Noisy Deadlines

NoisyMusings

I've had a morning routine for years now. This routine hasn't changed much over time, and I consider it to be key to my mental health and wellbeing.

This year, I focused on continuing to do the work to become more centered and grounded. I started regular therapy sessions, and they helped me a lot! This journey made me understand which habits were essential to me. I knew they were important because I've been practising it for years, but what changed this year was my mindset towards them.

My morning routine habit started when I read this book “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod in 2016. It was life changing at the time, I followed all the exercises, and it stuck with me. The principle is to wake up early and focus on activities like: mindfulness, exercise, reading, journaling. I remember it was flexible, I could choose which activities best fit my needs. After years of trial and error, I ended up with my current morning routine, which includes:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • Reading

These became my “keystone habits” as Cal Newport would call them, and this year I realized that if I skip them for a day or two, I suffer the consequences. They have become part of my wellness maintenance routine.

With the help of therapy this year, I understood how important they are, but I also changed my mindset. I used to think that if I didn't do at least 30min of yoga that would be a useless session, so why bother? I held unrealistic expectations, thinking that if I couldn't dedicate a substantial amount of time to each activity, it was futile. It was a complicated relationship: I felt good when I completed some of my habits, but I was constantly frustrated because “I should have done more”.

So what changed?

After some trial and error and I ended up with my “sweet spot” routine: a minimum yet impactful sequence that aligns with my schedule. I can extend the durations over the weekend or on a day off work, but I always start with:

  • Wake up, use the bathroom, drink water, get to my yoga mat
  • Yoga: 15 min yoga + 3 min savasana (the yoga resting pose). I use the DownDog app.
  • Meditation: 10 min (I use the Daily Calm meditations on the Calm app
  • Have breakfast with my partner. Read a little bit while having breakfast.
  • Take a shower, brush teeth, get dressed for work.
  • Journaling: Sit down with my laptop and do a 10 to 30 min writing session.
  • Maybe read some more before leaving if I have time.

To be able to do that, I wake up at 5am, and I'm usually leaving for work at around 7:40am. It's been working great for me! I feel I have more energy, I am less anxious, and I start the day with a sense of accomplishment.

There are days when I only complete one or two of those activities because of an early appointment, or none at all because I'm sick or something, and that's okay! I know I will get back to them next time. I try not to skip more than twice in a row.

My yoga/meditation/exercise corner

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

I’ve had some rough weeks these couple of months in terms of dealing with my own anxiety. I’ve had ups and downs: one week I’m thriving, the other I’m overwhelmed. The past two weeks I’ve been feeling everything is great: I’m not feeling overwhelmed, I’m sleeping well, I have no pain or aches, I’m not having racing thoughts, and I’m not drowning in worry.

In my therapy session this week, my therapist asked me why I was feeling better, and what has changed that made me feel this way now?

I looked back at my journal entries and my weekly notes and came up with 4 reasons:

  1. Journaling in the morning and protecting my morning routine: I skipped some of this routine and my days became out of focus, filled with anxiety and stress. My morning routine became my rock, I really feel out of wack when I miss it. It consists of moving my body (usually Yoga, but also stretching and body weight exercises), meditation and journaling. These 3 combined give me a push to start the day mindfully.

  2. Planning on Mondays: I noticed how important it is for me to do a longer session on Monday mornings to plan the week. I've been using Cal Newport's second edition Time Block Planner, and it's been great! Lots of space to plan the week. And I’m also changing my Monday mindset: Mondays are for planning and catching up, I don't need to accomplish any big tasks on Mondays and that's okay. This helped go through the past 2 weeks handling 5 concurrent projects at work that I thought I wouldn’t be able to manage.

  3. Realizing that I need a Work Weekly Review on Fridays: It needs to be separate from my personal weekly review, and it needs to be before the weekend, so I don't stress about work when I don’t want to. This was huge! After years practising GTD I didn’t realize that I could have 2 separate weekly reviews, and that it would make such a difference to my mental health.

