I got through another chapter. I finished the fractions chapter and part of decimals. I still wasn’t protecting my project time, and I also spent a lot of time on grocery shopping and meal planning. This week I’ll try again to finish through chapter 7, which will take me up to elementary algebra.
I spent a lot of time on groceries. I planned the next week or so of meals, which will cover Cauliflower Cheese, Savory Summer Cobbler, and Barley Risotto with Peas. These called for cheese, so I spent a lot of time setting up my shopping list for a new Instacart store that carried some low-fat and fat-free cheeses that would fit into my diet.
I might exercise soon. I listened to Spark by John Ratey, a book presenting new research on the effects of exercise on brain-related issues (specifically learning, stress, anxiety, depression, attention deficit, addiction, women’s hormonal changes, and aging). Exercise has a life-long place toward the bottom of my priority list, so I was expecting to procrastinate on this book for a while, but several of my other self-improvement books have extolled the benefits of exercise, so I felt ready for this one. I was pleasantly surprised when the book kicked off with a story from a school district in the Chicago area, a revolutionary PE program in Naperville that emphasizes fitness rather than sports, keeps students highly motivated and supportive of each other, and improves their academics. In any case, these books have all motivated me to try to get some exercise back into my life.
I started planning my self-improvement. To make use of all these self-improvement books I’ve been listening to, I did some initial planning. I collected a list of a bunch of sources to draw from; a list of areas of my life that I thought could use improvement, along with some general goals for each; and a list of issues these sources address. Then I used a simpler set of topics to categorize the sources based on the main focus of each to help me sequence my study. My plan is to glance through each source, pick out the advice that seems the most useful to me, and create a basic plan for trying it out. I expect to take this project slowly so I don’t overwhelm myself.
Meanwhile my actual productivity has been on hold as I give myself a break from effort. Not that I’ve been doing nothing, obviously, but I haven’t been trying to optimize my time like I was before. As a result my bedtime has been pretty late, and as I mentioned, I haven’t protected my project time.
While I do want to order my time again, surveying the issues from these books has highlighted that they don’t all take the same approach. For example, two options to reach for happiness are to acquire more of what makes you happy and to learn to be content with less. My default has been maximalism, but I might move my inner needle closer to minimalism. So maybe my productivity should be intentionally flexible. That’s why my experiments will start with Elastic Habits.
I learned how to treat life like a chef’s kitchen. I listened to Everything in Its Place by Dan Charnas (published in the UK and in audio as Work Clean), a discussion of the culinary philosophy of mise en place as a way of managing work. It’s one of the higher intensity self-improvement books in my list, so I don’t know if I have the energy to tackle its advice at the moment, but I do want to try at some point. Most of the productivity sources I’m reading overlap to some degree, and this one is basically a more comprehensive framework to surround GTD, though I’m still waiting for the personal productivity book that advocates all-out professional project management.
I learned how to treat life like poker, but not enough. To help me make decisions when considering all these self-improvement approaches, I listened to Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke. It was good but not quite the book I was hoping for, having more to do with counteracting cognitive biases than with specific probability-based decision-making techniques. Still, for a while I’ve thought of all belief and action in life as a set of gambles, so it was nice to hear from someone else who thought the same way, and unlike me, as an accomplished poker player she knows what she’s talking about.
The police need serious reform. I spent some time appalled at police treatment of protesters around the country, and their blatant abuses of power have put me in sympathy with calls to reform or even defund the police, though I have questions about disbanding them. To maybe give me some answers, The End of Policing by Alex Vitale is going somewhere in my listening queue.