Noisy Deadlines

journal

It happened again. I've been picking up my phone every moment of downtime. According to my iPhone's Screen Time, my daily usage went up by 23% in the past week. I've been spending more time than usual on Discord and using the browser.

And I know why it happened, for the most part: I reinstalled the Discord app on my phone. I have book clubs groups on Discord and also the Standard Notes group. I don't really need to check these groups all the time, but at some point in the past weeks I thought it would be nice to have the app at my fingertips. You know, why not have it ready to go when I'm on my lunch break to check what was going on? It turns out I can't be moderate about it. I started checking all the groups early in the morning, during breakfast and then in the mornings and afternoons while I'm at work... and at night before bed. And since I was on the phone, why not open up my browser and check Mastodon? And check my RSS feed? And why not go into a rabbit hole searching for a recipe online? This week I finally took notice of my behaviour: what is going on?

It was a behaviour change, and I'm almost sure it was triggered by having the Discord app readily available for me to use. My willpower is limited so having a shiny tool like Discord diminishes my ability to maintain focus. And it spiralled out of control.

So I'm making my phone less interesting:

  1. I've deleted the Discord app

  2. I've deleted from my browser all the links/favorites to websites that would pull my attention.

  3. And I'm replacing my mindless browsing on my phone with reading a book on my Kobo, or just being alone with my thoughts.

The goal here is to reject the model of my phone as my constant companion, and use it more intentionally.

“Efforts to deepen your focus will struggle if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction.” ― Cal Newport “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”

-- Post 16/100 of 100DaysToOffload challenge!

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

I was very young when I saw a computer for the first time. It was 1986, I was 7 years old and my dad got a TK85 which was connected to a black and white TV. I think the TK85 was a Brazilian thing: it was a clone of a Sinclair ZX81 made by Microdigital Eletrônica (a Brazilian computer company, long ago extinct). It had an external compact cassette recorder that was used to load programs into it. It came with 16 or 48 Kb of RAM. I don't remember the RAM size of the one my dad got. It would take half an hour or more to load a game, and every time you needed to run any software you had to go though the process of playing the cassette tape to load it into the memory.

TK85 by Microdigital

Since then I've been a tech enthusiast. I was learning the Basic programming language when I was seven years old. I played games and learned touch typing on an Apple II. I was excited when my dad got a 386 PC then a 486 PC running Windows. I saw the first Windows version. I used WordStar and Lotus 1-2-3. I remember the day I first used a mouse and saw a monitor that wasn't green monochrome or black and white. I used 8-inch, 5¼-inch, and 3½-inch floppy disks.

I connected to BBS servers with dial-up modems that took forever to connect. I loved IRC discussions and used ICQ to connect to friends. I saw the Internet when it was NOT all about views and annoying ads. I loved opening up Mosaic or Netscape and doing random searches about a nerdy topic and finding out a webpage suggesting the right reading order of Isaac Asimov books. Or a really cool blog with the complete genealogy of The Lord of the Rings characters.

I kept awake many nights playing text based RPG on a MUD (Multi User Dungeon games) server. I made lots of friends playing Realms of Despair (it seems the servers are still up and running, by the way!.

I still love computers and technology although I have not become a programmer or a software developer. I think deep inside I wanted to be a Computer Scientist, but life and circumstances threw me towards another direction. I'm happy that I still spend most of my days with a computer, they've come a long way! I love a full sized mechanical keyboard and I hate doing things on a mobile or a tablet.

I guess for some people nowadays the Internet is synonymous with computers. The Internet has its pros and cons, we all know it. I try to stay away from ads, social media and any algorithm that choose what to show me. I like to have control over what I consume.

In retrospect, my journey into the world of technology and computers began in the most humble of settings: with cassette-loaded programs and painstaking loading times. But that instilled in me a fascination that has endured to this day.

Me with computers in the 80's/90'sMe with computers in the 80's/90's feeling nerdy 🤓

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

In our weekly team meetings at work we always start with a Safety Moment. I work in construction so there is serious concern about safety. One of these days it was my turn to do the Safety Moment. I decided to talk about mental health, since it is something the company is starting to pay more attention to, and they were promoting a “Mental Health Awareness Week”.

The construction industry is a tough place and there is lots of stigma around mental health. In one of the company’s newsletters, it was mentioned that managing workload and stress were ways to support mental health. But it didn’t really explain HOW to do it! It mentioned work-life balance and balanced workload as if it was a no-brainer.

I shared 4 points that I think can help managing our workloads:

1) Focus: it’s important to manage our attention. A good strategy is to use time blocking so that we focus on one thing at a time. We can have blocks for checking emails, blocks for doing deep work (like doing quantity take-offs or reading specifications), blocks for communication (phone calls) and blocks for planning or organizing information. Multitasking is an illusion: if we keep jumping from one thing to the next back and forth, we can never actually work deeply on something. Also, take breaks!

2) Plan the day: We usually underestimate the time we will take to complete something, so take some time to plan your time blocks and what is going to be the focus of the day.

3) Capturing and organizing: it’s important to have a trusted system to capture notes, write things down and organize everything. It can be done using paper or a task manager app. The key is to record our to-do’s somewhere out of our minds (I didn’t go into the whole GTD thing, since I wouldn’t have time to expand on that).

4) Shutdown Routine: it’s beneficial to do a brain dump at the end of the workday, capturing all loose and unfinished tasks to prepare for the next day. It helps preventing overwhelm and supports a healthy transition to our personal responsibilities.

