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Ask HN: Is there a new habit you cultivated recently that is really paying off?
317 points by superasn on June 12, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 468 comments

Stop buying stuff.

I was a compulsive spender. Never bought on credit mind but I’d blow my entire paycheque after bills on stuff like cameras, hifi, the latest Apple doodad, etc.

I literally stopped buying anything not required for my day to day sustenance. No Netflix, started renting what I wanted to watch which forced me to be more picky with my expenditure and time.

No more eating out except for special occasions. Packed lunches and home made meals only.

No more buying books until I read the ones on my shelf.

No more buying a new Mac every time my old one got mildly slow.

No more video games or Blu-rays until I had finished the ones sitting in shrink wrap on the shelf.

Once you pare things down you start to become almost painfully aware of how the seemingly little expenditures add up fast.

With the surplus income I ended up with about 6-8 months living expenses saved which suddenly made me realize that I had the freedom to look around from my present job. Which so far is working out I think... (started my own company and launching our product this month :)

Our local library, connected to seemingly every other library in the country, provides me with every book and movie I've wanted for years. Such an amazing resource. Request it online, pick it up locally, usually within two days.

It's funny I remember being in the library all the time as a kid. Nowadays when I want a book I go on Amazon and buy it.

I recently rediscovered the public library. Took a bit of relearning when I realized, yeah, I get all these books for free!

Does a library support the authors/creators, though?

That's probably my biggest philosophical hurdle.

Great recommendation! I haven't really used our local library because I keep forgetting that it's an option. But, I just checked and it looks like ours has the same Inter-Library Loan process for requesting books.

Thanks, I'm going to try to remember this and start using it more. Hopefully it'll help me both save money and reduce the number of unread books collecting dust on my already full shelves.

Plus one on that.

The public library + kindle + a book club of a group of friends who have their own internal library for members.

Haven't bought a new book in years.

Would like to add "habit of drinking water" to this list. ANY beverage whether its coffee, soda, tea - is easily 4 to 6 dollars and is an entirely made up requirement.

Don't pay for somebody else to make your tea! A cup of ordinary tea should cost, like, 15p. That includes teabag, electricity, water, milk, and amortized cost of kettle and mug.

Even if you buy something unnecessarily expensive, like fancy matcha tea powder, you're looking at less than 50p.

Learn to brew loose leaf tea and you cut down even more on the expenditure (or rather, for the same 15p expense, you're consuming much better tea).

What kind of monster puts milk on their tea? :) You're right though.

Most everyday teas sold in the UK are made for use with milk. They are - or I have always found them so - a bit astringent and bitter without.

Quite right - tea first is an abomination - it's milk first then tea:


Ask the billion+ Indians who drink chai! :)

:D Chai is bliss. First tea, then milk and sugar.

Couldn't agree more. Chai is truly bliss!

tea is not one thing

Amen to this, for coffee. I buy coffee grounds for $10 that last me 3 or more weeks, with 2-3 cups per day.

For those who don't want to relinquish drinks altogether, getting a thermos/French press etc. and buying tea/coffee yourself reduces those expenses almost twenty fold over time.

Soda is best abandoned, however.

Yeah, coffee is crazy expensive when you look at how much shops charge you for a drink. It costs about $1.33 per day for the 20oz of coffee I make for my wife and I. Really not bad considering if we were to both go out and buy a coffee everyday it would be around $10.

20oz = 591,471 millilitres for others wondering.

And it is a good practice indeed. I think deep down my comment history here one can find that I found it strange that someone would pay a lot of money on an annual basis for coffee out of the home.

That said I also think that it is not bad to be able to spend money like that. Not about the money itself, but the mindset required to spend. It must require a very pleasant way of life to not want to save all money, like in case of emergencies or saving up so you or your kids can go to college.

Balance, basically.

591.471 liters of coffee? ohmygoodness! :)

Eheh, "lost in translation" - "," and "."

Coffee and tea can be inexpensive if you brew it yourself. Coffee even less so if you roast it. I've been roasting my own coffee for years now, started with a $100 machine which lasted about 4 years/100 lbs, and then I upgraded to a $350 machine. A pound of coffee costs between $4 and $7, and tastes comparable to something that a boutique roaster sells for $15/12oz. The upfront cost is relatively high, but if your enjoyment of coffee is encroaching into the realm of "hobby" then it's absolutely worthwhile.

I second this. Fresh coffee tastes awesome. I've been using a $100 roaster for a while now, only recently having got into the habit of roasting all the time (previously I'd get lazy and buy a bag at the store pretty often, which would break the habit). I need to roast every 3 or 4 days, but it only takes about 10 minutes. I don't think my roast quality is quite on par with the $17/12oz (aka $1.42/oz) bags from the store, but it's still damn good, and only like $5/16oz (aka $0.31/oz, 77% cheaper).

In India earlier, people in the South used to brew their own coffee at home, from coffee grounds / powder. There is a special steel utensil for it, with two vertical parts, one of which sits above the other. The top one has fine holes in the bottom of it. You put the coffee powder into the top, then pour some hot water over it, then wait for some time until it extracts the coffee into the bottom part. None of your fancy coffee machine stuff. They call it "decoction" :) Oldsters (and youngsters too) used to swear by it, and could not manage without their morning fix of a cup or two. Some probably still do. We had one of those utensils at home. Usually made with milk, BTW.

It's still here. A lot of tea/coffee shops use it to prepare coffee. It tastes really good.

Cool. Haven't had that kind for a while. Should try it some time.

if you don't mind, can you share the brand of the machine, and your source for preroasted beans? i'd like to get into this too but am not sure the best approach

So I'm currently using the Behmor 1600+ as my roaster, and Happy Mug Coffee as my green (unroasted) coffee bean supplier and also my tea supplier.

If you want to start with a less expensive roaster you can find recommendations on reddit at /r/roasting.

Would like to add making your own water Kefir to the list as a replacement for soda. Super inexpensive, relatively easy, really healthy, and tasty.

I've been looking for non sugary, non caffeinated soft drinks. I can Google, but do you recommend any particular recipe or instructions?

If you can find it in the library, the book "Brain Maker" [0] has a good starting point in its recipes section. Here's [1] a video showing how it's done. You've got to buy the Kefir grains (or get them from someone you know who makes Kefir). Once you have the grains, you most likely won't need to buy them again, as you'll keep them alive and growing on your own. (Note for the grain-free folks, Kefir grains aren't actually grains. They're a bacterial culture conceptually similar to what you'd use to make yogurt.)

Basically, you combine water, Kefir, and sugar, then you wait a few days. Then, you drink. Or if you want to add flavoring (which I highly recommend), you do a second fermentation process: add in the flavoring (e.g. dried strawberries or something), bottle it for a 1-3 more more days, then drink or refrigerate.

[0] https://www.drperlmutter.com/about/brain-maker-by-david-perl... [1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_d7wQ-lkvI

Thanks for sharing. Sounds interesting. I had been reading about various kinds [1] of fermented milk products recently, and had seen kefir among them.

[1] There seem to be many such kinds, across various countries.

Quark, skyr, doogh, kumis, buttermilk, dahi, chaas, filmjölk, blaand, ayran are some of the varieties.

Here's a list:


I buy coffee because the coffee place is my "second office". As I'm working from home, I need to get out every day to keep my sanity.

Ever tried aeropress? Portable manual gadget, great coffee, approx 15 cents/cup

I moved across the US a year ago, and moving with a single suitcase (until the moving truck arrived, months later) re-taught me how little I need in order to live comfortably.

Since then, I've been aggressively paring back my "material footprint", and every thing I shed makes me feel a little lighter.

I recently moved countries and managed to pack my whole life into an old army duffel bag.

It was so liberating. I was trying to make sure that if I want to move again that I could still do that. Unfortunately I now own a house worth of furniture (including 3 queen size beds).

In one religious ideology here in India, they actually focus on one thing which is being non-materialistic

Funny you mention cameras, I've just bought two more this month, bringing my total up to 5 cameras.

I started meditating recently after having been carpet-bombed by its potential benefits for years across various media and platforms, and now, after a few weeks of regular practice, I must say this -- I was pleasantly surprised by how much my outlook toward life changed since I started practicing 'mindfulness' -- a type of meditation involving focusing on the present moment with the understanding that buzzing thoughts are super fleeting.

It was hard at the beginning, very hard in fact; but once I made a habit of doing it every day no matter how busy (I think) I got, it really started making a difference -- it started paying off.

I'm now measurable more focused, less distracted by outside stimuli (screens, people, news) and have gotten more adept at observing my thoughts and feelings before they snowball into something more neurotic -- very good attributes to have in our ever more distracted world. In short, I have more CONTROL over my attention, which has immensely added to how I experience life.[0]

Highly recommend it.

[0] https://hbr.org/2018/03/to-control-your-life-control-what-yo...

I was about to post the same. Guided meditation has improved my life drastically. 10 minutes on the mornings, helps me to stop rushing it. 10 minutes at the end of the day, refresh me for the next 2-3 hours.

Currently, using the Headspace app. And it is not cheap, where I live it cost roughly (about 1/4 of a monthly college degree job salary), it was worth every penny.

Trying to get my girlfriend to use it. No luck so far.

Insight timer may not be as good but it does have a free option. After following a meditation course I find it plenty good enough.

