Courage and Caffeine

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I used to take pride in not being dependent on any substance. I never smoked at all, or drank alcohol or caffeine regularly.  I pitied those who became dependent on alcohol to have a good time, or caffeine to be productive.

Fast forward past college, living abroad for a number of years, grad school and nearly 5 years working in my field as a professional. Since starting my full-time job, I drink a cup of coffee more or less every morning. The days when I don’t drink coffee are few and far between, and when I don’t drink it, I miss it.

In part, it’s my routine when I arrive at the office and prepare a cup of hot, fragrant coffee.  I enjoy it as I sort my emails and get my papers in order to tackle my to-do list for the day. Or I step out after checking my email and get some Starbucks coffee from down the street. I enjoy walking with coworkers and catching up during this short excursion.

I like how the caffeine in coffee boosts both my productivity and seemingly, my optimism early in the morning. After my cup of coffee, I can do anything. I can do everything. And I can do it well, early, and under budget. I am invincible and amazing. At least, that’s how I feel with the drug flowing through my veins.

And let’s be real: caffeine is a drug. It is not harmless. Wikipedia has the following to say about it:

“Caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant of the methylxanthine class.[10] It is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug. Unlike many other psychoactive substances, it is legal and unregulated in nearly all parts of the world.”  (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caffeine)

Despite its wide usage and popularity, caffeine is still a drug that people use to support their productivity and lifestyles. For me, it’s now a big part of my morning routine both at work and at home.

Do you drink coffee? Does it make you more productive? Are you addicted?

 

Reading Update Q3 2016

My reading goal for 2016 was to read a book each month.  This was fine, a reasonable decision for a busy professional such as myself, and totally doable… until I started reading and listening to Shantaram in April.  This book is a hefty 946 pages.

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Our reading nook 

I read books mostly by borrowing them from the public library as e-books or audiobooks, so sometimes I have to wait until they are available if others are ahead of me in line.  So that is part of the reason why it took me so long to finish it, another reason is that it’s poorly written and very slow to get into.  But I recently finished it! So to date, I’ve finished 7 books this year, with two currently in the works as well.  See below for the books I’ve completed, and the others still on my list to read this year:

Go Set a Watchman  DONE!

In Other Words DONE!

How to Be a Productivity Ninja

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle  DONE!

Sea of Poppies

Last Man in Tower

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern  DONE!

Cutting for Stone

Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil

Shantaram  DONE!

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History

Positivity Attracts

The Winter of our Disconnect  DONE!

Food: A Love Story DONE!

Hagakure  In progress

Savor  In progress

I found Hagakure after watching the movie Ghost Dog with my boyfriend, and really appreciate the book’s link between behavior and values.  It’s also a quick read, at less than 200 pages.  I’d like to read a few shorter books to catch up with my goal.  5 more books before the end of the year is an ambitious goal, given that it’s almost November!

I’m also still reading the daily devotional book Savor.  I was good during the first few months of the year to read and write briefly about the essay every morning, but haven’t done it regularly since then.  Every once in a while I read the day’s essay and think about it, but I think it would be nice to get back into that habit to reflect a bit more every day and keep things in perspective.

What are you reading this year?  Do you have a reading goal on Goodreads?  If you’ve read any of the books I list above, what did you think about them?

Fitness v. Reading

As a goal-oriented person, I take my commitments very seriously and take immense pleasure in seeing progress as I get closer to my goals.  Unfortunately, each day only has a limited number of hours in it, so we can only accomplish so much in a given day.  There’s a push and a pull for each decision I make on how I spend my time.  Lately, the tension has been between my goal of finishing the P90X fitness program before my boyfriend and I set off on our European vacation in late August, and making progress on my reading goal for this year.

When he suggested we do the P90X program, we calculated that we had plenty of time to finish the 90-day program before our departure, with some extra days thrown in, in case of sickness or if we needed extra rest days.  What we soon realized after starting the program was that when it’s both a work day and P90X day, that usually doesn’t leave much time or energy for any other activity.  If we had dinner planned with friends, that usually meant we wouldn’t be working out that day.

