Keep Calm and Watch the Sunset

Sunset behind the trees

Do to the outbreak of COVID-19 there is lots of fear and panic going around. People are scared, confused, and question the outcome of the future. It is important during times like these to stay calm. I’m not asking us to ignore trials or tragedy around but rather to keep a level head in the face of it. Love on your family and look out for our neighbors*. If we all did this—we would be better off.

So to us all who may struggle at times to keep the anxiousness at bay: pause and take time to look for beauty in the small things.

Watch a Sunset.

¹: Obviously not if you’re under quarantine 😬

Reaching a Plateau in Minimizing Screen Time

I am still tracking and restricting my screen time as I’ve written in the past about. But after a few months of doing this I’ve reached a plateau in optimization. At this time I’m only able to get down to around 45 minutes of screen time a day on my iPhone. Most of this is taken up by messaging apps and searching around my podcast player feeds for what episode to play next.

My weekly average still ends up being around 55 minutes/day most weeks. Inevitably there ends up being a day that has more use a skews the results. I am going to try and get my weekly average a little lower by deferring tasks to do later when I am at my desk, which many times is more efficient. But if that doesn’t prove to be suitable optimization I am still comfortable with the outcome at this time.

A Crash Course in Working From Home

Working off the Dad bod

Let’s just say the belt is starting to get little tighter these days. We’ve all been there, right? You are then faced with a decision of what to do next.

Do I:

  1. Drop my belt down a notch?
  2. Ignore it like nothing has changed and hope it stretches out?
  3. Try and trim up?

I’ve chosen #3.

Here is my basic action plan

  • Use LoseIt to track my daily calorie intake and log measurements
  • Up my water intake
  • Continue doing bodyweight exercises—increasing the set-lengths and diversifying the workout
  • In general, just watch what I eat more and avoid large amounts of carbs and refined sugars
  • Have weight and measurement goals I log regularly

I plan on staying active with my family as I get older and I hope that this re-adjustment will help remain on that path.

Why I Enjoy the AeroPress

Coffee dripping from an AeroPress

This one is from the archive. Originally authored in April of 2016 and four years later it still applies.

It tastes excellent

Naturally, the most important aspect of a coffee brew is how it tastes. The AeroPress is not only adequate in this area—it excels. When I first tried coffee from anAeroPress, I was not much of a coffee drinker. In fact I didn’t like coffee much at all. It seemed that most coffee I tasted was bitter and just didn’t have a pleasant flavor. After tasting AeroPress coffee for the first time, my opinion regarding coffee changed drastically. In fact I think it is difficult to make a truly bad cup of coffee with this device.

It’s efficient

In both the coffee produced, and the amount of waste accumulated, I think the AeroPress has little inefficiencies. It is generally used to brew a single serving of coffee. There are some recipes geared towards making multiple cups but that isn’t part of my daily use. Brewing with a method that is geared towards a single serving means I don’t have to brew more coffee than I need at that time. Reducing the risk of coffee going to waste that I don’t drink. But unlike other single serve methods like {INSERT NAME OF AUTOMATIC BREWER HERE}, I don’t generate an access amount of plastic that just gets thrown away. With the AeroPress I only have a small, thin, paper filter along with the coffee grounds that are thrown away (at most). And did I mention it is fast? After the water is heated I can brew a cup of coffee in under 2 minutes from the time I grind the beans to completing the AeroPress’ super easy cleanup.

It’s Affordable

The AeroPress is cheap in the world of quality coffee brewing methods where espresso machine can cost in the hundreds to thousands of dollars. I believe I paid around $26 for mine. Right now it is priced at ~$30 on Amazon. Compared to even ‘mid-range’ espresso machines that is a steal for the result you get. But the low price of the AeroPress doesn’t come at a sacrifice of quality. I’ve used the same one for 3 years and don’t anticipate replacing it anytime soon.

Practical Ways to Keep Moving at Work

Continuing in the vein of healthy work habits:

Thus far my career has been in a desk job with the majority of that time working from home. During this period I’ve reached different spectrums of balance between dedication to the work and a healthy lifestyle. This includes good eating habits, exercise, getting enough sunlight, and preventing eye strain. One of the best ways I’ve found to help sustain this is to strive for habits that encourage taking short breaks throughout the day, so I don’t stay glued to my desk all the time.