I've noticed that even doing it one or two times a week can have a sizable impact on my day to day. I probably should do it every day, like you, but it's fascinating how much our brains will rationalize how "busy" we think we are.

How have you been practicing? Headspace?

I initially started off with Headspace, and once I became comfortable enough, I started using a countdown timer on my mobile device for arbitrary number of minutes (swings between 5-15 depending on my capacity for the day) and started doing it by myself.

I look at Headspace like more of a water-wing for beginners than a tool for serious meditation.

I really like Andrew's voice, and gamify the experience of meditation. However what I found to be the most valuable were acquiring multiple techniques learn from the different packages, and the stoic insights you learn along the way.

Walking home every day. It's about an hour or so, vs my 20 mins on public transport, but it's become a good time of meditative reflection and has provided me with some fitness benefits. It's also time I'd otherwise spend just reading the internet or playing a videogame anyway.

Also, trying to meal prep a large number of the same dish to avoid buying lunches during the week and thus spending a large amount of money needlessly. I don't mind eating the same thing for several days, though to avoid that you'd just need to prep 2 or 3 meals of smaller size. It doubles as an effective way to portion control too, since I can use containers of a specific size. It also means that many nights of the week I get home from my walk and just toss one in the microwave or oven to reheat and don't end up eating any later than normal.

Edit: Both of the above have helped me maintain my post-glandular-fever weight loss of about 14kg, which has left me feeling significantly healthier than I was previously. Occasionally I blow out with a weekend of debauchery involving way too much alcohol and unhealthy food, but the walking then chips that back down and gives me motivation to limit said blowouts as I now have a quantifiable amount of effort that it equates to.

You should think about listening to audio books during your daily commute. I do this and I enjoy it a lot.

I listen to a heap of podcasts, in fact. At work, I generally can't listen to music with words so I stick to trance podcasts, but during my walk home I'll listen to all kinds of ones with speech. This ranges from actual spoken ones, to heavy metal ones with lyrics, and ones with both.

Off the top of my head: 99% Invisible, Freakanomics, Trade Talks, Requiem metal podcast, Still Untitled.

Audio books are probably worth looking into, too. I tend to put aside 30-60 mins in bed reading before I sleep, so I tend to consume enough literature that interests me, but it's definitely a good idea if I want to expand on that. Thank you!

Can confirm. I walked 30 mins to work back and forth 5+ years ago every day, and I never seemed to gain weight. I felt pretty great as well. Now I have a car (and work from home, so I don't need to walk to work)...

Deliberately trying to cultivate friendships and openness, both by being a bit more open and honest with people, and by asking them very gentle questions to let them know that I'm somebody they can be open with, if they want.

I also set up a 'close friends' filter on Facebook for people I can be a bit more honest with - not 'all drama, all the time' type of stuff, but more about starting interesting discussions about stuff that we don't normally talk about: emotions, relationships, etc. I'm tired of keeping my Facebook life relentlessly positive and polished - not only is it bad for me, but bad for everybody else who sees me as just another person with a better life than their own.

It's all pretty terrifying, but it's definitely paying off. If you have mental health issues, I can't overstate the goodness of having friends around you who know and understand about that.

I also started doing this more -- including with my wife.

It has definitely helped my mood and mental health overall to talk about the things that are on my mind, even if the conversations don't always end up going in my favor per se.

This probably seems super obvious to a lot of people, but it does not come naturally to me, and I suspect an equally large number of people have trouble with it too.

If you're just learning to be open, you'd probably enjoy the book, Conscious Loving. There's a whole section dedicated to telling the "microscopic truth" in your relationships. https://www.amazon.com/Conscious-Loving-Co-Committment-Gay-H...

Painful to do in the beginning, but as people get use to your new truth telling ways, they learn to appreciate the honesty.

I'll check it out, thanks for the suggestion.

If you don't mind me asking, what are some examples of the gentle questions that indicates you are open?

A few examples:

Chatting to somebody about the side effects of the antidepressants we're both on, namely decreased 'filter' when talking. Amusingly, said decreased filter might be one of the contributing factors behind this increased openness :)

Asking a friend who was obviously going through a hard time - "You don't owe me any answers, of course, but I wondered if you'd mind me asking whether you're okay, and what's going on for you?". Plus a lot of follow-up questions, phrased as "here are some things I'm wondering about, with absolutely no obligation to answer them; and of course if you have any questions for me, I'd be happy to answer".

Even just simple stuff like following up on throwaway conversational prompts - "hey, you mentioned as an aside that you'd done horseriding for fifteen years - that sounds like a big part of your life; how did you get into that?"

A lot of it's been about relationships, for various reasons.

You sound like you might have recently read Nonviolent Communication by Rosenberg. If you haven't you sound like you're in a place where you might really enjoy it and find it useful.

Hehe... I was given the book a couple of years ago, but it's sat on my desk unread, because I am terrible at sitting down and making time to read.

However, I do have a couple of dedicated NVC practitioners amongst my friends, and a lot of other people who just use variations on those techniques without explicitly buying into NVC.

I've found that the principles behind NVC have helped me massively, even without formally being educated in it. I started using them a lot while I was navigating a very rocky relationship with a lot of arguments, and I guess the habit has just stuck - things like separating wants vs needs, talking about emotional state without using blame language, attempting to understand where the other person's coming from before replying, and so on.

Just show up - I started this last year going to the gym - if I didn't feel like going to work out, I just went to the gym and messed around, did whatever I felt like, even for 15 or 20 minutes and then left. The discipline has translated into other projects - a camper reno, a game engine, etc. Just showing up is more than half the battle, even if you don't accomplish much on one given day.

I started this two months ago, too. My motto is "Showing up is the victory."

Once I'm in there, I give it my best. Some days my best sucks. I don't worry about that. I got my ass into the gym. It's the habit that matters.

It's about consistently showing up.

For context, I'm 34 and clinically considered morbidly obese. My relationship with exercise, like virtually all obese people, is one of yo-yo diets and countless failed attempts at getting fit. I never before lasted more than a few weeks.

A big part of the problem, I came to realize, was being too results-oriented. I'd be highly motivated those first couple weeks when the pounds seem to drop so quickly, then lose all motivation when the weight loss slowed down to a healthier rate. Then I'd get depressed, quit, and binge eat until I reached a new low of physical fitness and self-esteem, and start over.

This time around, I just get my ass to the gym. That's it. I don't care what the scale says. I do try to eat better, but I don't beat myself up about it when I fail -- because beating myself up just causes me to binge some more. I just pick myself back up and hit the gym the next morning.

Here are some results so far:

1) I've discovered I actually LIKE lifting weights. So I do mostly that. I look forward to the feeling of my limbs being like jelly. It feels like accomplishment. To be clear, I've never, ever liked any form of exercise before. By changing my focus to "just show up", I've freed myself to find something I like, rather than trying to keep up with anyone else.

2) I've been tracking my weight, and after an initial loss of 25 pounds I've put back on another 10. But, my waist line has gone down 3 belt notches, so I try not to take the number on the scale too seriously. Sometimes it's up, sometimes it's down.

3) My focus at work is through the roof. I just feel better. Less sluggish. Able to concentrate more, which is mega important as a programmer (preaching to the choir, I'm sure).

4) I sleep better and wake up on time without much of a hitch most of the time. I'm still not super chipper first thing in the morning, but I don't hit snooze either.

5) I have more energy to give to the people I love, i.e. my kids and my partner. I'm still not superman, but I'm not sitting on the couch begging to be left alone either. I play. I do stuff.

6) I just plain like myself more.

Sounds like you're on a great path, and I have a couple comments. First, results oriented is great, but health and fitness is a life long thing like breathing. The journey is what's important here.

Second, don't beat yourself up when you fail. We all fail at times. What you can't do is let a simple failure snowball. Recognized you failed and get back on track. A trick I use is not to wait until tomorrow to go to the gym, go right then even if you've already been today. And when I say right then, I literally mean right then if you can.

Finally, don't focus on the scale. Focus on doing the right things every minute of every day and the scale will follow. Again, it's the process and finding how you can live your entire life as healthy as you can.

Scott Adams does this too. He goes to the gym everyday and laces up his shoes. Once that's done, it's considered a "successful day at the gym". Of course 99% of the time he stays for a workout... but yeah, the odd time he just goes home after lacing up his shoes.

I love this. It sounds bad, but lowering the bar for expectations and just thinking that showing up and doing something is a win is fantastic for building habits and discipline. I have so many friends who haven't done much with their lives for fear of screwing up, but it turns out that inaction is screwing up.

Eighty percent of life is showing up.

I just went to the gym and messed around, did whatever I felt like, even for 15 or 20 minutes and then left.

A super key part of encouraging a good habit, IMO. Showing up is the hard part, and if you give yourself permission to just tool around or leave early if you're not feeling it, at least you're still cultivating the habit.

I did the same while at my old job, since it was literally across the street from a gym. I went to the gym during lunch every day, where "going to the gym" just meant turning up and getting changed.

Going during my lunch hour worked better than trying to go in the morning or evening, since I was already constrained to be nearby at the start and end of that hour (plus I don't drive), whereas outside work it was easier to sabotage myself by thinking that I could be doing something "more productive".

There are always plenty of excuses in the moment too, so I adopted a mindset where going to the gym was a given, and anything that encroached on that was an inconvenience; e.g. if I had some errand to run I would instinctively plan to do it before or after work rather than at lunch. As someone who tries to be helpful and humble, it really took effort to prioritise my own wellbeing sometimes!

