Tag Archives: Lifestyle

Life Hack: A metrics-based lifestyle this decade

I’ve never considered myself to be a “life hacker” by any means. I have been concentrated on my career and comfort in the past decade and that came at some great costs. So, I decided to start formulating a plan to make changes to my life based on metrics. I will become a life hacker — for better or worse.

Metrics imply measurability and that’s what I intend to concentrate on at first — things that I can measure, change behavior, then measure again. While there is non-empirical consequence to many decisions that I make on a daily basis, I decided to start here. For instance, my first metric-based decision of the decade was to avoid stopping at Starbucks this morning. I estimate that a stop at Starbucks averages 15 minutes of my time, $5 of my wealth, and a negative drag on my health (250 calories, 47 carbs, and 180mg of sodium taken from my daily allowances of those items).  A case could be made that this has decreased my momentary happiness. I’m not measuring that. In fact, I’m trying to do away with decisions based on immediacy. While my short-term aggrivation is great, I am speculating that over time this will turn into a net-positive for my happiness.

There are a lot of things that I want to change in my life this decade. But I’m going to concentrate on a few major areas, and break them down further as it makes sense to do so. Hopefully at some point I’ll be able to come up with an automated process to view my progress and give myself “triggers” to remind me when I’m slipping. Eventually, I’d like every decision I make to tigger a flurry of facts in my head before moving forward. That should also make its way into my structured planning for the day, week, month, quarter and year.

So here are the areas where I’m going to concentrate:

  • Health – I’d like to improve my health through better nutrician, exercise, and sleeping habits. I will be measuring:
    • Daily intake of calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, sodium, and water.
    • Daily exercise in the form of pedometer-tracked steps, cardio minutes, weight lifted and reps per exercise, and stretching minutes.
    • Weekly weight
    • Hour slept and number of times I woke up
  • Wealth – I need to start planning and budgeting better. While I’m not exactly a spend-aholic, I can do better in my planning and spending decisions. I will track:
    • Monthly savings contribution as a $ amount and a percentage of income
    • Weekly investment changes
    • Daily discretionary spending
    • Quarterly credit score
  • Time – This is where I hurt the most. I don’t have enough time in the day to do everything I want. I’m hoping making metric-based decisions will free up some time and help me better plan. I will track:
    • Time spent blogging
    • Time spent learning
    • Time spent on household chores
    • Time spent commuting
  • Others – I will add additional metrics as I think of them or as I see a need to improve this process.

Obviously each of these are going to need base-lined for a month or so. I will be using whatever tools I can to accomplish this base-line. I’m planning on using an Omron HJ-720ITC Pocket Pedometer with Health Management Software to track my steps. I’m using the iPhone LiveStrong app as well as CalorieKing to track my daily nutrition and exercise metrics. I’m considering the Zeo Sleep Coach after Scott Hanselman recommended it, but for now I’ll just use some plain old pen/paper tracking, so to speak. I may also pick up on the Nike+iPhone app at some point, but not just yet.

If you are interested in tracking my progress and keeping me honest, I will be posting what I can under the “life hack” category on this site.

Happy new year everyone!

Life Hack: Working around ADHD-like Symptoms

For years, it has become more and more difficult for me to concentrate when I am trying to study. I try repeatedly to block everything out and just concentrate on reading a book/article/webcast, follow along with the examples, and get through the material. Each attempt fails miserably with my frustration that I got absolutely nothing done. I’ve attempted to integrate methodologies like Getting Things Done to my routine. However, all of this means nothing if I can’t even concentrate on the task GTD lays before me. I didn’t always have this problem. I stayed very focused and on task as a child. While I could easily get distracted from a task, I also had the ability to block everything out and focus like a laser on anything I wanted to. Things have changed. I’ve gotten older. My career has taken a different path. I’m in a different place. My personal life has changed drastically. I’m constantly worried about and distracted by politics. I need to make a change.

