30 Days Habit Change

It’s Stoptober and I love chocolate, even though I know it is bad for me. I’m quitting chocolate for the month because it is an addiction and want to remove it from my life. Chocolate is my booze.

I’m about halfway through the month now and I could care less about chocolate. I feel energetic and sharper in my mind, I’ve been more productive (outside of writing) and generally feeling better in my day to day life.

I know it’s only 15 days so far but it has got me thinking about the concept of forming a good habit, or indeed reversing a bad one, and I think I’m going to set myself a challenge every month and report my findings as I go. I can tell you now that next month is going to be fizzy drinks, which have become my crutch with the chocolate thing.

30 days to form a habit might be a bit overkill, at least based on my experience, but maybe overkill is exactly what one needs to really set a habit in stone.

The first few days are the hard part, when your body reacts and you question you resolve. I like to “punish” myself whenever I waver, like requiring 10 push ups before I can move on with my day. Once I’ve done my “punishment” I will have forgotten about the urge I was feeling and a bonus is that I knocked out 10 push ups, and that can add up during the day.

The second week is my favourite part because it is a turning point where you realise you have made it past the cravings and your body is learning to cope, and even thrive, without the sugar (or nicotine, or alcohol, or whatever).

I’m still waiting on the final 2 weeks but I expect it will be a walk in the park (I hope) and I look forward to freedom I will gain from the discipline I have developed.

Pick something, just one thing, you know needs to be out of your life sooner rather than later. Let a different vice take its place for 30 days and for the following month attack that vice. Over the course of a year you could become a new, better version of yourself, but for now just focus on one thing at a time. If you try to take on too many things at once you’ll achieve nothing, keep it simple and carry on with your life, reflect during the process and share your experience and encourage others to do the same.

Twitter Is A Strange Company

While other social platforms are pushing into the realms of AI and other forward thinking initiatives, for some reason Twitter seems to have a bunch of 6 year olds making decisions. The latest ground breaking idea has been to increase the character limit for a tweet from 140 to 280, you can imagine the board room with the pensive faces and “deep” thinking going on, only the silence is broken by some wise soul who blurts out…

Idea man: “How about more characters?!”
Yes man: “I like it, but how many more?”
Idea man:”…”
Yes man: “How about twice as many?”
Idea man:”Brilliant! I will summon the engineers. Let the stakeholders know we’ve figured it out.”

Seriously. I use Instagram daily and every time I go on there I am being served fresh new content relating to my usage patterns and preferences. They’re not adding more filters, although that was the selling point in the first place, they are thinking outside of that box and making progress. Yes they are copying their competitors but frankly who isn’t, it’s a sound strategy to keep up with your competitors. Along with that though they are breaking the mould and stakeholders are reaping the rewards.

I only use Twitter for 2 things; joining the conversation during and event or TV show, or complaining to companies.

When a TV show is on and they have a hashtag it is easy to join the conversation and drop one liners, a creative endeavour where you try to form your thoughts into a short quip. Sometimes I’ll come up with something I am happy with and other times I can’t break it down to 140 characters, and that is ok and just means I have nothing to say. Pushing to 280 characters just means there will be more room for nonsense comments that haven’t been nearly as carefully curated.

Complaining to companies is my other joy, I know I can call a company out on Twitter and they will in most cases magically become more responsive than they would be through their other customer care channels. Making it public means I the consumer is held accountable for my approach and the company is held accountable for their response. The 140 character limit means we can have a conversation back and forth to resolve a situation without either party ranting on and on regardless of the character limit.

These 2 uses might not be the right answer for everyone but then I’m not being paid by Twitter to figure this out for them. They have the data, and maybe they’re reading it in such a way that it supports their original hypothesis. That echo chamber thinking and seeking data that supports your assumptions is what sinks companies. Twitter needs to let go of what it started out as and let the usage data drive their development, it could be very different but that should be the roadmap they build for themselves.

280 characters is possibly the weakest idea going and I’m embarrassed for Twitter to see that it is even in the news at all. That just shows how meaningless anything Twitter does is. For such a big player they are making ripples when they should be making waves.

Control And Influence

Getting stressed at work is all too easy, it’s like the panic you feel before going into an exam. You know it is not going to be easy or fun but it needs to get done. There are 2 things I remind myself about when it comes to stressful situations and that is Control and Influence.