Another trick I did was to mark every (week)day that I turned up at the gym with a big X on a physical calendar, which gamified it by trying to avoid breaking the current "streak".

Probably worth saying that it worked too! I focused on strengthening my arms (e.g. if I was only there 10 minutes then that's all I'd do) and they went from mostly fat to noticably muscular after about 3 months.

Unfortunately I moved a few years ago and never managed to get back into a good routine :(

Showing up is huge. I've added a couple more recently that are related.

1) Get up at 6am every morning even on the weekends and go right to the gym. It sucks for a little while, but it has really raised my life productivity to a new level. My sleep has gotten much better. My head hits the pillow and I'm out. I naturally stopped looking at my phone after 9-10pm because I was just ready to sleep.

2) Anytime I think about something I don't want to do, I stop whatever is I'm doing and do that thing instantly. It has really flipped around my mindset, and made me realize many of these things I put off only take a few minutes anyway. So much is done, that I end up with tons of free time at the end of the day to work on other things. Freeing my mind of nagging procrastination also does wonders.

I give the same advice to anyone in a fitness funk.

> Go to the gym for 15mins first thing in the morning, EVERY DAY.

After a month of pain and progress, 20-30 min workouts become the norm. After 3 months, you're a new person.

When I started going to the gym, I had to deal with a lot of internal resistance. Feeling embarrassed about being old and fat and obviously totally ignorant about what I was doing.

A few months with a personal trainer got me past my fear of the gym. That was huge.

100% this. Just going by as frequently and consistently as you can is so important. Even if it’s just to walk 10 minutes on a treadmill, you’ll get more comfortable with doing it every day.

This 3 minute video explains this and gives tips on how to go about it all.

And for projects, just take 15 minutes and do the first step.

And for me some days the first step is just fixing some linter warnings.

Once I'm sitting at my computer, looking at code and no one has interrupted me yet taking the next step and doing what I should do is simpler.

In November, I wrote a personal update later and found some people that I hadn't talked to in over 5 years. I sent 10 people that letter and said if more than 5 reach out, I am going to do this monthly. 8 of them reached back out! I felt honored that people still remembered me and wanted to keep up.

I've been doing as vulnerable a letter as I can every month. And people I know from all sorts of relationships are reading it. Friends, family, mentors, you name it. Covering everything from work to romance to health. Not only has it helped me get more vulnerable, but it keeps me up to date with others, and when I see people in person they already have a conversation to start with. Overall it's been awesome and a highly recommend it for keeping relationships alive and strong.

I've always wanted to do this. I have friends that I havnt spoken to in a while who I would really like to stay in more regular contact with but it's hard once we don't have a social reason to see each other on anymore.

Every time I think about doing this I worry that it's way too self indulgent. I'm already a bit, see very, self absorbed at times and I think this would come off as a extension of that. Am I just paranoid?

No, you're not paranoid, I would think it was self indulgent if I got a letter like this from someone I hadn't seen in a long time.

That is really fascinating. Since its been a few months, have you noticed stronger relationships with the 8 people who replied back to you originally?

Turn off all notifications on smart-phone, every single notification which pops up, a led blinks, a "notification" appears, if its not emergency from my wife - this has to be blocked.

Side effect, no need to check my phone, there is nothing there anymore.

Feeds like reddit, HN, email, all settings and username is only on work-laptop with its own instance of browser - browsing these feeds on any other web-browser means my settings, username etc is gone and instead of seeing my subreddits, being able to comment, being able to login to email, that just cant be done. Now feeds are an activity only enjoyable at work.

I severely cut back on notifications -- down to just a few apps (SMS/messaging, home security, calendar), and it's had a remarkable impact on my phone use.

The other major change I made was to disable badge notifications on all apps. No more little red number telling me how many unread emails I have, etc. This has had a much greater positive impact than I had thought it would -- I don't find myself compulsively drawn into apps by the lure of "new stuff", and have cut down on my screen time considerably.

I think this strategy can backfire on some people: if you think someone might have messaged you or tagged you in any of 5 different apps you might just cycle through actually opening them.

Have you tried any of the "focus" related Chrome or Firefox extensions or apps?

For me, I've actually used the self control app for a similar experience to Focus. https://selfcontrolapp.com/

How can you turn off all notifications except from one person?

On many android phones there's a "do not disturb" option that can be configured to allow calls and messages from stared contacts and nothing else.

Does it also work selectively for e.g. Whatsapp messages?

Keep whatsapp notifications enabled, but then turn them off in the app's settings. Then, for the person(s) you care about, go to their chat and set up a custom notification.

Yeah, but if I use the "don't disturb" option of my phone, will it not mute all notifications from all apps (except phone and sms-messages)?

You can whitelist apps, too

I disabled all social media accounts and now only get notifications when people call or text me.

Incidentally, very few do (siblings, girlfriend, the occasional friend making an appointment).

If you’re on iOS you can configure specific ring tones & notification sounds for individual contacts. Look under settings.

- to be clear: I’ve found it very easy (no experience with android) to very strictly limit who I’m notified by and the personalized notifications really helped.

Replacing alcohol with water, except for occasional social events. Too many times I’d come home dead tired mentally and reach for a cold one, which inevitably led to…another cold one haha. Replace with water (bonus if you add a little apple cider vinegar to it!), you’ll feel better and your body will thank you. No non-social drinking allowed!

This is my biggest vice. I *try to limit my drinking to Friday & Saturday, but one or two (or three) ultimately slip in on a Wednesday or other random day. Working out definitely curbs my alcohol consumption, but it's something I find myself having to actively keep in check.

You really shouldn't have alcohol in your house at all.

It sounds like you are an alcoholic to some degree, and expecting yourself to keep it under control with the substance in your house is a little unfair.

+1 to adding a splash of apple cider vinegar! I was wondering if I was the only one the door that since my SO looks at me like I am crazy.

1 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar 1 teaspoon Lime or Lemon Juice (cheap kind from a squirt bottle) 1-2 ounces of 100% Pure Cranberry Juice.

This drink helped me stop having kidney stones. I also think it has minor weight loss benefits with a low-carb diet.

I didn't love it at first but after about a month, your body starts to crave it. Similar to a extremely refreshing Lemonade on a hot day.

What's up with the vinegar? Just for flavor?

1. 8 years ago delete my Facebook account.

2. 5 years ago stopped looking at my phone in bed.

3. 2 years ago delete my twitter account.

4. 6 months ago stopped looking at my phone & computer from dinner time to my son's bed time.

5. 2 weeks ago removed email from phone.

Each step along the way, I feel better.

Also regular exercise and a healthy diet.

TODO: Meet more people and increase my social friendships. Also more meditation (Headspace app works great for a beginner like me.)

I think I share much of your philosophy:

- started exercising regularly in 2013. The sport I choose is Boxing. I haven't done more effective exercise than interval training. And when you learn the technique(s) and get some sparring under your belt, I believe it has quite a positive impact on your confidence.

- In the last couple of years I've been a vegetarian primarily for ethical reasons.

- In that same time I had to learn to better control my weight through diet and calorie counting (sport helped with a lot of it, but vegetarianism makes it harder to get enough protein without going overboard on calories, so I needed to restrain caloric intake). Overall it was a positive change, even though the situation forced it on me, I got down to a healthier weight than before.

- About a month ago I started doing small sessions (10-20min) of transcendental meditation (I would basically calm myself down for a few minutes and then I would repeat a short motivational sentence in my mind). I am way too early into this, but I find the effects to be nothing short of fascinating.

- Few weeks ago I stopped using Facebook, I rarely use twitter anyways and I check email 3 times a day.

One downside of the last one is that I kind of started looking at HN a bit too much. :)

I definitely need to improve my social life and go out a bit more. So thanks for reminding me of that. Cheers!

I've managed 1, but 2 and 5 seem near impossible to me! How did you break the habit of 2 and 5?

For me, removing email on my phone was "hard" at first, but literally just do it.

It's been maybe a year since I've done it.

For "emergencies" I have an "icloud" email that I treat as my phone email if I need someone to send me tickets or something that NEEDS to get get to my phone, but that's it. No notifications, just let it be intentional that you check it, and use it.

FOMO = Fear of Missing Out

JOMO = Joy of Missing Out

I have replaced FOMO with JOMO.

(I'm not perfect, cause I have FOMO with this post.)

Lol, I like it! The truth is, having emails on my phone is convenient, but not much more productive than just having them on my laptop.

Let me give the JOMO paradigm a try!

You've done really well!

6. Stop looking at HN?

But then what would we all do at work?

As someone reading this comment thread at work -- I agree.

I've always been an engineer and enjoyed being that for almost 25 years now. Learning new things was kind of my way to end my work days.

One thing I admired and never really understood was people that went out every day posting new content, tech tutorials etc. almost daily, being active on Twitter, engaging with other people. Being a kid from the 1970s these things were really weird for me because they are digital and not analog.

So I decided to actually try it out and try living as one of the guys producing helpful tutorials and engaging/mentoring on Twitter and other platforms.

I think it might be a great habit to cultivate because it pretty much fits into moving beyond my comfort zone.

Would be nice to hear from others who tried this thing and hear if it actually was rewarding. For now, I just suspect it will pay off in the long run.