It is helpful to have a workout sheet on the fridge and see what’s coming up in the next few days.  I love washi tape and use it to cover each workout as we complete them.

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I joke that playing with washi tape is the reason why I do the workouts.

We’re now on Week 10 of the program (woo hoo!) but that means I’ve really dropped the ball on my reading goals.  It also doesn’t help that I started reading a 900+ page novel that’s pretty slow to get into.  I’ve recently made an effort to get back into listening to the audiobook on my walk home after work, but it’s a real struggle some days.  Perhaps I should start a vision board for my reading goals just like I have for P90X.  That way I could see my progress and get motivated!

Would I survive the 21-day Fix?

I follow a few healthy eaters on Instagram, and enjoy seeing their beautifully plated food and feel inspired to eat whole, good foods myself.  Since I’m now over 6 weeks into the P90X workout cycle, I’ve felt the need to make sure I’m giving the right fuel to my body.

I heard about the 21-day fix program on Instagram, so I read up briefly on it and did the calculation for myself to figure out how many servings of each food group I should be aiming for each day.  The calculation takes your body weight in pounds and multiplies it by 11, adds 400 to get your caloric needs and then subtracts 750 to get your calorie target.  If you want to maintain your weight, then skip that last subtraction.  If you want to gain weight, then instead of adding 400, add 900 and also skip that last subtraction.  The numbers you’ll come up with will fall into 4 categories, from 1200-1499 calories, 1500-1799, 1800-2099, and 2100-2300 calories.  (Round up or down if your number falls outside these categories.)

I’m in the lowest category, so that means I want to eat the following each day:

  • Vegetables: 3 servings
  • Fruits: 2 servings
  • Proteins: 4 servings
  • Carbohydrates: 2 servings
  • Cheese/healthy fats: 1 serving
  • Seeds/dressing: 1 serving
  • Oils/nut butter: 2 tsp.

So I decided to track my food intake for a week to see if I should make any changes.

My takeaways from this exercise:

  1. I love cheese and carbs.  If I was just choosing things to eat without having the goal balance of food groups in mind, I would automatically gravitate toward bread, cereal or pasta.  And cheese!
  2. Protein is essential and I probably don’t get enough of it.  Well-timed protein in the morning and after a workout keep my energy levels even. Neglecting this made my moods very uneven.
  3. Fruit and veg should both be more integral to my meals.  A good friend has a garden and recently supplied me with a ton of kale, which was a great excuse to learn how to eat this vegetable.  Stay tuned for recipes for two ways to use kale!
  4. Making it easy: My boyfriend reminded me the other day of how important it is to make things easy if you want someone to do something.  Want employees to not leave sticky food residue on your work area?  Then make them a nice lunch table where they’d naturally want to eat instead.  Want to not end up snacking on donuts and cookies from the break room?  Then make sure you have healthy, tasty snacks at your desk! I’ve made a point of finding some healthy snacks like lightly salted almonds and sesame sticks, and reaching for those when the mood strikes, instead of feeling tempted by the refined sugar that’s also readily available.

Overall, I think it’s a good idea to learn more about what the body really needs and try to balance everything so it’s getting that.  It’ll help you feel more energetic and in balance.  To answer my own question, yes I think I would survive if I committed to the 21-day fix, and believe that eating better will help me not just survive, but thrive!

Need a Boost? Here’s a Pep Talk for you!

Sometimes we all need an inspiring pep talk. They’re especially appreciated on rough days, when roadblocks pop up during projects.

There are many types of roadblocks, some are just frustrating when they cramp our style or slow our progress. Others demand whole new strategies be formed, energy spent to develop them instead of being spent on ‘real’ work.

If you’ve hit a roadblock and feel deflated, then check this out: a pep talk generator!  Whichever peptalk pops up, take a minute to reflect and see if it holds some value for you.

If not, try this one: a Motivational Penguin who is totally your biggest fan.

When a friend isn’t available to listen when a roadblock pops up, I hope these tools can ease your burden a bit and remind you that there are ways forward and that you hold the power!

