A library of thoughts and things worth sharing.

000 — Notes on time nutritiously spent

I really wish I was the kind of person who could stick to a disciplined, rigorous schedule. I've long been a sucker for the kind of content people like Casey Neistat put out. I'm not a fan of the hustle, but there's a kind of pornography in watching people work so tirelessly to deliver extraordinary results.

Like pornography, this tireless grind is unrealistic and sets dangerous expectations in a lot of people. I know I'm not able to sleep four hours, work eighteen hours, and still try to spend time fulfilling the needs of the people I love and care about. Realistically, I struggle to work six hours and fulfil those needs, even on a decent level of sleep. So how exactly should I be spending that time? And how can I fix the situation I'm in at the moment, to spend time better?

Recently two people I've been quite influenced by came together in an unexpected way. Craig Mod's Ridgeline newsletter, unable to cover the joys and philosophies of walking as it usually would, filled the week with a post titled "Consider Joe Pera's Gait". Craig Mod and Joe Pera both create content that centers around my biggest obsession for a long time: the mundane. Craig, with whole talks on the design of the margins of books (which you can find here and I highly recommend), and Joe Pera with a sort of subversive everyday comedy on topics like love and grief, via reading the church announcements or taking an early morning drive. It was unusual to see Craig Mod effusing about another influence of mine, but it got me thinking about what the two have in common.

Craig's focus could be characterised as small details with a big impact, and in a way, Joe's is, too. They're different approaches but orbit the same point. And other influences of mine — Merlin Mann's essays on fatherhood or technology, or William Maxwell's short stories that seem to capture the gamut of the human experience in the span of a few improvised pages — really follow the same approach, trying to pick apart the things we all struggle with and turn them into something we have in common, and something we can appreciate — in ourselves as well as in each other.

These aren't pushing an agenda and they don't have anything to prove. They're not a flex in any sort of way. They're just from the heart, or touching something of the heart, and in that way they're helping us to better understand ourselves instead of presenting an image that's #goals. It's a more wholesome image of how to spend one's time than the pulsing, screaming energy that the hustlers and grinders portray.

In a podcast recently Merlin described the way he spent his time as not being especially "nutritious" during our current pandemic.

I've found the same is true of myself. My issues with spending my time are evident, really, given my inability to sit and get work done or to properly prioritise the people I care about, but I feel like there's more than that to the issue. How do we spend time in a way that we might describe as "nutritious"?

There are a couple of times in my life that I've felt I've really had things together, but never more so than the summer of 2017.

A few things came together at once. I was exercising, frequently — running ~40km a week — and eating well, too. I had the first work outside of education that I enjoyed, and I was pushing and trying to get results every day. And I was taking time for myself, reading and hitting the reset button on evenings where I was too spent to do anything after a long day at work. I was happy, in a form that I can't say I usually am: life felt settled and I had a plan for my future, starting the PhD a few months later and having the next few years generally laid out ahead of me.

Not every day can be that way, but it's the gold standard I set myself now and a warm memory of a summer well spent.

At different times in our lives, our needs change. To blindly follow the format of that period in my life wouldn't be an automatic recipe for success. That said, reflecting on a few tumultuous years, I think there are patterns I can draw from thes like this. They have a few things in common:

  1. Regular exercise
  2. Sleep
  3. Decent food
  4. Routine

In and of themselves these don't make nutritiously spent time, but I think these factors make it easier to spend time doing things that feel wholesome and true to the needs we have to satisfy in ourselves.

Tomorrow is my 26th birthday.

Casey startted his famous vlog on his 34th birthday.

Ultimately they're just days like any other, but I wonder whether a birthday is a good occasion to mark a change in one's habits.

I clearly need to sleep, exercise, and eat well, and knowing what that means for me after getting this right on and off for a few years, I'm unconcerned about making that happen. (For the most part.)

What's the best way to craft a good routine, though? And how can I make a routine for myself that lends itself to "nutritiously" spent time?

I'm yet to figure that out, although I think the combination of the first three factors is a solid step in the right direction. Consistency is key. I'm unconvinced that these three things are enough, though, and I think this routine has to have something productive about it, too.

So, the fourth aspect is going to be fulfilled for me like so: every day I'll get up at 8, sit at the desk by 9, publish one thing on this blog by 10, and then work until the todo list is complete. What that thing is, and how this builds into a series of posts, is undefined and open to its own evolution. Some might be big essays, some might be little links, most will probably take the form of the existing content on this site.

Monday through Sunday, regardless, the posts will flow; that's going to be the cornerstone of this next year.