[1]: https://twitter.com/marenkay/status/1006286995767877634 [2]: https://marenkay.com/2018/06/11/symfony-user-provider/

Your blog looks quite nice. Which blogging software or static site generator do you use if I may ask?

I use Hugo ([1]), combined with a custom theme called Cactus ([2]).

Content is stored in my own Gitea.io instance and automatically built and deployed using my own Drone.io instance.

[1]: http://gohugo.io/ [2]: https://git01.kogitoapp.com/danielsreichenbach/hugo-cactus-t...

from the source

> <meta name="generator" content="Hugo 0.41" />

Agreed, it's a solid-looking blog.

I noticed your "imprint" page https://marenkay.com/imprint/ has a bunch of legalese relating to cookies and use of GA. Would you mind sharing where you got the text? ie, from a lawyer?

Thanks :-)

The imprint is based on legal advice from a lawyer. Will be receiving an update soonish though because I wanted to rewrite it in non-lawyer speak (which sadly requires consulting a lawyer to verify "normal" language expresses the same).

Going to libraries. In 35 years I don’t even think I stepped inside one. One day two years ago I read that a nearby library (Sunnyvale, CA) had audiobooks and I decided to check it out, because I wanted something to listen on my commute.

Mind. Blown.

Books, movies, comics, computers, printers, ebooks, audiobooks, board games, chidren’s area, and lots more. All for free.

The way my audiobook library app works (Overdrive) is that you can add different library cards from different library “networks”. So Sunnyvale and a bunch of Mountain View and Cupertino libraries are part of one network, while San Francisco libraries are from another network, and so are San Mateo, or San Jose, or Monterey.

So I’ve been collecting library cards. 15 so far. Even went to Sacramento to get a card. On my way back I stopped at Contra Costa county, Berkeley and the Oakland.

Where I saw video game titles. Mind. Blown. Again. I found other libraries close to home with video games, and now I regularly check out children games for my son.

Almost every weekend I go the library, to get videogames, blu-rays and dvds. And I can actually put a hold on the titles online.

Libraries are just amazing.

I remember reading the idea that if they were introduced today, libraries would sound like an outlandish communist idea.

I started sshing into my desktop at home to write code. I've never been so liberated. I can literally code from any computer I borrow (friends or library) and pick up exactly where I left off (tmux session) with the same text-editor configuration (vim) instantly.

I realized that my previous desire to have the latest macbook so excessive, and now I'm happy with just a light and durable $200 chromebook.

I teach a few people how to code, and I created accounts on my desktop for them to ssh into and they are loving it as well.

I second this. I did this while I was at University and it helped not only ease up my backpack (went from carrying a big gaming computer on my back to a 2 pound chromebook) but it also allowed me to work almost anywhere anytime cause of the battery life and the fact that essentially the entire campus was connected.

Couple this with some x-forwarding for GUIs and you got basically the same high end computer anywhere you go.

Highly recommend giving it a go.

wow it's so awesome you started doing this in College. I wish someone would have taught me this back then, could have saved a few thousand dollars and headache from picking and buying laptops.

Do the same. Android tab + BT keyboard + SSH. I've coded in coffee shops, airport terminals, you name it.

You may be able to host your development environment cheaper. Hetzner works out to be almost the same price as electricity of keeping my desktop up all the time for me.

1) I may sound like a total n00b, but don't you find it hard to code only from a command line environment? I mean, you can't use IDEs with SSH, right?

2) I'm going to be that guy that chimes in and says you have to be careful with code you write on company's time / using company equipment. So, be careful with that.

So you actually can but it can be a pain tbh...

Here is a link describing it


Of course with latency and all that sending x windows can slow it down a bit (and there was some weird stuff with me and my Chromebook with it, but I got it work in the end)

But! It definitely is possible, and once it's set up and everything it can become really helpful/useful

Not too sure security wise how it fairs but I figured if it's just for homework and on campus it should be fine for the most part, and ssh is secure (hence the name :D ) so it should be fine

1) I'm mostly using vim. Been using it for development for the past 6 years and loving it.

2) Thanks! Duly noted.

emacs works great in tmux session and i consider it as a very powerful IDE.

How did you get your company to agree to this? I feel like most companies would immediately shut this down since you're storing company secrets on a non-approved computer.

I don't do company work on my desktop. Instead, I use company computer to ssh into a company cloud to do my coding (All of the company I've worked at either has their own cloud instance or aws/googlecloud/azure flavor). Again, same benefits, I can code on any of my coworker's computer. lol.

Sometimes I ssh into my personal desktop to do personal work from my company computer.

Your company has no say regarding "ssh into my desktop at home".

Until the latency spikes, heh.

it happens, but its rare. I've been doing this for a year and no way I'm going back.

What environment/language do you primarily code in?

nodejs + python. Vim as a text editor for everything, including mobile dev with react-native. Expo for React-Native is godsend.

Switched to a ketogenic diet with intermittent fasting 5 months ago. My sleep quality, mental clarity, ability to focus for long periods of time and mood swings have all improved dramatically. I am also shredding fat at a pretty good pace and apparently also gaining muscle (I lift every single day if I can).

I've been trying the opposite lately -- a high carb diet. I've mostly been modeling my eating style after Dr. McDougall's "Starch Solution" plan. He basically believes that humans are designed to eat starchy foods (potatoes, whole grains, etc), and that fats are bad (healthy fats -- like from avocados -- aren't necessarily unhealthy, but aren't great if you are trying to lose weight). So one of the core tenets of this plan is to keep fat and protein very low, and roughly an 80/10/10 percentage of carbs/protein/fat, which means cooking without oils, butter, etc.

The staple of my diet is potatoes. I eat potatoes nearly every day, and I eat a lot of them. My favorite way is to slice them up into wedges, add some spices, bake them, and then dip them in mustard. I also eat lots of rice, beans, oatmeal, bread, occasionally something like cheerios for a snack, etc.

The beauty of this plan is that if you stick to resistant starches, and keep fat low, you don't need to count calories. You will likely feel full before you will overeat calories. I'm down about 15 pounds since starting in February (6 ft tall, down from 195 to 180ish), and I've got the most ab definition I've ever had from JUST a diet (I'm barely doing any cardio right now). But more importantly, I feel really good.

Anyway, this is not to undermine a ketogenic diet. I think both are effective ways to feel good and look good... either eating low enough carbs that your body burns fat (Keto), or eating low enough fat that your body isn't storing any. I just enjoy experimenting with different ways of eating, and this one happens to be working great for me right now.

I hope you'll update this post in a few weeks / months. It sounds very counter-intuitive based on prevailing wisdom.

It might also be a good idea to have your physician check your blood glucose levels, other markers of pre-diabetes, and liver-function enzymes.

Totally, I actually had a physical scheduled for last week, before realizing I scheduled it for a date I was going to be out of town. So unfortunately I had to reschedule for August. But anyway, there is a decent amount of people who are following this plan, and if you are interested, you can find a lot of anecdotal experiences (including people reporting on their blood testing, etc) by googling "Starch Solution" or "Dr McDougall Starch Solution". There is also an active Facebook group.

There is a book called "The Starch Solution" which I haven't read yet, nor have I done a whole of reading of research studies yet. But, I do know that McDougall and some of his colleagues believe that diabetes is actually caused by higher fat intake, and that this plan has been used by lots of people to cure their diabetes. Sounds so counterintuitive, and like I said, I haven't read/understood the science behind that claim yet.

Edit: here is a resource where Dr. McDougall explains his stance on diabetes and blood glucose. https://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2009nl/dec/diabetes.htm

This sounds dangerous. I am not on this diet and don't know anything about it but I second the recommendation to closely monitor your blood sugar levels because the science on that is clear. While I do the opposite (high fat low carb), I still monitor my blood sugar anyway, just for good measure (because I have too many people close to me with diabetes).

If you are interested, here is the test kit I have: https://www.amazon.com/TrueMetrix-Monitoring-Glucose-System-... also available here, cheaper, as an add-on item: https://www.amazon.com/McKesson-06-RE4051-43-Metrix-Monitori...

And here are the lancets and test strips that go with it (in bulk): https://www.amazon.com/Metrix-Monitoring-Blood-Glucose-Strip... https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01IAI2XI0/ref=oh_aui_sear...

If you decide to monitor using this, you should check your waking blood sugar and it should be <100, ideally below 90. Your pre-meal should be 80-100, 45-60 minutes after a meal has the highest level usually and that should ideally not cross 140. <120 is great. 120-180 is acceptable. >180 is problematic. 200+ is pre-diabetes. 2 hours after a meal it should definitely be <140 or else that's pre-diabetes as well. Better to be <120 or completely back to our baseline of 80-100.

Regarding the high carb concept - this seems to go directly against our genetics. The human genome was basically "finalized" in its current form at a time when we had no large sources of carbohydrates because we couldn't cultivate anything like rice and potatoes. So our diet at the time consisted primarily of foods that are high fat and moderate protein, as well as greens and vegetables. One thing to note about high fat diets is that they should be high in natural, saturated fats like animal fats and nuts, not the garbage oils like vegetable and canola oil, which a lot of people and businesses drench their foods in.

Sounds dangerous? Perhaps it's more dangerous to "live in a bubble" and believe only the latest NYT-bestseller fashion diets.