I’ve tried everything to correct my problem. People have given me recommendations41SSqGcuXbL._SL160_[1]. However there are so many issues at hand. When I’m studying, I need internet access to look up an occasional tidbit. However, internet is a huge distraction. If I open a browser, you can bet 30 minutes from the time I open it I’ll have about 10 browser sessions open with multiple tabs reading about topics I have no business reading about during my study time. I need my phone as I’m in constant contact with people I rely upon and who rely upon me. Silence is killer and the mere idea of realizing I’ve been in the same spot for an hour sends me into severe displeasure and I feel like I’m wasting the day. However, if I’m amongst people I know, I tend to want to talk to them. It’s all a disaster. I realized I needed to solve these problems so I attacked them one by one.

Desired Outcome

  1. I need internet access, but I don’t want the distraction of browsing.
  2. I need to stay in touch with people without having constant non-critical conversations interrupt me.
  3. I need to be around activity to prevent me from being stir crazy but I can’t sit around chatting with people I know all day.

Solution Proposed

  1. Go somewhere without free internet access. Use my phone to access the internet. The slower connection and smaller screen keep my browsing targeted at solutions when I need them.
  2. Turns out the iPhone is perfect for this. Since the iPhone is single-application-centric, it prevents me from getting interrupted by email and twitter. So I keep my phone with me, but I just keep my non-critical communication tools closed. Better still, I have moved all of my task-oriented applications like “Remember the Milk”, “Shopper”, “Evernote” and “Bing” on my main page of my cell phone. When I look at the phone, all the red “todo” circles showing up on the page remind me every time I open the phone that I’m on task.
  3. I go to Starbucks to study. Sounds crazy, I know, but it works for me. I have the non-specific white noise of people I don’t know chatting in the background without the temptation to join in a conversation. I’m not going stir crazy as I’m out of the house. Working on my laptop rather than my multi-screen monitor helps me stay focused on the software studying task at hand. Starbucks/AT&T charge for internet access through my laptop so I’m not distracted easily.


So far all of my proposals have worked. I find it very natural to stay focused. If I have to “think” about staying focused, that thought in and of itself will distract me. This method currently keeps me on task without having to think about what task it is I’m performing. Too much monitor real-estate leads me to distractions and a quickly responding system leaves me to run down multiple rabbit trails. I tend to think the large number of us who claim “ADD” or “ADHD” are not inflicted with anything other than reinforcing poor habits and living years of distracted lifestyles. That said, I think it should be possible to relearn to properly focus through some hard work.

Let me know what your life hack is. How do you stay on task?

Where’d all my ‘tech’ go?

I’m sitting in my apartment in Greenville, SC looking over the pool, listening to a television that’s sitting on the floor, watching commercials for one piece of technology after another. Suddenly something hit me.

When I was a poor guy working for next to nothing, I had access to pretty much the best of technology. I always had a computer or two that were top of the line with the best graphics and processor upgrades available. I had the newest cell phone and knew about pretty much every gadget coming out in the next 6 months to a year.

I sit here in astonishment wondering where did all of my technology go? I still have ALL CRT displays in my house, I have mediocre computers with the exception of a laptop that the company issued me — which of course really isn’t top of the line either. My cell phone is old and tired. I don’t even own a PDA. I see one of our GS folks at work won an HP63xx Pocket PC and isn’t even using the cell phone built into it. I don’t own a tablet PC. I don’t even have my own subscription to MSDN universal anymore. What happened to me?

Has anyone else noticed this sort of trend in their own lives? Its not that I don’t have the money. It’s not that I wouldn’t enjoy playing with the gadgets. I just, don’t seem to have the time to do the research on the products anymore. I go to the local electronics store and stand in front of the latest super-snazzy tech and then try to decide which is best based on the specs, but then decide I’ll go back home and do some more research before buying the item. By the time I remember to look it up, some new gadget is out and I repeat the cycle. I’m sort of frustrated now and I feel like I may just have tech-envy. I see everyone else with their gadgets and I have to say… where’s my tech? Someone please stop me from running to the store in a panic and buying up a storm! Tell me this is normal. Someone? Anyone?