I was very nervous to talk about this topic in front of my whole team. I felt vulnerable and kept wondering if I was the only one who was worried about mental health. It was terrifying because people in construction don’t usually talk about these things.

But in the end, it was well received, and people made agreeing comments. After the meeting some colleagues came to ask me about my system and how I was implementing taking notes, organizing tasks and doing the shutdown routine.

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

There was this sofa bed at IKEA that was within our budget, and it would fit perfectly in our living room. I’ve been trying to purchase it for about a year now. Because of the pandemic, this item was constantly out of stock. During this time, I got a few notifications that it was back in stock, but every time I tried to purchase, it was gone. I guess some people were quicker than me!

Today, at 5am in the morning, I saw the “back in stock” notification and placed an order right away! I secured one out of the 4 available. Finally! 🤗

Since we moved to the house, we’ve been planning to get a sofa bed. We haven’t owned a sofa since 2017. We’ve been using the POÄNG armchairs from IKEA to watch movies/TV shows, and they are very comfortable, I like them. But now we have a little bit more space in the house and we wanted to be able to receive guests to sleep overnight.

This was a Project that was on my list since at least July 2022 and now I’ll finally be able to complete it! Yay!

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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. 

Post 08/100 of 100DaysToOffload challenge!

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

I got a new Daily Planner that replaced my old one. I was using Cal Newport's Time-Block Planner which is great, but I always thought it was too heavy and bulky. Mine was the first version so it didn't lay open flat on my desk.

Last month I got a simpler planner, much more compact, in spiral biding and cheaper. It has 100 non-dated pages. I have the view of an entire day in one page. There is a space for the Top 3 most important things for the day, the day schedule from 6am to 9pm, a space for to-do's, meals, water intake and notes.

I'm using the Top 3 space everyday. It's such a simple thing, but it is helping me to make the decision first thing in the morning of what is my focus for the day.

I start by putting the date at the top, then I use a ruler to add some vertical lines to the Schedule (creating an additional column if my schedule changes, inspired by Cal Newport). I think about my Top 3 things and write them down. Then I look at my digital Calendar and start blocking out all the meetings, appointments, lunch break and my end of the day shutdown routine block.

Then I look at my Top 3 and decide what will be my focus for the morning and block the times. I also look at Nirvana to see which tasks are in my Focus list. I try to block by theme or project, and use Nirvana to guide me through specific next actions. Sometimes I add a next action to the To-Do section of the planner, as a way of reminding myself I need to work on those ASAP.

I can never time block the whole day at once. I prefer to plan the morning, then after lunch I regroup and block the afternoon based on what happened throughout the day.

I’m using the Meals section of the planner to note the snacks I eat during the day. I’ve been trying to cut down on snacks as I noticed I’ve been snacking out of anxiety. Writing it down makes me aware of this behaviour.

On the left: An early morning plan – On the right: a complete day plan

I’m using this Planner as an auxiliary tool to help me plan my day. I could do that by using my digital calendar, but there’s something about writing things down that makes the plan more real, more palpable. It’s an exercise in looking ahead and facing the productivity dragon.

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

We started a new puzzle this week! This one is 1,000 pieces and it’s called the “Magician’s Study”. I love that I will be searching for candles, glass jars, a skull, a magician’s staff and lots of books.

This puzzle is not as hard as the previous one because it has fewer abstract images, which makes it easier to spot patterns. The pieces are oddly shaped and vary in size more than other puzzles I have done. I’m having fun with it 😃.

Day 01 Progress: we are still missing some border sneaky border pieces.

Post 06/100 of 100DaysToOffload challenge!

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

After 5 months, me and my partner finally finished the Dragon de Jade puzzle. It was definitely the hardest puzzle I've ever done! It is very dark, with imperceptible colour nuances in the pieces. Shades of blacks, greys, and blues, with hints of oranges/reds.

And it was the first time we had to redo the border pieces multiple times in a puzzle! Usually the border is the first thing we finish, and it kinda stays unchanged till the end. On this one the border was the last item to be finished! Some pieces seemed to go well together judging by their shape, but then other surrounding pieces wouldn't match. So we had to constantly rearrange these borders pieces.

Read more...

I got a new computer this week! 😃

My 6-years-old 15.6” ASUS VivoPro laptop couldn't hold its battery charge anymore, it was bulky, heavy to carry around and I actually hated the keyboard and the screen. It still works, if connected to power, so I'll probably use it to play around with Linux or something.

So I decided to get a new laptop and since I've had a good experience with the Lenovo Thinkpad I use at work, I got a new 14” Thinkpad X1 Carbon.

It's ultra light, I love the screen and the keyboard and I also got the docking station to get my cables better organized at my desk (I am not a fan of wireless keyboards or mice). New laptops have fewer and fewer ports nowadays. I used up all the ports available for my basic devices and didn't have any port left to connect my Kobo connector, for example.

So, the docking station solved all the problems and it makes it a lot easier for me to disconnect it and grab my laptop to go somewhere.

Here is my new setup at home:

My new desk setup with Lenovo Thinkpad X1

Because of my old bulky/no-decent-battery laptop I've been avoiding going to a café or a library to do some writing, journaling, etc. And I wanted to do that sometimes, you know, change the scenery and go work on my computer somewhere else.

And I did it! I packed my laptop in my backpack, I didn't need to worry about battery charging and I spent a couple hours at the Public Library typing away!

Writing at the Public Library!

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