Following my own curriculum — Update #3

Finally booking your accommodation after planning a journey for quite some time is a very satisfying feeling. Last week, I booked an Airbnb for my first destination this summer, Prague. I chose the city because it seamlessly combines culture, pleasure as well as work and due to its excellent value for money. By random chance, someone I got to know during my exchange semester in Los Angeles will be in the city at the same time. We will be sharing an apartment which enabled us to get a decent one without spending too much money. Additionally, I am currently wrapping up the planning for my second location which I hope I will be able to tell you more about next week.

Intermittent Fasting week Feedback

In the past week, I pursued the challenge of only eating one meal a day. After practicing to eat only two meals a day for a few weeks, I have to say that the step towards having one meal ultimately felt larger than I initially expected. I was almost constantly hungry, my workout performance declined, and I did not even feel the same joy towards my meals as I did when I followed the two meals a day practice. Moreover, since I did not want to cut my calories, I had to stuff roughly 3000 calories into one meal. These meals usually involved a variety of meat, vegetables, nuts, quark and a protein shake with MCT Oil. Additionally, cooking with olive oil helped to boost the calorie count.

While I certainly enjoy eating a lot, this sometimes felt like committing gluttony. My current thought is to stay away from eating only a certain amount of meals a day and going towards defining a time range in which I will be allowed to eat. For example, I could determine a time-frame from 2 pm to 8 pm in which I am allowed to eat and henceforth do not consume food from 8 pm to 2 pm the next day. This is much easier to follow and still promotes some benefits of intermittent fasting since the fasting period is 18 hours long.

Daily reflection routine

For my next challenge, I wanted to find something that helps me reach one of my primary goals for the summer. Reflecting on what I want to achieve and who I want to be. Doing this properly requires me to define specific timeslots in which I can think about these questions. To implement at least some daily reflection, I am planning on expanding my journaling activities. I have written down a few things about my day for the past months such as specific events or achievements. However, I would like to step it up a little by answering some predefined questions every day. Additionally, I tend to track whether or not I have done certain activities throughout the day that promote my well-being. Since I think that this whole approach could be performed in a more sophisticated, my challenge this week will be to:

Craft and implement a holistic reflection experience.

While I understand that this may sound generic at first, I could not think of more specific words. The following paragraphs will explain what I mean by that.

For this challenge, I will start every day with a short journal entry in which I write down two things that would make the specific day awesome. Additionally, I will have a look at the to-dos I wrote down the day before and prioritize them according to their importance to me. This forces me to think about my long-term goals every morning before I leave the house since the most important tasks of my day should be aligned with them. My general rule for to-dos is not to have more than five major ones per day. This implies that I could have more things on the list if there are a few minor urgent things on it that do not take more than 5–10 minutes such as writing a quick email to someone or canceling a subscription. This arbitrary limit requires me to reflect on what I currently value the most and prevents me from feeling squashed by the number of tasks at the same time. What I usually notice is that completing one or two specific tasks generates most of my well-being and feeling of accomplishment for the day.

In the evening, I will continue to initiate my bedtime ritual by tracking whether or not I have completed certain activities during the day. For this, I use the Way of life app. Currently, there are 22 different things I track every day. For example, I track whether or not I have worked out, meditated, tracked my finances, or if I had read a book during the day. This enables me to get a quick overview of how successful my day, week or month was in a particular context for example for promoting my health. Additionally, it is a proven way for me to implement new habits as well as enforce older ones. When I track and measure something, I am more likely to stick to a habit every day. My Way of Life list is subject to constant change. Once a week, I take a look at the list and filter out the options I do not think should be tracked anymore. If I think of a new habit I want to track, I usually add it to the list immediately.

After using Way of Life, I will answer some structured questions (which are not formulated as questions for some reason) in my evening journal. In the following, I will present the questions I came up with and give a short explanation for why I want to use them.

1. One thing I learned today
I want to learn something new every day. Tracking what it was, will release dopamine since it is a feeling of accomplishment and will enable me to remember it longer.

2. Two awesome things that happened today
This will improve my mood and lets me identify patterns of things I like to repeat them in the future.

3. Two things that could have made today better
Everything can be improved. Understanding what it was for this specific day will give me the opportunity to avoid mistakes in the future or tackle challenging situations differently.

4. One Improvement I could make
This one is long-term oriented and tackles one aspect of myself in which I would like to improve. It could be something easily measurable like my Deadlift max or something more complex like my emotional intelligence. Usually clearly defined goals are easier to achieve, this is why I will try to operationalize the more abstract and complex goals as well as I can.

5. Three things that I am grateful for
This is one of the things I have heard mentioned the most as a suggestion for people that want a happier life. You can watch this Ted Talk in order to understand why.

6. One business idea or problem to solve
As a startup guy, it is always good to keep ideas flowing. Sometimes though it is harder to define a real business idea than simply writing down a problem that should be solved. This problem can later be looked at and analyzed more deeply regarding possible business opportunities.

7. One other thing
The last point is a placeholder for anything else that is on my mind at this particular point. I wanted to have one open-ended statement so that I do not constrain my thoughts too much.

I will try out those seven points for now, but I will probably shift them around a little bit until I have found the right mixture for me. For example, a mentor of mine told me that it would be a good idea to write down situations, people, and activities that make me happy in order to find patterns there. After these patterns have been identified, one can focus its energy on repeating these interactions. I could imagine tracking those points separately for some time.

This whole journal experience is meant to achieve two primary objectives. Firstly, it forces me to implement reflecting on my life as a daily habit and secondly it offers me an opportunity to go back and analyze statements and ideas I have gathered over a longer time-frame if I look into older entries regularly. The latter will enable me to see the progress I have achieved and allows me to understand emerging patterns.

Content suggestions

Since I like to suggest some content every week, I would like to make you aware of the two following things: The audiobook ‘The power of vulnerability’ by Brené Brown and the NPR Politics Podcast.

Brené Brown is one of my favorite researchers and is not afraid to tackle the usually shunned questions about human psychology and interaction. The audiobook was recorded during a series of speeches she has given and communicates what her research into our emotions and deep fears has shown. You can get a sneak-peak into her findings by watching this famous Ted Talk.

As regular readers probably have figured out by now, I am a huge fan of podcasts. The NPR politics one is among my absolute favorites. I usually listen to it within minutes of it being published. Twice a week several NPR reporters encapsulate the recent political news and comment on developments within the US government. Moreover, they publish additional episodes whenever something important happens. Their discussions provide me with interesting insights into American politics and give me background knowledge that is often missing in a lot of newspaper articles. Additionally, it is a pleasure to listen to, and as you know, American politics is currently anything else than boring.

In case you have feedback on my articles, any content suggestions or just want to reach out: You can do so on Twitter @mikemahlkow or wherever you reach me best.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.