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.

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

Experiment on Sandbagging and Travel: Part I


Hypothesis: Artificially stressing the system by increasing willpower/endurance thresholds through upping all daily minimums a few days before traveling will ensure an excess of energy to accomplish normal daily minimums.

I tested this by:
1) Upping daily minimums of major habits 4 days before I traveled.  I wrote more, I meditated more, and I rowed more.
I had to ensure that the system was stressed, and I believe it was - I was irritable, and I was utterly exhausted 1 day into the experiment. I didn’t have time to do everything the day before I left, but I did all my habits on Saturday which I also don’t normally do. I continued to be irritable, highly emotional, and exhausted on Sunday. When I started traveling all the emotional energy stressors seemed to drop away.

2) Observing myself when I was at the destination. I was situated in a hotel, taken around the island of Aruba for various excursions and food, but mostly I was in a conference room for the majority of my stay. From a habit standpoint this meant that I had time, I had stability, and I had a workout center.

My log (interspersed with pics from Aruba):


Day 1 - Travel
Day 930 Record Keeping DID NOT DO
Day 902 Fixed Meditation 30 Minutes on plane
Day 776 Writing scamp on plane, 1021 words
Day 316 Rowing DID NOT DO
Day 57 Mobility/Stretching DID NOT DO

Food: Also made some really good food choices despite being on a plane. No sweets, opted out of rice, chose chicken instead of pasta. When we got to the resort, ordered relatively clean food, calamari, caesar salad, chowder

Day 2 - First day of the conference
Day 931 Record Keeping - DID NOT DO
Day 903 Fixed Meditation - 30 Minutes in the conference
Day 777 Writing  - Did some writing, but didn’t record it
Day 317 Rowing  - Went for about an hour walk
Day 58 Mobility/Stretching  - DID NOT DO

Food: Lunch, Cuban place, ordered fish, beans, rice, and plantains.
Dinner, a buffet and I made all clean choices


Day 3 - Second day of conference
Day 932 Record Keeping - DID NOT DO
Day 904 Fixed Meditation - DID NOT DO
Day 778 Writing  - DID NOT DO
Day 318 Rowing  - HIIT, 20 min, 30s:15s, on elliptical
Day 59 Mobility/Stretching  - couch stretch, 2 minutes each side

Food: Breakfast, all clean choices. Lunch, AMAZING control - Caesar salad and ate around the croutons, had Lydia offering me the dessert several times, said no to it. Dinner, ate grilled mahi mahi, so also clean. Really amazing control with food this day.

Day 4 - Excursion Day
Day 933 Record Keeping - DID NOT DO
Day 905 Fixed Meditation - DID NOT DO
Day 779 Writing  - DID NOT DO
Day 319 Rowing  - LISS, 40 min, on recumbant bike
Day 60 Mobility/Stretching - couch stretch, 2 minutes each side

Food: Breakfast, clean, Lunch, buffet, made all clean choices. Dinner was a fancier place with lots of little croquettes for appetizers, I ate them. Main dish was all shellfish, relatively clean. Ok control here, still pretty good.


Day 5 - Travel
Day 934 Record Keeping - DID NOT DO
Day 906 Fixed Meditation - DID NOT DO
Day 780 Writing  - DID NOT DO
Day 320 Rowing  - DID NOT DO
Day 61 Mobility/Stretching - DID NOT DO

Food, Horrendous control - no time for breakfast (early wakeup), 10 hour layover in Miami, ate Mexican. Across the 9 hour flight from Miami back to Spain I didn’t eat anything, I was sleeping. Got  back here and ordered Indian with all the fried starters and naan bread.

Alcohol for all days was out the window. I was deliberate about it, and I had PR people shoving complementary drinks in my face for the duration of my time their, as per usual.

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

Strategies to Upkeep Intensity of Habits During Travel

If the gold prize for behaviors is being able to inculcate them extremely fast, then silver surely goes to being able to maintain and maybe even push habits through interruptions like travel.

Next month, Sept 12 - 17th, I’ll be traveling to Aruba for a conference. Normally when this happens I attempt lowered minimums for a few days, abandon all my habits, then pick them up a few days after I get back.

Doing that is really really good. Progress isn’t made, but my habits continue - and that used to be impossible for me. I’ve done this new behavior more times than I can count now.

But I want to push it. When I normally think about sustaining the same levels of habits through travel I think in terms of the minute - I think about if I’ll have the time, or if I’ll have access to wifi, or space to do pushups or whatever. This time I want to experiment by thinking of it in terms of general mechanics.

I see people who do sprints and workout while on vacation - why can’t that be me? Maybe it’s not the details that matter, maybe those are excuses used to cover a lack of willpower?

The next question becomes how can I increase willpower for the duration of that week? In “Sandbagging” I described Lydia’s idea of starting more habits and later losing a few in order to artificially boost the remaining one. In “Skill Pushes and a Looming Problem: Strategies” I describe a “Dragon Ball Z/Kung Fu” Method of pushing skills.