I have two words for you: Mediterranean Diet. Before thinking that this paleo/keto stuff is the best possible, please take it with a grain of salt and try to understand the whole.

I am not an expert (even if I consider myself very well educated on nutrition and diets), and I am not saying you're wrong. What I say is: be careful when telling someone "it's dangerous" when, in fact, it's really hard to have a definitive answer to almost any diet you can encounter.

Thanks for the helpful breakdown. I might have to give the blood sugar monitoring a shot.

Just curious, in what way were you thinking it would be dangerous? I'm trying to find some good scholarly research articles, but I'm not sure what I should be searching for.

I think kind of the "common knowledge" perspective is that high carb causes obesity and diabetes. But I'm wondering if there are other dangers beyond those that you might be referring to.

In regards to obesity and diabetes, I think a lot of researchers are starting to doubt those claims. Here is an article from the American Diabetes Association that concluded that the participants of the study (all of whom had diabetes) responded well to higher carb diets:


Also, there are two notable cultures/groups of people--the Okinawans and the Adventists--that eat high carb, low fat, low protein, and both of which have some of the best longevity rates and highest rates of centenarians. Obviously those types of statistics are really hard to determine causation, but I thought that was worth mentioning that they at least don't have high rates of obesity and diabetes like you'd maybe expect.

Yes, the danger I was trying to caution you on was the well known causal relationship of carbohydrates producing blood sugar spikes. That could lead to obesity and diabetes.

The article you site is quite old, published 40 years ago in 1978. While I don't discount medical research based solely on age, there have been a substantial number of studies done over the last 5-10 years which have supported the higher fat diet, as long as those are healthy, natural fats.

I'm glad you brought up the Okinawans and the Adventists. That's a good point I would like to address. The Adventists consume a good variety of foods, and their website includes mentions of "legumes, dairy products, and healthy fats such as olive oil." It also includes fruits, vegetables, and yes, whole grains, while also avoiding processed foods and added sugars. So I wouldn't say they are necessarily low fat. With dairy, olive oil, etc, they are most likely moderate fat. The only real question here is the grains, which I will address next, along with the Okinawans.

It is my understanding that the human body has the ability to store glycogen in the muscles and the liver. The amounts vary per person, obviously, but a good ball park estimate is that the average person can store approximately 350-400 grams in their muscles and another 75 to 100 grams in their liver. At 4 kcal/gram this equates to ~1700-2000 Calories in storage capacity for the average human. Your body uses this as quick-access energy. However, when there is excess from consuming too many carbohydrates or other foods (like dense proteins that also get converted to glucose for storage), the extra remains in the blood, raising blood sugar. Think of it like a tank or a glass and once the tank is full, it overflows and spills everywhere because there is nowhere to store it. That's what you want to avoid - the excess sloshing around in your blood for extended periods of time.

So in the case of people like the Okinawans, I believe they are able to consume a majority of their calories as carbs because they do not consume enough quantity for it to be a problem and are physically active enough to not max out their body's storage tank. This is the same case in my mind for why people in rural China aren't overweight when they consume mostly grains like rice. They are physically active and work outside in things like rice paddies. And much of them are poor and simply cannot afford what is available to you and I in mass quantity for low cost. I could go to the store right now and get 2,000 calories of pure garbage for <$10. I believe this goes hand in hand with why the non-rural parts of China that are more economically well off have seen explosions in their diabetes rates over the past several decades. On a similar note, Eskimos, who have historically lived off high fat (seal blubber) diets, have seen explosions in diabetes rates since the 1960's as adoption of Western style diets have increased.

As far as the grains go, I don't see a real purpose to consume wheat. But there are very nutritious alternatives, such as steel cut oats. I consume those daily, in milk with raisins, flax seed, and crushed walnuts. That's a high carbohydrate breakfast (with high fat as well). My blood sugar spikes usually, but not too high to be problematic. Steel cut oats and hulled barley are extremely nutritious.

My suggestion is still to closely monitor your blood sugar. I still do. Sometimes I find that certain foods or combinations of foods spike me far higher than expected while others surprise me and don't move me that much. The glycogen storage also plays a factor. The more active you are, the more carbs you can probably consume, unless you are carefully monitoring volume of carbs. For example, in the summer if I am doing very laborious yark work in the extreme heat, there is basically nothing I can do afterwards to raise my blood sugar. After 2-3 hours out there working my ass off I can consume copious amounts of gatorade, juices, soda, anything - and my blood sugar won't budge and inch for the entire 2 hour window. Presumably because I have depleted enough of the glycogen storage through physical activity so that whatever isn't needed from the sugary fluids I am consuming goes straight into storage.

Wow, you're really "zagging" when science is "zigging", interesting to hear how that turns out for you, please keep us updated. I personally have gone from what you describe many years ago to paleo, then to keto and now to complete carnivory. Each step I feel better and shed more weight, think more clearly and have more energy.

However modern science is also positing that there may be people who thrive on what would be terrible for other people due to genetic or microbiome differences so I'm curious how it turns out for you.

That last sentence is an interesting point. The reason I stumbled onto this plan in the first place, is that I've had years of digestive discomfort, and realized that my system seems to handle starchy foods better. So I did some research on that, and learned that starchy foods are often the easiest for your body to digest and process.


> low enough fat that your body isn't storing any

Dietary fat is rarely stored. It is mostly either burnt (metabolic upregulation) or excreted.

Excess glucose in the blood, however, is stored as fat, through a process known as de novo lipogenesis.

Right. My limited understanding of this--and keep in mind I'm just regurgitating what I've read from those who support this way of eating--is that novo lipogenesis is a very inefficient process, and that you'd have to overeat a significant amount of _simple_ sugars for basically months to store even just a pound of body fat. I think the idea with this eating plan is, if you are keeping fat low, you will fill up on starchy foods long before you will eat enough calories/carbs to cause novo lipogenesis.

Definitely open to hearing counterpoints here... trying to learn about this stuff is overwhelming because it seems like you can find material, even scholarly research, to support any nutrition plan.

"de novo lipogenesis" in Latin literally means: "generating fat from new" - funny how knowing some Latin from school is always a bit helpful in understanding or remembering things like this one.

Potato has very high glycemic index, consume with care.

What's your approximate age (or age range)?

early 30s

Same here! Keto + eating at evenings only + StrongLifts.com. Improved my mood, my energy levels. I feel so much better with it and every time I slip and do a cheat-day I do feel really awful after. Cannot imagine going back to eating any sugars now.

One of the common side effects of Keto is Reduced Physical Performance. You guys must be unicorns or something..That's not a surpise because you definitely need to be "special" to restrict yourself from eating all day long LOL.

That's only during the initial "burn-in", you feel fatigued when your body is adjusting. (not a keto guy, just interested in researching about it"

That's not accurate information unless you are referring to the initial phase of getting your body used to a new way of eating. Most people who keep it up report the exact opposite.

Cmon, just google it : keto side effects, this is what I've got:

KETOSIS SIDE EFFECT 1 – Frequent Urination. ...

KETOSIS SIDE EFFECT 2 – Dizziness and Drowsiness. ...

KETOSIS SIDE EFFECT 3 – Low Blood Sugar. ...

KETOSIS SIDE EFFECT 4 – Cravings for Sugar. ...

KETOSIS SIDE EFFECT 5 – Constipation. ...

KETOSIS SIDE EFFECT 6 – Diarrhea. ...

KETOSIS SIDE EFFECT 7 – Muscle Cramps.

I'm definitely looking forward to suffering side effects 5 and 6 at once.

1: This is not even a side effect, and it refers to the loss of water weight during the hours before entering ketosis, while the body is still burning glycogen stored in the liver (which is bound to water, which goes into the bloodstream and must be excreted).

2: This goes away after the first hours of ketosis and that's if you have never been in that metabolic state ever in life, otherwise there's none at all.

3: Not a side effect but the actual intended consequence, and a positive and healthy one.

4: Cravings go away. We actually crave more sugar the more we consume it, not the other way around. A period of 2 weeks without sugar, even in the context of a non-ketogenic diet, removes cravings.

7: That's due to a lack of electrolytes and not ketosis. People who attempt to switch often disregard electrolyte intake, which is obviously crucial. As urination is more frequent during the switch, electrolyte balance is harder to maintain. Adequate intake fixes this.

Try harder, please.

I tried to google harder, but it doesn't provide any other results. Keto is bad for you, this is what I got. Well, any extreme dieting is bad for you.

What is extreme about it?

I'm never hungry, I never feel bloated, and I don't have any digestive issues.

I suggest you do some research yourself and perhaps even experiment, before you regurgitate things out of the first result that comes up on Google after you enter an already biased query.

I trust google and I have much more exciting things to do than following questionable dieting restrictions. Life is too short, you know :)

Given all of your replies in this thread, I assume quasi-trolling on HN is an exciting thing for you to do.

Life is indeed short. My diet, which I wouldn't consider at all restrictive as I can eat as much as I want, allows me to live it to its full potential.

How do you know what's the full potential is?

You're right. I don't know if there's anything further than what I currently perceive, but this is definitely orders of magnitude better than before I started.

And that's pretty much the only thing that has changed (other habits haven't changed, such as meditation and weight-lifting).

Okay, the last one - quasi-trolling on HN IS the exciting things to do :-)

It must be frustrating when you run into threads like this, though.

