Weeklongs 7 | Meals Are Not A CheckBox

This post is part of my Weeklongs Project.

This week was about letting internal signals direct eating instead of external cues.

As an undersized college football player, I ate constantly. My 5’10 frame was not going to stop me from trying to look like Lattimer from The Program. I didn’t stop eating when I was full and didn’t wait until I was hungry to start. I’d end up eating 4-5 meals a day. In retrospect eating seemed almost more like part of a regimen than an act to satiate my hunger.

Despite the fact that I’ve hung the cleats up, I’ve noticed I still behave this way. Between the hours of 12-2 I’ll go eat lunch – not always because I’m  hungry but because you’re supposed to eat lunch then. Old habits die hard? I think my proclivity towards efficiency also compels this behavior. If I have a free 20 minutes between two calls during lunch hours I’ll “get lunch out of the way.” It’s almost like I pre-empt hunger. It’s easy to rationalize because when unaddressed, hunger is inevitable. Why not take care of it when you have some down time?

This week was about letting my body dictate consumption instead of the external cue provided by meal-time. Practically, this meant eating only when I was truly hungry and stopping consumption when my body told me I’d eaten enough. I was amazed by the degree that paying to my body changed my behavior. In general, I ate later, slower and less than usual.

I think these changes occurred due to the shift in how I framed meals. This week meals weren’t just a checkbox that I happen to enjoy – they were a response to an internal signal that was continuously calibrated throughout my day. When something is not viewed as a task, you give yourself permission to enjoy it vs. the need to execute it as fast as possible.

Other things I learned about myself

  • My love for efficiency is why I’m not a foodie.
  • I can easily last till 2 before I need lunch – I did not think that was possible.
  • Anytime I put something on a list or bundle it as a to do, I’ll unconsciously attempt to execute it as fast possible.
    • This one reason I eat really fast
  • Sometimes I eat just to feel like I’m doing something productive because it’s on a list.

Practically eating like this moving forward will be impossible to pull off. However, it was cool for a week and it’s beneficial to have in the back of my mind moving forward.

Weeklong 6 | Do I Really Need This?

This post is part of my Weeklongs Project.

The first week of this project I wrote about my experience getting rid of 5 things a day. In the spirit of shedding materialistic tendencies, a reader Brandon Rennels suggested I put a sticker on my wallet that forced me to think about the necessity of my purchases.

I took his advice and ordered some “Do You Really Need This” stickers from Zazzle. Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve had one on my credit card and the inside of my wallet.

I never buy myself “things” like clothes or gadgets. Most of my discretionary income is spent on experiences like going out with friends or skillshare classes. I also make some what I call “convenience purchases” – things that I enjoy and make my life easier, but don’t necessarily need. Coffee brewed by someone else, bottled water, and taxis fall into this category.

My hope was that these stickers would inspire greater self-awareness and help me reduce my convenience purchases. I’m disappointed to admit that I didn’t really see much of a change in my behavior. I still bought that coffee I didn’t really need and took a cab or two home when I could have hoofed it back to my apartment.

What I realized was that in most cases this self-awareness mechanism was too late in the purchasing funnel to be effective. By the time I’m in the checkout line the cost-benefit analysis for a purchase has already passed. I’ve made up my mind that I need this.

A product that made me ponder the necessity of a purchase earlier in the decision making funnel might be more effective. It’d have to know my behavior or location to a degree that allowed it to pre-empt these decisions. It’s not that far-fetched considering location aware technologies such as Shopkick omit push notifications when you enter stores.

…Or I could just improve my willpower and forget all these band aid solutions. Working on it ; )

Weeklongs 5 | The Economics of Packing Lunch

This post is part of My Weeklongs Project.

People always say its cheaper to pack your lunch. I’ve never doubted this, just always been hesitant because of the perceived time it takes to pack a healthy lunch each day.

This week I wanted to put this theory to the test. I wanted to measure how much time it really takes   as well as how much money I’d save. This framework would help me determine whether consistently packing my lunch is a significantly better move.

So last Sunday I went grocery shopping and prepared 5 lunches for the week.  They were all grilled chicken salads with walnuts and balsamic vinegar. The monotony was fine with me because my paleoesque diet is pretty limiting.

Total time to shop and prepare the lunches (grill chicken breasts, chop salad and walnuts):   1hr 15 minutes  total = 15 minutes/day

Cost itemized:

Chicken: $4.07 + $5.55 = $9.62

Single Serving Containers of Mixed Greens: $2.50 + $3.10 + $3.20 + $2.40 + $ 3.10 = $14.30

Two (7oz) Containers of Walnuts: 5.99 + 5.99 = $11.98

*I already had a big thing of balsamic vinegar

Total = $35.90 = $7.18/day

If I wanted to optimize on $$ and ditch the walnuts it’d be $4.78/day. But to be honest it’s my favorite part of the salad and without it the meal would be unsustainably bland.

