time management and early rising

I have started waking up at 0400 most days. Being up this early grants me several privileges, but the most important is that I have the time to get in a full work out before my work begins. The problem with this early start is that it requires an earlier bed time, and I am usually delaying my bed time until I pass out, exhausted, and drop into a deep slumber.

I haven’t yet figured out this trick. Time management is at the essence of all of this, and its usually what I struggle with the most. In college, we discussed that the biggest leap in efficiency comes from when you switch over from task management to time management. Rather than work until you’re done with a task, you should try to work for a certain amount of time on a task. Whether that satisfies completion of the task is irrelevent.

I’ve noticed this mental attachment in all areas of my life. I feel it even hurts my self-confidence when I set a goal to row 200 calories and I only complete 190 calories. But if instead I row for 15 minutes, that can be a consistent amount of time, allowing time for other tasks, and it won’t eat up all of my time. Aside from that, I set specific amounts of pages I want to read. If instead, I block off time for reading, then I can just do what needs to be done in that amount of time and I don’t need to worry about the rest.

So tasks won’t drag on, and I can get to bed on time. I’ll need to make some adjustments.

sudoku

I was 13 years old when my mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. At the time, she was a mail carrier for the United States Postal Service, and I was a middle school student at Frederick Douglass Academy IV in Brooklyn, NY. We lived in Harlem, but we would commute to the neighborhood where she worked, and every morning we would get up at 0500, brush our teeth, get dressed, and head down to our car. I would continue sleeping in the car, but mom would drive to work, and my sister, currently in high school at Bushwick High School, would ride shotgun in the front seat.

We did this every day. In the freezing cold, in hail, in thunder, and on bright sunny days. Then one day, we didn’t do it anymore. My world changed, and that morning drive in the Mitsubishi Montero Sport became a train ride on the A and then a transfer to the J train. Each morning and afternoon, I made my way to school and back home. Oftentimes, it would turn into homework or reading time. I must have passed over a million strange faces in all of those hours, but I realize that from a young age I have found the most comfort in solitude. Even on a crowded subway train, I realized that I was alone, unknown. A person with my own identity, my own freedom, and at 13 years old, freedom is welcome.

I grabbed the Metro tabloid every morning and stuffed it in my backpack. I read classified ads, saw movie announcements, a printout of what’s on tv, and I read stories of tragedy; houses that went up in flames, people who saw their last sunrise, and thievery. I was always intrigued by the Obituary column. It mostly chronicled people’s accomplishments while in life, and I wondered why certain things were deemed noteworthy while others were not. I thought, in my obituary, I want them to write down my favorite food, my favorite book. So that people can try them, and then they can say, man, he had some good taste. Or, I never knew he loved pizza so much, let’s go eat a slice in his honor. Instead, they’ll know where I studied, where I worked, and basically how I spent my time.

On the train is where I first learned how to play Sudoku. There really isn’t much to explain here, but it became the sole reason why I grabbed the metro tabloid. After a while, I was less interested in happenings of the world and more interested in organizing these numbers in such a manner that they don’t come into conflict with any other one of their type. And that is essentially the premise of Sudoku, 9 numbers, 9 identities. If I am a 1, I should stand in such a way that if I look up/down or sideways, I shouldn’t see another 1. And there shouldn’t be another 1 in the same room as I. But there really is no competition in this game, so I wonder why it was invented.

Why can’t you have a room full of 1s and 2s, and why must they be ignorant of the other’s existence? It’s a curious thing, but in the midst of my mother’s diagnosis, it was this concept that caught my attention. I wonder sometimes how I was able to cope with all of the changes, what did I do right, what did I do wrong? But I don’t really think there is an answer. The tendency to look inward and solve simple problems in the midst of large problems is the simplest, most effective manner to live life. If you’re stuck in a bad situation, try and figure out something about the world. Perhaps that’s why these games were made, because life was unpleasant at a point. You didn’t have entertainment shows, basketball games, video games. You had life. Sometimes pain, sometimes betrayal, sometimes sickness, and long commutes.

it’s ok to come back later

The run wasn’t too bad. 2 kilometers at a pedestrian pace on a crowded track, but no one was timing me, and there was no race. It was a form of recovery that followed 1 hour of stretching and multiple sets of glute bridges to strengthen the back of my lower body and lower back while opening up the hip flexors. But once I set up the Concept 2 Rower, I felt my whole body and energy in decline. It just wasn’t cooperating. I had set my sights on completing 300 calories, but by the time I hit 25 calories, I placed the handle back in its place and called it a day.

