or... how I make my brain work more gooder*.
I've been known to fight foggy brain from time to time. You know what I mean? That decidedly uncool feeling of "can't do crap, too tired and dumb" that only seems to creep in when the to do list is longer than my ... um ... arm. Lately, though that feeling has struck me less and less often and I think I know why. I've lately zeroed - in on the right set of habits for me. Every now and again, I'll pick one of the topics below and write a short post expanding the topic. For now, though, just a list of things that work for me.
1. Maintenance (or, as I like to call it, "Entropy Reversal")
- Sleep, I need more than I think. Staying up to work has too many negative consequences. I don't do it as often as I did before.
- Breakfast. Seriously. I usually Eat lots of carbs one morning and lots of protein the next.
- Maybe meat isn't murder, but it can mess me up.
- Water is boring, but damn, I'm so pretty when I drink a lot.
- Vitamins and other stuff best left in the bathroom
- Multivitamin. Pick one, it doesn't matter.
- 5-HTP (supposedly keeps seratonin levels up)
- B vitamins (Because I don't eat much meat)
- Vitamin E (skin)
- Cod Liver Oil (Vitamins A + D because I don't get much sun)
- Amino Acids + L vitamins (Not sure if this is the placebo effect talking, but I think I get fewer cold sores and my muscles recover faster). I get this stuff in a spray because (probably placebo effect talking again) apparently these break down too fast to ingest in a pill.
- Acai and Yerba-maté tea. Less jittery than coffee, it otherwise snaps one out of it in a hurry.
2. Distractions help me concentrate (or, how I get more ADD the older I get, but still get stuff done somehow).
When I work on something that consumes me, I can ignore most anything that isn't itself too interesting. Somehow, having something distraction in the background helps me to concentrate. When my concentration wanes, I can return to the task at hand more quickly if I context - switch to some defined low - level distraction. In short, I set distracting traps for myself that I know I can pull out of so I don't get distracted by something else that might consume hours.
- TV or music I can ignore runs in the background almost all day. The ROKU box that streams Netflix is loaded with BBC TV and crappy '80s TV shows.
- Twitter. Freaking great. I can ignore it, or not, as I wish and it keeps me up on what the nerds are up to.
- IM. Dangerous, but occasionally just what the doctor ordered. Opened in moderation.
- Puppy! Throwing a ball at a 4-legged fuzzy thing is not just a great way to get out of the house, it's a great way to kill 10 minutes (and break things in your house, too). Oh, and sometimes she has to pee so I reset my brain when I take her outside.
3. Best. Workouts. Evar.
(Wherein I plug an awesome virtual workout partner). Tony Horton RULES.
You see, I hate (HATE) working out where people can see me. I'm in good shape, but I get embarrassed easily. I MUST workout or my brain really stops working over time. This leaves me with working out in my home. I have the Bowflex SelectTech (Meh. They're okay, but too much crap hangs off of them, which makes them too wide sometimes) dumbbells and a whole drawer full of resistance bands. I loves me some resistance bands. Add the following workout DVDs and I never get bored working out.
Tony Horton Workouts I have:
- I have done the three-month P90X routine once (and will do it again soon). I know you've seen the cheesy infomercial about "muscle confusion." It's real, boys and girls. No kidding. I use the workouts from this program as my core (pun intended) group.
- One on One with Tony Horton. He's a personal trainer for dudes like Sting for a reason, somehow motivational without being annoying (or making you feel like a weak pansy). His 45 minute yoga vid rocks. Oh, and he's FUNNY. I get a new one of these automatically sent to me every month.
- P90X+ (ouch). If you're not in seriously good shape, stay away from this, especially the abdominal video. Otherwise, these are like shorter, but even more intense, versions of P90X. I love to throw these in to mix things up. The interval training video is a favorite of mine.
4. Micro - Priorities and how they don't so much work for me (or, Macro - Priorities and how they do so much work for me).
I do a whole lot of different kinds of things in a given day, otherwise I get bored and lose motivation. I have also learned that fighting frustration makes me more frustrated. It's better to change focus away from and then back to something frustrating rather than bang my head against it. How do I get anything at all long-term done? I follow the following system. It consists of two large clipboards of roughly unfolded newspaper size (bought from an art supply store) on which I place 8.5x11" pieces of paper adhered with restickable adhesive; think post-it note adhesive in a glue stick, you'll find it at office supply stores (made by 3M). Each big piece of paper is host to one project or category and each project or category is broken into tiny (tiny!) steps that I put on little individual post-it notes. Sometimes these post-it notes are layers and layers deep. I transfer these post-it notes to the "chin" of my 24" iMac or to the wrist rest on my laptop in batches of 5 or so at a time. Every time I finish a step, I put a big X on the post-it note and make a nice satisfying pile of "stuff I did today."
When I'm following this system the way I like to follow it, I keep around 5 to 10 different items of varying degrees of difficulty and varying required lengths of time (rarely does a note take more than a couple of hours) in front of me at all times. The cool thing about this is that I can put the most important stuff where I'll see it. I can chip away at a random mountain of work this way really well. Easy to handle, little items can be thrown in the pile occasionally. They act as mini distractions that I can do quickly when something that takes longer causes frustration.
You might notice that this is a particularly analog way for a technology guy to do things and you would be right. I haven't yet found anything that comes close to restickable paper scraps among the various techie tools I've tried to use for organization. I do often use trac to prioritize bugs in various software projects and I sometimes use it as a place to put long-term items for myself. I'm able to start a new trac instance fairly quickly, and it's a great collaborative to do list.
That's how I do the stuff I do in a nutshell. In a vacuum, it's probably pretty inefficient, but it fits my personality better than anything else I've tried. It's all the result of 15 years of varying levels of introspection about how to get stuff done (43 folders people will see some of their favorite things up there, I think) while compensating for my own weaknesses and accentuating my strengths. Many portions of the above warrant a blog post all their own, but this little distraction has been perfect to reset my brain to go back to something I was working on earlier from a fresh perspective. ...and so it goes.
* One of my favorite people, Ronald L. Huber, English Teacher (with capitals appropriately deployed) former gunship pilot, and good buddy taught me how to use such phrases such as "I've always said that sometimes," "much more gooder," "perceptions are the way they are, even when they're not that way" in everyday conversation. When my English done broke, he fixed it up good. Hi Ron.