In the name of Allah, most gracious and most merciful,
Thanks to Allah I have managed to succeed on the first day of the 40-day challenge. I was nearly highly engaged on average throughout my day. It was a nice day. In this post I will share the system I used, the challenges I faced, how I overcame them, the key takeaways from these things, and some useful information that I learned.
1. The System
1.1 The Philosophy Behind It
I think that putting a system that puts restrictions on your time and breaks is very important to ensure consistent results. Often if we live our lives without any organization or any system, time passes without doing much in it. Although the system is more difficult than living your life according to your whims and desires, the system is much more efficient because it focuses on the process, the verb, what we should do instead of the events, nouns, and what we hope. So, restricting ourselves to systems makes us more free time to do things without regret, and falling behind. Try it and see if it will work for you.
We are different, so don’t expect a one-size system or routine will fit us all. Each of us has his own responsibilities, and actions that he must and should do. Depending on these, design your system to try to find the most suitable one for you. You could try different things until you find a suitable one in a specific time period for a specific number of years, then you may need to change it when conditions and circumstances change so that it will be more suitable to the new life updates. You could see it as a skill, the more you do, the more you know about yourself, and you will have a higher probability of designing good systems for you.
To be sincere, I didn’t settle on a system yet. I tried different things, sometimes they worked, and sometimes not. Therefore, I decided to take things more seriously and experiment with different systems at least on a weekly basis. For example, this week I decided on a system that I will share with you. By sticking to this system for one week I will try to observe and experience its pros, and cons. Using this feedback, I will try to develop a new system for the next week to increase the pros, and reduce the cons. Sometimes maybe I will just add flavors and restrictions to the same system because I found it already good but need some improvements. And that’s it. Experimenting according to what I know about time management, and self-control until I will hopefully find a good system at the end of the 40-day challenge that I will stick to it for a longer time period maybe for 6 months or more for instance. Although I think that the whole system’s structure will be settled up by the end of the challenge, maybe I will improve it on a weekly or two-week basis if I found any room for improvement. Why not? Be open to continuous improvement from feedback.
In summary, we make mistakes, we have assumptions, and we decide how to spend our time accordingly. On a daily basis, feedback is available to you but it is your choice to exploit it and put a system that makes the most out of this feedback or you could just live as you want but couldn’t benefit as much from the feedback although it exists. Therefore, the problem is not about the non-existence of the feedback but it is about developing a system that captures this feedback and puts it in proper context for continuous improvement.
1.2 The First Week’s System
The system could be divided into constant things, which I stated in the Introduction to the 40-day challenge post, and variable things which I will experiment with on a weekly basis but in a specific week they must be done.
For convenience here are the constant things throughout the challenge:
- Beside my work, I must learn something or some skill (one or many skills it doesn’t matter how many) for at least 3 hours a day. I mean in total I should do something useful by learning or practicing something for at lest 3 hours a day.
- Check social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Telegram, and Email) at three specific times per day unless necessary (i.e., if I am communicating through any of these channels in work-related things)
- Try to be highly focused and engaged effectively and efficiently in my daily tasks using the techniques, tips, and tricks I know about (Time Management, how we Learn, and Self-control)
- Write a blog post everyday by writing whether I have achieved these constants or not, the challenges I faced throughout the day and the techniques I used to overcome them. And to finally share some of the useful things I learned from books or anything useful that comes to my mind.
Here is my first week’s system (They are rules that I will follow) – The weekly variable part:
- after 15 minutes if you are stuck or want to think about how to approach the task at hand and you are still considered in the same session but of course these 5 minutes will be subtracted from your working or learning time.
- The break time is at most 1 hour and 5 minutes.
- In the break I have to do specific things in order of priority. I am not allowed to do something else unless there is an emergency or exception of course. Here is an example:
- If I am hungry or thirsty, I will go to eat or drink (Highest Priority) while not filling my stomach which if happened will dramatically affect my performance. You are usually in your best productive states when you are neither too hungry, nor full.
- Otherwise, I must do any of two things (Thing 1 or Thing 2), and if I wish I could do something else but I should do (Thing 1 or Thing 2) after them. In other words, if I am not hungry or thirsty (Thing 1 or Thing 2) must be done.
- If I have already done (Thing 1 or Things 2) for at least twice in the day, I could now move to the least priority things (Thing 3, 4, 5, … and so on). They are important but they are the least important.
- Choose a specific time for sleeping that I should not exceed, and a specific time for waking up that I should not exceed. However, I could sleep earlier than the specified time, and wake up earlier than the other specified time. These times could be exceeded up to 1 hour and 25 minutes at most in extreme cases. That introduces flexibility into the system.
