Thanks for checking out the Weekly Learning Roundup.
This week I was in London, UK, for a friend’s wedding and to visit my sister. London is a beautiful city with so many interesting boroughs that you can easily spend a full day in. I was also blown away by how well they’ve integrated green spaces and parks into the city – something cities (like Toronto) can learn from.
I also had a chance to visit the London branch of The School of Life. I love their focus on developing emotionally intelligence and their store was full of interesting personal development resources.
It’s another motley assortment of tips, resources, and links that will hopefully give you a bit of inspiration for the upcoming week. Enjoy!
We’re at our best when we can create something to share with the world. Overcoming the fear and status quo has many benefits; Neil reminds us to forget about the outcome and experience the process of creating something you believe in.
A quote that’s inspiring me —
The man who has anticipated the coming of troubles takes away their power when they arrive.
“ah-ha!” thought of the week —
Use tools for their intended purpose.
We hear more these days about the negative impacts of tools like our smart phones. They distract us, reduce our ability to focus, and even impact the quality of the relationships with people around us.
Paradoxically, one of the reasons why tools like the smart phone is reducing our ability to focus is because of how versatile it is. On the surface it’s nice to have a device that can do many different things. But when you start adding things like news, music, podcasts, the web, email, messaging, etc. etc. you can easily get lost in this labyrinth of stuff.
This can’t be good for our (easily distracted) brains.
I suggest that we shift our thinking with each device that we own and use it for its intended purpose. A phone is a communication device so it should strictly be used for that purpose – calling, texting, and emailing. For entertainment or informational purposes, use your computer, tv, or some other device. Just don’t mix up the intended purpose; our brains love distraction and the dopamine hit – prevent it from being a click away by keeping your phone clear from these non-essentials.
Moves is an app that shows you all the places you visited during the day along with a step and distance count.
I found it really interesting while I’ve been traveling over the past couple of weeks to see where I’ve been. It’s a nice little recap of my travels and helpful for orienting myself especially in a foreign country.
The bad news is that it uses up quite a bit of battery. My iPhone SE barely made it through the day with Moves running in the background.
Really nice piece outlining key strategies for learning. I love their suggestions around improving the quality of practice, leveraging the “diffused” brain mode for learning, and putting something on the line by testing yourself.
A quote that’s inspiring me —
Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When you don’t know what habor you’re aiming for, no wind is the right wind.
“ah-ha!” thought of the week —
Ask your doctor for your health data.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to my doctor for my yearly physical and got my blood work done. As part of the process, I also made sure I also got a copy of the test results from Life Labs and put the data points into a Google Sheet for future reference.
More labs are providing test results directly to the patient and this is great news. As patients, we get to take greater control of our own health and monitor them. Especially since many MDs are often short on time, nutritional knowledge, and resources to provide sustainable advice for lifestyle changes.
So being able to track your data, at a minimum, will help inform you on where your health is headed. If you’re looking to take your health to the next level, this data can be extremely handy in improving your health with a naturopath or a nutritionist in the future (which is something I’m doing currently).
Speaking of tracking my health, I just recently purchased the Fitbit Aria smart scale and I’ve been loving it. I’ve been using an analog scale for the last few years and it was useful, but the Aria takes it to another level. It tracks weight, body fat, lean mass, and your BMI. As someone who wants to reduce body fat but maintain lean mass through nutrition and fitness, having a tool like this is extremely valuable.
Aside from the Aria, there are some great options out like the Withings scale that measure more things like bone mass and water. I liked the Aria option as it connects natively with my Fitbit app.
I really like how this article breaks down what active listening really means. Personally, I find myself too often thinking about what I want to say next instead of truly listening to the person I’m talking with. As the article suggests, real conversations happen when you’re not colouring the things your conversation partner is saying but understanding the heart of what they’re saying and connecting with it.
Naval Ravikant is a highly successful angel investor and someone who loves to learn and grow. This podcast episode from The Knowledge Project (via Farnam Street) goes into Naval’s life philosophy. For a guy who has had so much success in Silicon Valley, it’s amazing how down to earth he is and content he seems with blazing his own path to happiness.
A quote that’s inspiring me —
It’s never the changes we want that change everything.
— Junot Diaz
“ah-ha!” thought of the week —
Manage your energy – not your time.
Something that I’ve been feeling increasingly constraining is this idea of “time management”. Don’t get me wrong, managing your time is a critical skill to develop for focus and productivity. But if time management becomes your one and only objective, you may be missing out on your true potential.
We all have different times of the day when we feel energized, creative, or tired. Trying to power through hours of your day that you usually feel tired might leave your full potential untapped. (And that second, third, or fourth cup of coffee isn’t going to help in the long run).
