Building Consistency

How do we build consistency? How do we overcome the threshold of resistance and just apply ourselves to the task at hand? 

Recently, I have started with the concept of journalling to build a certain degree of discipline, a routine that would not allow me to reflect on the outcome of my day, but to help me establish a certain degree of consistency. As a result, I am now four months into my new experiment and the added benefit to reflect on your day does add value to achieve those short or long term goals.

I look to reflect upon three main things during my day:

  1. What new information have I learned?
  2. What mistakes have I made?
  3. How can I improve those mistakes?
Advertisement

Medicine – my story

To give some context to this article, I am a graduate in Chemical Engineering and currently working as a Technical Engineer. During my reading as an undergraduate, I was double minded to the idea of either pursuing engineering as a career or to take a leap of faith in pursuing medicine. With better judgement and a whole lot of work experience. I applied for Graduate Entry Medicine in October, 2018. 

Slowly, slowly month by month, all my option ended in rejection. After, my last rejection (University of Southampton), I felt a sense of relieve that I was rejected partly because my UKCAT score was on the high 500’s and built a false hope that I will get an interview and secondly, I needed to build on my experience within the healthcare setting for a longer period of time to show a sense of commitment.

I will be applying to Medicine again and this time I need to be extremely strategic. I need to work on my weaknesses such as Verbal and Quantitative reasoning.

I guess this is my confession of my failure and plan to try again and hope to succeed. 

Concept of Batching

I came across this word ‘Batching’ from the book called The 4-hour work week as a productivity tool to utilise my time more efficiently. The idea of batching is to carry out a long list of same tasks in a span of couple of days. It is the completion of a task and any sub categorised task associated with it. I have been practising batching as a novice and not truly used its potential to benefit myself to a greater extent. From my own personal experience, I have been using the notion of batching in my meal preparations which I usually do during the weekend. I’ve found this to be extremely productivity in saving time because I wouldn’t find myself in the kitchen every night and saving money because I wouldn’t indulge into spending money on lunch everyday.

Why does it work?

There are several reasons why it is important to implement ‘Batching’ into our everyday lives.

  1. Set up costs – in any task that we carry out, it involves initial preparation or setting up to carry out that task. When you do the same task frequently – the set up cost increases for instances, answering emails through out the day multiplies the set up cost. If, on the other hand, answering emailing once during the day, then the set-up costs are kept at a minimum.
  2. Task switching – in a paper conducted by the American Psychological Association have indicated that task switching, takes a toll on productivity. Just to think about checking your emails 5 times a day, you can lose about 1 hour of productivity. I currently work at Emerson and my habit of checking my emails 7-8 times a day increases my set up time and therefore decreasing my efficiency. I intend to change this habit going into new year.
  3. Peak performance ‘flow’ – Batching as a technique allows the user to be consistent so they remain in a state of flow for a longer period. Through batching, you’re in a position to create long uninterrupted stretches of time where performance in any singular activity is at its highest.

A superhuman skill

Coming across this short and enterprising read, Tynan introduces Superhuman social skills to express his views on building a better social norm that enable readers to not only hone their social skills, but to create an incredible social circle.

Initially, I was skeptical to read this book because I knew it would highlight elements of vast improvement. Nevertheless, keeping an open mind I began to unfold various concepts and meaning behind it.

Tynan indulges the reader into the concept of four main communication channels.

  1. Content channel – refers to the idea of what we think of when we talk about communication superficially. For instances, you’re going to a grocery story, the content channel is simply telling me that you’re going to the grocery store.
  2. Meta channel – is the undercurrent of the conversation. It’s the meaning behind the meaning. For instances, you’re going to the grocery store to acquire ingredients to make cookies. It is considered as the main channel because it’s where real discussions take place.
  3. Emotion channel – indicates a passive signal than an active one. It depends on the tone and cadences.
  4. Status channel – is constantly sending out clues about our relative status.

A master of communication must be able to have two major conversations (content and meta), while maintaining two minor communications (emotion and status).

The underlying meaning of this information is to highlight a very important skill that a lot of us take for granted and most of us are not aware – the art of story telling. When engaging an audience with a story one must have three primary phases in order: the setup, the buildup, and the payoff and most importantly, a repertoire of good stories that conveys what makes you interesting and worth knowing.

Habits – Why we love it!

Habits – don’t we just love them? Fundamentally, it’s considered to be the most boring course of action you take in your daily routine. But that’s exactly the point, in the article Mastering Boring Fundamentals written by James Stuber.

He expresses that our boring fundamentals (BF) include:

  1. Sleeping 8 hour a night
  2. Exercising regularly
  3. Reading books
  4. Practicing learning
  5. Eating healthy

Being consistent with our own boring fundamentals can help us advance in any endeavours we set our mind to. However, the repetitive nature of practicing our boring fundamentals can be tedious and mundane. It disconnects you from the positive outlook you had about that goal, which evidently results in a plateau.

