When the Cat’s Away, The Mice Will… Write a Lot of Blog Posts!

Image courtesy of foskarulla on Flickr

You may have noticed that I have been writing more these last few days. Partly, that’s because my wife and my sister packed up all of the kids, 4 total from 10 months old to 7 years old (God, give them strength.), and took off to the beach.

Only one ER visit so far during the trip!

So I am wifeless, kidless, and have extra free time on my hands. But mostly, I’ve been writing more because…

I’ve been feeling really inspired lately.

The weather is nice, the air is fresh, the world is getting colorful again. But for me, there are three primary reasons that I have been feeling so good. I thought I would share them with you.

1. I’m almost there

Image courtesy of Evil Erin on Flickr

It is hard to believe, but I am nearly at the end of my planned weight loss journey. All I have to do is “just tap it on in, tap, tap, tappy.” Last December, I set out a three phased plan to lose weight:

  • Starting out: I started at 236 lbs. (Boo this weight!)
  • Goal 1: Be down to 220 lbs by April for my fraternity’s annual graduate dinner. Check (though I gained 3 pounds from the dinner and Pabst Blue Ribbon that weekend)
  • Goal 2: Be down to 200 lbs by September for my 10 yr high school reunion. Check (and the old high school honeys couldn’t keep up with my tootsie roll)
  • Goal 3: Be down to 190 lbs by New Years Eve so my wife’s birthday present can be ABS (And back abs, ’cause there’s a Situation up in here)

Really, I didn’t know what I should set my end weight goal to be. I ended up and chose 190 because it was a good even number on the upper end of the “Normal weight” BMI chart. (Holy shit! I just realized I am in the normal weight range on the BMI chart!) I knew that would get me to a point where I would really be able to assess my body and reassess my goals.

Do I need to drop 10 more pounds?
Do I need to start training for a strongman competition?
Do I look like a tool being so skinny and need to start going to Mickie D’s again?

I wouldn’t know till I got there… Well guess what? I’m 3 lbs away from 190!

I’ll write up a bigger post when I finally get there, but for now, I’ll move onto Inspiration #2

2. There are soo many good books out there

Image courtesy of luis de bethencourt on Flickr

I have tried to stop watching so much TV lately. In case your wondering, September is NOT a good time to stop watching TV. But after a late summer TV binge where I watched a whole season of True Blood, Mad Men, Fringe, and 3 seasons of Stargate SG-1 (Only 234 Stargate seasons left to go!), I decided books should move to the top of my priority list.

I wanted to share some of the one’s that have stuck out. You may notice that they are all non-fiction and pseudo self helpy. That is why I’ve been so inspired.

  • Rework (by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson) – This book really changed my perspective on how I go about my work. It’s raw and minimalist and all-around amazing. The book link is to amazon, but even if you don’t buy or read this book, please check out Signal vs. Noise, the blog for the company that that the authors run… incredible stuff.
  • Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (by Chip and Dan Heath) – Wow, I’m must be all about multi author books. I am only on the second chapter of this book, but the book’s introduction is so impacting that I had to go ahead and mention it.  They use an analogy for the psychology of change that has completely tangibilitated the whole subject for me (it’s so good, I made up a word for it). The introduction is available in the Amazon preview, so if you have a few minutes, go read it. You will not be disappointed.

But I haven’t just been inspired by the good ol’ bounded paper books. There have been some epic e-books out in the wild. One of my new favorite things is reading e-books while I workout on the elliptical machine. I’ll hop on there late at night, and get fully absorbed in these books. An hour later, I realize I’ve burned 700+ calories and by brain has just been filled with wonderful knowledge and motivation. Here are two that really hit me.

  • Fearless Health (by Matt Gartland) – I think I have mentioned Matt before, but this *FREE* e-book is spectacular. It came out in August, and sat on my virtual nightstand for a while, but I finally picked it up, and I am really glad I did. The book is directly targeted at your mind and it’s role in becoming vibrantly healthy… and it doesn’t miss. Check out this book and Matt’s blog Healthy Lifestyle Design!
  • Rebel Fitness Guide (by Steve Kamb) – You all probably know by now that I’m a huge fan of Steve and what he does over at Nerd Fitness. This book does not disappoint. It not only gave me motivation and inspiration, but it lays out a clear exercise and eating plan that will lead you to become, well, a bad ass. I will admit I don’t follow his plan religiously since my wife and I take classes at the gym together, but if I missed a class at the gym, I attack his plan with a vengeance. (Is it odd that I go to a gym called Empire Fitness, but I actively train to be a part of the rebel alliance?)

And lastly, I just bought a bundle of minimalist guides from some of the pros like Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, Everett Bogue of Far Beyond the Stars, and Adam Baker of Man vs. Debt. This package was put together by another awesome author, Karol Kajda of Ridiculously Extraordinary. I’ve been a outside observer to most of these minimalist blogs and authors, checking out their blogs now and again when they had a viral post, but this package was too good to pass up. The package contains 17 books for $27! Some of the books I was already thinking about buying anyways at their full price, but at $1.50 apiece, I couldn’t not click.

Check out the 17 Minimalist Guides sale here, it is only available for two more days (stupid limited time offers and my inability to not fall for them). I can’t wait to dig in.

