The Smallest, Easiest Life Hack is the Best Life Hack

I’m a sucker for lifehacks that save time and effort, and I consider this one of the easiest to implement.

When I use the microwave, I prioritize my button presses based on

  • Number of Buttons Pressed
  • Number of Different buttons pressed

An example:
My microwave has an “Add 30 Seconds” button, regular numbers, and requires you to hit start before cooking.
I often want to cook food in multiples of 30 seconds.
Here’s a breakdown of some options from worst to best:

30 Seconds:

Add 30 Seconds, Start
3, 3, Start
3, 0, Start

1 Minute:

Add 30 Seconds, Add 30 Seconds, Start
5, 5, Start
6, 0, Start

1 Minute 30 Seconds:

8, 8, Start
Add 30 Seconds, Add 30 Seconds, Add 30 Seconds, Start
1, 3, 0, Start

Ultimately this saves me no time at all during the day. What does happen is I use math to figure out what to press, which is better than it was before.
I know that 88 seconds is not the same as 90 seconds, but it’s close enough for me.

Polyphasic Month 2012

Another month, another resolution. In the spirit of prepping for Burning Man, I figured what better what to mix things up than to go polyphasic again? This will be the fifth time I’ve attempted ├╝bermann style and I hope the trend that the more you do it, the easier it gets holds true. This will be the first time that I try it in a relationship, and I’ve got the full blessing and support of my wife. I’m pretty excited to have someone else looking out for me in this process, I relish the idea of not going through adaptation alone.

I’ve set aside five days for the initial deprivation and expect the next three weeks to be all I need for acclimation. I’ve taken as many precautions as possible, with all of the usual tricks in place. I’ve spent today (two days before actual acclimation) napping on time and have picked times that match with my schedule. I’ll be sleeping at 4:30, 8:30, and 12:30. My job had to go though this with me two years ago, so they know the drill. I’ve been offered an office to nap in with a comfy chair, so I don’t expect any problems there.

The only steps I have left are to decide when I want to stop, write my list of things to do while polyphasic, and then remember to eat enough to power the extra brain power I’ll be using.

I’ll be tracking my naps as closely as possible on my twitter account @morganengel and I will be keeping a running dialog here, so feel free to ask questions. Once more unto the breach.

How Monthly Resolutions Might Have Saved My Life

I remember vividly the first time I heard the word Coumadin. I was at Burning Man with my good friend Jeff, who’d had a heart valve replaced. They put you on blood thinners to ensure your heart keeps going, but it makes it so you can’t clot properly if you injure yourself. Jeff had split his finger open while unloading his motorized couch (only at burning man, right?), and we were taking said couch to the med tent to get help. When we arrived, one of the first things Jeff said was “I’m on Coumadin,” and the response was instantaneous. Few things will make a health care professional move more quickly than a bleeding man on blood thinners. That said, I didn’t think I’d be on them till quite a while later in my life.

February was Fearless month, part of which meant I had to face things that made me uncomfortable, like going to the doctor. It had been about a year since my last checkup and I was due. I don’t typically make time for things that are uncomfortable, but it seemed like the perfect example of the excuses I make when I don’t want to do something. I went, I was fine, I went home. On the surface, nothing about that visit was particularly interesting, but I think one of the big points to make is that by going to the doctor when you don’t have to, you increase your likelihood to go when you do.

As a man, I know I’m susceptible to the “not going to the doctor” thing. I tend to think I’m fine unless my bones are poking out of my skin or I’ve lost more than one of my senses. When Sunday night rolled around and I had sharp muscle pains in my calf, I assumed I needed to stretch more, maybe even needed a deep tissue massage. When it was twice as bad the next day, I figured, rub a little dirt on it, go to crossfit, stop worrying so much. Be happy it’s not both your knees. When it was twice as bad the next day, I went to the doctor. Turns out it was for good reason.

My Doctor ordered an ultrasound as a precaution. Turns out that I have deep venous thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots in my leg. This is a potentially fatal thing and if I hadn’t gone to the doctor, I could have suffered a pulmonary embolism, something fairly uncommon for a 31 year old programmer who does crossfit to have. What made me go to the doctor? I can’t say for sure, but I’ve always had the belief that if something doesn’t go away after a week or gets twice as bad as it was, you go to the doctor. Even when that happens, sometimes, I still find reasons not to go. Monthly resolutions are an excellent way to remind myself of the things I should do in my life and to help me find the drive and time to do them.