I came back to my room to shower, and I began my day of activities and training. I have been focused on attaining my qualifications as of late, and being extra sharp in my performance has been very important to me. But besides that, I am now in a position to pass on knowledge from recent qualifications I have obtained. Teaching, and writing, are two sorts of callings for me. I enjoy both, but I enjoy them more when I have confidence in the material and when I have a mindset for expressing my ideas. What I love about teaching is that it is just as much learning as it is teaching. You must create analogies, imagine examples, to bring forth understanding, but you also must explore the subject in order to raise questions.

How do you spark curiosity? You might get lucky and share information on a topic or idea that is interesting to someone, but what if the person has no interest in learning the subject? I believe curiosity is inherent to the learner, but by asking questions yourself you can start a dialogue, and conversation. Questions like “well, what do you think this means?” and “why do you think this is the procedure, what do you think is the goal here?” If a person doesn’t consider the rationale, or thought process, can he really understand what a thing is. In other words, one must always search for some sort of justification for why the world behaves in a specific way as opposed to any other way. Whether you’re right or wrong in your justification doesn’t matter, it is merely a launching point and a general perspective with which to agree or disagree.

In the afternoon, I returned to the gym. I found new resolve to complete my rowing workout, and I went forth to do 108 pull-ups and 180 air squats (18 sets of 6 and 10, respectively). I followed that effort with 5 sets of 5 muscle-ups, and I finished my fitness building session with 30 rounds of 1-minute jump rope, followed by a 30-second rest in which I did 10 push-ups and rested in the remaining time.

I recognized that my body felt resistance in the morning, and I stepped away. I realize that was the smart thing to do because it isn’t always healthy to keep pushing through tough work outs, especially after I have done that the past few times that I have rowed. And what I learned is that it’s ok to let go and come back later. Give the body some time, and it will recover and get back in the fight. That’s how it works, but you can always disagree.

december, december, we’re making it through

I read it in Naval’s text, “Impatience with actions, patience with results.” Life has a natural lag in results. You may not see the consequences of your decisions until much after you have made your choices. This has been incredibly frustrating for me, as I have struggled to maintain simple habits such as flossing every night, running consistently and building up mileage with time, and even writing in this blog. When your habits are not sharp, these small things can seem like insurmountable obstacles. Simply getting up to go floss after a long day of working, running around, and completing errands, can seem like a chore.

There is another quote that I have learned from reading books like these. “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our preparation.” That one was by David Goggins. Again, our preparation, more than anything, will dictate our results. Our expectations are hopes and dreams, but our preparation is the daily rituals. Whether this is packing the clothes for work the night before, or ensuring you have a sound nighttime routine, these small things are as important to meeting your fitness goals as actually running that extra mile or adding an extra plate to the bar.

Today, I witnessed results, both good and bad. All of my studying and review efforts allowed me to pass my written examination for a Special Qualification for work, but all of my sleep deprivation led me to crash as soon as I returned home. This made it harder for me to complete my other habits because my sleep schedule was thrown off. But it’s all a process, and the good often comes paired with the bad. The key to this will be to make the proper adjustments and keep adding good things to my routines while subtracting/eliminating harmful things.

Onto books, and reading. I keep saying that I was an avid reader before. But perhaps I still am. I think that identifying to a past result can be detrimental to current goals. The people who say, “I used to run 3-4 miles per day.” Are focused on a past version of themselves and implicitly stating that they cannot meet those requirements anymore. Instead, I am an avid reader slightly out of practice. My arrows are sharp, but my accuracy has been off a bit.

Nevertheless, I will continue to read. Perhaps I will drop to 5 pages per day. 15 seems too much. Once I get some momentum with this habit, I will surely go up.