  4. Having the new car situation resolved: It was a relief to be certain that I could maintain my morning routine now that we solved the issues of our morning commute. Not having to leave earlier because of the logistics of taking buses and carpooling saved me a lot of mental stress. I didn’t realize how much this worry was weighting down on me. My morning routines are the rocks of my day! Can't miss them!

So I’m basically back in my groove, writing things down, planning my days and weeks and doing my shutdown routine at work. These routines allow me to be more focused at work and allow me to be mostly stress-free.

All these reflections led me to also rethink my GTD tools (more on that later)😉

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

I read this blog post by Sylvia this morning and I really liked the idea of having a list of things to remember every day.

I went back to a document I have called “Purpose and Principles” that I wrote as part of my GTD system. In this document, I have a list of my Core Values and a mission statement. Inspired by the blog post above, I updated my list with my:

♥ Things to Remember Every Day

  1. Stay calm and remember to breath.

  2. Wake up with mindfulness (yoga and meditation).

  3. Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. (— by Michael Pollan)

  4. If overwhelmed, take 3 deep breaths and do a mind sweep!

  5. I won't judge anyone (including me!)

  6. Be curious about the world. Read books.

  7. Sleep is essential.

  8. Move your body a little bit every day.

  9. Say NO! Avoid over commitment.

  10. Celebrate progress 🙌.

I copied this list to the start of my daily physical notebook and I will also put a copy of the list on my whiteboard at home.

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

The Internet is awesome because it connects computers, which can then connect people. This allows people to share information and work and have fun together. In the past, there were different ways that this connection happened, such as bulletin board systems (BBS's), Usenet networks, forums, message boards, and IRC. Some of these systems are still around today, but they are not as popular as they used to be.

We all know blogs have been around for a while, starting as online journals in 1994. They evolved over time, becoming more social with features like comments and likes. Webrings were also used to find personal blogs, and people would share other blogs on their own through Blogrolls. The experience of finding cool blogs was decentralized and based on serendipity.

When I think of the early internet, I remember forums, IRC chats, and personal blogs. These were the “social networks” of that time. They were all about connecting with people, sharing passions and opinions, having conversations, and learning from each other. Forums were especially useful for finding expert advice and detailed guides on many topics.

Blogs became more popular in the 2000s and reached more people. However, this also meant that they became part of the internet advertising economy, cluttered with ads, pop-ups, and annoying banners. Around the same time we saw the emergence (and eventual decline) of some networking platforms such as Six Degrees, Friendster, MySpace, LinkedIn, Orkut, and Facebook. These services began as a means of connecting with groups of people who shared common interests, or were friends or relatives.

But something happened around 2009-2010 that turned “Social Networking” into “Social Media.” The advertising economy had taken hold. Ads were everywhere online. With the rise of smartphones and social media apps, billions of people began to view themselves as potential celebrities. Comments and likes created a social-validation feedback loop. This led to the influencer economy, where users got paid by companies to promote products.

Surveillance capitalism worsened the situation by harvesting user data for ads. Social media lured users with money for “content” but also hooked them with addictive features like endless feeds, “like” buttons, and clickbait algorithms. We all know the negative effects these apps have on users’ well-being. Mainstream social media platforms are now in a bad shape, and I believe people are aware of the problems and want change.

It appears that people have become accustomed to being in one crowded place all the time on the web, but this is not an ideal way to socialize. We can bring back some of the old Internet vibe by creating smaller, more manageable groups. The first step is to establish our own spaces on the web, which are separate from the large, walled social media gardens.

After using mainstream social media platforms for years, I realized that everything I wrote on these platforms didn’t really belong to me. My content and identity were owned by mega-corporations. Bothered by this, I read books by Jaron Lanier, Shoshana Zuboff and James Williams. To my relief, I discovered that there were alternatives to the “corporate-owned” Internet, including initiatives like the Indie Web, the smol web, the federated ActivityPub protocol and so many others.

I deleted my social media accounts. I got a domain and created my blog on Write.as, a privacy-focused blogging platform that is a delight to use. I am not pressured to write to keep up with the trending topics, or to grow my audience. It's my little corner of the internet, it's clean, and quiet. It's a safe space for me to express myself and connect with others on my own terms.

