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Learning and new skills

Some really solid tips and links on how to learn things as an adult, courtesy of Johnny Webber.

With the pandemic this year (as well as starting at a new workplace in February), I’ve oscillated from ‘a little more free time’ to ‘existential crisis’.

I didn’t pick up a lot of new skills, but I’ve doubled down on some – mostly during this last quarter of the year:

  • Playing the ukulele
  • Started writing more (on here! which only picked up in October!)
  • Being serious about daily journaling
  • Meditating

That said, I’m going to try making 2021 the year of more learning.

Off the top of my head:

  • Basic conversations in Thai – for my love of tom yum, but also because it would be nice to understand a little of what I’m designing for the clients at work
  • How to sew
  • Progressing to a guitar (as soon as I get some nylon strings since the steel ones hurt my fingers real badly)
  • Calligraphy

I’ll have to plan this out just so they’re staggered, or at least manageable for me, but that’s the general gist! If you’re planning on picking up new skills, come let me know and we’ll help each other achieve them.

On Sleeping (or, I Am Really Bad At Sleep)

My nephews do this thing where they resist sleep for at least half an hour each time they’re laid down in their beds. It’s a whole production of denying, bargaining, and finally acceptance.

It turns out I’m not that different with these two-and-a-half-year-olds.

I’ve started tracking my sleep these past few weeks. The results, like all click-bait titles promise, are unbelievable, astonishing… which is to say, completely not at all.

How my night routine has been, pretty much my whole life

  • Late dinners, because of my habit of having late lunches (anytime before 2:30 PM is early for me)
  • Coffees and cokes all through the day, baby!
  • Screens (laptop), screens (phone), screens (both) all the way before bed
  • “Just one more thing” before I switch the lights off
  • Inconsistent sleeping hours; 12:30 AM is pretty early, kinda
  • Lying stomach-down on my bed with my laptop in front of me, and falling asleep with the lights still on before startling myself awake sometime in the middle of the night, around 3 AM
  • Using my phone in bed after lights out, on the occasions when I do switch the lights off
  • Using my phone as an alarm, and hitting that snooze button but totally engineering it by setting an alarm that is earlier than I mean to wake up
  • I’m fortunate that even while doing all of these things like a real asshole, my body clock is still functional and I usually wake up around the same time, and sometimes before the alarm
  • …And then I hit the snooze button for just a few more minutes.

There are some things that are unavoidable, like looking at screens before bed. It’s 9:57 PM and I’m drafting this out on my phone right now (my external monitor fizzled out earlier this week – moment of silence please).

I’m still not sure how to fit in all the things I want to accomplish within the hours of the day after work has taken up a whole chunk of it (read, write, watch stuff, play the ukulele, walk… the list goes on), and still be able to get to bed at a decent time.

Still, there’s at least some correlation that good sleep quality will perpetuate the healthy parts of our lives (even though this debunking and ongoing drama of Why We Sleep cracked me up), which is why I’ve been trying to make my sleep environment and circumstances better.

Changes I’ve been making

What gets measured gets managed, and in hindsight, I’m actually surprised at myself that I wasn’t already tracking my sleep, given that I track every other aspect of my life.

For now, I’m using SleepScore and have been for the past three weeks, but there are a couple of issues. One of them is that I have to keep it by my bedside, which definitely keeps me in the habit of scrolling forever before I decide to drift off too.

The other bigger issue is its inaccuracy on some nights, where there will be long periods of no detection. This skews the tracking and obviously defeats the point. So, to that end, I have bought a FitBit Charge that should be getting to me soon!

Outside of that, I have also been trying to sleep before midnight. It’s a weird thing, because I feel like I’m losing precious time going to sleep at an earlier hour, even though I know that the effects of sleeping early will compound in ways that trying to keep myself awake would.

Especially when I’m trying to keep awake trying to read one last thing, or watch one last thing, or continue conversations.

Exactly like my two-and-a-half-years-old nephews.

(Check back on this experiment in a bit; I’ll probably write an update to track my progress!)

Catching Up on My 2020 Reading Challenge (or: How It Caught Up With Me)

(or: How I plan to read a book every three days)

Last year, I hit my target of 26 books for my 2019 reading challenge. I over-performed by reading 33 books, which is 7 books in excess. 1You’d hope I’d be able to do simple math like that, given how many financial books I read last year.

Naturally, at the close of the year, I decided I’d do 52 books in 2020. Should be easy, right? I have about 2 hours of commute to the office every weekday (I even said so in an earlier post that I’d forgotten about!), and I sometimes even make the twenty-minute walk to the library to have some alone time for the sole purpose of focused reading.

Yeah, well, 2020 happened (is happening?) and the pandemic hit, and as my work hours went from “usually 8 hours + 2 hours of commute” 2It also coincided with my first weeks/months at a new workplace, and not being staffed on anything substantial at that point. to “hellscape of 16+ hour days some days, working from home”, my content consumption hours also got drastically cut down.

Which is to say, right now at the nearly halfway mark of October, I’m at 26 books 3This is also not absolutely accurate – there was a period of two weeks after binging The Babysitters Club on Netflix that I dove all the way back to nostalgia, and read about a dozen of those books that gave me such comfort during my pre-teen/teen years. I didn’t log them on Goodreads, since that felt like cheating.. Goodreads chirpily tells me I’m 14 books behind schedule.

Still, I’m optimistic.

With 26 books to hit, and 80 days left to the year, that’s approximately one new book every three days. I have a few days of leave I have to take at work (before they disappear into the void, never to be seen again), without any travel plans for the near to mid future.

Here’s my rough plan:

  • Use meal breaks to read — I know, this sounds so pedestrian, and shouldn’t you be doing it already? The short shameful answer is no. The longer answer is I’ve been using the time when I’m actually eating to catch up on social media and Reddit, or playing this game called Choices: Stories You Play which is kiiiinda like reading, since it’s an “interactive narrative experience”? On top of that, since lunch break is technically an hour long during work days, and I usually shovel my food in my mouth and get done in 15 minutes, I could be using the rest of the time for something more enriching than diving back into work.
  • Use the earlier hours of the day — I track my time, which means I know that I spend an inordinate amount of time between waking up and getting dressed just lounging in my bed. (I mean, I’d know that anyway, but it’s quantified!) If I could set a timer for 15 – 20 minutes during that time to read, that could chip away at my goal.
  • Improve my reading speed and accuracy — Just for kicks, I tried a few reading speed tests. My average speed came out to be around 700 wpm, which according to the scales on each of these sites, fall into the exceptionally fast category. The accuracy, on the other hand, hovers around 70 – 85%, so clearly I sacrifice the true absorption of facts to speed.

We’ll check back in nearer to the end of the year. If you’re reading this, let me know if you’re doing a reading challenge too, and/or what you’re reading right now!

Thoughts I’ve had since last week, which feels approximately 43 months ago

  • Life, misc

  • “What a week, huh?” “Lemon, it’s Wednesday.”
  • Singapore isn’t perfect, but… looks at the burning country that is the US
  • Am I a bad person if I’m wishing not-well on a truly terrible person?
  • Why am I so bad at maps??????? (Re: Among Us)
  • (While playing Queen B) I know I’m queer, but I’m really fucking queer.
  • (I don’t got this)
  • My bullet journal has now been relegated to a monthly scheduler, gratitude page and habits tracker. This is so sad.
  • I should repaint my room!
  • Oh man, I said one post a week. I should start writing long-form articles on all the ideas I do have in Notion.
  • Maybe I should start a vlog?
  • 🤔🤔🤔