An Entire Month of Good Mornings

Fearless month has proved to be one of the most difficult to stick to. The entire notion that I face my fears seems simple enough, but where do fears have a purpose and where do they have a detriment. This morning, I’ve faced one of my major social phobias. I used to live in a much smaller place with little to no crime and much friendlier people than San Francisco. I have the luxury of a one hour commute in the mornings, 30 minutes of which is a walk through Oakland and SOMA, SF.

People in these cities have abandoned the small town feel a long time ago, and yet, I find that I haven’t. I want to be able to say good morning to people, smile at them, talk to them about random things, and in general be the pleasant person I like to be, but something often stops me. I’m often afraid that with the walls that society has created, I’m actually being rude for knocking them down. I see a woman with her kids out for a walk, if I say good morning to her, will she think I’m a pedophile out to attack her kids? If I say good morning to a homeless person, will they just beg me for money I won’t give, yell at me, or worse?

Ultimately, these thoughts are all ridiculous and yet play themselves out in my mind over and over again every day on my way to work. Today, I tried it. I said good morning to people, smiled at them, and treated San Francisco as though it had the small town feel I wish it had, and the results were overwhelming. People are wired to be nice to you when you’re nice to them. You say good morning, you smile at them, and before they can even snap out of their haze of morning walking with no interruptions, they’ve smiled and said good morning back. It’s almost funny how little they expect it, and how much it affects them.

One woman didn’t even know how to respond, and she had to stop and turn around to make sure I had said something. I just smiled and waved and she was off with her morning. Fearless month isn’t just about trying things that scare you, it’s about being something that scares you too, and I’m that crazy guy who smiles and says good morning, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Here’s my challenge to you: Try being extra nice to people today. Just for today. I’ve chosen to do so on my walk, you could do it while you’re driving, or on your bike. Take an extra step to make sure someone else is having a good day. It surprises me how good it feels.

February Monthly Resolution – Fearless Month

The plan: February is Fearless Month.

Many of you know that I occasionally do Monthly Resolutions instead of yearly. This means less of a commitment than usual. The last yearly resolution I did was to eat vegetarian at restaurants for a year. It was eye opening, and I was very thankful that I lived in SF and not Arizona. That said, I found 12 months of strictness to be overwhelming. This next month is going to be an interesting experiment. I’ve been doing 6-pack abs month for January and I’m down about 16 lbs, eating more healthily, exercising more, and in general feeling better about myself. Fearless month is going to be much more mental than physical.

Fearless month is, in and of itself, intimidating. I’ve been paying attention to all of the things I do every day that are fear-based. Or rather, many of the things I DON’T do as a result of fear. The people I don’t talk to, the actions I don’t take. But there’s a lot of questions I have around fear in general.

Is politeness a result of fear? If I’m unselfish, is that motivated by a desire to be nice, or a desire to nto upset the status quo? I’m going to have to do a lot of introspection this month to really get to the root of my true motivations for things. This may also mean me trying things and evaluating the results.

This leads me to the rules of the month, too. The basic concept is this: If there’s something I would normally not do as a result of fear, I should feel compelled to do it. Obviously this is a very flawed statement. I shouldn’t go running through traffic, jumping off buildings, or stabbing people just because I’d be afraid of the result. So, revision is in order: If I would normally not do something and the result would not produce lingering negative results on my life, I should do it.

There’s some other rules I think I need to stick to, as well. I shouldn’t quit my job, spend all my money, eat things that make me sick, etc. Most of the things I’m imagining have to do with social phobias, physical challenges, and essentially a lot of the laziness in my life. Two years ago, I did “one extra step month” which meant that if I could, I should take one extra step with everything I did. When I would wash the dishes, I’d also clean a counter, when I’d walk to work, I’d go an extra block. It was amazing how one extra step added up and made a better day. The main reason for not taking an extra step seems to be laziness, and the main reason for laziness seems to be fear. I’m looking forward to trying this out.

Oh yeah, and as an added benefit to Fearless Month, I don’t see any reason other than fear to not keep going with cumulative 6-pack abs months, especially since I can’t see them yet.