Want to live to 100? Well, check out what folks in the “Blue Zones” (i.e. regions in the world with the highest concentration of centenarians) are eating. In a way, it’s the best science that we can find around diets that actually work.
Here’s what they do:
Eat until you’re 80% full.
Make your largest meal of the day either breakfast or lunch.
Eat mostly plants and eat meat rarely (i.e. once a week)
Drink alcohol moderately (i.e. 1-2 glasses a day)
Props to my friend Janice Sousa for sharing this article!
Startup founder, Diana Lovett, opens up about her challenges with balancing the life of a founder and a mother. It’s an honest, emotional conversation between her and executive coach Jerry Colona as they talk through what’s really at the heart of her challenge with the balancing act.
A quote that’s inspiring me —
We often think that insecurity comes from a weak ego, but in my experience it is the result of an inflexible ego that has mistaken itself as the center of the universe, which keeps contradicting it on this key point.
— Shozan Jack Haubner
“ah-ha!” thought of the week —
Start with fun.
Having fun makes a lot of things easier. I remember as a kid that I hated taking piano lessons because my teacher was a horrible stickler. I think I ended up crying for most of the lessons that I took.
Even as adults, knowing the benefits of activities like exercise, we still have a hard time getting out and going to the gym. What’s the missing ingredient? I think it’s fun.
Fun can come in many shapes and forms. You might enjoy team sports over lifting weights. Or being a part of a community of people who enjoy the same type of exercise.
Whatever it is, start with fun and find ways to look forward to the activity. Do something that gets you excited and don’t make it a chore by thinking you need to go; rather, think that you wantto go. This also means not over pacing yourself especially when you’re getting started.
Go out there – find ways to make your exercising, reading, cooking, etc. for the next 30 days. See how that works out for you.
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.
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!
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.
This year I’ve started a new tradition to take a look at the habits I’ve been developing on a quarterly basis. They cover four main areas in my life:
Health & Fitness
The data is collected on a daily basis through a variety of different tools. You can check out last quarter’s review here.
The Daily Hustle is inspired by the Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity method to work on one key habit on a daily basis. The goal is to keep the habit going by not breaking the chain of X’s on a calendar. It’s the ONE Thing that can help make your day a success and push you towards your goal.
My goal this year has been to spend 15-minutes working on my blog everyday. I use a Hustle Calendar to help me keep track of this keystone habit. Check out where my calendar is current at below and the stats from Q2.
Success rate: 79% (-5% from Q1)
Posts published: 20 (+4 from Q1)
Q2 saw my success rate dip 5% which is not a huge concern. Anything hovering around 80% is a respectable number for me. On the flipside, I did publish 20 posts (marked by the squared dates) compared to 16 in Q1. So from an output level I was techincally more productive this past quarter.
The Daily Questions are inspired by an activity in Marshall Goldsmith’s book Triggers. It’s an activity that allows me to track my progress on key priorities and objectives. It’s a holistic view on how much effort I put into advancing towards my goals.
Here were the questions I asked this past quarter followed by the key stats and highlights:
Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?
Did I do my best to create meaning for myself or others today?
Did I do my best to be happy today?
Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
Did I do my best to be fully engaged today?
Did I do my best to be physically and emotionally healthy today?
Did I do my best to minimize the number of decisions I made today?
April – 8.59
May – 8.61
June – 8.70
April’s Highest & Lowest Scores:
Did I do my best to set clear goals today? @ 9.28
Did I do my best to be physically and emotionally healthy today? @ 8.21
May’s Highest & Lowest Scores:
Did I do my best to set clear goals today? @ 9.72
Did I do my best to be happy today? @ 8.14
June’s Highest & Lowest Scores:
Did I do my best to set clear goals today? @ 9.41
Did I do my best to be physically and emotionally healthy today? @8.24
There’s no doubt that I’ve hit my stride with the Did I do my best to set clear goals today? question. Using Momentum to help me set my main focus for the day has been a game changer. On the other hand, it’s clear that Did I do my best to be physically and emotionally healthy today? has lagged behind appearing two out of three months as the lowest score. I’ve been consistent with my 7-Minute Workout (as you’ll see below) but my consistency with going to capoeira class has hurt this score. It’s also a slightly ambiguous question as it melds in physical and emotional health together. Both are intertwined but perhaps it may be best to distinguish between the two for future months.