IIRC some combat divers use keto as it reduces the risks associated with rebreathing gear; this should indicate that excellent physical performance is possible while on keto.

who the F are combat divers? Who are they fighting against?


Was going to post this as well! I'm 10 weeks in and feeling great. Continuing to work out as before and lost almost 8kg (10% of my starting body weight). A bit hard getting start, but easy to roll when you're going.

I'm about 2 weeks into an experiment with time-limited eating on a daily basis. I try to only consume anything with calories in a 7-8 hour window starting at lunchtime.

I decided to try this because my weight was creeping up despite my controlled diet and daily exercise.

So far the jury is out regarding weight loss, because I also upped my exercise regimen at the same time.

But I've been pleasantly surprised to find that I'm getting much better sleep, and for the first time in years I'm waking up on my own, usually a little before my alarm is set to go off.

The one downside is that starting a few days ago, I've found myself extra hungry in my non-eating hours. I hope this is temporary. It's not a risk to me keeping the regimen, but it's unpleasant and distracting.

Why did you pick the keto diet? All of the studies I've seen say that while it is very effective for reducing seizure frequency in children with epilepsy, it's not any more effective for weight loss than any other diet.

I didn't switch for weight loss, but for the other benefits I listed. I was skeptical, of course, but I like to self-experiment.

How do you know its not just the lifting alone that is giving you all the benefit?

You can lift and gain weight / feel bad from unhealthy eating.

Don't forget to let your body rest from the weight lifting.

Recovery times are simply amazing when your muscles don't use glucose/glycogen. I can use the same muscle group day after day with no issues.

However, I do admit that the suppression of inflammation caused by ketosis can make it hard to realize your muscles are in bad shape to work out.

i'm interested in this approach. what is your age and starting weight and what is your fasting window regime and what amount of calories per day do you shoot for?

I am a 30-year-old male. 172 cm and around 60 kg starting weight (skinny-fat, slender build, quite high fat % and almost no muscle).

After the initial water weight loss, my weight has been fluctuating around the 55 kg mark. However, fat loss is really, really noticeable. I had a pretty huge belly, and now you can see my abs. As I haven't lost that much weight, and as it remains stable while I notice more fat loss, I am certain I am also gaining lean body mass in the process.

I try to fast 18:6, by consuming 3 shakes of my own DIY keto powdered food (i.e. DIY soylent) at 14:00, 17:00 and 20:00, for around 650 kcal each. I also drink black coffee with 25 grams of butter some mornings if I feel like it.

I don't do IF every day, especially if I travel or if I stay over at my girlfriend's. You don't have to do it every single day to reap the benefits, as long as you stay in ketosis, or at worst as long as you don't fill your liver glycogen stores completely.

Fasting causes gallstones. Keep eye on that.

Switching from measuring productivity to measuring sleep, including nap-taking and night sleeping, has really helped me. I wrote about the sleep part a bit here[0].

I originally started (I think 3 years ago) measuring my satisfaction with how each day went and soon found that "getting all the things done" and all the productivity focus simply wasn't _that_ important to my happiness, contrary to what I had believed in the past. I clearly enjoy life much more when I'm well-rested and can _also_ get more done under those circumstances.

[0] https://www.friendlyskies.net/intj/managing-effective-sleep-...

I've noticed this too.

The expectation is for sleep to affect productivity, but I don't find that to be the case. Instead, I find that it has a lot of impact on my social and emotional well being rather than my productivity.

Productivity doesn't lead to many positive states - just exhaustion. Being well rested on the other hand has led to lots of positive mental conditions - surplus energy after work, dramatic decrease of negative thoughts, positive attitude towards new things, willingness for social activities, more boldness and confidence, and all these things snowball off of each other.

Hint: work from home, start at 7am, finish at 3pm, switch work phone off, do whatever you want afterwards, perhaps going outside to catch some sun, some sport and meet similarly minded people; that would do wonders both for your productivity and happiness. Sometimes I think the usual 9-5 was designed to damage everyone to be easier to control and with no energy to do anything threatening to whoever has the illusion of being powerful.

For me, my productivity depends om my emotional well being. When I have a positive attitude, I'm way more productive.

When I don't get enough sleep (kids... ;)), I'm a bit grumpy/negative during the day and I get nothing done. When I'm well rested, I'm super positive, happy, and can get work done effortlessly.

> soon found that "getting all the things done" and all the productivity focus simply wasn't _that_ important to my happiness

Then what was important to your happiness? Being well-rested?

Yes, compared to productivity, rest appears to be a much better predictor / indicator of well-being for me. Rest also appears to help me see how much productivity is really necessary, when I would otherwise overshoot.

Reading books. I was never a reader as kid. And, for the last 10 years or so of my adult life, the only reading I've done was programming tutorials, documentation, and whatever I ran into on the web. Certainly, there wasn't any reading done for fun.

But, last month after picking up lunch one day, I actually walked into the used book store and bought a book. Yesterday, I started reading book #4. Kinda surprised I went through the first few so quick.

I've been reading on my lunch hour most days, but spent this weekend going through 2/3 of one I started last week.

Not sure how much it's "paying off", but I'm definitely staying off my phone/web at lunch. The stories have me more engrossed than I anticipated too.

Reading is AWESOME. I am in the same boat as you - never read much as a kid, mostly read stuff on the web up until about a year and a half ago. I found a couple really cheap used bookstores near me around that time, and I have never looked back.

For me, fiction is such a nice break from the technical stuff that I am exposed to day in and day out. I feel it has helped me to be more empathetic, has exposed me to all sorts of different characters/personalities, and has made me a more well-rounded person in general. I also feel as though I am more frequently able to find the right words to adequately express my ideas.

Another thing that's great about reading is talking about books with close friends. Their insights on the book might be something that would have otherwise gone completely over your head.

Adding to this... If you are already a reader but find yourself only reading in spurts i.e. you find a great book, only read on vacation, ect. I'd suggest being more open to quitting a book when you start to lose interest. I went from reading 10 books a year to 25+ because I'm willing to put a book down. It's also helped me define what I actually enjoy reading.

Am I disappointed I only made it 300 pages into Infinite Jest? Sure. But I've read 4 other books since I set that down last month.

> Not sure how much it's "paying off"

Read what you love until you love to read. Then you can move onto books that seem that they might have some pay off.

A morning routine involving no phone, computer, etc. for the first hour of the day has been great for me.

I usually wake up, make coffee, read for about 30 min, and then gratitude journal and plan my day. (I use Panda Planner purely for convenience, I'm sure a blank sheet of paper works as well.)

This allows me to set my own schedule and prioritize my day, rather than reacting to the demands placed on me by others. I've seen improvement in both 1) my general productivity and 2) my progress on the long-term tasks I'd usually be more likely to put off.

and then gratitude journal

This sounds terrible to me, which means I should probably look into it in order to curb my increasing cynicism.

This is a part of CBT and loving kindness meditation. Laurie Santos has done research on this topic which is worth checking out.

What isa gratitude journal?

Every day you write down X things you are grateful/thankful for. The goal is to write new things every day.

The intent is to help you rediscover things in your life that you tend to take for granted. A lot of us have it pretty good but still feel sad or depressed day-to-day. This journaling process intends to curb that.

I tried this for a while, via daily tweets instead of a journal. Tried to find one thing a day, even if it was the smallest of things (e.g. first time wearing a new pair of socks!).

Very quickly I found out that my daily gratitudes are about (1) driving to/from work that was less congested than usual. (2) finding a good parking spot (mostly at work). (3) getting a tasty lunch (during lunch break, at work).

This actually depressed me, b/c it was just further indication all I do is work.

Not OP, but: https://www.pathwaytohappiness.com/happiness/2006/12/09/deve...

Well in his program he said whenever you think about this exercise, just take a few seconds to think what you're grateful about right now, today, etc.

I do a form of this is a "monthly reflection". Daily made me feel "beholden" to it, whereas once a month feels like something to look forward to.

I share it with close friends as a way to connect. Feel free to email me and I can send a sample, but I'm not gonna directly link on the internet as it defeats the purpose :)

Working out. Just body weight workouts. No gym. It improved my golf game.

Another is: not buying sodas with my meal. Self-explanatory.

Another: Spending brief interludes of time where a compile or unit test is happening to write down what I'm going to do next. It keeps me on task.

Another: Incrementally cleaning/organizing my condo.

Another: Walking around hardware, furniture, craft stores, Walmart, Target, etc, to see what consumer goods are available. There's often something useful that I didn't know I needed or wanted.

Working out! With a 7 minute app. I started in Nov.

+ People notice the difference.

+ It's a good way to cope with bad times.

+ You feel accomplished afterwards.

+ It's a perfect start of the day.

+ If you're dating and she is watching, it's a turn on.

+ You can go on for longer.

+ It's good for your confidence.

+ Other people who are working on themselves can be interesting people to meet.

+ It's good for your health.

+ It's nice for other people to look at the results. Similar to a nice painting some people like to see muscles.

I have a question regarding that. I'm not particularly fat (185cm / 6'0'' tall and weighing 85kg / 187lb), but I'm quite unfit (you wouldn't be able to see any muscles on my body).

When I try to do something like a 7-minute or 9-minute workout, I'm usually unable to continue after 3 minutes because of sheer exhaustion, and I'll have aching muscles for the next few days after that. Any recommendations how to overcome these initial problems? Maybe drastically shorten each exercise (from 1 minute to 15 seconds or something like that)?

