The good kind of lazy.

The good kind of lazy.

I always note how I don’t write enough and it’s never been more true as it is now. Compared to past instances, however, I don’t feel as bad about it.

Over the past year I have been studying topics in computer science. It started with an introductory Java course, followed by data structures. Where it takes me is yet to be seen, but I enjoy the problem-solving and application of logic. I will be taking discrete mathematics in the fall, and to prepare for the course, I decided to take calculus this summer. 

I’ve never taken calculus and I had a lot of fear leading up to the course- math is not my forte and it’s been nearly a decade since I’ve taken ANY sort of math course. And this was a grueling schedule too- all of Calculus 1 in eight weeks.

It has definitely been a challenge and my body has suffered a bit as a result. Significantly less exercise, less sleep, less grocery shopping time which translated into more fast food and less of a food budget, and less “me” time.  For the sake of my body, I’m not sure if I’d repeat it again. But it’s been worth it- so far I’m pulling a decent grade in the course and feel more prepared for the fall.

We are preparing for our final two tests. At the end of this week’s last lecture, the professor handed out a pre-test worksheet that assessed our progress in the chapter. After receiving the paper I packed up my things to head home. Before I left, I hovered over the desk of another student to watch him work a problem. He is likely one of the best students in the class and I wanted to see how challenging the worksheet was for him as a gauge for the time I’d need to invest on studying this weekend.

He was stuck on the question. He explained to me his problem-solving approach, attempting to use two different methods that we’ve tried in class. One ended in a lengthy amount of work, and the other wasn’t very applicable. He wasn’t sure what to do and felt like he reached a dead end. He was ready to go ask the professor for help.

Shooting from the hip, I asked, “Why can’t you just try this?” My answer and approach was elementary, basic, and lazy. But it made sense. And it solved the problem. And it reminded me of a programming principle that is good to apply to our day-to-day living:

Step back, consider alternative routes, and keep things simple.

All too often when learning math in high school, teachers would tell me that I was “making things tough on myself”. They meant that I made problems too complex, long, and confusing. This time around, my new approach is paying off as I learn how to apply it to higher-level math and programming. And as I continue to move on in work, life, and relationships, I try to remember the same principle: don’t over-complicate issues, step away, and consider the path of least resistance. Play around with the issue; don’t reinvent the wheel.

Here’s to remembering that as this course wraps up.

 

One thing.

Right now, I am writing a blog entry.

I have my word processor window taking up the whole screen area on my computer so as not to notice any other windows, notifications, or other distractions. Ideally, the desk that the computer is sitting on would be bare. I prefer it that way. The desk is not clean because I am not cleaning right now. I am writing a blog entry. I am only focused on the one thing I should be doing right now, which is writing a blog entry. I am doing it because my calendar told me that tonight, I would write a blog entry.

Later on, there will be something else to focus on. Later on tonight, I will work on learning about data structures. After that, I will prepare myself for the work week. After that, I will talk to a friend, then exercise, and clean up my living space, before getting ready for bed. During each of those times, I will only worry about the one thing that I am doing right at that moment. At a previous moment, all I worried about was making a schedule for the week ahead. This morning, I planned out today’s schedule with more detail.

 

What is the most important thing? The thing you are doing right now. Do it well, immerse yourself into it, make it the only thing you are worrying about.

What is the most important time? Right now. The past is gone, the future is yet to come.

Who is the most important person? The person or people you are with right now. Do what you can to make them feel that their needs are eased by your presence.

 

Yes, this philosophy is not perfect. We need to think or plan ahead. But if you are thinking or planning ahead, make that all that you are doing at the moment. Plan the snot out of whatever you are planning. And when you have a plan, move on. You can come back to it later.

Yes, while I am focusing on my blog entry, thoughts have come into my head about my plan for the rest of the night. I stopped writing for a second to think about if what I’m writing aligns with things I have read, and I wondered if I should check and see if my dinner had cooled down enough to put away in my fridge. I thought for a few seconds about the music that I hear from a neighbor’s house.

I let the thoughts go. I will worry about them later.

Right now, I am writing a blog entry.

How much better is our work; our time investment; the relationships we maintain and build; when we only focus on doing what we are doing in the present?

I find it therapeutic both work and at home to ask myself: “what is it I am doing right now? Is it a conscious decision? Am I worrying about something else?” If the answer to any of those three is something resembling uncertainty or “no”, then I probably should move on to something else to with more of a conscious effort.