Widening this theory, what if I increased the system load of all my behaviors the week before the trip? Generally speaking I tend to feel the affects of such loads several days to a week later. My theory is that by overloading the system before, I’ll be able to artificially boost willpower in the system by dropping down to my regular habits.

What does that actually look like?

I’d say that 4 or 5 days before traveling I’d up all my minimums. 4 rounds of writing, 45 minutes on the rower for LISS, and additional 20 minutes of LISS on HIIT days, 45 minutes of meditation, extra mobilizations, earlier sleep times.

Then drop down to normals once I get to Aruba.

Here’s hoping it works!

Skill Pushes and a Looming Problem: Strategies

I have a few ideas on how to juggle the problem of multiple skill pushes:

The Cast Method - making sure everything is exactly the same, or minimal, while ratcheting up a skill. For example, increasing rowing from 20 minutes to 30 minutes while keeping everything the same. This method is usually based in fear for me because I don’t want my whole routine to fall a part (like it has in the past). Another better method MIGHT be…

Sandbagging - I initially viewed this method to implement habits, but I think it could be used as a safe diagnostic tool to discover where the breaking point is. Take two or more skills, push them, and as soon as things start to get wobbly, drop back all skills to normal levels except one. I believe that this will also solidify that one skill’s advanced practice.

Fracturing - Cycling practice. When I had a daily practice of 1 hour of cardio at the gym, I usually did an hour of recumbent cycling. But it was pretty boring. It was actually easier to break it up and do half on the cycle and half on the treadmill, or into 3 with the last 1/3 on the elliptical. I feel this would really work well with practice that involves an extension of time.

Gamification - NanoWriMo, the Flash diet, I feel this is fantastic for 30 day challenges. I actually think it’s better for pushing skills than it is for making skills habits. 

Ritual - I keep meaning to write a massive post on rituals. The idea for me is that these small things ease the transition between the normal day and the place in the mind where difficult things happen. For example, when I was trying to establish a non-bracketed habit of recording my food, I made tea. I got to the point where I really enjoyed the process, and so I enjoyed the quiet time before bed where I recorded.

I did the same with writing for a while, and it’s something I still need to fiddle around with. Personally I think Ritual is like a proto- or ur-game or motivation - it just helps to lower that starting threshold, whether it’s starting or pushing a habit.

Changing multiple skill variables to maintain equilibrium- I mentioned one example of this already - my 8 week HIIT cycle, where it folded really well into my already established rowing habit. I think it worked because though it was more intense it wasn’t longer - equilibrium was maintained so there was no real load to the system. I think I have more problems increasing my base time. I like the idea of this best.

The Dragon Ball Z Kung Fu Method - Artificially intensifying practice in order to then lower it to higher base levels, but nowhere near the levels set during the initial push. 

In the cartoon DBZ and in many legendary “iron” kung fu trainings a practitioner would weigh himself down, or in the anime, train at weighted artificial gravity. After getting thoroughly used to the weight, they’d take the vest off and then would be able to fly, have preternaturally fast reflexes, or be incredibly light on their feet.

When I did NaNoWriMo, where some days required 13,000 words, going back to my normal writing quotas was incredibly easy. But I haven’t deliberately done this technique very much, so it would be interesting to practice this.

Where does this leave us?

So while my normal “Cast Methodology” relies on a natural growth in willpower to lift the extra load, gamification and ritual seem to lighten the new weight. Sandbagging and the DBZ Method both use comparisons in feeling and temporariness to advance practice. Changing variables and fracturing appear to cause as little load as possible. 

And fracturing also uses the feeling of doing multiple things to fool the mind into thinking things are going faster - it’s like hanging out with a friend. You go to one place for an hour, and it may be tedious, but go to three places in that hour and it feels like you’ve done a lot more and you know that person more. Depth of experience or relationship in this case acts as a stand in for depth of practice.

I still don’t know what skills I plan on moving forward, but this at least gives me a bit more clarity on my options.

photocred: chess by Ruocaled, ritual by rahul rekapalli, shaolin by Sven Laqua

Skill Pushes and a Looming Problem

There’s a problem looming on the horizon.

Until now most of my habits have been quite simple: a solid meditation habit, a steady exercise habit, nano-habits for identity clusters like drinking a glass of water or recording food or sleep.

But I’ll soon be at a point where most habits will need to be pushed - and I have no idea how to juggle that.

I’m not without some knowledge. I’ve pushed meditation time wise to 30 minutes. I recently completed an 8 week HIIT progression in rowing, I’ve taken classes in writing. But since there were so few of these I’ve had quite a bit of space to maneuver. I think when I have a wall of behaviors where the only thing to do is to push - mobilization, eating, writing, meditation, exercising, getting up early, etc.  - it’s not going to give me a lot of wiggle room.