There are various ways to connect with people online, such as microblogging, chatting on IRC or joining the small web / IndieWeb movements. It's important to remember that the internet is a tool, and we have the power to shape the way we use it. By taking control of our own data and creating our own spaces online, we can recreate the sense of community and personalization that defined the early internet.

I think we all deserve to have choices that suit our technical skills and tastes. The decentralized web offers choices for everyone. You can pick and choose the platforms and protocols that work for you and your goals. And I hope that as more people discover the ad-free and decentralized web, they will find more options that are rewarding and fun to use.

This text was originally published on Ctrl-ZINE (^Z) Vol. 1 – Issue 3.

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

I was listening to Cal Newport’s podcast episode 262 and in the final segment he commented on a video by Better Ideas about overstimulation. The video discusses social media addiction, internet addiction and its relation with dopamine. Inspired by the video, Cal Newport then suggests some solutions to the problem.

In summary, his advice to combat online overstimulation is simply:

Don’t use things that cause overstimulation!”

The reasoning behind it is to avoid giving opportunities for our brains to fire up the dopamine response. Dopamine is released when we anticipate doing something pleasurable. So if we get used to reaching out for something entertaining all the time, we will be constantly seeking that stimulation. And nowadays, there are infinite ways to get that dopamine hit at our fingertips instantly.

Cal Newport makes an analogy with smoking: to get rid of this addiction, the end goal is to quit smoking. The solution is never getting used to a regime of smoking less or controlling when and where you smoke: the solution is to actually quit.

So he suggests we remove sources of overstimulation from our lives:

  • Delete all social media! Simple as that.
  • Don’t scroll online news. Subscribe to one or two interesting newsletters instead, or listen to one podcast with daily events if you need to keep up to date with news.
  • Videos and YouTube: YouTube can be a good source of information if used well. Install AdBlockers and Distraction Free extensions for YouTube to eliminate the automated recommendation feature. Another tip is to watch YouTube on a TV in your living room, like you would sit down to enjoy a movie.
  • And the most important tip is to replace all the distractions with high quality entertainment: movies, music, books, high quality videos, documentaries. The more we consume high quality content, the less we will enjoy junk information. We will eventually lose our taste for shallow content.

From my experience, this approach works. I’ve deleted major social media accounts years ago (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter) and nowadays, I don’t miss those services. I’ve recently tried to use Mastodon as a lightweight alternative to social media. Even if Mastodon is open, decentralized and have no algorithmically generated timelines, the model still mimics Twitter, and I was feeling similar FOMO effects using it.

So, I’m keeping away from Mastodon for 30 Days. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to use it without feeling distracted. I might eventually delete my account. We’ll see.

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

Yesterday I was super distracted at work. Looking back, I think it’s been going on for the past couple of weeks. I’m having this twitch of reaching out for my phone every moment of a small pause. Let’s say I’m calling someone, and those seconds when I’m waiting for the other person to pick up, I look at my phone, trying to check something. It’s an unconscious behaviour. It’s kinda scary to notice it and then realize it was automatic: I had no conscious choice over it.

I’m getting better with my phone: deleting the Discord app made it way less interesting. But I still have that urge to look up things online. I feel like I’ve been conditioned to do that, even when I don’t need it.

Throughout the day I find myself opening the browser. I might be in the middle of a task and something gets unclear or fuzzy, I get frustrated and open a tab. I look at my bookmarks. I keep on switching tabs, checking my bookmarks. I keep waiting for something interesting to happen. Waiting to be entertained.

So I need some time off. One website I’ve been visiting more and more during the day is Mastodon. Similar to the Discord app on my phone, Mastodon is one of the main drivers for my behaviour. Even though Mastodon doesn’t have algorithms and I’ve curated my timeline for it to be less overwhelming, I still have this illogical urge to check it.

I think it has to do with the “Twitter-like” format. Information is too scattered, it's too noisy, too random. This format of short asynchronous messages creates the illusion of cool things happening all the time. It inherently generates FOMO. This “Always Keep Up” method of being online is extremely draining to me. So I guess these micro-blogging formats are not for me anymore.