And here is an update on my December progress:

In December, I plan to move toward:

  • Finishing reading The Almanack of Naval Ravikant. (Complete)
  • Finishing reading Jay Shetty’s How To Think Like A Monk. (25% Complete)
  • Complete listening to David Goggins’ Can’t Hurt Me Audiobook. (Complete)
  • Finish listening to the Exhalations Audiobook. (Not started. Currently listening to Atomic Habits by James Clear)
  • Writing a blog entry daily, whether its a poem, my thoughts, or some intentions such as these. (9/13 – I missed 4 days of blogging.)
  • Writing daily in my journal, a sort of meditation, but when done consistently it is very valuable for my wellbeing. (9/13 days completed.)
  • 150 squats 5 days a week. (6/13 days completed. More like 3 days a week at this point.
  • Run at least 10 km weekly. No more than 5 days of running. (Completed.)
  • Wash the dishes every night. (Good so far!)
  • Brush and floss every night. (5/13 days. Needs Improvement.)
  • Make my bed in the mornings. (13/13 days!)

In December, I plan to move away from:

  • Going to bed past midnight. (This is getting worse)
  • Skipping work outs. (I have missed 2 work outs)
  • Spending over 5 hours per day on my phone screen time. (This is improving)
  • Netflix – for the most. (improving)
  • NBA Games and Stats tracking. (way better)
  • So much Nintendo Switch. (way better)
  • Having a defeatist attitude. I can do all of these things that I am setting out to do. (so much better)
  • Putting off reading. (still a thing – dropping down to 5 pages per day)
  • Not folding laundry immediately after washing. (so much better)

Here is to continued positivity, and a strong conclusion to the year. Usually, these lists are so much more condensed. But I have a lot of bad habits that need changing, and it helps to lay them all out.

patient

From the looks of it, things are getting harder now. As the end of the year approaches, the tasks seem to pile on and it becomes difficult, though entirely necessary, to slow down. What would make sense is to acknowledge, at this point, all that has been accomplished. In my first year in Battalion, I may be able to earn my SCWs and EXW qualification as well as stack some maintenance quals and equipment licenses. I am becoming more comfortable with the uncomfortable, advocating for myself and others. But the rest of the work, the growth and experience will take time and I need to remain patient.

Impatience with actions, patience with results. When your results haven’t arrived yet, celebrate the results of others. Be thankful for the blessing that it is to be a beginner, learning something new, empty with knowledge and experience, but full with possibility. Wherever you go, there is important work you can do. Don’t ever underestimate that fact, and you never back down from a task. Instead, charge forward with enthusiasm. I want to do the best job I can do, and I am going to give it my all. Afterall, that’s why I am here.

Last thing, understand that a little each day, goes a long way. And oftentimes, you won’t be able to tell the difference.

the question, why

The question, why, has always lived with me. It is like my shadow, but I have difficulty assessin whether this is a good thing. At times, having a questioning attitude casts as my greatest strength. In fact, a questioning attitude is just another way to express my curiosity. Why are things the way they are, and not otherwise? Other times, it is a weakness. Questioning becomes a fruitless impulse that leaves much to be desired. You know what your problem is? You want it to be one way, and not the other. Why are things not this way, and otherwise? This question tends to be an evaluation of fairness, or a condemning of the likelihood that these bad outcomes are the ones you’re stuck with. You are left setting up your dwelling site in a living hell.

Not asking questions leads to missed opportunities. And those questions that appear after the fact can be the most haunting. Why didn’t I very the instructions? Why didn’t I confirm that’s what she wanted? Why not this? Why not that?

I tend to welcome most questions at the time when I am least exposed to sensory experiences. Laying in bed, with earplugs on, and blinders, my mind wanders. But sometimes I get a wave of ideas while in the shower. Today, I called them Shower Thoughts: Abridged. I called it this because it was a short, quick shower. I thought how, if you want something to last longer, you have to keep it close to you. This ideas has appeared in many forms. Perhaps it is the root of attachment theory, and I think that I can be a pretty attached person. But who knows? Honestly, sometimes I can be indifferent too.

