were stunned. Isn’t the Pope the one who judges us here on earth? Actually no. Only god judges in the end. This pope has really focused on being humble (very Jesuit trait) and helping others. His talk focuses on reminding us all of our common humanity in a time of extreme divisions. While spiritual it is not a “Catholic” ideological pitch. It is reminding us of universal truths and the value of kindness, humility and our common human journey. Very timely and useful.
Ok so spring has arrived and with it my allergies and chronic sinus infections. I had the “Rotar rooter” surgery about 15 years ago which took care of the problem for about 10 years but now they are back with a vengeance. My ENT friend has been helping me but along the traditional path which addresses the symptoms not the cause. My Chronic sinus infections were caused by inflammation from alergies that constricts the airways and encourages bacterial growth. Surgery makes the air ways larger but that just gives the inflammation more room. The inflamation is still there, my immune system is still fighting. I am still loosing energy. This time I decided to deal with the inflammation and called my friend dave asprey who sent me his sinus hack!
I had been using a mechanical neti pot with saline water to irrigate and expell the mucus. While that helped relieve congestion it didn’t do anything for the actual inflammation nor did it get the whole sinus passage down the back of the throat. Daves method adds anti inflammatory and anti bacterial compounds (colilidial Silver, iodine, xylitol) to the mix to kill bacteria and reduce inflamation. And by sucking it up though your nose like a dippy bird and spitting it out your mouth it gets the whole passage. Two days of 3x per day of this method and my sinuses are clear and I can feel the inflamation way down. I can breathe at night. I am canceling the surgery.
Best. Sinus hack. Ever.
I have been thinking quite a bit lately about the temporary nature of everything in our lives. Then I found these questions from Echart Tolle today. Whenever you have something in your life that you think is “you” or that you just can’t give up. Ask these questions. Don’t respond immediately with what the ego wants to say to defend itself. Just sit with the questions. Feel the for the answers rather than trying to think through them.
– Do you realize that you will have to let go of Xxxx at some point, perhaps quite soon?
– How much more time do you need before you are ready to let go of it?
– Will you become less if you when you let go of it ?
– Has who YOU ARE become diminished by the loss?
i have posted this Epicutus quite before but I can remind myself enough of it. How protective are we of our physical security while being quite lax in our mental security. We will let social media or negative thoughts about others overwhelm the consciousness far too often. Distractions pull me into a spiral without much conscious decision. Like internet clicks. Anothe link.
Remember the only thing that you have full control over is your mind. My next decision. Do not cede that freedom lightly. Recognize when you have ceded it and reflect.
The Stoics say that the only thing that is truly ours is our agency to make a decision. To decide how to react in a situation. We can’t control anything outside ourselves, but we can control our reactions and decisions. That has been very important advice to me.
But what if our decisions are tainted? Do we always have the right information to make the best decisions? Dan Ariely has been studying how people make decisions, specifically in a commerce setting, and has found that how the options are presented has a profound impact on the decisions people make. As a result of this talk, I have added a new guideline to my own “How I make decisions” list. If you are making decisions and are presented by someone else with the options in that decision, always ask yourself “Is there a third way?” or “Are there other choices for this decision which are not here?”. Otherwise you are handing most of the agency for that decision over to the person who designed the question. Don’t do that.
Ok, so this is not a TED talk. It is a commencement speech from Kenyon college. And a very good one. Since I am touring colleges with my junior now, I am considering what to say to her as she goes off to college. It occurs to me that many of the commencement speech contents after the fact may be relevant prior to entry into college. This one is exceedingly appropriate.