Experiment on Sandbagging and Travel: Part II

Conclusions (Did it work?):
I’d tentatively say…yes, but it’s hard to say without doing a control. I’ve never gone to the gym while traveling, and I’ve never had that much control over food while traveling. Doing an advanced HIIT was incredibly. Meditating during conferences, writing on the plane and during freetime at a conference…incredible, things I wouldn’t have thought possible for me.

Is it directly because I artificially sandbagged the system beforehand or have I just improved in general? I really can’t say. I did however learn several interesting things.

What I learned:
Patterns: There seemed to be an odd pattern or sense of balance for what I did and didn’t do. If I had excellent control over eating, I didn’t do meditation. If I exercised, I didn’t do writing. I set up a rudimentary scale counting each full completion as a 1 and a partial as a .5 out of 5 elements - eating, writing, exercising, food, and meditation. Here’s how it came out:
Day 1 - 3/5
Day 2 - 3/5
Day 3 - 3/5
Day 4 - 3/5
Day 5 -  0  

Despite the Reproducability Debacle, in my experience, the idea of Willpower as one depleteable resource seems to constantly prove itself true.

Challenge: I also got this odd sensation that this felt so much like a 30 day challenge, and everything that could be applied to them could be applied to this. Like 30 Day challenges, flash diet type exercises seemed to spur on my control. It also strongly felt as though it was its own progression. That is, the art of doing things while traveling is its own skill that progresses.

I can’t point to any data, but that’s how I strongly felt - like a new habit, you kind’ve scrabble around to get a hold of it for a bit at first, and only then do you actually make progress. Which is interesting because now I want to travel again to test it all out and grow more!

Possible strategies:
1) Flash diet everything. Take a pic of everything that needs to be done.
2) I feel gamification, even a pen and paper one, would work really well here. The competitive spirit really seemed to work mentally to doing stuff. There was this girl whom I’ll talk about more, who worked out every day early in the morning, and after talking about it with her she asked if I was going to show up at 5 am like her. I didn’t, I showed up at 7, but the challenge got to me. That should be harnessed.
3) Record. I failed miserably at this. Jotting down notes at the end of the day or at the beginning needs to happen. This is difficult because there were some days where I had to struggle to crawl into bed to pass out instantly. They had us running around a lot.
4) Wake up early…I managed to do this for two workouts, and that NEVER happens.
5) Eat regularly. Several breaks in willpower occurred after not eating. It’s easier to have control with everything, especially food, if you’re not quite ravenously hungry.
6) Implementation Intention! I did not do this and I knew better. Going in not having a plan makes you default to unproductive behaviors.

Overall:
I think this was an excellent experiment. And I will be able to do this again. I believe the best thing is to add just one thing. I did the sandbagging, it worked to an extent. If I just add an additional strategy, just one, it might contribute to the overall progress of this skill.

Photocred: lab notebook by Calsidyrose, all other pics by me and my insta account

Formalization of Stretching and Bedtime Curfew Habits

Stretching

I pulled my hip badly and am still recovering. I’ve been reading The Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance by Kelly Starrett and Glen Cordoza the guys behind Mobility Wod.

I’m pretty sold. If meditation is process oriented skill for all mental interactions in life, then their description of mobilizing and stretching is the process oriented behind-the-scenes skill for all physical activity. And it’s especially necessary for someone like me, who has gone from one injury to the next constantly over the course of decades. Plus, it’s just good for you.

They seem to know what their talking about, they have tons of exercises online that progress, so….

Implementation Intention

I’m going to start tomorrow with simply researching and attempting one or two stretches. I’m still learning and reading, so I’m hoping a lot of stuff will clarify itself. I’ll do this after my writing and before my exercise/rowing.

Mental Contrasting
Positive: It will help brace me for better movement and hopefully prevent injuries that I’ve seemed to constantly get into in the past. It will prevent those long periods of healing where I lose all progress.

Stumbling blocks: I don’t see any except that I’m new to this and will have to read a lot to get to a point of proficiency. But starting small will allow me the time to form a routine and learn at the same time. Luckily it seems so far it will be a habit I can do without specialized equipment in any location - so travel won’t be a problem.

Bedtime Curfew
Another small habit I’ll introduce to my greater Early to Rise project is setting a specific time, closing my computer, and heading to bed to read. I have a tendency to just stay up for no good reason. My sleep recording suggests that I generally get a set amount of sleep, I just need to shift over the time period (which is not at all what I expected - I thought I had problems getting to sleep and that I slept too long). So

Implementation Intention
On average, from the data I have from my Sleep Recording, I tend to go to bed a little before 2 am. If I’m going to keep with making small changes, I will intend to go to bed at 1:20 am. At that time I’ll close my computer and read.