- Not to take a nap before a certain time because I found that taking a nap after a specific time in my day make it easier to happen. Otherwise, I may enter into deep sleep and sleep for too much time and could even still wake up sleepy.
2. Challenges I faced and how I overcame them
2.1 Challenge 1
Waking up early. I usually wake up early but the problem was that I slept late the night before since the challenge didn’t start yet. I really wanted to sleep, but I have to stick to the challenge.
The solution was to set up an alarm that won’t be turned off unless I solve 2 difficult math equations that I couldn’t solve without a calculator. In other words, when the alarm (which is really loud) goes on there is no way to stop it without getting away from the bed, opening the light, typing the equations on the calculator to finally write the solutions. Then I go to the bathroom and wash my face, and other parts of my body in a specific way.
2.2 Challenge 2
Since I didn’t sleep enough (which should only be for the first day of the challenge) I was somehow feeling sleepy on doing my first task.
Just do anything, you don’t have to do something fancy. Just do your work for the next 30 minutes, and I did it.
2.3 Challenge 3
I was stuck in a problem from the previous day in my work.
I asked myself where is the exact problem, and by tracing it I finally found it and solved it.
2.4 Challenge 4
I was not enough motivated.
Challenge yourself. Focus as much as you can, expect 10 times the results, and put 10 times the effort. Well, I started well but as time passed, I wanted to sleep too much. Ok, then Just let the 30 minutes pass then take a break because you aren’t allowed to sleep before a certain time. It worked.
2.5 Challenge 5
After taking a nap, I still wanted to stay in bed which is laziness.
Just wake up and don’t screw what you have done so far. You have already started correctly. Wash up my face after this.
2.6 Challenge 6
I was reading slowly and not motivated at all.
So, read even if you don’t understand since I know that I don’t need to understand everything in what I was doing. It didn’t work. So, try to finish this chapter in just 35 minutes “Challenging Myself”. Again, didn’t work because I wanted to sleep. It seems that not sleeping enough the day before was the reason behind all this. But this shouldn’t be repeated because I have already started the challenge. So continue and do what you could until the end of the 30 minutes then take a nap. I did this, then I had a drink after the nap while listening to an audiobook. Now, I come much more refreshed.
2.7 Challenge 7
I was somehow in a temporarily noisy environment. I kept trying to concentrate but it didn’t work. Moreover, what I was doing seemed not to be easy so It needs more concentration.
Therefore, after the 30 minutes has passed, I took a break to do something else. While I was eating, I was listening to something motivating about a brief biography on how one of the highly successful people become so successful. You know, what I like about these people is that they give us somehow hope that if you decided to operate on a different level when concentration and achievement is not an option but a must thing could change a lot but of course that depends on your why. I have previously tested this technique but inconsistently so I decided to give it a shot in my next learning session but having a good night’s sleep the next day could really increase the probability of such techniques working.
2.8 Challenge 8
I kept reading something that I didn’t understand.
Ok, so take the code and run it may be you will understand something. Didn’t work! Well, now let us try to enforce engagement by reading out loud. This trick really worked for me but it only proved important to put me in a certain mood then I continued reading as normal and things made much more sense. So it is a good start but I think if you continue using it through your learning session you will take too much time in your learning and I don’t think you will get the best results. That’s what I think and I could be wrong.
3. Key Takeaways
- Having a good night sleep is very important.
- Naps matter a lot, and could give you a high energy boost especially if you are already sleepy.
- If you don’t understand something read it out loud, and force engagement for a small amount of time to kick off your start and then continue as normal.
- Take breaks when you are not engaged.
- In your break try to listen or do something useful that makes you refreshed on returning back to your task. Remember that you don’t need to shutoff your mind unless when you are sleeping. Otherwise, just switch the kind of things you do but don’t stop exploiting and benefiting from your time. It is your time, and it is your life. By the way this last idea is taken from the Deep Work book.
4. Useful Pieces of Information
- Naps are great tools for creative people.
- Nothing is really mundane in life. Try to look at things differently. We are living in miracles.
- Don’t break boredom and loneliness by social media, and T.V. since boredom and loneliness are somehow important for creativity. You need a separate time when you are with yourself.
- When you are more certain, you could be less creative. Learn with an amateur mindset to see things differently.
- Creativity and productivity could somehow be inversely proportional. Sometimes to be creative, you have to slow down and connect dots from different places. But productivity encourages over tidiness for massive production, and increasing efficiency.
Thank you. I hope this post has been beneficial to you. I would appreciate any comments if anyone needed more clarifications or if anyone has seen something wrong in what I have written in order to modify it, and I would also appreciate any possible enhancements or suggestions. We are humans, and errors are expected from us, but we could also minimize those errors by learning from our mistakes and by seeking to improve what we do.
Allah bless our master Muhammad and his family.