Using Mint.com I was able to determine eating lunch out during a normal work week cost me $41.86 =  $8.37/day. Projecting these numbers over a really boring year of salads, packing lunch would save me $309.92. From a time standpoint, there’s no significant difference. Though I didn’t measure how long it takes for me to purchase lunch everyday, I can comfortably estimate it’s 10-20 minutes depending on where I go.

Quality of Food, Portion Size, and Other Observations

As bad as I wanted to walk away from this week saying the food was so much better when I prepared it, it really wasn’t. It tasted pretty much the same (if not worse) which could be a function of my spartan meal selection. From a portion standpoint, I actually noticed I had less overall food then when packed my lunch. The difference was there were more walnuts and slightly more chicken when I packed it myself. Those deviants at Flavors really pile on the lettuce!

One thing I realized this week** is how much I like the ritual of leaving my desk to go get lunch. There’s something rejuvenating about a 10-20 minute change of scenery. I actually think I’m more productive when integrating this ritual. On the other hand, packing a really healthy lunch eliminated the opportunity to eat unhealthily. Opting to buy a healthy lunch isn’t really a challenge for me. My willpower is strong at this time in the day so it’s challenging for me to put too much weight on this benefit. However, this could be a huge benefit for someone whose challenged by this decision.

The results of this experiment are certainly unique to my own diet. I’m sure if I packed a yogurt and banana or even a sandwich with cold cuts I might see a greater difference in savings. But what was important to me was to observe the disparity between price and time within the framework my personal diet. And at the end of the day there wasn’t really a significant difference.

I’m really happy I did this experiment. Certainly not because I uncovered a way to save a ton of money, but  because I can move forward with greater confidence that I’m making the right choice. I don’t have to feel guilty when I’m not packing lunch because the compounded difference isn’t significant enough for me to spend time or energy optimizing around.

Moving forward, I may pack lunch a little bit more than I used to, but I’m definitely not worried about making it a habit. It feels great to test something you’ve always thought about and eliminate that uncertainty. It brings peace to your life.  This is a foundation of this project and I look forward to doing this in the coming weeks in other areas where I’ve felt the same way.

* *I ate lunch out with my boss one day so had the packed lunch for dinner

Weeklong 3 | Eating Vegetarian

This is post is part of my Weeklongs Project.

For the past week I ate a vegetarian diet.

Typically I stick to a paleo/4 hr body hybrid regimen, so the departure from meat wasn’t easy. Pretty much every day looked like the following:

Breakfast: 3 eggs
Lunch/Dinner: Mixed greens salad with veggies and tofu or hummus with a whole wheat pita.

I didn’t notice any significant difference in how I felt. Even if I had, I’m not sure if the sample size of 5 days is long enough to substantiate any conclusions.

The most interesting observation surrounded my discipline allocation. During my normal regimen, I have no problem stiff-arming unhealthy garnishes: cheese, fatty dressing, crackers, those awesome little chips you can put in salads. Saying no every single time is pretty easy at this point.

But the past week this was much more difficult. A bowl of mixed greens with walnuts and balsamic vinegar just wasn’t cutting it. So I’d fold and tell them not to hold the feta cheese. I’d justify this move by the fact that I was still abstaining from something I wanted: meat.

This got me thinking about the existence of a discipline reservoir and the existence of discipline allocation habits. Do we only have so much discipline we can exercise in a day? Around certain activities? If this is the case, are these thresholds our habits create? Should we be strategic with our discipline as we are with our energy? My intuition says yes on all fronts, but I think a deeper dive is in order at some point.

The art of discipline is extremely interesting to me; it’s the foundation of high performance in all arenas of my life. My health, effectiveness at work, and moral compass are all enhanced and defined by discipline. Thus I’m excited to think more about my observations from this past week as I continue to this project.

For now, I’m going back to my normal eating regimen. If I need to pick where I’m going to fold, I’ll take grilled chicken and turkey over garnishes every time. That cheese was really good though.

Weeklong 2 | Diligence Toward Friendships

This is post is part of my Weeklongs Project.

Last week I hung out with a non-tech friend every single day of the week. It was great.

One thing about the tech scene is that there is no off switch to value creation. There’s no shortage of work to be done, networking events to go to, classes to attend, drinks to grab, and blog posts to write. As a hard-charger hellbent on progress, I’ve prioritized these things since I got into the scene.

