Push ups

99 day pushup streakOne of the skills I hoped to develop this year is to learn how to do push ups.

I totally sucked at push ups last year despite exercising 110 hours. I just couldn’t do even a single push up on my toes. So rather than getting frustrated and angry at myself and jealous at others who can do, I decided to sign up for a beginner level push up plan on Coach.Me plan and stick to it.

The result is impressive. Now I can do 20 push ups in a row on my toes. It took 100 days of practice. But each day I practiced only for about two minutes. That is a great return on my investment.

Someone said, the reward for winning a round of game is the eligibility to play next round. Or something on those lines. So here’s to Level 2. And there is Level 3. Like most of the habits I like to build and keep, there is no end date to this habit.

This reminds me: there are no real quantum leaps or secrets formulas in life. Only baby steps when taken consistently, suddenly look like magic.

Unsubscribe, Unfollow, Unread, Unfriend, Unplug.

One thing I started appreciating after becoming a dad is the value of time.

Like many dads, being the best possible hands on dad is non-negotiable to me. You don’t need a lot of money to be a good parent but you certainly need a lot of time and patience, things money can’t buy. However, this is not the only challenge I have.

I am three decades into my life and still haven’t figured what do I want to do with it. Thankfully I haven’t given up and I refuse to settle. This means besides trying to be a good dad, I also need time to find my life’s purpose. While I do this, I need to make a living, exercise, learn to write well, run errands, form and keep up habit streaks; all while getting eight hours of sleep.

All these things put unprecedented pressure on my time. So earlier last year I audited how much free time I have and how am I spending it. That’s when I realized a relieving fact that I can still put time on the things I want to do and be there for my son.

These are some things I do to free up significant chunks of time.

Unsubscribe to most of the RSS feeds. Google helped me a bit with this by killing the Reader. Now I only read less than a third of my original feeds.

Unfollow most of the tech celebrities, tech blogs, tech journalists and everybody who spam. As a result, I brought down my twitter following count from few hundreds to under 50. This saves a lot of time I am otherwise spending to scroll through twitter timeline. Now I follow only a few interesting people.

Unfriend with Facebook friends with whom I am not in touch for years. It may sound weird but with how many of your 500+ Facebook friends did you attempt to make a genuine connection? How many of them share their genuine thoughts on their feed? Most of them don’t. So I unfriended with all but 30 people on Facebook so I don’t have to deal with their Farmville requests and passive shares.

Unread news. I only spend less than 15 minutes to scroll through headlines of two newspaper sites. The one I grew up reading and the other, to get in touch with current affairs of the country and city I live. I only occasionally read through the main content. Most of it, most of the times is useless anyway.

Unplugging is challenging. Especially when technology is your passion and you have a handful of gadgets around. I would be lying if I say I can unplug when I wish. But I am making slow progress. Disabling notifications in the iPhone is one thing that helped me with this.

Few years ago I always looked forward for the next Apple event and used to waste lot of time reading speculations in technology blogs about what Apple is going to release. Now I did not even know when was the last Apple event and what was it about.

There is always enough time for anything, but not for everything.

Where would you rather be?

Did you ever wish that you would rather be in a different place than you are right now? I did.

I think it is normal for all of us to think of some dreamland where everything is going to be exactly in the way we want. A place that is anywhere but where we are right now. And it is often correct.

If someone gives me the power to transport wherever I want, I know where I will go. It certainly won’t be into my past. Not because I hate my past but because my present has always been better than my past. On that account, I will choose to go into my future. I anyway live so much in the future that I often forget to live in the present. So if anyone offers me a ride in the time machine, why not go along?

I think living in the future is a good thing. When you are excited about future, you rank your future self higher than your current self. Isn’t this what self-discipline and delayed gratification is all about? If you are so obsessed with present and believe that now is what all you have, then how are you going to visualize your future and live in way that future self will thank you?

Getting excited about your future self will give you hope, which in turn will give you courage and strength to tread your present challenges. Because you then think that present challenges are temporary and they will eventually pass. They may not really pass but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you believe in taking action and action is the antidote of despair.

So don’t ever feel bad about wanting to be somewhere else. It is perfectly normal. Grass may not always be greener on the other side but it is surely greener in the future. But don’t hate you present though; appreciate it and keep working. You will eventually reach your ideal world.

Habits and streaks

I clearly remember that July night in 2013. I discovered Medium and was on reading spree. Just like how I used to read any and every blog in 2006 when I discovered blogging.

That Medium post was titled Deliberate Practice, one of my favorite subjects. It mainly talked about two points which I can’t recall at the moment. I have this weird habit of exploring a bit more about the author if I liked any post. That post’s author is Tony Stubblebine, CEO of Coach.Me (then Lift.do). That’s how I discovered Lift. I somehow like the old name, Lift, although they renamed it to Coach.Me inline with their business model.