The mindset habit I’m developing is spending 10-15 minutes every day meditating. I’m currently using an application called Calm to help me with this.
Completion Rate: 87% (+12% from Q1)
Best Month: Tied – April and June @ 90% completion
Longest Streak: 42 days (from March to April)
Q2 was a fantastic quarter for meditation. My completion rate jumped by 12% between Q1 and Q2 and I developed a very consistent meditation habit. This was despite a fairly travel heavy quarter for me. I’m proud of the way that I stayed disciplined in keeping my morning routine going. I was also much more consistent with my meditation journal which has become a key addition to my post-meditation routine. Putting down my thoughts from the meditation and assessing my focus has added another layer of awareness.
As I improve my ability to focus through my meditation and find a calm mindset faster, the next step for me is to deepen that focus and learn more about myself through this process. I’m excited about the learnings and challenges that’ll come from the next quarter.
Health & Fitness
Last but not least, the health habit I’m developing is completing a 7-Minute Workout everyday through the Seven app. The rule with the 7-Minute Workout is not to miss more than 2 workouts every month. The workouts are 7 minute high intensity interval trainining (HIIT) style so they get pretty intense.
Completion Rate: 92% (-1% from Q1)
Best Month: May @ 94% completion
In Q2, I focused mainly on the Push-Up Pusher program which focused on a variety of push-up styles. It was (and still is) a challenging workout for me but I did see improvements specifically with my shoulders and my triceps. It’s one that I’m interested in continuing to work on and improve upon especially because my upper body is weaker than my lower body.
Q2 was a great continuation of the habits I began to develop in Q1. I’m really happy with my results overall and the steady development of habits. I’m also finding a lot of value in doing this review as I get a chance to look at areas of improvement and implement those for Q3 and Q4. It’s crazy how quickly time flies so taking a moment to reflect is really important. More to come next quarter!
Thanks for checking out the Weekly Learning Roundup. These bite-sized, weekly posts are designed to give you a quick hit of interesting learnings and articles I came across this week.
This week, I really appreciated reading through Charles Duhigg’s post on What daily habits can someone adopt to lead a more productive life? via Quora. He doesn’t provide any specific habits that will make you productive, but he does recommend we all develop a “contemplation routine”. From Duhigg’s perspective, having a routine to regularly connect ourselves with the bigger picture – our priorities – is an important habit to develop.
This activity can take many forms whether it’s meditation, journaling, going for a walk, etc. and the intention is to take a moment to contemplate how the work we do that day, week, or month connects to the bigger picture. I think this is great advice and highly valuable. If you haven’t read Duhigg’s first book, The Power of Habit, it’s well worth the read and may help you with the implementation of this type of routine.
Productivity tip of the week:
Weekly Big Rocks
To complement Duhigg’s recommendation for a contemplation routine, something I do every Sunday is setup my Weekly Big Rocks. You may be familiar with this phrase from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The idea behind it is simple: set your priorities (your big rocks) first. When you spend time planning out the important tasks for the week, you focus on what’s most important rather than just diving into the minutia. Here’s a quick video of what that looks like.
Every week I look at the major roles I play in my life such as being a team leader at my organization, a friend, a boyfriend, a blogger, etc. and setup 1 or 2 big rocks to accomplish in that role for the week. It helps me look ahead at the week and schedule in the time to make sure I accomplish those goals. While not every week will be one where I have a major priority for every role, having the awareness that I’m skipping a major priority for that role that week helps me loop back at it the following week. I hope to write more about this in a longer post.
A quote that’s inspiring me:
I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times. – Bruce Lee
When you’re traveling and need a reliable container for your liquids, this is the best container I’ve found yet. The tubes are really easy to fill and the liquids you put in pour out very consistently. I travel with MCT oil when I travel and I put them in these tubes. I’ve never had a spill or leakage thanks to these guys. They’re a bit more expensive than your typical container but well worth it considering they’re BPA free too.