Although I like to think that I have some of the things in my life figured out, I am constantly running small experiments to understand how to improve the things in my life.
Let me share one story from my life about how I have always been experimenting. My friend and I used to go out all the time for bubble tea. You know the phenomenon. It’s a drink from Taiwan that adds ‘bubbles’ to flavoured teas. These bubbles are made out of tapioca, a type of starch. They are chewy and add sweetness to whatever drink you add it to. And there are bubble tea places all over the place. My friend, every time he goes, decided that he would choose one flavour (strawberry) that was safe everywhere and that he would drink that each time he went. I, on the other hand, decided that I wanted to try something new each and every time I went. My goal was to uncover the best bubble teas, and I certainly could not do that if I tried the same thing every time. In other words, my friend was a satisficer and I was a a maximizer. My friend was good with ‘good enough’ while I was on the lookout for the very best. Of course, that also meant that there were many times where my bubble teas were just awful. And to this date, I have not found the ‘best’ bubble tea, but I have also tried a lot of really great ones.
Here are the things that I learned through the experience though:
- If you try something new, you cannot be afraid of failure
- Keep an open mind because you never know when something good might hit you
- It is a good idea to have a standard at which you can judge whether something is better than ‘average’
- Satisficers will be much happier than maximizers
So while satisficers may be happier than maximizers, I still aim for getting better and better each and every day. With that said, here are some experiments I am running in my life (and I think during the covid-19 pandemic, this can be a good time to try something new):
I have been experimenting with skipping breakfast for a while. I have no idea if it has had any benefits for me, but I know that I certainly feel better skipping breakfast sometimes because it means that I am not putting anything unhealthy in my body for that one meal.
Typically, breakfasts are one of my favourite meals of the day and I often thought that I could eat almost anything for breakfast as long as I ate healthy meals for lunch and dinner. This always turned out that I ate unhealthy meals throughout the day though.
Yoga and a stretch as part of my workout routine
My friends told me about Yoga with Adrienne which you can find on Youtube and even though I’m not a fan of yoga, I am always interested in trying out new things to see if there are benefits. I have now been practicing yoga for about a month and find the breathing and stretching to be good for my body. I never really stretched as part of my workout routines and so my flexibility is quite awful. I also find that focusing on breathing is a good way of lowering stress and clearing my head of distractions, much like a meditation practice.
Something that I have had a bit of difficulty in is figuring out what to do whenever I have time. I have large open days where I do whatever I feel like: write, read, take notes, take online courses, etc.
Except a lot of the times, when I have time, I have to decide on what to do and that is exhausting. And whenever something exhausting, like make a decision, comes up, I usually go with whatever is easiest which is watching Youtube clips or hopping on Netflix. That’s not the right way to be productive and so the one thing I am trying to do is to schedule my day’s activities the day before or the night before.
Think about it this way, if you were at work and you had a meeting come up, you wouldn’t just ignore it. You would go to that meeting. You would make sure that you had anything you needed to do for that meeting, ahead of that meeting. In a similar way, I am taking advantage of that obligation by scheduling my activities. That way, I am not deciding what to do.
When I write or work, I used to listen to podcasts and audiobooks. This was awful though because when I tried to pay attention to what people were saying, I inevitably lost track of what I was trying to write at the same time. I don’t know about you, but I can’t listen to someone speak while writing about something different at the same time.
I then switched to classical music, but even then, I found that I would have to pause or stop the music while at work because there were so many interruptions. For me, it was easier to just not listen to anything so that I could fully concentrate on whatever task I had at hand.
In an e-mail from Recommendo, I heard about a Youtube channel called ChilledCow. It does not have any lyrics, has a nice beat, and it is something that I am getting back into to see if it helps my thinking and productivity. I have also seen a number of Youtube videos pop up where people are recording themselves studying and calling their videos ‘study with me’. These may be part of my next experiment.
More vegetarian food
After reading Lifespan by David A. Sinclair, I am thinking a lot more about the health practices that he has in his life. One thing for example is that he does not eat meat unless he worked out that day. That is something that I am trying out in my life (though I’m doing a terrible job at the moment because I really love meat). What I will say is that I try to eat less meat on the days I haven’t worked out, and then when I do work out, those are normal days where I eat the same as before this health practice.
On the subject of eating more vegetarian food, I purchased some BeyondMeat burger patties from Costco which are amazing. With a few more of those, I could even switch to a completely vegetarian diet.
Working for less than 8 hours
Another thing I am experimenting with is my working hours. While it is 8 hours in the corporate world, I have been experimenting with only working in the mornings (so 4 – 5 hours). It might seem weird, but I feel that working less means that I am more productive, because I only have a few hours to work otherwise I would have to wait for the next day. Having work time in the mornings helps take advantage of my naturally high energy levels in the morning, and then I am able to use the afternoons to either learn something new, through an online course, or to do other things in a passive manner, such as brainstorm ideas for my blog, or to edit my book.
Note that I currently do not have a job, so please adjust as needed for your own life / work.
Light exercise and weight lifting
Reading The World’s Fittest Book by Ross Edgley, I learned something interesting. If you lift heavy weights and then do intense cardio on alternate days, your body has no idea what to adapt to and you do not progress as much as if you only did one or the other. I thought that was interesting, so I stopped doing intense cardio on alternate days, and instead, incorporated a 30 – 40 minute walk instead while still keeping my kettlebell workouts.
My aim isn’t to bulk up, but to make sure that I maintain my weight and strength as it is now so your mileage may vary, but so far, my weight and strength have been approximately the same as when I was working out constantly.
When I was living by myself, I optimized my meals like crazy. On Sunday, I would cook a big batch of chicken, rice and vegetables and I would pack lunches and dinners for the rest of the week in tupperware containers that I could reheat. I didn’t have to think about what to eat for lunch or dinner, all I had to do was pick up a container out of the fridge and reheat it in the microwave. This saved a lot of time and energy from cooking every day, AND on deciding what to cook and eat every day.
Of course, now that I’m home every day (and no longer single), my meals have a lot more variety. There’s a chinese app called ‘little red book’ which is similar to Instagram. You can browse for different meals that people have cooked and try out new recipes. One tip I have: try not to buy too many new ingredients that you won’t use. Getting a huge bag of tapioca to make bubble tea isn’t a good investment if you are not going to drink enough bubble tea to use up the tapioca.
Creating content for different platforms
While I have been writing for more than two years on Steemit, I thought it would be interesting to leverage the content that I already have and to post it on other platforms. Given that everybody is indoors and video is a lot more important, I have been experimenting with more video content, building up a Youtube channel and posting some short video clips onto LinkedIn to promote my new book, Essential Habits.
Will it go anywhere? No idea. But even if it doesn’t, learning to edit and create videos is a skill that is worthwhile.
Reconnecting with the weak ties on my network and building new ones
I’m not much of a networker, nor would I say that I’m very good at keeping in touch with friends and colleagues. I can name dozens, maybe even hundreds of people that are much better at that than I am. But given the unique situation that we are all in, many of us are online a lot more which means there are more opportunities to connect and re-connect with friends and colleagues. In the past few months, I have reconnected with several friends and colleagues I lost touch with, and while I don’t think there is an obligation to keep in touch, it is always good to catch up and to see how things are going.
What are you experimenting with in your life? Do you have an experimentation philosophy? Are you a satisficer or maximizer?