Mental Contrasting
Positive: I hope this will help me wake up earlier, thereby increasing both the feeling and actuality of my productivity.

Stumbling blocks: Initially feeling like I have to stay up because I haven’t had enough time to do anything during the day. I’ll initially feel like I’m cutting short my day by going to bed earlier while not getting up any earlier. At this point, keeping it nice and easy with going to bed at 1:20 am - I don’t see there being any problems with the few times I stay out late since I don’t really do that anymore. I don’t foresee any travel problems except very occasionally. I do worry that I might have problems actually getting to sleep, but I think that’s a problem for a different habit.

Implementing a Wakeup Habit

As of last week both my small eating habits became superhabits. My plan was to either start a wakeup plan, advance in eating by doing a meal prep on Sunday, or start a walking/being outside habit. 

Lydia and I just got our city bike share card, and had a fantastic day cycling along several beaches, checking out a food festival, and exploring a park. It got us really excited and we sat down and decided we want to become outdoorsy, that we had to do it because of how easy it was. The main problem is that most difficult of freelancer dilemmas: waking up early.

We’ve both been dragging on getting up, and it’s always been on my list in order to cram more things into the day. But, as with eating right, I’ve attempted this habit many, many times and failed. So, as with eating, I’m going to tackle this as an identity based habit.

In my main blog post on how to construct such a megahabit - “Towards an Identity Model of Habits: Part III” - I talk about several methods to hit the problem:
-Social Identity
-Certifications
-Affirmations
-Greasing the Groove
-Counterintuitively Small Habits
-Quantified Self
-Falling in Love
-…and Miscellaneous Advanced Options

I think, when surveying options, the main thing to remember is that for these types of habits, the one thing you don’t want to do is to yet again attempt the habit you’ve tried to introduce before. We seem to think that THIS time it’ll be different, that this time if we really believe and clench harder, things will change, when we’ve seen our methodology fail time and time again. The answer lies in attempting new strategies.

I have always attempted this habit by just setting an alarm early and buckling down inside and just DOING IT. That has never worked. I’ve more recently tried Flux, a program that changes light on my computer and setting progressively early times to just get to bed. Those worked better, but eventually failed. 

The method for identity habits should be the inverse - enacting smaller, less directly connected behaviors and building upon them so that when it comes to do the obvious, direct behavior, it’s almost like an afterthought.

Look, it’s not as though we can’t force ourselves to get up early. If I have to be on a plane, if I have an interview, if I have a job, it’s done. But that’s not what I’m talking about by these deep habits. I don’t want to wake up early, I want to be a Morning Person.

So THIS TIME, I’m going to start with three small habits. The first is recording (from the quantified self option). But I don’t like all the fancy apps and gadgets that attempt to pinpoint REM cycles based on body movements and whatnot. All I want is to keep it simple and record what my wakeup and bed time was for the day before. This is great, because I can build the recording into my food recording superhabit.

The next thing I’ll do is drink a cold glass of water as soon as I wake up. After looking at dozens of websites on how to wake up early, this has been one of the few consistent pieces of advice (I’ll consider this taken from the “counterintuitively small habits” category”).

Thirdly, I’m taking a cue from the “Fall in Love” Category.  One other great piece of consistent advice has been to do something that makes you excited to get up. Krissy Brady from Lifehack writes:

One thing we tend to lose as adults is the feeling of freedom we had as kids. When we had no sense of schedule, deadlines, goals, or pressure, we were always emotionally available and our imaginations made us feel like anything was possible. 

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/10-simple-strategies-wake-early.html

A lot of websites circled around it, but this is my real issue. I use to LOVE getting up in the morning as a child, and somehow, I’ve lost that. I was thinking about what things I’d love to do that give me that same sense I felt as a kid. Going to the beach, definitely, but it’s too long. Other websites talk about having no pressure mornings, but for habits and willpower, nothing beats tackling your hardest task at the very beginning of the day. And then the most ridiculous thing came to mind: making bacon.

As a child bacon was a treat. My mom made it only a few weekends, but those were the days I’d wake up early, I’d go biking, I had long mornings drenched in sun and anything was possible. It somehow encapsulates that precise spot of childlike glee. And because I’m eating primal, it’s not even cheating. Hell, I could use the cals - in Brazil I only got over a long plateau after I started munching on chicharrones. It’s easy, it’s a treat, it’s ritualistic, it’s in my home and doesn’t take too much time, and I can drink a cold glass of water while I’m frying it up. Done.

So my implementation intentions are:

After I record my food, I will record when I went to bed the night before and what time I got out of bed that morning. I will record this on the same spreadsheet I record all my other habits. 