Don't be a pussy and go through the initial stage ;).

No, seriously, try to go through the initial pain stage, it doesn't last that long. Tell yourself that this is an indication that it's working, because it actually is.

Take my advice with a grain of salt, but this is what I would do. Train 3 times a week on strength. This is enough and gives your muscles enough time to recover. At first you will train your muscles again when they are still sore, but it will go away.

I also had to go through this stage when I started working out. I remember when we went karting with all programmer colleagues. Next day everyone was sore in all kinds of places, except for me :).

There is 1 cool thing about being unfit: the gains you are going to make in strength and fitness are really huge. Keep track of your progress, it's a real motivator.

There's no trick to this. You need just the most basic training. Go running a few nights a week, and actually track your run. Stick RunKeeper or something on your phone, and you will notice a pretty drastic difference in a few weeks.

I started doing this about four years ago, as I felt similar to how you describe. Trying to run 3km just about killed me. But you keep at it. A couple of months later, I managed my first 10km run, which I did in just under an hour, and somehow I felt great afterwards.

Then do strength training. Nothing weird; nothing complicated. Just do squats with a barbell. Start with just the bar — it's 20kg alone.

And don't fall into the same trap that everyone does of being self conscious at a gym. Nobody cares about you in a gym, unless you try something stupid and dangerous like trying to bench more than you can manage.

Aching muscles means you do something right. Don't shortcut yourself. I like ATHLEAN-X on YouTube. He has a lot of advice on how to do full reps and how to hold your body for maximum gains.

Note that the 7 minute apps have just 30 seconds per exercise and a few seconds between them to adjust your posture. I like it that most are just using your body. And yes, just push-ups can be challenging. For people, who don't think so, try a close grip or one hand push-ups.

I'm also 186cm. I went down from over 82kg to now a bit over 75kg. I'd like to stay there and just get further lean.

Oh yeah, I do it everyday. Use a streak future so you don't skip a day. Try to get a longer streak than your friend or brother if that motivates you!

Lack of fitness is evil, because it can creep up on you, particularly if you have a sedentary job and don't do a lot of physical activity otherwise, so you might not realise how much it's drifted away.

The good news is that of all the things in life where there are no shortcuts but almost guaranteed results if you put the effort in, improving your fitness may well be #1 on the list.

If you're not at all fit and haven't been doing regular physical activity for a while, you may need to start slow with the cardio and light with any weights. That's OK. There is no shame in training at your current level, whatever that is. The people I have the most respect for at the gym are the ones who obviously aren't fit yet but who show up and make an effort to improve.

The main thing at first is to find a level of intensity where you can complete a decent workout, even if initially it seems very low. It will improve as you continue to train.

Also, be very wary of these super-short workouts. When you're first starting out, no amount of bro science or trendy 10 second workouts will substitute for putting the time in regularly to build up your fitness and convert your body mass to the kind you want. Even if right now all you can do is go for a 10 minute walk before you're tiring, do that, but try to do it often. Better that than trying to do something you're not ready for, but then having to stop after just a minute or two. You're unlikely to gain much benefit from that, and if what you're trying to do is that demanding compared to your current ability, it could even be dangerous.

On that final point, since I haven't seen anyone else say it yet, remember that if you're significantly increasing the exercise you do and you're not very fit to start with, it's probably a good idea to speak with your doctor to make sure what you're planning to do is sensible for you, particularly if you're a bit older and/or have any significant medical issues that might affect what you can do or how you should train. They can also give you some basic advice on related issues like nutrition, hydration and rest if you don't already know the essentials.

Its 3 minutes today. It will be 3m 10s in two weeks. Do the exercises you can and stop when you are done like you do today (this avoids injury which can be the biggest routine breaker). You were out a long time, so give yourself some time to come back (that is, be gentle with your body and mind).

For now, just keep doing it. Don't expect quick results... various parts of your body need to start coordinating to this new change. Muscles that worked independently need to work together. Mind body coordination has to kick in. Repetition will breed familiarity and muscle memory kicks in - things get a little more manageable.

Cardiovascular exercises: use a heartbeat monitor and check that the frequency is within a certain range during the exercise (you can look up how to find the range on the internet). This way, you will not be pushing yourself over your limit.

Weight lifting exercises: choose a weight such that you can do the exercise 12 times (reps) correctly without getting exhausted/fatigued. Then correctly do 4-5 sets of that exercise, with 1-2 minutes between the sets. Optionally increase the weight a little between sets, and reduce the number of reps so that you can do at least 8 reps in the last set.

My personal cardio "training" routine was to "run three times", which means, I would run as long as I could (which may not be very long at all!), then walk until I was recovered, and then run again, until I'd run three times. If I'm running outside, I'll run "out" in one direction until my three times are up, and then make my way back at whatever pace I can. When I'm running on a treadmill, I'll usually stop after my third recovery period, but I'll increase my speed throughout the run.

I don't over do it with this routine. If I'm out of breath or something starts to hurt I just stop running and walk for a bit, but it helped me work up to a reasonable amount of cardiovascular stamina the couple of times I've fallen completely out of shape. I usually abandon it once I have enough stamina that I become time-constrained on how long I can run rather than physically.

Less intensity, longer duration. Start by going for a walk each day and build off that. Walking uses your largest muscle groups and internally massages your spine.

Consistency over time is what will get you there. Exercise need not be exhausting nor even cardio intensive to be highly beneficial.

Take it slow. It will take 1 year+ for your joints to adapt to a new regimen. If you injure yourself you’ll erase any gains.

My bona fides are as a 10 year Brazilian jiu jitsu coach, 39 years old, shredded, feeling great.

NYT just ran an article for folks who can't do the full 7 minutes: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/05/well/move/05EASIER-7MINUT...

As Greg Plitt (one of my childhood motivators, may he R.I.P.) said:

The only exercises that don't make you better are the one that you don't do.

I always have this in my mind, it's been more than 5 years since I heard this.

keep trying. As the months add up, your muscles get stronger and the post-training muscle-pain goes away.

take some creatin and bcaa if you want to go the supplements route, or just eat enough proteins on workout days if you want to stay 'natural'.

stretching and a high protein diet bonus; the high protein diet will help strip the fat off

Aim to do it 3x in a row (~30 minutes). When I started I was barely able to do a single set, then once 1 set was too little I was ramping up intensity more and more (like to 60 pushups per 30 seconds), then added one more run etc. Now I do the first one as a warm up (knees etc.) and second/third run are getting progressively more crazy. It helped me going from nerdy to very athletic in 2 years. Also, combine with up to 100 decline wide pushups for chest improvement; in 2 months you'll see massive improvements. Then of course good diet, sleep, etc. I actually start my day with it; 6am wake up, some drink/hygiene, then 6:15 HIIT with 7-minute workout sets, 6:45 breakfast, 7:00 work (from home), 3pm end of work and fun begins.

I don't get how you could be working out in such a short time duration?

My warmup is like 7 minutes long. Its usually a mix of 3 light sets of whatever I'm working out + short jog / sprints inbetween to prevent injuries

What's a 7 minute app? Only 7 minutes of working out?

Look up 7 minute workout.

"Unless someone comes up with 6 minutes abs, then you are in trouble"

"You are fired!"


> Another: Incrementally cleaning/organizing my condo.

Please could you explain this a little more? I’m the sort of person who lets the mess build up to a critical mass, and I’d love to have a better system.

Three suggestions: 1) Get rid of anything that you haven't used for years or that you don't feel an emotional connection with 2) Have a designated place for each belonging you possess 3) Cultivate the habit of putting things away immediately after you're done before doing the next activity.

No the OP, but this works for me: say you're on your living room and going to the kitchen. If you see something that should be on the kitchen grab it and place it there. Just one small thing at a time moved to the right place will eventually sort most of your mess.

Put two things away for every one thing you bring out, basically. Prioritize moving the disorganization out of sight, then organize your shelves/closet later.

That's not a system at all.

Isn't that the typical "garbage collection" strategy? Let it build up and only clear it in bulk?

I stopped smoking cannabis a little over a month ago and now I feel all this energy surging through me that I had been missing since 2017.

I had been really down since my SO passed away in september but I hadn't smoked what you might consider excessively. The problem was that I smoked too regularly. Like a little pinch in a pipe twice a week. That's enough to keep my body affected by it. And it takes at least a month for it to purge.

I've been through this before but the older I get the more I notice the changes, the contrast in energy and behavior.

So this last time has me thinking of never smoking again. Or at least never getting into a smoking period longer than one week again. An occasional spliff with friends would be ok but no repeats.

Anyways, none of that is on the map for now, right now I'm feeling so great. I'm finishing off projects, I'm coding until the sun comes up, I'm exercising. God I love being clean!

I'm the same. I feel the need to get "high" pretty much once or twice a week. I much prefer to smoke weed, and only drink if I can't smoke. Luckily for me I like to use a vaporizer so I never have more than can fit into one bowl -- which is not a great amount -- and I don't get a massive _high_ from it. Also, the weed stops me from getting fat as I don't really get the munchies, and avoid all the calories from alcohol.

Would be nice to stop this behaviour but I can't really seem to, and it doesn't seem to have huge negative effects on my life, but it definitely does have some.