I could do the same thing as I am doing now. Keep everything in a cast or reduce daily minimums to conserve willpower while I shift one skill into a different gear. But certain habits are crying out now (or will be soon) for a push. For example, in meditation, it feels as though 30 minutes just isn’t enough, and many books talk about “getting the dosage high enough” to progress. Which means that though my 30 minutes gives me good basic practice, I’m not really reaping more rewards like I would with flossing. One could argue that all exercise is like this - our bodies just adjust and you have to adjust with it or face diminishing returns.

I think one thing I can do is analyze the differences between types of skill growth. Is drinking two glasses of water really going to cause me as much system wide stress as adding more writing? I’m guessing not. What about moving my bedtime curfew from 1:20 AM to 1:00 AM? Should I do this now, even if it’s not fully a superhabit?

I’m also curious to test the limits of all of this. I have a sense sometimes that I’m giving myself too MUCH wiggle room, and tightening and compressing the whole system will give me more forward acceleration. My fear is that everything will collapse, which is a legitimate concern. But I have a series of behaviors that are already in place to prevent complete system wide failure (habit recording comes to mind - I’m always going to recover even if it takes a few weeks). I also have some ideas on how to mitigate such a collapse - like sandbagging, which could actually help the skills that aren’t dropped.

This is all so vague, and I don’t really know anyone at all who is discussing the pushing of skills in multiple behaviors. In the next post I’d like to try to clarify some of the terrain from just my basic intuitions.

photocred: storm by Augie Ray, gears by Gillie Rhodes, speed limit by jatin_kumar

Sandbagging Continued

I’m suffering through an paralysis by analysis these days in taking up my habits after a long absence and in continuing forward with the Mastery phase of my project.

And this is understandable. I feel this project has gone through phases: gamification, habituation, recording and habituation, and now pushing skills towards mastery. At every point where I felt a need to shift things up, I’ve felt dead in the water.

My main question is how I should shuffle habits that need pushed when in reality - they all do. I’m not taking about extraneous habits that can be dropped. they’re all important, and they all exist in a core family. Meditation, eating, and exercise all have far reaching benefits that extend through out any endeavor in terms of energy, general health, and mental stability. Recording is how I keep track of the project as a whole, and writing is something I have to do for work. 

If I want the “thing itself” for any of these, I feel like I’ll be endlessly dithering around with the other, especially with the knowledge of how pushing a skill towards mastery tends to cause severe strains on the overall system of willpower that sustains other habits. 

I’ve talked about methods of getting around this before - particularly with the notion of “shelfing” - getting a habit up to a self sustained “next level” then cycling to another skill to push.

Talking over it with Lydia the other day, she suggested using sandbagging, which I talked about a long time ago. Essentially it’s reaching further than you think you can, and letting go of tasks that don’t need to be worked on now. Since NaNoWriMo is this month, and I’m writing for that, there’s going to be a extra load because I’m not used to writing that much daily. On top of that, I’m going to have problems because I’m re-engaging all my habits after an absence.

The question becomes - what habit, in a core group of habits like this, should I drop? Her answer - what’s going to give you the most bang for your buck?

You can make a sandbagging ratio - of habits based on how much they give vs how much they take to implement. Going through it went like this:

-meditation is easy to implement (only takes a few minutes, is a single task per day) yet mental stability seems to strengthen every endeavor. HIGH PRIORITY

-Exercise is a little more difficult. It’s also a single task, and though it has an initial draining factor (i.e. tiredness) it provides more energy. 

-Eating - incredibly difficult to implement - it’s a continuous task along multiple scenarios. Has a great bang, cause it helps regulate energy levels.

Therefore eating is the first bag that could be dropped during this time, even though I hate to do it. I’ll start recording today, and just consider eating as a soft goal for this month.


I was talking to Lydia Schrandt  and she came up with this brilliant solution to making it through the “danger zone.”

We were discussing how easy the first months were in eating clean compared to any other diet or regiment we’ve been on. The key to her was that we just didn’t care. We entered into it not caring, so her suggestion to me was - maybe if you did the same thing it would work with other habits.

The problem is intentionality - how do you deliberately NOT care? 

Her recent solution (we’ve been talking a bout this a lot) is what she dubbed sandbagging

Start one habit you care about. At the same time, start two more habits that you don’t care about. It doesn’t matter what they are. Do them all with the normal protocol - recording, etc. When the main habit gets into the danger zone, drop the other two completely.

She used to work with hot air balloons, hence the term. I think of it in terms of Dragon Ball Z, where the characters all train with weighted shirts and artificially high gravity. Once they lose the shirt and get back to earth, they can fight faster and fly higher…much like the balloon.

Habits seem to cause indentions like weight on us, and it doesn’t seem to matter how small the habit is - it just gets tiring carrying it over a long period of time. 

This is something I’ll have to experiment with in the future. I could potentially do this with my eating habit by dropping my burpee habit. But that doesn’t quite sit well with me. In any case I’ll have to decide what  my protocol is when it comes to eating these next three months - it’s already gotten hard, and I’ll be traveling extensively throughout Brazil to see the World Cup, which will test this habit to the maximum degree.