To sleep, perchance to be productive

Thirty days into our Life Reboot project, and it’s time for the first check-in. When I embarked on this revised version of the project, I was hoping it could serve as an engine to bring me closer to various long-term personal goals. Has that been the case? It’s too early to tell; even so, some readjustments might already be needed.

But first, our point-by-point evaluation:

Goals:

  • Be fluent in French

Score: 3/5

I’ve gotten at least thirty minutes in every day, but my efforts so far haven’t been as focused as I’d hoped. Most of those thirty minutes are spent on vocabulary improvement, with usage practice and a new grammar lesson roughly every couple of days. Right now, though, my competence skews too much towards reading/writing, and speaking/listening lag far behind. I’ve got podcasts, TV shows, audio exercises, etc. to help with that, so I’ll try to fit more of those into the learning plan for the coming month.

  • Sharpen coding skills

Score: 2.5/5

I’ve knocked out a few good, if basic, programs in Python, but that’s balanced out by my failure to work on a new coding project for all of the past week. Since I’m still at the beginner to early-intermediate level, these concepts need to be put into practice more frequently for them to stick, so I need to get back on schedule.

  • Sleep better

Score: A big, fat zero.

Maybe that’s a little harsh; there have been some days when I went to bed at a reasonable hour and got quality sleep. Those, however, pale in comparison to the tally of terrible nights I’ve had — lately I’ve even got an exhausting little streak going, where I can’t seem to sleep any earlier than 3 AM. Everything from my energy levels to mental health has taken a hit, so this needs to be fixed ASAP. The anxiety in particular has become a constant low hum in the back of my head, and I’ve been on edge nonstop these past two weeks. This means everything from vise-like clenched jaws to the utter inability to focus.

It’s very tempting to beat myself up over allowing this cycle to start, but what’s done is done. I’m trying to focus more on being patient with myself, taking small steps to nudge me back to a more stable sleeping schedule while also allowing for some time to get through this erratic cycle. Adjusting my pre-sleep activities is key, plus I’m trying my best to turn the lights off early and meditate to calm my racing thoughts.

  • Exercise more

Score: 4/5

Pretty good streak here. Aside from a few postponed yoga days and today’s break in the C25K schedule, I’ve been doing well. I’ve finished the first day of C25K Week 7 already, which means I’m back to running at least a full 25 minutes in one go again. Still not confident or comfortable with my Week 7 performance, so I’ll probably run the set twice before progressing to Week 8.

Considering the consistent effort here, I think it might be reasonable to shed the perfectionist lens for a bit and curve to a 5/5.

  • Eat better

Score: 2/5

Anxiety’s tendrils extend here, where I haven’t quite descended to the absolute pits of my capacity to stress-eat, but I’m not in a very good place either. Lately I’ve just been trying to make good choices as often as I can, and to be patient with those instances (of which there are many, make no mistake) when I don’t. These plans, after all, are long-term; what’s most important is to keep trying to stay on course. My health has been as erratic as my sleeping patterns (not a coincidence), but hopefully improvement in the latter will make it easier to amp up and sustain improvements in the former.

  • Write more

Score: 2/5

The goal was to write a post a week, at least. WordPress’ post calendar says I’ve missed two out of the six weeks it’s been since the Life Reboot: Revision post — not great, but not as far off the mark as I’d thought. I’ve also been writing (in private) a bit more. So maybe we can bump this up a little to 2.5/5. The problem here is the lack of consistency, which is what the coming month will try to correct. We’re trying to instill habits, after all.

  • Read more

Score: 3/5

Reading time is inversely proportional to the degree of my anxiety. Since the latter’s been rising these past couple of weeks, you can imagine the drop in page time. The goal was a book a week, and that hasn’t happened. Moving forward, I’m going with the “Quick Wins” plan to get my reading rhythm back: going with short reads (an average length of 200-250 pages per book) that I can finish quickly, and using the sense of accomplishment to propel me through  the next book.

Which brings us to a total of 18/35 for our first month — around 51%

Now, the big question: Am I trying to do too much?

It certainly feels like it. Between work, family matters, and these goals, I’m often strapped for time. These seem to be far too many things to do daily; most of the time, I have to choose which goal-related tasks I can fit into each day, because doing them all is impossible. It’s unreasonable to expect a seamless jump from one task to the next. Accomplishing these tasks isn’t as easy as ticking off list items. Each activity takes time, and not all of my time is fungible or easily lent to these tasks.

This is also why consistency has been such a problem. Forced to pick which tasks are doable on certain days, maintaining a daily streak for all these goals becomes impossible. This isn’t surprising; one thing I’ve learned about my personality is that I tend to set impossibly high bars and often beat myself up for failing to clear all of them with ease. Or, you know, to put it more succinctly: biting off way more than I can possibly chew is a bad habit, and that’s made more clear by this past month of life-rebooting.

So, perhaps, a re-calibration of expectations and priorities.

I know for a fact that I can’t do all of these things every single day, not unless I devote my time and efforts exclusively to these goals (and maybe not even then). That eliminates one bar off the bat: I can’t demand myself to make a daily habit out of all these tasks. The challenge now is to readjust schedules in a way that progress doesn’t suffer, but which doesn’t sacrifice real progress at the altar of ideal results either.

Right now, learning French and reading (certain books) are most relevant to my top long-term goals. Sleep, food, and exercise, however, determine my ability to even pursue any goals. Specifically: problems with sleep have messed with my capacity to keep up all of these habits, so that comes first. Hopefully everything else follows after that.

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