Developing an awareness of your energy and doing the right things at the right time can make a difference. If you feel like you’re running out of gas late in the morning, maybe go take a walk. Or if you’re feeling lethargic in the early afternoon, maybe go take a nap (if you have a place to) or find a colleague to chat up so you feel more energized.
Personally, I try my best to be a robot to “be productive” during all hours of the day – especially from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. But I’m not a robot. I’m human. And acknowledging that and respecting my energy throughout the day can help me be more productive and satisfied in the long run.
This short, practical book examines the rise of fascism and communism in the 20th century and what we can learn from them. With the increasingly ridiculed press to election hacking to fear mongering about the “others”, there is no more important time for regular citizens like ourselves to get involved and preserve our democratic rights. If it can happen in the United States, it can happen anywhere else in the world.
A quote that’s inspiring me —
What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.
Activated charcoal has been used for thousands of years in ayuverdic medicine. It works by attracting positively charged toxins to help with detoxification of your gut. I take one or two Upgraded Coconut Charcoal from Bulletproof in situations where I know I may be eating some suspect food or when I’m going to be drinking some alcohol. It’s not meant to be taken on a regular basis but when you know you’ll be eating some lower quality food than you’re used to.
As always, please make sure to consult your doctor before you add supplements that you haven’t tried before!
Well written, well researched piece on relationships. The author does a great job simplifying the keys to a great relationship – and they’re all fairly simple in theory. In particular, “express appreciation frequently” and “support your partner’s goals” are two secrets that I need to work on.
A quote that’s inspiring me —
It is a simple matter of what you will do when the chips are down, my friend. When the fat lady is singing. When the walls are falling in, and the sky is dark, and the ground is rumbling. In that moment our actions will define us. And it makes no difference whether you are being watched by Allah, Jesus, Buddha, or whether you are not. On cold days a man can see his breath, on a hot day he can’t. On both occasions, the man breathes.
— Zadie Smith
“ah-ha!” thought of the week —
Keep your phone off your desk.
An easy way to increase your focus during the day is removing distractions from your immediate area. And one of the easiest ways to be distracted is by your phone. Let’s say you see a text come into your phone and you take 2 minutes to send a response. While it might seem like a 2-minute pause, the actual cost needs to include the time it takes for your brain to get back on task, which takes, according to a study, is upwards of 25 minutes.
If possible, keep your phone off your desk. Yes, disabling notifications is good but putting the phone away from your casual reach is way better.
I highlighted Inbox by Gmail back in the February 28 Roundup but it’s worth bringing it back again for another review because they’ve made some key improvements that I love.
First, the Bundles feature has really made my life easier. Not only can I now categorize emails based on Social, Updates, Promos, etc., I’m able to bring them into my inbox just once in the morning to review. I don’t need to keep tabs on these categories multiple times a day and knowing they’ll arrive once in the morning at 7 a.m. makes it easier to stay focused on the right emails.
Second, the Trips category in the bundles is amazing. It not only automatically recognizes when I’m going on a trip through flight or hotel confirmations, but I can also add certain emails to the specific Trip if it’s missing. This is really helpful when I’m on the fly and need to access certain information right in my email. (I’ve used tools like Trip Case which are also great but I love the convenience of this information right in my inbox better).
Quarterly reviews are designed for me to take a moment to reflect on the past three months. I review the data that I collected from my sleep, morning routine, daily questions, health, and productivity to identify trends or insights. The awareness that I gain from reviewing the data allows me to make meaningful changes in my life.
So often we spend so much time “doing” that we gloss over a critical part of personal growth – review and reflection. This is my attempt to build in some reflection time so I can make the next quarter even more productive and fulfilling.
Sleep is the lead domino for my productivity during the day. Without proper sleep, it is difficult to stay focused throughout the work day and have enough energy for friends and loved ones at the end of the day.
I use my Fitbit Charge HR to track my sleep. While I didn’t track my sleep while I was on vacation in March/April, I collected enough data to pull some interesting insights. The two major components I’ll analyze from my sleep is time (quantity) and efficiency (quality).
Q1 average: 7.96 hours
Q2 average: 7.48 hours (-6.03% vs. Q1 average)
As the chart above shows, my sleep time fell across all three months of Q2. The Q1 average sleep time of 7.96, compared to the Q2 average of 7.48, equates to 0.48 hours less sleep which equates to about 29 minutes less sleep on average.
There are a lot of factors that contribute to sleep time but I think there were two major factors from Q2. First, starting in mid-April I began to wake-up between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. to accommodate more time for my morning routine. Second, it’s possible that when daylight savings time shifted here in Toronto in mid-March, the greater amount of sunlight contributed to my body needing less sleep. I generally notice during the summer months that I don’t need to sleep as much.