I ask why because I want to understand. But I don’t know why that is so important to me all of the time. Second-degree and third-degree why’s are the toughest questions to answers. But sometimes the solutions are incredibly simple. Whatever they are, wherever they lead, questions are my guiding star. I don’t follow because I must, I follow because I cannot not follow.

mind games and breathing exercises

Shooting is frightening. Days at the range tend to be filled with a combination of performance anxiety, test anxiety, and the very real awareness that these are high-risk training environments. In other words, the fear that things may go wrong is pervasive during a shooting exercise. Today, I took part in the M4-Carbine qualification course. For those who aren’t familiar with military evaluation exercises, this is another one for you to know.

Here is how it’s broken down. The first evolution requires that you take 5 shots at a target 25 m away while lying in the prone position within 5 minutes. The second evolution requires you to assume the prone position from a standing position, and then take 5 shots at a target, reload with a 5 round magazine, and then take 5 more shots at a target within 70 seconds. The margin for error is slightly higher because the margin for perfection shrinks. These shots have to be taken at a tolerable level of accuracy. The next two evolutions are exactly the same, except you are kneeling. The last evolution only requires 10 shots at a target 25 m away within 10 minutes.

Patience is a virtue when completing this course. Unlike other courses, time is not as unforgiving. For someone with little experience handling guns, I benefit more from extra time on the exercises. The mind is the vehicle for patience. However, the mind can also be a terrible partner on the range. A mind that drifts and wanders towards other people’s targets may make waste of the time allotted for these exercises, and a mind that blatantly travels further out can also be a hindrance. What do I mean by that? That thinking about the ways I may have offended someone by reacting to a conversation in an insensitive way is something that I should be doing, but not while at the range shooting through a qualifications course. But how do you control a mind that wants to think what it wants to think?

Breathing helps. By focusing on your breathing, you somehow center yourself into something that is semi-external, but right within you. It isn’t as deep as focusing on a memory, and it isn’t so shallow like focusing on whether your form looks good while shooting. Breathing, interestingly, is something we don’t necessarily judge others for. Even those people who breathe heavily, we recognize it as a form of discomfort, but never as something to discriminate against.

I think I have arrived at the conclusion that I need to continue to develop breath consciousness. Breath consciousness allows me to control my movements better, and become uniformly intact. What I mean by that, is that every movement feels the same. A repetitive motion repeated often enough becomes a habit and then leads to mastery. That’s what lies ahead of this journey, mastery, and I am a young apprentice.

measurements

It struck me as I wiped the sweat from my face, what am I doing by setting these limits on myself? What I want to focus on today, and what I want to shine a light on, is that I have been harboring a deeply limiting belief about what my standards should be. In any case, I want to emphasize this – if you don’t know where you’re aiming, or why you are aiming there, you are likely to hit arbitrary targets. Yes, this may lead to a surprise of sorts, but don’t be surprised when you reflect and realize that you have completely missed all of the targets you had hoped to hit.

The Navy PRT is a physical fitness assessment that measures your ability to complete a 1.5 mile run, a 2-minute effort of maximum push-ups, and a 4-minute effort for a plank hold. The PRT Fitness Standards are posted in every fitness facility. The easiest way to break those down is that they reflect a spectrum of what a person of your gender and age, at your altitude, coincidentally, should be able to perform. The Outstanding High Score for a run for a male between the ages of 24-29 would be a time of 08:55, while the Satisfactory Medium Score for a run for a male between the ages of 24-29 would be only 13:45.

What struck me is that I strive for a time of 08:55. During every training session, I set sights on meeting that goal. I am ambitious, driven, committed to excellence, so I want to score the best. But why do I limit myself to 08:55? That’s the question that sort of struck me a bit today. In a sense, I am agreeing that that time is representative of a score that is uncommon and excellent for a person of my age and gender. But who decides these measurements, and what are they truly indicative of?

To me, these measurements are the bar. But if you want to raise the bar, then 08:55 should be your absolute slowest time for this event. 84 Push Ups in 2-minutes should be the absolute lowest score for that event. For the forearm plank, go until Failure. The excellence of others should be your floor, not your ceiling. So change that perspective and measure yourself uncommonly.