As soon as I get up I will make two slices (let’s not get too crazy here) of bacon. While I’m doing that, I’ll drink a cold glass of water. I will then grab my coffee and do my pantry check.

Mental Contrasting:

Positive: Waking up early will allow me the feeling of being a child, the feeling of unlimited energy and potential in the day. I’ll be able to take my time in all my tasks, from working out to writing. Afterwards, I’ll be able to get out and explore my city, which also gives me childlike glee. And it’ll give me the space I need to do more.

Stumbling blocks: I will forget what time I went to bed - I’ll have to have a place to note that down, and I’ll have to remember to write down what time I woke up. I’ll also have to remember to get bacon at the store - OH WAIT, it’s on my pantry check (finally some habits are building off others)! If I’m traveling I might not have bacon or a place to cook it on - though if I’m traveling I’m usually waking up early anyways.

Girl waking up by Gabriela Camerotti, vintage alarm clock by H is for Home, glass of water by Gioconda Beekman, bacon by Jazz Guy

Sleep Success!

Yesterday I talked about my attempt to reset my sleeping patterns - it worked!

When I attempted to do this in the past - and I mean my entire past - it’s almost never worked because my implementation intention is incredibly vague. I just generally think “yeah I’m going to sort’ve go to bed early, maybe, kind’ve…” and of course nothing happens. I end up dithering online until super late because I get a charge of energy, and it just all goes down the toilet.

This time I had a plan. And I wrote it down as an implementation intention:

At 11pm I’ll drink my Valerian Root Tea.
I will go into the bedroom and lie down at 12 pm and set the alarm.
I’ll read the Kindle for 20 minutes.
I’ll listen to a boring recording on meditation for another 20  minutes.
I’ll perform Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing technique for sleep.  
I’ll perform my own meditation technique.

Planning for sleep, and having it be progressive - first tea, then not looking at my computer, shifting to bed and a kindle, then turning off the light and just listening, etc seemed to do the trick, as well as the formal intention jotted down on a text program on my computer.

And I didn’t even do everything - by the time I got to bed I skipped the book and the headphones and just did the exercises and zonked out.

So, a few things:

1) What’s the minimal effective dose? Does Dr. Weil’s technique even really work? Do I need that much progression? I don’t know, but I like the fact that it’s a ceremony, and there are progressive active tasks for me to do, giving the power to me.

2) What could I do better? Definitely not drink so much before bed - I woke up a few times to go to the bathroom. I drank a bunch of water, then the tea right before…so also maybe doing it a few hours before bed would work better.

3) Can I maintain it? We’ll see tonight - I intend a similar procedure tonight.

4) This is a beginning. I would ideally want to be a morning person, and wake up earlier - but one step at a time!

I ended up waking up at around 8 am today, which has resulted in a much more optimal day for me - one filled with sunlight, a good start, and some free time to get out, rather than feeling utterly rushed.

And quality of sleep is something I’d like to get into in another post. Tonight it was pretty good despite waking up a few times. I’ve historically had many problems with this, but who knows if it’s just not having a formal bed time ritual.

But this is the first time I’ve ever consciously controlled and shifted my sleep without rather drastic measures - like staying up all night or just being forced to get up because of circumstances. I usually feel quite powerless in sleeping, especially as a freelancer, so I count this as a rather big win for me personally.

Research into Getting Up Early

In my last post - “Early to Rise: The Habit of Getting Up Early” I talk about how of waking up early has many positive benefits and probably deserves to be a foundational habit above Eating in a habit hierarchy.

I’ve been researching a lot about it. I was curious if there was anyone who had really nailed down this habit. Although there are many books out there, a lot of the advice is, according to the reviewers, common and not really new. 

I’m also currently reading a book called Wake Up: The Early Routine That Will Change Your Life by Jeff Finley, and so far he’s got a lot of good advice that uses a lot of the base science that I base my own project on - studies in Willpower, references to Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit, and other self help gurus that I have found helpful in the past. I also found a great post by Nathaniel Eliason entitled Wake Up Early and More: The Only Sleep Article You’ll Need.

A couple bits of advice kept reoccurring through my reading:

-Incremental changes over time are better to ingrain the habit - people suggested changing your alarm clark by 15, 30, or 60 minutes per day.
-Morning and evening routines need to be implemented - Getting up is a function of how you go to sleep
-You should have some time before bed where you are not looking at a computer or tv screen
-Have a morning routine
-Drink a glass of water as soon as you get up
-Figure out some sort of trigger-action-reward system to get you out of bed, like Duhigg describes in The Power of Habit

Some additional things I want to look more into are:
-Drinking a calming tea at a set time at night
-Using Flux, a program that switches the spectrum of light on the screen to help transition to sleep mode.
-Nidra Yoga - a yoga based methodology for achieving deep states of sleep (a forum post on the Dharma Overground suggested THIS SITE, which has a lot of seemingly good explanations and links as to how exactly to practice it.)