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Sometimes it takes a new perspective

Redeeming my Balance Rewards points!

I fell out of the habit of wearing my Fitbit a month or two ago, but then had an idea to clip it onto my purse with a fully charged battery.  Without having to remember to put it on, I’d be able to still count my steps each day since I carry my purse with me most of the time.

Fitbit parked on my purse strap, for effortless point accumulation
Fitbit parked on my purse strap, for effortless point accumulation

These step counts can be linked to your Walgreens Balance Rewards account (as I wrote about in this blog post) and with minimal effort, I kept getting points each day. I reached 18,000 points (with my walking points added to some points from filling prescriptions and other purchases) and just the other day I had $20 credit to use at Walgreens!

They do limit the things you can redeem your points for, so don’t plan on buying gift cards or alcohol with points.  But I decided to get a bunch of food and household goods that we needed with my points.  Originally, I had thought I’d only spend the points on ‘fun’ purchases like nail polish, fancy-smelling shampoo or other treats, but since we moved recently and are in the midst of a major home renovation, I wanted to instead buy useful things.

$20 credit applied to my purchase!
Rewards redemption of $20 applied to my purchase! Woo!

Look at all the stuff I got for free!

Earned mostly for just walking around
Earned mostly for just walking around

I know that Windex is normally not something to get excited about, but in this case I was stoked because we needed it to clean our windows– our first windows to clean as homeowners! I can highly recommend those coconut almond fiber bars! Think of it as an almond joy that’s also good for your digestive system. Sooooo tasty! Even though we live in Hawaii, I thought with fall setting in, Campbell’s tomato soup and grilled cheese would be a good meal someday soon. With all the renovation work, I think it’s important to treat yo’self with good food… and the occasional pumpkin-shaped treat.

To Do: A Life Bucket List

I recently visited a girl’s blog where she had a life list, a place where she kept track of her life goals and when she achieved them.  Some were big, like graduating from a top tier business school, while some were smaller, like trying rock climbing. I think of it as similar to having a Vision Board, somewhere where you can see your dreams. I have regularly written in a journal since I was 12 years old, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a list of goals like this. I liked the idea of writing them out, and wondered what I’d add to my own list at this point in my life.

Surprisingly, when I sat down to start, I drew a blank and had to go for some low-hanging fruit: travel destinations!  I DO have a ‘top 5 countries I want to visit’ list (one of these, we visited earlier this year– Japan!) so I started with those. After only a few minutes though, I felt very light and energetic as I brainstormed additional things I want to do.

I also started a second list, of things I want to be. It’s a refreshing way to shake myself out of my routine and think of the bigger picture– is there a way I can work toward one of these big goals today or this week? This is a great exercise for bringing one’s day-to-day life in line with the big picture.

Visit Japan: check!
Visit Japan: check!

To Do: A List

  1. Visit Alaska to see wildlife, eat salmon, and see glaciers!
  2. Visit Greece to eat healthy, delicious Mediterranean food and see that deep color of blue.
  3. Visit Italy to eat their food, drink their wine, and see the beautiful landscapes.
  4. Cruise from Hawaii to Australia or New Zealand, visiting other Pacific island nations on the way. Scuba dive in each place.
  5. Publish a book.
  6. Learn to crochet and create adorable crocheted toys for kids. (see image below for an example!)
  7. Create some Hawaiian image-themed items with photos I’ve taken and sell them on Etsy.
  8. Design more earrings, increasing my sales and profit margins.
  9. Learn to make at least one recipe per meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and type of food (dessert, barbeque item, snack, cocktail) that is amazingly delicious.
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To Be: A List

  1. Author
  2. Creator
  3. Free
  4. Fluent
  5. Wife
  6. Mother
  7. Aunt
  8. Best friend
  9. Innovator
  10. Manager
  11. Penpal
  12. Supporter
  13. Trend-setter

The lists above are the result of about a half hour of thought. I’m planning on editing them and adding many more items to the list. What would you put on your list?

Here’s the original post with the girl’s Life List that inspired me to try this out.