Thursday, 30 January 2014

Life Hacking : Month One

There were a lot of new things happening for me in 2013. Finishing my studies, getting first student job and then a full-time work at another company, and a couple of other big steps forward. And yet, very few of this was actually planned in advance. Opportunities presented themselves and I took advantage of them but I did not set out to achieve clear goals. In general, I guess I am not very good at setting out long term goals and working towards them. 

So I have decided that I want to work on that this year. 2014 is going to  be the year of planned development, good organization and getting a firm grip on life. 

Inspired by the The Small Change Project blog, this Ted Talk about month-long challenges, and the Motivation Hacker book by Nick Winter I got from my husband I am making a plan to hack my life this year. 

The year will start slow with some relatively easy confidence building challenges. As my expectancy of success grows, the goals will become more ambitious and more life-changing.

I have started by setting out these 7 goals:
  1. By 15th of January I need to be able to run 4km in 30m - changed to running once a week
  2. By the end of January I need to be able to run 1,5km without breaking - achieved
  3. I will read JavaScript-related book for at least 10 minutes a day - achieved
  4. I will write for at least 10 minutes a day - achieved
  5. I will eat no sugar (no cakes, cookies, candy, honey or soda) - achieved
  6. I will make a 2013 photobook to keep all the great memories in one place -achieved
  7. I will prepare and practice my bachelor-exam presentation on the 2nd and 3rd of January so as not to drag it out all the way until 16th - achieved (though on the 15th I have decided to redo my presentation, so I am not sure if this counts )
It is now almost February and I am excited and somewhat proud of how many of the goals I have achieved. This has been a great experience I am certainly planning to continue with it. There are a few things I've learned during the first month of the project:
  1. If the goal is too easy, the challenge stops being excited and it becomes a chore.
  2. If the goal is planned for a month, it should not be completed in less time (ex. I finished the JavaScript book in 2 weeks? Switching to another book felt a bit anticlimactic).
  3. Input goals work better than output ones. You can only ever control your effort and not really the outcome. The winter defeated me and I was not able to run 4km before mid-January. But switching the goal to input oriented one (I will run once a week) proved very beneficial and I have successfully completed it and felt excited enough to plan for a Women 5K race in September. 
  4. Leave a little buffer so that you can account for life's little surprises without failing at your goals. At the same time, be very specific about what the special circumstances are. For example, it is ok to not go running if you break your leg - that should not mean you failed your goal.
  5. Be as specific about the goals as possible. The more amorphous the goal, the easier to wiggle out and the more anticlimactic the achievement.
  6. Make a point of tracking your effort every day, whether in a spreadsheet, beeminder or some other app. The feeling of daily achievement and success removes the peril of delay and helps grow your success spiral. 
The special challenge of not eating sugar for a month turned out to be a bit disappointing. I can't notice any changes in terms of my skin, neither have I lost no weight due to this regime. I might be a little more even when it comes to energy supplies throughout the day - but I am not even certain about that. And I don't sleep better (or worse) then before.  I eat a bit more fruits, which certainly is positive but I don't really know if it has anything to do with no-sugar policy. 

It has also proven easier than expected. The first 2 or 3 days I did walk around randomly imagining belgian waffles in great, multisensory details. But it went away after that and I didn't physically craved it. The hardest part was definitely social occasions.  Not eating cake for friends and family's birthday events, not having coke with my pizza or sweet cocktail during the night out was certainly a challenge but not to the point where it was impossible. 

The challenge hasn't proven life changing but it did leave a pleasant feeling of accomplishment and I hope that I will take something from it. I plan to continue with no sugar or honey in my tea and coffee and no sweets other than cakes - preferably homebaked and for special occasions. 

Stay tuned for my plans for February. 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Cafe Latte Baby Blanket

No matter how many times I've started on knitted projects (and how many of them I actually finished - a few), crocheting will always my go-to method of working with yarn. 

The project I am working on now is a baby blanket with a thick, dense weave. Because it is so dense, it takes long to complete the project, but I like the texture so much, I am planning more projects with it. It will certainly serve as a sweet, warm cover for some baby. Yeah, I don't actually have a recipient of this blanky in mind, so friends and relatives, get on the topic of babies, will you? I would actually make a big blanket for myself (it really is so cozy) but I don't have enough yarn for that.

I am using light cotton-acrylic yarn that is has a soft feel to it while still being very warm. The color is cream, like a very milky cafe latte. I like it for a baby blanket, even if it's probably not very practical. 

And working on this project taught me a lesson: "never put away a project for 2 years and pick it up as if nothing happened". I wasn't sure if I remembered how to make round ends, but I made two rounds anyway. I realized I made a mistake on the round ending, I ripped two rounds...and then I realized I probably hadn't made a mistake and all the ripping was for nothing.

Anyway, I'll show you the finished piece, when I am done.