I’ve always enjoyed great friendships outside of my industry. But in my self-imposed sprint to get ahead, I can’t say I’ve approached maintaining many of these relationships with the same diligence I have with my “contacts.”

Over the past year I’ve usually spent the weeknights/mornings with people that were in my industry outside of a special lady friend. Weekends I usually spend with non-tech friends. I’ve met so many great friends during the week and it’s definitely been fruitful for building a network. Yet this in balance has not been so great for maintaining close bonds with many people I care about that border the small group of people I hang out with most weekends.

Last week was a first step towards changing that. It was so awesome to get insight into all the amazing things different people are doing and to recall awesome memories. It revitalized relationships that had gone stale and fueled new insights in the way that only outside perspective often can.

We all have personal CRM challenges, but it’s important to be cognizant of those that exist outside our professional sphere of influence. Last week was a great reminder of this.

This week: Giving the whole vegetarian thing a try. Though I don’t plan on eliminating meat from my diet at all, I’m interested to see if it changes how I feel and it should be a good test of discipline.

Weeklong 1 | Getting Rid of Things

I did my first Weeklong last week. Everyday Monday through Friday I picked 5 things to throw out or give away. My PHD in multiplication equates that to 35 things.

Minimalist Living

Note* I only make my bed for photos I post on my blog

My motivation for this Weeklong was the following:

  • I hate clutter and I live in a small apartment
  • Graham Hill’s Ted Talk: Less Stuff, More Happiness 
  • Interest in cultivating a greater understanding of my personal happiness


The first 10 things were easy to get rid of: books I’ve already read and crappy shirts from startup events were low-hanging fruit. But when I started getting past item #20, it became more difficult to part with things. 

“But what if I want to wear that shirt” – “There might be a theme party where that could be useful” – “I might want to watch that movie again” – “I highlighted in that book; I want to save those notes!”

These were the internal skirmishes I encountered.

When I was brutally honest with myself, all of these fabricated battles were total crap. I rotate 2 pairs of jeans and wear the same 10 shirts. I never go through my old book highlights. That movie actually sucked and I hate re-watching movies that are less than awesome.

It got me thinking more broadly about “things” and why we accumulate them. I realized that I don’t love things, but the experiences they enable. I like clothes because I like going somewhere and feeling like I look good. I just bought a squash racket so I can play Squash. I have books because I love the experience of getting lost and learning. 

The reason that I was holding onto these things was fear that I couldn’t replicate an experience these items facilitated. Generally, my fear was unwarranted. I only need about ⅓ of all the things I have (or less) to replicate the experiences/feelings that are important to me. Everything else just weighs me down in some form or another.

Thirty five things later, I agree with Graham Hill’s maxim less = more:

  • I have more space
  • I have less desire to go blow money on “things” (more money!)
  • I am less stressed because I have less extraneous clutter (more happiness)
  • I feel good about giving stuff away

I’m going to keep getting rid of stuff. 

Lifestyle Design: My Weeklongs Project

I have a new personal project over the next few months I’m calling Weeklongs. It’s more a less an exercise in Lifestyle Design. The gist is that I’m going to engage in a different experimental activity/practice every week for at least 5 days in a given week. Activities will range from playing a sport to talking to strangers to calling people I haven’t spoke to in a long time…the list goes on. At the end of each week I’m going to share my observations here.

Dude, Why Are You Doing This?

I’m a firm believer that our experiences shape our perceptions. Nothing effects the lens through which we view the world more. Why then, do we often take a haphazard approach to experience? We treat it as something that happens as a matter of circumstance or convenience, rather than as a direct input that shapes how we view the world and thus, how we lead our lives.

The logic below which is primarily taken from the Accidental Creative makes a lot of sense to me and inspired this project:

The larger the pool of experience we draw from, the more enlightened we will be. Not only will more experiences yield a deeper understanding of the world around us, but also greater insight into our personal preferences. Hence, by intentionally building fun, unique and challenging experiences into my life, I will push myself to see the world in new ways while getting to know myself to a greater degree.

LifeStyle Design

Ultimately, I’m hoping this opens my eyes up in places where they’ve been closed. If these little experiments result in behavior change, great! If not, I can move forward with greater confidence that I’m living the best way I know how.  

A key element of this project is the structure surrounding experience. Because I have defined the activities I’m “testing”, I can focus my thinking around them. I can thoroughly explore each experience and analyze aspects I may have missed in a haphazard  setting. Hopefully this will illuminate pathways of unexplored insight.

First stop (which started Monday) – choosing 5 things to donate or throw out each day.  A full report coming soon…..

Side note – I’m giving myself permission to skip a week here and there if I feel like it. I’m human and this project is meant to be fun, not a burden.