I’m not deleting my account yet, but I will not use Mastodon for 30 days and re-evaluate. I’m logging out from all my devices and adding the address to the blocked list on all my browsers.

I’ll keep on blogging here. I will still read my RSS feed, which is highly curated and I don’t get FOMO from it.

I’ll check how I’m doing in a week and observe if other sources of distraction will replace Mastodon.

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

A while ago my book club was deciding what the next sci-fi read was going to be, and we decided to use an online random number generator to choose from our list of book suggestions (that were numbered from 1 to 46).

It turns out the randomly selected number was 9, which corresponded to “A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe” by Alex White. A member who has read it before mentioned that it was Science Fantasy. So we pondered: “Should it be classified as a science fiction or fantasy read”? This dilemma sparked conversations, particularly because we like to alternate our monthly picks between sci-fi and fantasy.

The definition of Science Fantasy, as complied by Wikipedia is:

Science fantasy is a hybrid genre within speculative fiction that simultaneously draws upon or combines tropes and elements from both science fiction and fantasy.

Pretty broad, huh?

So some might say that Star Wars is Science Fantasy, while others will think that Star Trek can also be Science Fantasy, and not good old hard Sci-Fi.

I wasn’t familiar with this sub-genre, but the description reminded me a little bit of the 80’s movie called Krull” from 1983. There are swords and lasers. And magic, or magical things happening. It’s an interesting mixture of medieval and space themes, because there are also aliens!

And then I reminded myself that I have read a Science Fantasy book before: the classic “Dragonflight (Dragonriders of Pern #1) by Anne McCaffrey, first published in 1967. This one has dragons, and magic and space travel. I only read the first book, but it is at least a trilogy.

Looking at all the books I’ve read, I can probably spot only 2 or 3 books that are clearly Science Fantasy. And from the reviews I wrote back then, I’m not a super fan of this sub-genre. But I remember when I was a kid I loved that movie Krull, and I also loved its soundtrack (which I still might have in MP3 format somewhere).

So, do I like Science Fantasy or not?

I guess for me it depends on the tone. I’d prefer a fantasy book, set in a medieval-ish inspired world that has some advanced technology in it, rather than a full-on sci-fi book with spaceships and some magic. The book I mentioned above (“A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe”) is in the latter category and the magic in it disturbed my suspension of disbelief. I had to disregard the magic elements to enjoy the story (which was fun, by the way!).

In our book club discussion, we discovered the complexity in categorizing works that draw from both futuristic technology and mystical elements. There was no final consensus. And the guy who only reads sci-fi, for instance, hated this sub-genre. It’s not for everybody.

Science Fantasy is a thing. It’s one of those interesting genre mashups and I think it’s hard to do it well (based on my personal preference). It’s that unique intersection between science fiction and fantasy, where the boundaries blur and possibilities are limitless.

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

Focus is a choice. At all times.

Distractions are there all the time, no matter what. So what can I do to get through the chaos of each day? How can I identify what is essential?

Things to do to focus everyday:

1) Look at my Calendar. Do I have meetings? Appointments? What do I need to do to prepare to those events? Write it down. This is one of the focus of the day.

2) What do I absolutely need to get done today? It might be something on my next actions list. It might be something that's been bugging me for days. It might be something that has just showed up in my mind. Choose 1. Add to the Focus⭐ list.

3) Then choose to focus on these 2 things.

It is up to me to make a conscious decision and prioritize and engage with tasks. Focus remains within my control, as long as I eliminate bursts of distraction (such as notifications, news, social media).

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

Earlier this month I took a whole week off from work and since my partner would still be working, we had no travel plans. I wanted to spend some time relaxing at home. My main goal was just to REST A LOT. I was feeling I was in the verge of work burnout and I needed to disconnect. I literally put my work phone in a drawer for the week.

I had some ideas of things I wanted to do during this week. Here they were:

- ✅Go to the Public Library to do some reading and/or a Weekly Review: I did go to a Public Library and spent some time reading. I didn't do a weekly review a the Library, tho.