Now fear is another thing that is relative and entirely perspective-based. But the perspective is lost in the shuffle, and it is mistaken when fear sits right in front of you. A problem that you are just facing seems larger when you first encounter, but once you give it thought and break it down to its essence, it’s shadow dwindles. The deconstruction of your own fears may seem like a daunting task, but follow the trail of turtles and you will find the sea.

A particular fear that haunts me is the fear of cold water, but if I were to score this fear I would only give it a score of 3 out of 10. I am much more afraid of perhaps losing a loved one to cancer, things that I haven’t experienced but imagine would bring immeasurable pain. That nets a score of 7. So, the question to ask, when confronting fear is is it really that bad? Evaluate your response, then act as you desire.

Thank you to those who take the time to read through these posts and ideas. As I continue to build the habit of consistency, I am learning more about the importance of continuing forth and exploring the ideas that arise from my life experiences.

it’s going well, ok

I had a busy day, and it’s going well, ok. I took care of some of the major errands. I changed the cabin air filter on my car. I had never done that before, and I figured it out with little to no trouble. I organized my folders on my windows PC, and I washed the laundry that had piled up. In a couple of minutes, I will be writing in my journal, brushing and flossing, and turning into to bed. I haven’t had time to rest, so I am exhausted. But overall, it’s going well, ok.

I made a plan for this week. Some things to tackle, to be more proactive on, and refuse to take no for an answer. A lot of things can slip through the cracks if you’re not careful. You must be extremely vigilant, and mindful of your goals and what you’re working towards. Tomorrow, I am going to go to the range again for some drills. I am nervous every time we have to shoot at the range, but I am staying positive. So it’s going well, ok.

I mean, I brushed my teeth this morning. I flossed. And somehow I am almost making it to bed at the desired time. 1900. So I think I am doing something right. Being a responsible adult takes work. It’s a 24 hour op with not much time to pause, but from the looks of it it’s going well, ok.

I want to push myself to get up before the rest of the world. I want to take those first steps in the early morning and run my way through a workout. But that also requires me going to sleep earlier. I’ll try 11, then 10, then hopefully work back to 7 or 8 pm. It’s going to take some practice, and I feel I am up for it. Additionally, I need to stay hydrated because I am feeling incessantly thirsty lately. I forget to fill up my water bottle, and I forget to make my tea. But as long as I have the right mindset and focus, I have to believe that it’s going well, ok.

for dear life

Sometimes I get so hooked on a thing that I find it hard to disconnect and re-immerse myself back in reality. I could spend hours playing a videogame, lying in bed, neglecting my basic duties, my hygiene, my own mental pleas for a break. During the time when I have committed to taking a break, to resting, I often end up doing the opposite. Overflowing my mind with information, addiction hacking this system with videogames, software, internet, websites.

Meanwhile, the clothes pile up on the ground, the dishes pile up on the sink, the to-do list grows.

I need to buy body wash, shampoo.
I need to thoroughly clean my car on the inside.
I need to put the stickers on my hard-hat.
I need to wash my clothes, my uniform.
I need to clean and organize my room.
I need to clean my refrigerator’s insides.

This habit of self-neglect can be identified as the root of my discontent. I continually say that I would like to be in bed by 9 pm, but it is 11:30 pm here and I just decided to pause from my game.

However, I must say this. Today, I went to the gym and had a really good workout. I ran 10 km this week, and I did it all at a very reasonable, safe, beginning pace. I built a streak of 150 squats per day, and I finished reading a book this week. I have also made progress on my audiobook, Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins, and I have made multiple blog posts and journal entries in my personal notebook. I’ve been taking my vitamins every day, and for more than one day this week I brushed and flossed my teeth in the morning and evening before bed. Each morning I have made my bed.

It sometimes seems like I’m clinging on for dear life, but I have made progress. The rest of the journey will depend on how committed I am to avoiding self-neglect and taking care of my present responsibilities. The Nintendo Switch has been the biggest distraction, as I cannot seem to play it in moderation.