I’ve done some of these things - I have flux and have used it. I have a morning routine, I’ve started drinking tea and having a cutoff point for the computer. I do meditation to get to sleep now, though the type I do has thus far caused me to have an unrestful sleep.

Getting up early clearly does have several components - my question is how do I implement this in terms of a TinyHabit, implementation intention, recording, and general protocol? Waking up early may not be as difficult as mastering eating, but it’s definitely difficult, especially for a night owl like me.

But in my reading it is very interesting to see how many people seem to give waking up early primacy to the importance of the habit, and how it connects to so many other foundational habits.

Early to Rise - The Habit of Getting Up Early

Up until now I’ve considered my big 5 foundational habits as Eating, Exercise, Writing, Recording, and Meditation.

But I knew that getting up early was something I wanted to nail as a habit. I’ve never had problems with it when I have to, but I have normally - as a freelancer, I don’t strictly NEED to.

And that’s interesting in and of itself. If you’ve been forced to do something your entire life, can it truly be called a habit? It can be - I remember when I worked in an office I’d start getting up early on the weekends. On the other hand I know of many high school athletes who had to not only get up early, but were forced to exercise. For the overwhelming majority, it wasn’t a behavior that stuck - it barely lasted past the first year out of college.

I believe habits implemented just by yourself are horrendously difficult. I also think they have the benefit of being truly yours.

When I was a kid my mom harped on me on many things, and oddly enough her voice has now become mine. Many of those behaviors are on my list of habits I wish to form, including this one.

But getting up early foundational?

When I describe a habit as foundational it means I view it as one that has overarching benefits long term, whose solidity positively affects other habits I’d later implement.

Learning calligraphy, for example, isn’t very foundational - it’ a cool enough skill, but it’s not necessarily a base for anything else, except perhaps general artistry. Eating right, or exercise, however both contribute to general well being, promoting energy and drive for any other behavior I might want to add to the mix. Meditation is even more central because it promotes emotional control to a process like habituation, which is itself fraught with mood swings. Recording provides an anchor for all skills, and writing is just a personal important thing to me.

So why sleeping? I’m finding more and more that getting what I need to do done earlier makes me feel freer. I’ve currently gotten into a bad habit - mostly due to jet lag - of staying up late and getting up late. What I find is that I’m constantly rushing. And this prevents me from doing the little behaviors that contribute to a good habit. Like what?

I’ve been meaning to post a video of myself rowing to submit to a forum so I can make sure my form is right. I’ve been meaning take body measurements so that I can see fat lose as it occurs. I’ve been meaning on taking daily pics of myself to measure progress.

Lydia gets up earlier than me, and she wants to get out earlier as a break. That’s fine - it’s something I want to, because getting out get’s me into the sunlight and generally boosts my mood. But if I can’t finish what I have to do quick enough I take shortcuts. It’s not practical when living with someone else (I’d like to do a post completely on how other people’s habits can bolster or break down habits, much like habit harmonics).

Also, although I stay up later, I don’t really do anything except putter around on Reddit. And if I intend to do anything social, or go out, that window is just closed down - the window of bookending for the “morning” becomes very small.

Lastly, there’s just something good about finishing habits while there’s still daylight. And there’s something immensely satisfying and relaxing about having the rest of the day before you.

The real question is: just how foundational is this?

 I feel it adversely affects my mood - I feel like I’ve wasted the day as soon as I get up late. I feel it adversely affects my eating, because by the time I get up, Lydia is already hungry because it’s lunch. If I had to make it into a hierarchy I’d say it’s either on par with meditation or exercise. My meditation isn’t really affected. My exercise is a little because I don’t measure myself. It affects my recording because I don’t really have time to do it before needing to go out. 

The reason why this is important is because I’ve just collapsed my eating habit. I’ve just started my rowing habit, and that’s going really well. I’m faced with a decision - should I managed my sleeping first and THEN add eating?

If I go back to an old post - “Sandbagging Continued” - I describe how Lydia suggested a method to evaluate the importance of habits. I called it a sandbagging ratio, which is how much habits give vs how much they take to implement.

I definitely believe that getting up earlier is easier to implement when compared with eating. It gets a little complicated to habits of instance - I have to manage what I do at night as well as the morning. But it definitely beats regulating everything that goes into mouth despite changing scenarios.

In my next non recording post I’m going to go through suggestions I’ve read on how to get up early and how to implement it.