Like with any goal I find the the best way to start building better habits is to establish the why before the how. Remaining healthy for me is prioritized by a few driving factors including

  • Desiring to be able to stay active with my kids as they get older
  • Keeping good mental healthy which physical health helps facilitate
  • Sustaining longevity in my career and other life commitments

I have done a variety of things over the years to help achieve this. For a period I had a 10,000 steps a day goal which I would track. I would walk on every call I had, take short breaks to walk, go for a walk at lunch, and walk with my family after dinner. Many days I would exceed my 10k goal—and sometimes go well over 25k steps. Another thing I did was try and get out and work other places more often which were within cycling distance. Places like a local park or coffee shop. That would get me out of the office for a bit and also served as great cardio. Both of these helped me reach some good physical goals but personally were not sustainable in my daily routine.

Now I make much smaller goals which “fall in” with my daily schedule with a bit more ease. A few habits I am trying to keep right now are

  • Standing during all meetings which I inevitably end up pacing during out of habit
    • I still go for walks on calls occasionally, but I’ve found that isn’t as productive for me as it use to be.
  • Drinking lots of water throughout the day
    • Other than staying hydrated which is good, this helps me on two fronts: 1) I have to take bio breaks more often—a great excuse to step away from the desk briefly, 2) every time my water bottle is empty I am reminded to go refill it—again a brief desk break.
  • Have small 1-2min breaks throughout the workday for a set of bodyweight exercises
    • Again a great excuse to step back from the desk briefly and also keep the Dad-bod at bay.

In terms of tracking these I am currently not keeping metrics on them outside the bodyweight exercises. For the exercise I am keeping it simple and just using Tally app to track manually. Also on the tech side of things, I like to use Breaktime to remind myself to take breaks on a schedule. One area I think I could improve on here is more regularly adjusting my desk between its sitting and standing position. There are days where I don’t have as many calls and I think some schedule here could help ensure I’m rotating between sitting and standing. This is easy to forget when I’m “head down” in my work.

Music for Concentration

From writing code to drafting documentation—a lot of my work requires long periods of focus which need to be maintained to be effective. On the average workday you will usually find me at my desk wearing concentration enhancing™ headphones and listening to whatever I’m currently inspired by. Here are a few albums and artists I commonly listen during the work day. Most of this list is instrumental and it is not sorted by preference:

Don’t Sit, Don’t Stand: Keep Moving While at Work

I have been thinking a lot more about ergonomics recently after having two weeks out of the office and returning to work. A few days after being back at the desk during my work day, I noticed some discomfort building up in my lower back and legs. I suspect it was probably there before my extended time away from the desk and I’m just noticing it more now after the break. Because of this I have been doing some research into better workspace ergonomics. I will probably write more in the future about this but for now here is an interesting excerpt from an article published by Cornell University:

[…] then every 20 minutes stand for 8 minutes AND MOVE for 2 minutes. The absolute time isn’t critical but about every 20-30 minutes take a posture break and stand and move for a couple of minutes.  Simply standing is insufficient. Movement is important to get blood circulation through the muscles. And movement is FREE! Research shows that you don’t need to do vigorous exercise (e.g. jumping jacks) to get the benefits, just walking around is sufficient. So build in a pattern of creating greater movement variety in the workplace (e.g. walk to a printer, water fountain, stand for a meeting, take the stairs, walk around the floor, park a bit further away from the building each day).

Sitting and Standing at Work, Cornell University Ergonomics Web

Better Screen Time Habits: A Week Later

It has been just over a week since I put screen time constraints in place on my iPhone. I am happy with the outcome of this change thus far. According to the statistics iOS generates, my screen time usage is down to an average of 56 minutes per day—a 55% decrease from the week before. Overall I am pleased with the numbers.

The muscle memory from more frequent use is still present. It will be interesting to see how long that takes to pass.

screenshot as of Friday this week

John Mark McMillan is Giving Away his New Album “Peopled With Dreams”

John Mark McMillan, one of my favorite artists of our time, is giving away his new album through Monday. Get the digital download of Peopled With Dreams here. You can get it for free or “name your price” through February, 17th.

For anyone out there that enjoys a more analog music experience the vinyl version is on pre-sale as well.

John Mark summarizes the album with the following:

My hot-mess-of-an-existential-pop-record and 8th studio album is out! It’s a journey back into faith. A collection of songs about joy, gratitude, and God in an attempt to honestly consider our place among the cosmos.

@johnmarkmc, Twitter