- ✅Revise My Areas of Focus : I did this review in the Public Library near my house. It's something that I would look at every year or so, but I realized it's nice to look at all Areas at least bi-monthly. I'm trying to do that more.

- ✅ Do Free Writing sessions outside the house (in the Library, in a Café): I did go to a Public Library and spent some time writing there. I did not go to a Café. I don't think I'm a fan of the Café environment to do focused work, like writing. I didn't feel like trying one. Instead I went to a couple different Public libraries.

- ✅ Go for walks (or runs) in the morning: I usually go for runs and walks in the evenings. For this week I wanted to be outside early in the morning. I did go for a long walk one morning and it was glorious!

- ✅ Sit down and read for 2 hours straight: Yeah, I did have the time to do that. It took a few tries to actually be able to focus for 2 hours. It wasn't exactly 2 hours straight, as I would took a break in the middle for tea and snacks. But it was nice to know I'm capable of doing it, if I have enough space in my schedule. I was worried my ability to focus was damaged.

- ✅ Do longer sessions of free writing: I didn't do super long sessions. The greatest amount was one hour and a half at the Library. It was interesting, I usually don't have that much free time to write anymore. But I'm thinking some of those on the weekends now.

- ✅ Think about how I want to organize my blog ideas and routines: I gave this a lot of though. I created a list in Standard Notes for “Ideas”. If I want to develop an idea I start writing in Standard Notes in a folder called “drafts”. When I feel like the draft is developed enough, I copy it to Write.as and finish editing there for publication.

- ✅ Watch the GTD videos I've been wanting to watch for ages: Done! I had some webinars in my “To-Watch” list for ages, and I finally got to them.

- ✅ Do longer meditation sessions (30+min): I did some 30-40 minutes sessions. I want to do those more often.

Stepping away from the demands of work and allowing myself the freedom to explore my interests and reflect on my priorities brought me a sense of renewal I hadn't realized I was missing.

These simple moments of uninterrupted reading, writing, and meditation showed me how important it is to take time to rest. I found some solace in the stillness.

Some flowers spotted in an early morning walk.

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

I was at the dentist the other day and one of the dental assistants was a Brazilian lady. We chatted a little bit in Portuguese. She's been in Canada for less than a year and she asked me what were the Facebook or Whatsapp groups I was part of. She was ready to pull out her phone and add more groups to her list. I quietly told her: “Hmmm, none really. I don't use Facebook and I only use Whatsapp for calls with my mom”. 

It was a weird moment, because the look in her face was of total astonishment. She made a comment about how it should have been hard for me to live all these years without having these groups. I told her that I survived all right, and I actually used a lot of the newcomers immigrant services offered by the government, so I didn't feel the need to search for a Brazilian local group, honestly. 

And she told me about an association that promotes parties and such for the Brazilian community here, and again, I felt super weird telling her that, as an introvert, I don't really enjoy parties. They are loud, and crowded, and... it's just not my thing. 

After I left the dentist I kept thinking about this encounter. I've been in Canada for 6 years now and I've adjusted to the local groceries products, I learned the quirks of using the public transport, I know where is the closest public library (and I know how to use it), I learned how to pump gas in my car (in Brazil there is an attendant who does that for you), I learned the best combination of layers for winter clothing. And all those lessons learned were made without using services like Facebook or Whatsapp groups. 

Maybe I took longer to learn those things, I don’t know. It was not until last year that I discovered the perfect combination of winter socks for my winter boots, for example. Lots of trial and error.

I guess what I'm wondering here is: Have I missed something? Should I have been in constant communication with fellow Brazilians and participating in these non-stop discussion groups? Even the lady I met at the dentist said that these groups are crazy, she receives hundreds of messages everyday. 

My gut feeling is that I don't feel I missed anything. I enjoyed my quiet days as a newcomer. There is so much information out there. And making observations and asking around has always worked for me.

It's certainly not the same for everybody. Because of my quiet nature I was okay. In the real world I always found help when I needed it. Anyway... this post was just a reflection. 

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.