3. I am actively trying to better myself

I mentioned in my last post that I am trying new methods to meet some of the lifestyle goals I have been having problems with. I am still only two days into it, but I can already tell the Geek Into Shape Goal Board is keeping me focused and honest.

I woke up this morning with a bad craving for a Pumpkin Spice Latte  (did I mention I love the Fall), but I was able to withstand the urge because all I could think about was that little yellow post-it note that says: “NO $4 COFFEE”. So instead of going to the coffee shop, I worked out for an hour. Two birds, my friends! Two birds!

Here is my progress so far:

First progress report

Back to the Grindstone

Well, now I’m off to do manly things like mow the yard and clean out the garage (my Wife gives me chores, you know).

I would really appreciate it if you would share some of your recent  inspirations with me in the comments section.
Do you have any good book recommendations?
Am I missing a new fall TV show that I shouldn’t be?

How I Plan to Master My Life (One Pesky Goal at a Time)

Image courtesy of margolove on Flickr

It’s time for me to change how I attack my goals.

Why, you may ask? I have definitely been successful with my primary goal — losing weight. But there are still some pesky lifestyle goals that I cannot seem to get solid footing on:

  • Not eating out during lunch (but everyone is going, and it’s Greg’s birthday, and the boss will be there)
  • Stop buying $4 coffee (but it’s so damn good, and I’m so sleepy, and the barista is sooo hot)
  • Go to bed at a reasonable time (but I’m in the middle of a raid, and I need to catch up on blogs, and Caprica is on the DVR)

I know how to achieve these goals, but I can seem to make it happen. I always seem to lose focus due to the daily grind. And I’m tired of it.

It’s time to make a change how I attack my goals!

I have been ranting on and on about how Agile Software development methodologies have benefited my overall health and fitness mindset. The premise is very simple: focus on action toward your goals rather than over-planning, and set small, incremental goals intended to add up to your long term goal. This is what I have been doing, and still no luck. But I just realized I haven’t tried to incorporate one of my favorite aspects of Agile Development into my new healthy lifestyle — the focus on information radiators.

I first read about information radiators in the book Agile Software Development: The Cooperative Game. An information radiator is a clear and easy to access display of critical information that is used to track progress towards an end goal. The genius of the information radiator is that it provides a clear visualization of how you are doing against your goals. It should be the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing you see at night. Now, I don’t know nuthin ’bout no fancy psychology, but having that constant visualization of progress helps provide immediate focus to what needs to get done.

Aha! An information radiator is what I’ve been missing!

So I decided to try an experiment, and build my own information radiator. I call it my Geek Into Shape Goal Board.

I thought I would take you on the journey with me – building the board, setting goals, and tracking my progress. Hopefully this will give me the clarity and the focus each day to overcome the little unhealthy devil sitting on my shoulder. If it works for me, maybe it will also be what you are looking for. So here we go…

Step 1: Choose your information radiator

I thought about a few ways to do this. I wanted to go cheap, so buying a giant white board like I use at my job was out of the question. I initially planned on just painting an empty wall I had in my bedroom, but the Mrs. just laughed at my face when I brought that idea up to her. So, I decided to go with a nice, simple cork board. I used a standard black frame cork board that I got from Target (here it is on Amazon)

Step 2: Choose your methodology

Since my goals are so focused on day-to-day activities (and since my board was only 22″ wide), I decided to set up daily goals, based around a week-long tracking period. I plan on setting four goals each week. As I achieve each daily goal, I will “mark” that goal as completed by advancing the goal (like a progress bar). At the end of each week, I will assess my progress, possibly modify my goals and/or add new ones, and start fresh for the next week.

Step 3: Design your goal board

Now that you have your information radiator and you have set your methodology, it’s time to get creative and have some fun designing you board. Here is what I did:

Initial Goal Boards Design

With this setup, I gave myself a cool header, and my main progress chart is sort-of like a weekly calendar. I left some space in the middle for (what I consider) the most important piece of the board – my motivation.

Geek into Shape Goal Board With My Motivation

Step 4: Set your goals

The next step to finalizing the Geek Into Shape Goal Board was to set my goals for the week. When I designed my board, I left enough space for 1.5″x2″ post-it notes to track my goals.

Writing down goals for the Geek Into Shape Goal Board

Since I could fit four goals on my board each week, I took the list I mentioned at the top of this post (I promise to go to bed early tonight. I promise to go to bed early tonight. I promise to go to bed early tonight.) and added a fourth goal of working out for 45 minutes or more for 6 out of 7 days during the week. Here is what my final board looks like:

Final Geek Into Shape Goal Board with Goals

Step 5: Place your information radiator

I decided to not place this on the free wall next to my bed, like initially planned. I realized that I normally haven’t even come into consciousness when I mosey past that wall. So, since I am trying really hard to meet these goals this week, I decided to put it somewhere more visible to me:

Placing the Geek Into Shape Goal Board

Step 6: Track your progress

To be continued…

I am so excited to try this new method. It puts these goals that I have set for myself right out in the open. Each morning, my goals and motivation for achieving these goals will be staring me in the face, refocusing my mind, and beating down any urges I might have to sabotage progress.

I’d love to hear what you think. Would a constant visualization of your goals, your progress, and your motivation help you stay focused? Do you like my board (I do)? Please leave a comment with your thoughts!