It feels like it’s been a while. Perhaps it has?? Things have been busy since I got back from South America. The summer is coming to a close and I’m gearing up to leave LA for a couple of months to (hopefully) reset and get some good work done on my dissertation. That being said, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make my life run a little smoother. I’ve been a bit anxious lately – my mediation practice has been off. It’s been hard for me to be present. I’ve really had to study myself and use the things that I learn to not feel as though I’m working against the grain.
What I realized in doing this was how much I actually know about myself and how little I actually apply that knowledge effectively. For years (almost 27!), I’ve been collecting data on myself. I know what activities I enjoy, how often, and the time of day that I prefer them. I know what foods I like to eat and how they make me feel. I know the environments in which I work best. Although I know these things, I often don’t take the time to think about how I can actually use this information to make life a little more pleasant.
For example, I know that although I am a morning person, I don’t actually like working on my project right when I wake up. I much prefer to take the hours of 6-9 for morning routine/personal care and then start academic work around 10. I also know that I will rarely work on one thing for more than two hours.
So if these are things that I know about myself, how can I then implement them into my day to make things run smoother? I don’t get all amped up and tell myself that I’m going to wake up, head straight to the coffeeshop, and work for five hours. Instead, I plan to give myself a few hours in the morning to organize myself and take care of tasks that will distract me from focusing on my work. Then I plan to be at the coffeeshop by 10. I’ll leave the coffeeshop around noon and then schedule the rest of the day’s activities after that point. By applying what I know about my habits and how I operate, I save myself the stress and guilt of not sticking with the overambitious plan that I’ve laid out for the day and can schedule my time more effectively.
I know that our abilities to “hack” our lives is limited. I’m very privileged in that I have a very liberal graduate student schedule and can often tailer my days to my preferences. Even if there are some aspects of your life/schedule that you can’t manipulate, understanding yourself will still prove useful. For example, if you’re working towards maintaining a healthier diet, be honest with yourself about what kinds of healthy foods you’re not into. Just because something is healthy and trendy (*cough cough* kale *cough cough*), you don’t have to like it. Don’t buy it in hopes of converting your taste buds. Instead focus your energy on identifying healthy foods that you do enjoy and finding fun ways to eat them. This way, you’re likely to stay on track with eating nutritious meals, you avoid wasting food that you buy and don’t actually want, and you avoid any guilt that you might experience for not enjoying something that the media health gods tell you that you “should” like.
Ultimately, I’m advocating that we all take some time to actively collect a little data on ourselves. Most of us already have the info stored somewhere. It’s just a matter of downloading it and actually implementing it into our lives in order to live better. Here are a few examples of the “data” I’ve gathered on myself that has proven really useful in relation to work, health, and fitness.
I work well in short intervals of intense focus. This is true for me both in relation to physical exercise and academic work (hence, my loyalty to HITT training and the pomodoro method).
I respond well to lists and concrete tasks. I start every day with a list of specific things that I would like to accomplish. I often make new lists at different points in the day to refocus myself. I get immense satisfaction from crossing items off the list at the end of the day.
My days are generally more focused when I start them with a short meditation. My morning meditation practice has become near and dear to my heart. Why? Because I can see the difference that it makes it my day. If you’re looking to start meditating or give your current practice a little boost, check out this post on some of my favorite free meditation apps.
What do you know about yourself and how could you better apply it to customize your life?