I think it's perfectly valid to lean on the cannabis to get through a hard time and I'm glad it's becoming legal in more places. Every ounce of alcohol it displaces seems to me to be better for people as well. It has far fewer side effects than almost any prescription drug and as anyone who has done it for a time and quit can attest it's absolutely non-addictive.


Recently I read the book - Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy.

One of point was to keep a pocket diary where you list all the TODO tasks and keep striking them off as they complete. Helped me in many ways:

1. It is very easy to forget many tasks but by writing them and checking the diary even once in a while, it is possible to be reminded regularly.

2. Its better than mobile TODO apps as I don't need to check mobile phone regularly and don't get distracted.

3. When you strike some things off, you see the progress that you are achieving something. Just deleting everything shows you long list of tasks yet to be done and can be demotivating.


I do something to similar, although using a mobile app (Google Keep), and write down EVERYTHING. For me, probably the biggest benefit of doing so was freeing my brain. I no longer have to worry about naturally remembering things, and it makes my life a lot less stressful. It also provides me more time and brain power to think about what actually matters to me.

Nowdays, if a thought pops in my head while I'm laying down in bed, I'll just get up for a second and write it down. Feels so good.

This article https://hamberg.no/gtd/ articulates the idea pretty well:

> When your system and your trust in your system is in place, your subconsciousness will stop keeping track of all the things you need to do and stop constantly reminding you. This reduces stress and frees up precious brain time to more productive thinking—maybe it even saves real time so that you have more time for ballet lessons, painting classes, and roller-blading.

I have a system in apple notes where I use a separate note for each weekday. It gives me a chance to dump todos in there, without creating an overwhelmingly large list. I also naturally review my progress on neglected items each week. Also serves me as a basic calendar, eg “see john on Wednesday”.

I second your choice. I actually read just one page from that book and often bring it to mind. Each of us needs to eat a frog every day, sometimes multiple frogs. You need to do it anyway, so better get down to it and have it done. The subsequent feeling is really worth it. And, because the biggest procrastination bloc are removed in this way, everything goes more smoothly.

Eat that frog, folks!

Reducing my portions for food, even if it's healthy stuff. I've found that it's helped me drop a considerable amount of weight yet still be able to have things I want to have, even if they're unhealthy. I started playing around with it towards the end of college and its helped me reduce food spending, intake, overall weight, and I've been shrinking dishes so the dishes I do have to do are smaller. In the vein of reducing portions, limiting certain foods to certain days of the week and committing to it has become much easier (i.e., Friday and Saturday are the only two days of the week I'll have pizza barring special occasions).

I've been trying to make exercise and working out seem positive for years now, but I don't get the rush from it that everyone else seems to. Lifting things up and down is boring, running on the treadmill or elliptical is boring, and I'm not in that kind of shape to do some kind of hyperactive training regimen. I basically just do it because sacrificing 30 mins to an hour at the gym after work and then the commute time back home is a fair trade off for not having to worry about a lot of health complications down the line.

One that I was into at my last job and that I've been trying to reintroduce is a nap after work. At my last job, I'd come home and take a nap for an hour or so, and wake up feeling like doing something. This got crushed by introducing above exercise: I'd go work out, come home and say "oh I'll take a nap", and wake up an hour or so before I had to sleep.

Reminds me of the No S Diet (http://nosdiet.com/). Also created by a computer programmer :D

I've had issues with sticking with exercise all my life and at some point I figured out that it has to be really fun for me to want to do it. When I lived in Sydney close to the beach I was always itching to go to play beach volleyball and I still miss it. Here in London I decided to go to Krav Maga and it has the quadruple benefit of being fun, learning a really useful skill, building confidence in not being afraid of confrontations (the office boss kind of, not trying to pick bar fights) and being a very serious workout as well. Highly recommend Krav Maga, it is much more approachable than one would think, for anyone!

+10 to Krav Maga. From a second person perspective:

My partner has been doing KM for 2-3 times a week for over a year now and since then I see clearer thinking, responding instead of reacting, better sleep quality, losing weight as her gains. I am inspired, while I play badminton 3-4 times a week for 3/4 to an hour to stay sane, needless to say she finds time to play with me!

@jnsaff, I would say stick to KM and kudos for cultivating such a habit.

> Reducing my portions for food

I incorporated a simple mental trick into my life, that hopefully works: I started using smaller plates. Visually, portions look bigger, so I'm more likely to put less food on my plate.

Stopped thinking about trying to be the best and just doing the best I can.

Sounds simple but it was quite an issue for me. I was putting a tremendous pressure on myself and others, causing me anxiety and sadness.

Just doing the best I can and being happy. There's more life beyond work and perfection is just a falacy.


It comes back to the mind. Our minds live in the past or future. It can't survive in the present.

Life is perfect as it is. The moment unfolding in front of you is moments that had happened in the past all the way back to 13.8 billion years ago. How can it not be perfect?

The work put in front of you is given to you by the Universe itself if you think about it. As long as you serve the best you can at that moment, then you're doing great!

It reminds of me The Four Agreement. The last agreement is "do the best you can". Your best changes moment to moment. As long as you put your energy out there and do you best, everything will be perfect as it is.

This is everything but simple for most ppl, including me. I haven't achieved that entirely yet.

I find that understanding learning better helps with this. Effective learning requires knowing where you are at and what you need to do to get better given where you are at. In this sense trying to be the best is often the wrong goal.

Counting calories. I finally lost 50 lbs and learned that when I’d go to the gym or go for a run, I’d compensate by eating more, which is why I never lost the weight I wanted in 20 years of regular exercise.

I still exercise, but now I do it to 1- get stronger, and 2- earn calorie budget so I can eat more.

Counting calories really has helped me. I lost almost 15Kg, I'm on the verge of being only overweight, I feel lighter, I snore less, ...

After the period of adaptation it has also make me relate to the food in diferent ways, feeling full sooner, and my taste has changed somewhat and I don't love "unhealthy" food any longer.

This with daily weight-ins (with average indicator) has been the real game changer for me.

I read about this on Hacker's diet[0], and I didn't start counting until february. If I had known it would be to simple (not that easy though) I might have started sooner.

[0] https://www.fourmilab.ch/hackdiet/

Quit Facebook( which really means just access it 2mins per week on a Sunday, just because I'm on a few groups ). Close down Instafart.

Quit watching porn, after realising the health risks are not worth the benefits.

Quit buying sweets of any kind, especially sugary ones, for myself. I still buy chips for everyone when meeting with friends. I still eat sweets as long as they are made at home. And yes, I have cheat days. So it's not perfect.

The benefits trickled down, phone usage went down etc. etc.

So I got into the habit of quitting, and seeing things for what they are.

FYI: Crisps/Chips are worse for your teeth than sugar candies.


What health risks are you implying there are?

It messes around with your brain. Which in turn messes around with your mood, which in turn can affect your interactions, relationships and the downspiral can go even deeper. I stopped here.

I guess there are a lot of prerequisites for things to go on a downward spiral ( start young, be an introvert, have thin skin ), cus some people never get here. But if you find yourself having terrible mood issues, mental fog etc. and have a consistent porn watching habit, don't exclude porn as a possible source.

Watching porn has health risks?

Dopamine overload. Less intimacy when it comes to real sex. There is a generation of young men who can't ejaculate without the use of porn suffering from an early ED.

What momentmaker said, and more. You can check out more on yourbrainonporn.com.

Saying "no" more often, surely but compassionately and kindly.

It allowed me to claim back some of my own time back.

I don't mean a gruff and negative "no". A positive and assertive no.

I used to be afraid of saying no. I guess it was due to FOMO or due to trying to avoid a negative reaction. I realized though that I don't owe anyone anything (in most cases) and saying "no" is perfectly OK.

This is something I've been trying to do for years. Glad to hear its working well for you!

Completely changing my mindset toward success. Only having positive thoughts. All actions start with me to attain my most desired goals. No complaining, no blaming, no hesitating, and no coulda woulda shoulda. Instead, "Next time I'm in this situation, this is what I'll do to be successful." Staying focused on the goal. Failure is only a necessary stepping stone toward success and is only there to tell you how to do it better.

Rising above standards and expectations set upon me by others. Only you set your own goals. Be the best available in your career and you will be set for life.

"Win as though you're used to it, lose as though you like it."

That sounds exhausting.

It sounds preferable to the fear of failure that I'm guilty of. Riding the rollercoaster of frantic overwork followed by existential dread about being found out to be less than perfect. That is exhausting; plus there's not much to show afterwards except for a pile of meticulously polished but ultimately abandoned projects..

I set a goal of using my feet to walk around and engage team members in 5 work conversations (unscheduled) each day. The change in culture and the identification of problems, road blocks, oppertunities has been eye opening. As a natural introvert who’d rather be heads down it has made me much more effective in the team.

How do you prevent disruption on those that you interrupt?

I find that as long as it isn't every day and I show up to ask about their public deadlines, compliment them on progress, and offer to help where they are stuck that people don't react like it is a disruption.

Do you schedule the visit or just drop in? Do you check their calendars first?

I more take some time to roam each day and if people aren’t deep in activity or meetings check in at that point. Afternoons are great as folks tend to be low blood sugar and more opt to be pushed back from their desks, etc.

What does team think about this?

As far as I can tell they like it. If it is a topic area we've previously discussed or tried to reason the best way forward they will now often proactively reach out when they need help or want someone to tell them how awesome they just were.

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