Lift is a habit building app. You pick up a habit you want to build, do that habit every day and open the app and check that habit. You build theĀ  streak and you get better at habit. Eventually you just do the habit everyday without worrying about checking it in, unless you are keen on numbers. You also get props from strangers in the community. You can give props to other too.

Ever since I discovered Lift, I used it to track these habits: learn touch typing, learn planking, learn doing pushps on toes, getting rid of Facebook app on iPhone, meditate, exercise and a bunch of other habits. Besides getting obsessed with streaks, I also came across useful blogs like Zen Habits and interesting people like BJ Fogg and James Clear. These people and their blogs have been immensely helpful to me.

It is important to note that nobody becomes a super hero using apps. Nothing works until you do and you can work even without using technology. But I like using this app because it gives me a track of effort I spent. This helps me do the work on the days I feel like slacking. For e.g. By spending less than 2 minutes a day for the last 60 days, I am able to do 15 pushups on my toes in a row. Before that I could do absolutely zero. So I am more likely to continue the streak and in the process do more and more pushps. I can’t say how many. But I am certain that it will a few more than I was able to do last week.

So whatever habit you want to build, just do this. Download Coach.Me app. Search the habit and sign up to it. The app will tell you the bare minimum thing you have to do that day to earn your streak. Just do it. Check it in. Do it long enough, Boy! You built the habit you were wanting to build for so long. Then check the streaks and calendars, you will be surprised how little time it took and you wonder why did you wait so long. Good luck.

Mini book review – Better Than Before

Last month I read Gretchen Rubin‘s book on habits titled Better than Before. Thanks to Tony at Coach.me for sending a free copy of this book. I received it in March and I finally got to read it in June.

This book is based on the premise that everyone is different. So there is no universal solution that works for everyone. The key is to find your habit tendency and frame your habits forming strategies around that personality.

Here is The Four Tendencies Quiz to determine your habit tendency. I am an Upholder. I am not surprised by it.

Each chapter introduces a strategy and details how it applies to each of the four tendencies. She shared a lot of her personal stories as well, which is great. There are little nuggets of wisdom all over the book title Secrets of Adulthood, which I liked but I did not highlight them until it was too late.

Everyone needs Four Foundation Habits: Food, Sleep, Exercise, Declutter. Wherever you are and whatever you do, you better be good at them, she advises.

Although I like to declutter as much as possible in my life, I am not convinced that it is a foundational habit. I heard most creatives and high performers are messy. But I don’t dispute the first three.

The chapter I liked the most is about Habit Loopholes. I blogged about it earlier. They help you realize when you are kidding yourself.

This book provided some unique ideas like tendenciesĀ  and loopholes which I never came across earlier. For these ideas alone, it is a worthy read.

Quitting Coffee Struggles

As much as I would love to think that I am not a coffee addict, it looks like I am on the verge of giving up on my attempt to quit coffee.

Since deciding to quit coffee in the last week of April, I drank one cup in May, two in June and two so far in July. In a way I did very well. I cut not only the number of cups and but also their size.

However it is proving difficult to sustain this habit, especially under stress. The few cups that I had are in the clueless moments when I just needed to turn my mind away from the problem I am working on.

I know that progress, not perfection, matters. And what I do everyday matters more than what I do once in a while. In that sense I am already winning. But I must admit that it isn’t easy. I am fine without coffee most of the days but I am also struggling a lot when I am under pressure. So I wonder if it is really worth the struggle. What if I start drinking a tiny sized cup or a black coffee a few days a week. May be drinking coffee is alright if it helps relieve my stress? Why am I even making a big deal out of this? Why can’t I just drink a cup a day and spare myself of this suffering?

Now that I dumped my brain, I feel better and clear: I am not giving up. At least as yet. Why should I make my temporary failures permanent.

I reiterate to myself: I can still drink coffee but mindfully and occasionally, not compulsively.

If you had used any strategies to deal with a similar situation, I will be grateful if you could share it in the comment.

Adieu Toastmasters

I quit Toastmasters today.

I belonged to my club for three years, two of those years as a Sergeant at Arms in the executive.

Toastmasters is one of the finest volunteer organizations. I experienced it first hand. I made friends, learned few skills, practiced public speaking, saw people grow as speakers, organized logistics and decided how to spend our limited budget for lunch after every meeting. So it isn’t an easy decision to not do it anymore.

I am by no means a great public speaker but while I was here, I got a tad better.

However David Allen once said: you can do anything, but not everything. So I decided to take a break from this lovely journey for awhile to give undivided attention to few of my biggest priorities.

Not surprisingly, I feel a bit sentimental.