Sleep efficiency = (100*Total Sleep Time)/(Total Sleep Time + Time Awake)
Q1 baseline: 95.52
February: 95.56 (+4 points vs. Q1 baseline)
March: 96.10 (+58 points vs. Q1 baseline)
April: 96.35 (+83 points vs. Q1 baseline)
Sleep efficiency took a significant leap in March and April. Compared to the baseline from Q1, March and April saw a 58 point and 83 point improvement, respectively.
While there’s a myriad of possible reasons for this improvement, one potential factor is the magnesium supplementation I started in early March. One study that examined the impact between magnesium and sleep quality showed a very high correlation between magnesium supplementation and increased sleep quality. It’s likely that I was somewhat deficient in magnesium and the supplementation of 450mg of magnesium citrate made a big difference in my sleep quality.
Important note: I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on the internet so please make sure to check with your physician to see if magnesium supplementation is right for you.
So far in Q3, I’ve seen this trend continue along with the same supplementation amount which suggests that it’s a sustainable change for my body. However, I’ll be monitoring carefully on how I feel in the morning to see if my body can sustain this level of sleep time and sleep efficiency.
My Q2 morning routine consisted of meditation, journaling, a quick workout, reading, and researching & writing for my blog. Below are the daily completion rates over Q2.
Aside from meditation, it’s pretty clear that my Q2 morning routine took a hit. Across the board, most of my habits decreased significantly in their completion rates. Particularly troubling is the reading habit that was down by 40% as reading is a critical component of my personal and professional growth.
There’s probably a couple of factors here that contributed to the dip in Q2. First, in March, I was pretty busy preparing for the trip to Japan and wrapping up my work in time. That likely contributed to the significant dip in my morning routine being completed. Second, after a really strong start to the year in January, my consistency took a hit in February and really cratered in March. That’s the thing about these types of routines: it’s not how strong you start – it’s how consistent you can be across a long period of time.
It makes me realize the importance of mixing things up in my morning and keeping things fun. I think that’s why April was such a big bounce-back month. I hadn’t been doing my morning routine for almost 3 weeks and it was fun to get back into it. I need to think about incorporating strategic routine breaks in the middle of each quarter so I can come back feeling refreshed to go back to my routine.
Daily Questions are five questions I ask myself at the end of the day to gauge the effort I put into my key priorities. I came across this idea in the book Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith which I highly recommend reading.
I rate myself on a scale of 1 to 4 on how much of an effort I put into fulfilling each question. The objective of the questions is to measure my effort (i.e. input) rather than the outcomes (i.e. output) because my effort is something I control. When I know I put in the investment and time into fulfilling each question, I can feel like I did what I can do. As such, each question begins with the phrase “Did I do my best to…?”
Here are the questions that I asked myself everyday over the past quarter:
Did I do my best to…
Make progress towards my objectives at Actionable today?
Invest in my friendships today?
Invest in my relationship with Carly today?
Invest in my physical health today?
Invest in my emotional health today?
It’s nice to see a steady rise in the month-by-month average of my daily question scores. A big change that I saw in Q2 was the increase in Question #1, “Did I do my best to make progress towards my objectives at Actionable today?”
Ever since I picked up the Productivity Planner by Intelligent Change it’s been a game-changer for me when it comes to my work productivity. The structure and process of the planner make it really easy to set my daily goals and track my progress. They’ve also done a great job of outlining the weekly reviews which make it easy to recalibrate projects for the following week. Honestly, I can’t go without it now and it’s a big reason Question #1 has significantly improved in Q2.
One area that I’d like to focus more closely in the coming months is Question #2 – “Did I do my best to invest in my friendships today?” I really enjoy company with friends but I also really enjoy my alone time. It’s an area that I could use some help finding the right balance. It could mean more catch ups over the phone instead of going out. It’s worth exploring because friendships are a priority in my life.
The Health section of my Quarterly Review is still a work in progress. At the moment, I’m collecting data on my average resting heart rate (RHR) and the number of capoeira classes I go to every month.
According to the National Institute of Health, the average resting heart rate (RHR) for adults is 60-100 beats per minute. For well-trained athletes, that range falls between 40-60 beats per minute. A lower RHR generally means that your heart is able to pump more blood with each beat with greater efficiency and is a sign of good health.
That’s one of the reasons why I’m using my Fitbit to track my RHR. By taking a look at my RHR on a monthly basis, I might be able to spot any potential issues that might be happening to my body early on.
Resting Heart Rate (bpm)
I’m not exactly sure why my heart rate dropped by over 2 beats per minute between February and March. It could be because of an increase in my fitness level or perhaps the better quality of sleep I started having in March. I’ve seen the average resting heart rate continue at the 60 bpm level into Q3 which suggests this is a sustainable change.
Another significant component of my physical health comes from practicing capoeira on a weekly basis. Below shows how many capoeira classes I attended in Q2.
