I came across my friend Sophia’s blog the other day. Each month she undertakes a different challenge – cutting out sugar, radical generosity, becoming a chess master – and then writes about her experiences. In many ways, I realized I already do this. I spent the last year and a half learning to code, I spent the last few months learning to swim with proper technique, and the last month and a half learning to be a “functional” cook. These were great, and I’m proud of the progress I’ve made in these areas, but there’s a fundamental difference between what I’ve been doing, and what Sophia’s doing. Sophia’s focus is singular and intentional. At every point in time she knows what her goal is, is actively measuring her progress, and is keeping herself accountable by making it public.
I’m working on and focusing on a lot of things at once – coding, working out, trying to read more, cooking more often, trying to wake up earlier, etc. For all but my top priorities that means sometimes I make progress and sometimes I don’t. What I’d like to do is overcome the initial activation cost for an activity, move up the learning curve, and then build that component into my routine so it can be maintained and refined over a long period of time.
So, I’m stealing a bit of Sophia’s ingenuity and adopting her format. I’ll pick one thing to work on at a time, write one post about what I hope to accomplish and then another describing how it went and what I learned. I’ll tweak Sophia’s format slightly – making each challenge last two months. As a general rule, challenges should be specific and measurable – nothing too broad or abstract.
For the first challenge I’m going to focus on waking up at a set time. For the months of November and December I’ll be waking up at 6:30am every day. On weekends I don’t mind if that slips a little, but unless I was out late, I’ll still plan to wake up at 6:30am to help with the weekday routine. I’ve tried to do this on and off for the last few months unsuccessfully.
What I Hope to Accomplish
In my opinion waking up at the same time is the foundation of a set routine, and waking up early is an important part of my goal of having a few hours of personal time before I take calls for work. I’m hoping that by waking up at 6:30am every day I ensure I have time for and prioritize the things I hope to accomplish longer term. There’s also a bit of a snowball effect: when you start things off right, it’s much easier to build momentum.
I am cognizant of the fact that just waking up at a certain time doesn’t mean I’ll actually accomplish everything I want to, but I do think they’re correlated, and I’m curious to see how much of an impact waking up early has on accomplishing my other goals. Is there a snowball effect; am I more energized about my goals? Or am I just more tired? Do I miss out on social gatherings and feel suffocated? Or am I more relaxed knowing I’ve tackled my highest priorities before I leave the house.
The tricky part of this challenge is that waking up at a fixed time means sleeping at a fixed time. I’m not the kind of person who can or is interested in reducing the amount I sleep, so if I’m not going to be flexible with when I wake up I absolutely have to be fixed in when I go to sleep. Easier said than done when NYC is the city that never sleeps.
Admittedly, this challenge is a bit mundane, since it has only to do with building a routine for myself. I think this is a good foundation for accomplishing a lot of other things in my life, which is why I’m doing it first, but I think the others will be a bit more fun. Some things on the radar:
- Meditating – studying and practicing meditation on a daily basis
- Becoming a better chef – cooking 4 meals worth of food every Sunday
- Reading – reading for 60 minutes before bed
- Photography – getting a DSLR and learning the basics of photography and composition
- Decreasing stimulus – cutting out TV, movies, etc. from my life
- Removing sugar from my diet
- Learning Piano? Tango? French?
Stay tuned :)