Right now, I will spell-check, edit, and post my blog entry. Then, I will go do something else.

One thing.

Maintaining course.

The last post was about the endless pursuit- this one could be called maintaining pursuit.

As life progresses I realize how delicate the balance is between living with awareness, meaning, and purpose compared to wasting hours away. It’s amazing how quickly you can be thrown off course.

The past two weeks were a prime example of that. I started a course on Monday on Java programming (more on that in a later post) and I’m feeling slightly desolate because of the progress I made in preparation for the class. Of the past two weeks, the first one felt very scattered and rushed, while the second left me feeling more in control. I was pretty frustrated with my use of time the first week.

Here’s what I’m going to work on to stay more productive and happy:

Planning a schedule and sticking to it.

I find that I function so much better when I have that majority of my activity planned out for the week and attach it to a regular routine. That includes my fitness schedule, budgets, meal plans, study time, and my activity in the workplace. Having a schedule with set activity gives me a checklist for the day to attack. I need to be conscious of fulfilling the goals at hand and not giving into spontaneous decisions.

Rewarding myself.

Motivating yourself to stick to a schedule when it isn’t very fun or enjoyable is a challenge. I need to build in rewards to celebrate accomplishment. It works for a teacher and his students, it should work for others as well. Be it a meal out, an adventure with a friend, taking a “day off” from goal activities, or do something else I love. I feel I will work more effectively when I can enjoy my progress.

Maintaining ties.

I came across a TED talk a few days ago that I’ll soon write about. One thing I took away from the talk was the desire among humans for connection to one another. I’ve found that the lower points of my life were also times that I was more isolated from others. The more interactions I have with family, friends, and coworkers translate into more opportunities to feel accountable for myself, to others, to feel loved, to have fun, and to check in with the world outside my head. By scheduling time with connections, I am fulfilling the first two ideas of this post- to plan and reward.

The first week of preparation for this class was nearly absent of these three ideas. I did not plan effectively. I had few goals. I did not reward accomplishments; if I did something pleasureful, it was merely for the sake of pleasure and not really a reward for anything. I didn’t stay very connected with people outside of my necessary interactions. The second week was the complete opposite. I need to strive for more weeks like that. Finishing this blog is one step towards that. Finding the balance between structure and freedom is tricky, but hopefully sticking to these ideas will maintain that balance.

Leo at Zen Habits has some good, cheap ideas for rewards. Check them out.

Until next time.

The endless pursuit.

I identify myself as a runner. I ran track in high school, I’ve completed two half marathons, a 10K, a few 8Ks and a few 5Ks. I try to run year-round unless injured and while I’m not sure I’ll race again, I will try to run for life.

Last week I was out for a short 3-mile run. As I approached the turn-around point on my route I saw a runner on the opposite side of the street heading in the opposite direction. I touched the streetlight at my turnaround, now following the other runner, and got after it.

My sights locked down on my new challenge. My turnover rate increased and my feet sprung off the ground a little quicker as I continued my mini-race. I had a mile and a half to go on my route but as far as I was concerned, all that mattered was the next quarter mile. I secretly hoped he stayed on my street so I’d have a little more time to catch him. As I closed in, I felt a rush of adrenaline and my speed increased even more. I pulled up even to him and continued my route, refreshed and energized.

The experience reminded me of the endless pursuits we engage in every day. Many people describe the beginnings of courtship as “the thrill of the chase”, even Adele wrote about her failures in love as “chasing pavements”. Catching that runner reminded me of all the things I’m chasing. I remembered not to lose sight of them, to persist, and to both enjoy the chase and be motivated by its outcome, whether that be falling short or succeeding.

I chase self-actualizations and acceptance of myself. I chase knowledge. I chase new skills. I chase relationships- I’ve broken many over the last few years and I need to strengthen them. I chase better outings in the kitchen. I chase financial stability. I chase good health. I chase happiness. I will be happy, but rarely satisfied.

Here’s to that endless pursuit.

 

PS- This probably goes against other philosophies I’ve subscribed to lately, like being content with your own run and understanding other runners you find are at different ability levels and training stages compared to you. I understand that and keep that in mind, but this one particular moment was simply refreshing and the chase felt validated and worthwhile. I understand that the ultimate chases with running and other endeavors are against my personal bests, but for a brief moment, I let myself compete a little. It was fun.