Q2 wasn’t exactly where I wanted to get my capoeira class attendance level to. My objective is to make it to a minimum of 8 classes per month which is a goal I fell short of each month. That being said, being away for a few weeks in March and April definitely threw my rhythm off a little bit. And momentum matters in something like capoeira where techniques learned in one class need to be practiced in subsequent classes to be learned and perfected.
I collect my productivity data with RescueTime (RT). RT tracks my daily online and offline activity and categorizes them on a scale of very distracting to neutral to very productive. It also calculates a Productivity Pulse that indicates how productive my day was based on the ratio of productive hours to total hours worked.
Q1 baseline: 77.7
February: 79.0 (+1.67%)
March: 78.1 (+0.51%)
April: 87.1 (+12.10%)
As you can see, there were improvements across Q2 with my Productivity Pulse. February and March were both fairly consistent while April saw a significant increase. This was in part due to a change in the categorization of productive activity in RT. As you can see in the Productive Time vs. Total Time Logged below, the Productive Time for April increased by 0.7 hours compared to February and March.
The difference between Total Time Logged and Productive Time is very interesting. In an ideal world, the entire workday is “productive” but it’s a big challenge to maintain focus throughout the day. So seeing this gap helps me see how productive my day really is and areas that I can potentially improve.
For example, what do I do for the average of 1.3 hours a day that aren’t classified as Productive Time? How can I better understand my habits and unconscious routines so I can reduce that gap? Do I generally “max out” at ~5 hours of “productive time” each day?
Although I may work an average of 6.2 hours per day, my productive time is 4.57 hours per day. That means that there are certain activities or hours that really drive the productivity of my day. So making sure I take advantage of that time is crucial in making sure I get the most out of my day.
In Q2, I’ve been experimenting with a new tool called The Productivity Planner that helps me map out the most important task to get done everyday and use the Pomodoro Method to get it done. It’s already paid big dividends for me and I’m excited to see what the aggregate impact for Q2 will look like.
Learnings from Q2
All in all, here were some of my key learnings from Q2 that I plan to apply in Q3.
Begin to craft out a strategy for improving and expanding this blog to reach more people.
Continue to track consistently in Q3. Leverage the law of large numbers to identify baselines and trends.
Continue to supplement my diet with 450mg of magnesium citrate to ensure higher sleep quality.
Adjust my sleep schedule to fit my chronotype. Based on data collected over the past 6 months, my body naturally goes to sleep around 10:40 – 11 p.m. and wakes up around 6:30 – 7:00 a.m.
Find ways to keep my morning routine fresh. Add a different exercise to my morning workout, try a different type of coffee, switch up the order of the routine, etc.
Plan out a strategic break (e.g. a weekend away) from the morning routine in the middle of the next quarter.
Experiment with a morning routine that matches my sleep chronotype. Start the day with a quick workout and cool shower.
Don’t put so much pressure on my morning routine. Consider cutting it down a little bit and shifting some aspects to other parts of the day.
Experiment with a different time for my research/writing for my blog. Evening writing could work out better.
Create a strategy to make it to 8 capoeira classes each month and make that my baseline.
Visit my Family Doctor to do my yearly physical.
Visit a Naturopathic Doctor to gather more data about my health.
Invest in a smart scale to track data such as weight, body mass index, lean mass, and body fat percentage.
Ensure I still hit at least 7.5 hours of sleep each night. Even with a higher sleep efficiency, 7.5 hours is what my body still seems to need.
Continue to use the Productivity Planner to prioritize my most important tasks each day.
Lots of valuable gems in here for anyone in a relationship (or looking to be in one). The first point “Letting Some Conflicts Go Unresolved” is a counter intuitive one. In his research of thousands of happily married couples, John Gottman (who’s basically the godfather of relationship research) highlights that “the idea that couples must communicate and resolve all their problems is a myth”. There will always be persistent disagreements and annoyances; it’s the couples that can let go of them that do the best in the long term.
An incredibly well-told chronicle of the gene. From the original discovery of the gene by an obscure German scientist to the DNA double helix by Watson and Crick to the current possibilities of gene editing, this is a fascinating look at the most important building block of all living things. There are massive implications in this book on the future of humanity. It’s a hefty read but worth the exploration.
A quote that’s inspiring me —
Finding your passion isn’t just about careers and money. It’s about finding your authentic self. The one you’ve buried beneath other people’s needs.
In a previous Weekly Learnings post, I highlighted the impact that magnesium supplementation has had on my health and particularly my sleep. (In an upcoming post, I’ll share how my sleep efficiency increased by 83% likely due to adding 450mg of magnesium to my diet). Webber Naturals is the one that’s been working for me but there are a lot of quality options for magnesium citrate that are affordable. Make sure you add it to hot water so it dissolves properly and dulls the strong berry flavour.