So, how do we overcome such plateau? It’s important to realise that having a (right-off) day or taking time out to recuperate from the rigours of being consistent is acceptable. But, having the right mind set and building a system around your boring fundamentals can help you improve each day. More about systematising in next week’s blog. So if you guys have any boring fundamentals, let me know in the comments below.

What to systematise?

Building on from my last week’s blog post, I think this wraps up why establishing successful habits could eventually lead to an automatic system.

  1. Things we tend to systematise in our life:
    1. Paying bills
    2. Working and studying procedure
    3. Sleeping pattern
    4. Following dietary or exercise program
    5. Daily planning

I can probably add a lot more to this list. However, by automating the boring stuff we free ourselves to focus on work that’s truly important to us.

Recommendation to help implement systems in your life:

  • Creating a list of most important tasks and carry them out in a single day (batching)
  • Track your habits – often now a lot of apps have been developed to implement such tracking systems such as Habitica.
  • Setup a morning routine system – a system that provides that essential win for the day.
  • Setup a night routine system
  • Putting all your appointments on the calendar
  • Plan your meals for the week
  • store your digital information on (Notion)
  • Automate your bills, credit card payments, savings

This basic idea of systematising doesn’t need to be overly complicated. When implementing a new system which has been optimised through trial and error – look to find another area to systematise. So if you guys have your boring fundamentals set up as system share in the comments below. I would very much like to learn anything new that I can use to hone my currents systems.

Lunch time experiment

In the early months of working at Emerson, I would time to time induge in a £3.50 spree to buy a full plate of lunch and pay an additional £1.50 for a dessert cup. I couldn’t really complain about the food because a hot meal on a cold day is pretty awesome. This would often lead to a group chat in the canteen on daily updates and a bit of banter amongst colleagues.

The aftermath of a heavy lunch would often result in a lethargic attitude towards the rest of the day. I would find myself yawning and while watching tedious online training I would doze off. Often, this hindered my progress and I would divert my attention to getting a cup of coffee to keep myself going throughout the day.

My experimental solution

The week starting 20.01.2020 till 24.01.2020, I devised an experiment to conclude the following results in my behaviour by establishing a control group.

Monday (20.01.2020) – I had a pre-packed lunch that consisted of falafel, vegetarian protein balls and baked vegetable fries of (beetroot, carrot and parsnep) and bowl of soup with bread

Tuesday (21.01.2020) – I had a pre-packed lunch that consisted of falafel, vegetarian protein balls and baked vegetable fries of (beetroot, carrot and parsnep) and bowl of soup with bread. Dessert – Keylime pie

Wednesday (22.01.2020) – Canteen food – a plateful that consisted of rice, noodles, and curry in courtesy of Chinese New year’s.

Thursday (23.01.2020) – I had a pre-packed lunch that consisted of falafel, vegetarian protein balls and baked vegetable fries of (beetroot, carrot and parsnep).

Friday (24.01.2020) – I had a pre-packed lunch that consisted of falafel, vegetarian protein balls and baked vegetable fries of (beetroot, carrot and parsnep) and a dessert cup.

During the course of first two days, there were incremental change in my behaviour, I did feel I needed to consume coffee to get myself going for the rest of the day. Wednesday, I was in shambles, yawning and not focused at all. I just wanted to sleep. The final two days – I had consumed a light lunches which evidently, improved my behaviour I saw changes in my mood, I didn’t rely on coffee much to keep myself engaged in the day to day activity.

In conclusion, my post lunch energy levels have improved, I intent to carry on this experiment next week to provide a conclusive result. My Lunch routine is now a light lunch with copious amount water that’s an exaggeration, to say the least. I highly recommend giving this a shot and trying out a controlled experiment to see the results for yourself.

Minimizing regret

At the end of last year, I realised that if I didn’t pursue my ventures of creating a platform of writing blogs I would have regretted it down the years.

Coming across Regret Minimisation Framework which was introduced by Jeff Bezos (Founder of Amazon). He describes his decision to pursue amazon in such a manner where he puts it:

I knew that when I was 80 I was not going to regret having tried this. I was not going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal. I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried.

It can be clearly identified if Jeff had not left his well-paying hedge fund job. He would have regretted his decision for not pursuing ‘The Internet”.

I like to keep this close to heart because it identifies fears and doubt that people would have in making that all important decision. In my juvenile years, I found failing as a fear factor in my life and because of that I never took the risk of pursuing activities or progressed in a project because I was afraid of failing. But, fighting your “inner demons” as they say it – you eventually build up the courage to “do your thing” and not care about failing because failing teaches you the ability to succeed.