Anything that you can directly impact is something you can control. In the case of an exam it is revision, in the case of delivering a piece of work it is time management. These are the things that if you ignored you would be held accountable for and likely have to answer to you boss or teacher, or other stakeholder. Preparation is the key to addressing control so making sure you get things done early and avoid procrastination will see you in a strong position when it comes to a deadline.

There are however things that are outside of your control, these can be decisions or actions that are out of your hands. With items that you cannot directly impact, the only alternative is to indirectly impact them through influence. Influence usually boils down to communication, discussing unknowns with various parties, and even clarifying knowns to ensure there is no misunderstandings or false assumptions. The important thing to remember with influence is that there are no guarantees, you might find yourself up against a wall and you just have to work with what you have. So long as you have addressed a concern ahead of time you can always point back to that conversation when the boss comes hunting for heads.

Control and Influence is a coping mechanism for stressful situations and the event that a project might not go to plan or fail entirely. Often stakeholders will be looking for someone to blame but the truth of the matter is that the end result is a reflection of the top down communication. I hold this belief against myself all the time and when there is a misunderstanding in what is required and something else gets delivered, it is a result of my failure to communicate and not the developer or designer implementing a solution. I refer back to control here because this is what I have a direct impact on – defining the requirements. My favourite approach is to go at my job like there is someone at the other end of my effort waiting patiently to catch me out on a mistake.

It does happen, I’m not perfect, but I do aim to address everything and ensure I am not caught out and that is the best I can do in the situation. When I do get caught out I like it, because it means there is something I can improve, so that the next time I am in a similar tight spot I can address that embarrassing mistake last time. Getting something wrong and then getting it right next time is the most satisfying and character building version of succeeding.

Look first for things you can control and encourage others in your team to do the same, then look for things you can influence to ensure a greater chance of success. This is how successful teams work, doing their part and then looking outward to see where they can help. Communication is the fundamental tool of any successful team and nothing has been solved without it.

I Am The Great Pretender

I’m a proud pretender, I faked it and sometimes I even got to the point where I made it. I wasn’t born with the ability to learn a topic, or perform an action, I had a head start in nothing. What I did have was opportunity, from the start I was born into a stable family and stable country, these facts enabled me to be educated in a proper school, followed by a college (or 2) but no university.

I didn’t really make the most of school and I think this was a little to do with a lack of maturity and some part was to do with the reading list required in formal education institutions. It wasn’t that the resources were not valuable, I have read many of them since without needing to. It was more the ability to choose to read a book or study a topic, since leaving college I have read more per year than I did in my formative years.

Some of my friends and family consider me a voracious reader, but I don’t feel like I read as much as people think I do – or maybe relative to my friends and family I do read a lot more. I love reading, I used to try to speed read and I had some success but frankly I didn’t absorb the information nearly as well as normal reading. So I reverted to just reading normally, for the pleasure of consuming information at my own pace and taking the time to digest what I have learned and not worry about my looming mortality.

I am not a self made learner however, I have not done all of this by myself and it is only through standing on the shoulders of giants that I have known where to look and what to do and where to go next. This may be coming across as grandiose but it goes without saying that I am not exceptional. My point is that nothing is out of reach and you will have times where you feel like you are trailing well behind your peers and never going to cross the threshold that signifies your arrival. Nobody can say they have always been good at this or that, they were once a pretender learning their craft and the best of them were humble enough to admit to themselves when they needed to work on something and even more humble when they spoke with a peer and confided their want to improve, and the superiority of that peer as a key interest to help one improve.

Being humble is the key to being a great pretender, being good at something starts with being a great pretender.

Airbnb-lite

Following on from my minimal possessions post I am currently sitting in an airbnb rental in the countryside of the Cotswolds. Over the last 24 hours I have seen more livestock than cars. The rental is an annex on a farm, the owners are in the property we are attached to. Our living area is very cosy and consists of a a fully functioning kitchen, small bedroom with double bed and accompanying en suite bathroom.

Interestingly every piece of furniture is antique and for sale, not a bad way to sell on the extra furniture you own. There is a TV, which we don’t intend to use, and Wifi, which we will be using sparingly, the silence is pleasant and the views from our window of the rolling countryside (even in the rain) are great.

The important thing to appreciate here is that we don’t need extra stuff to enjoy life, both of us packed a single backpack with clothes, wash bag, and e-readers. We brought the dog too so we get out on nice long walks (no matter the weather) and cosy up afterwards with our pack and a good read.