However, it is also important to consider other domains of minimising regret such as the Win-Win principle.

The principle could be defined as trying something new and the method of design to try something new should result in a win even if its a loss. So for example, when I applied to medical school the first time around I failed to pass the entrance exam – even though I’d relevant experiences, updated knowledge on NHS, read books and articles around the subject.  In my second attempt, I could acquire different type of experience like working as a combat medical technician (part time) or take advantage of advertised courses on UCAT, do further reading reading on NHS, be better prepared for my entrance exam.

On a concluding note, reignite your desire to purse that one goal or ambition because time awaits for no one.

My process to reading a book

On reflection, in my prime youth, I was never an avid reader – I remember I spent late evenings of my year 9 and year 10 watching TV shows like (Hollyoaks, Simpsons) after coming back from school. But, everything changed when I enrolled into university – reading was an imperative part of my growth which I mostly did with hardbacks and now through digitalisation reading has become more effective through various tools.

Late last year, I’d taken an approach to utilizing my book reading to a whole new level. I systematised the way I approached my reading and I did this using the following method and tools stated below.

Tools

  1. Amazon Kindle paperwhite – I consider this to be most valuable purchase of 2019.
  2. Goodreads – an account that stores all your highlights and notes
  3. Notion – to create my own personal account of information hub of all the books I have read and try implement the material into my life where possible.

My three method process

Why Kindle?

With digitalisation on rise, I always felt moving away from your standard hardback was a good call. But with every transition, you always need to take baby steps. I started using Kindle for two reasons.

  1. Financially it costed less than your standard hardbacks or paperbacks.
  2. My need for minimalism – I often found it difficult to store copious amounts of book in my room.

What is Goodreads?

A website that allows users to account for the books they have read throughout the year. An advantage of using Goodreads is allows users to assign a number to the amount of books they intend to read in that year. I find this to be quite useful because it’s a challenge that I look forward to completing. In addition, Goodreads can be synchronised with your amazon kindle account and it is able to store all your highlights and personal notes that you make on your Kindle.

Why do I use notion?

When I do finish reading a book – I spend half an hour of my time collating all my highlights and notes and store it in my “digital brain” aka Notion. However, during my reflection period, I do the following:

I implement the learning or principles from the book into my life (wherever applicable).

As I conclude to whatever method or tools you apply to reading a book – I think its imperative to utilise its learning to your advantage. Hence, having a digital brain is highly important because your brain isn’t meant to store information. More on digital brain can be found of my previous blog post called Secondary network.

Fighting resistance

While visiting California late last year, I took a stroll down Santana Row only to find my first ever amazon store. But that’s not the point, I’d picked up this little gem called ‘The War of Art‘. Written by Steven Pressfield, possibly a read that can be finished within 3 hours. However, if you like to read it slowly and simmer into the book take longer to read it. It provides an overview into different facet’s of inner resistances and how we should combat it.

How I identified my inner resistance?

Some days, I tend to wake up at 5:30am, I consider this to be my productivity hour from 5:30 till 6:30 am where I focus on my own projects before, I get ready for work. But, like most people I enjoy my 6-7 hours. There are days I just don’t wake up at 5:30am from activities of previous day – this could include: staying late at work, then going to gym and follow that up content making or learning to code. In reality, my inner resistance would convince me of the following:

“I’ll wake up at 6:30am because it’s only one hour and I’ll snooze my alarm and in worst cases I end up waking up at 7:30am.

The reason why we hear our inner resistance is because we choose to make a choice. Instead of waking of 5:30 am, I made that choice to get another hour of sleep to wake up at 6:30 am.

I have learnt to identify different elements of resistances in my own system. This common idea has assisted me to position myself to spot and eliminate my inner resistances from my routine.

Here are few more examples of combating my inner resistance:

  1. I batch my days to focus one thing at one time. So, I don’t have an excuse to focus on multiple things. I can put all my energy on one task. I don’t give in to the idea of multitasking.
  2. I meal prep the week ahead so, I don’t waste my time cooking every day. I usually meal prep during the weekend. I have practiced this for a while and this has been useful because it has eliminated the resistance factor of eating take away on a frequent manner.
  3. I reflect on my day and I write objectives for the next day. I have removed the resistant factor of going into a day without a plan.

On a concluding note, we should remove the element of choice because it shouldn’t be optional. After all, we don’t consider it optional to brush our teeth. And, that is the reason why I choose to carry on with this blog – publishing every sunday, its not an option for me to write a post, it just needs to be done.

So guys, I highly recommend that you check out the book ‘War of Art‘.

Credit for the picture goes to Birmingham Museums Trust on Unsplash.