Day 4 of the 40-Day Challenge

In the name of Allah, most gracious and most merciful,

Thanks to Allah I have managed to succeed on the fourth day of the 40-day challenge. I was nearly highly engaged on average throughout my day. It was a really wonderful day. In this post, I will share the challenges I faced, how I overcame them, some beliefs that I changed after experimenting with the challenges, key takeaways from these challenges, and some useful information that I learned.

1. Challenges I faced and how I overcame them

1.1 Challenge 1

Since I finished late yesterday because of the big challenge that I faced, I didn’t sleep enough again. In the morning, I wasn’t at my full concentration so I decided to continue on the task I did the day before since it is somehow in my mind. It is like having inertia that will easy starting my day and not sleeping before my nap time that I specified in the Day 1 of the 40-Day Challenge post.

Thankfully I managed to not sleep before that deadline, but then I slept for about an hour (which is still within my 1 hours and 5 minutes break limit) as I specified in this week’s system. An hour isn’t considered a nap but it refreshed my brain to start better.

1.2 Challenge 2

Although I slept for an hour, I was not very engaged. I tried to complete the 25 minimum minutes and then I went to take a nap. I didn’t want to sleep, but I was somehow in a bad mood. After that short nap, I woke up and was determined to find a solution. I went to have a drink while listening to an audiobook of this book (Make Brilliant Work) and the section I was listening to was talking about focus. After having the drink, and listening to the audiobook I got inspired to apply what I have learned from the book. As you see I try to make my breaks charge my willpower and my modes. Having a good break is crucial to continue your tasks.

After the break, I went to jot down the steps I decided to do from now to start to seriously get engaged in my work. Inspired by the audiobook, and by yesterday’s challenge, since I sat about 4 hours in one sitting and was able to maintain a good focus, I decided that I could try different new things and strategies to enhance my focus. I don’t have to stick to what I am accustomed to if it is not yielding good results. They may be good at sometimes, but not necessarily always good. Having hope that you still can do something to be a better person whatever number of failures you fall into is very inspiring. Failure is not failure, but it is success in learning that something didn’t work. It is learning and not failure.

Sorry for digressing but I usually love to give context, and pieces of advice for you to understand the kind of thinking I have that helped me thanks to Allah to try things that work. So, here are the steps I jotted down after the break:

  1. Empty your mind from any noise or clutter before starting so that you could have a clear mind that easily focus on your job. In other words, do everything you want to do first before learning or working (eating, drinking, going to the bathroom, a good night’s sleep or a nap) but avoid sugary food, and overeating since they could give you an initial boost of energy followed by a sudden drop of energy which is really bad if you want to focus.
  2. Avoid any sort of inner distractions during your work. Open a digital note or have your notebook where you jot down any distracting ideas that come into your mind during work. For instance, suppose you have a new idea that is irrelevant to work or you remembered that you have forgotten to call someone or whatever comes into your mind. Just put it on physical or digital paper to make your head free from any noise so that you can sharply focus on your work. Remember, when you truly focus on one thing, you could do much more you have imagined. Focus is super important that you have to set your inner and outer environment to fight for it so that you would do much better work.
  3. Now challenge yourself to hyperfocus on what you’re doing. It is a challenge, and try to make it a must (not an option). Did you try this before? You must focus and fight for your attention. Note: Brilliant work comes with real pure focus.
  4. Now enjoy your work. Think how you could make it better? How could you leave things better than you found them? Appreciate other’s work, and look at the effort many people took to produce the work that you are completing. Remember that behind what you learn, is a series of struggles and history. Don’t approach your work as a task, but see it as a mission. Think how you can fix problems and solve deficiencies. Learn from failure, understand, integrate, and innovate.
  5. While being hyperfocused at work, have a sense of humor. Humor is proven to diversify your thoughts. Therefore, try to be both serious while having a sense of humor during work simultaneously.

Remember if you are not enjoying yourself during work you may not be doing your best job yet. You need to push yourself more, learn more about your work, approach things differently until you experience work differently. What I mean by enjoying yourself is that you feel that you are learning something, you are exceling and accelerating at a good pace, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are not struggling and going back and forth between different materials. The point I am stressing on here is to try to push yourself hard to be a better learner, and accomplisher while having a sense of humor that induces creativity in your work. Maybe I am wrong about some of the ideas here, but that is what I believe in. If it turned out to be wrong, then I will learn, adapt, and see what could I fix. If you have another scientific idea, you could leave a comment below.

After putting these ideas in mind, and given that I lacked behind a lot by that time of the day in terms of my achieved working hours which were really small, I decided to again not look at the clock for a while and keep focusing on my task. Surprisingly, two hours has passed without a break, I enjoyed my work more, I learned new things, and I produced some good results. I got more engaged since I saw good feedback by seeing these results. Finally, I finished my learning session at a good time, and I was really hungry to continue my work tomorrow because I really enjoyed myself.

Although I was in a really good experience after this two-hour session ended and after starting another one I felt somehow losing engagement. I took a little 5-minute break then came back really refreshed.

During my sessions, my weapons for increasing engagement were to speak out loud about what I am doing in a sense of humor and make my hands dirty while learning interactively from the book.

Note: I was coding here, and coding is from the tasks where you could easily enter in the flow state while doing them if you approached it in specific ways. The flow state is when you truly enjoy your time, and time passes without you noticing.

2. Changing my Mind about Breaks

2.1 Important Introduction

It is known that breaks are very important for having sustained attention since according to research our focus could decrease through time after which we need a break to recharge our focus while letting our minds work in the background in the diffuse mode to make more sense, and consolidate what we were learning, A similar thing is when you return back to a problem in the exam that you left because it was difficult, you could find the solution easily to that problem when you visit it again because your mind worked on it in the background.

However, there is something important to understand about science and research. First of all, what is called Science in western civilization is when we have about for example greater than 80% predictability of our findings. Like Physics, Mathematics, Mechanics, and so on. When the predictive power decrease to may be above 60% it is called Social Science in the western civilization like Psychology, History, and so on. Social sciences are difficult to measure, and in research maybe some assumptions were made, and variables that were neglected so that scientists could easily conduct their scientific experiments. You know if you can’t solve all the problem, then solve part of it. Something is better than nothing.

Moreover, statistically speaking there could be flaws in the way data was extracted, what questions were asked during the experiments, and how data is collected. Life is so complex, and there are many factors that are difficult to take into account during experiments. What I want to say that although research is very important and has produced great results and advancements that we see in the world today, we should always not see its results as facts. Maybe these results are true in a certain context, but in another context, they completely make nonsense. How many times scientists in the past believed something for sure that was proven to be false afterward by other scientists. Like the difference between classical Newtonian Physics, and the modern relativity physics. Newton’s laws of motion are correct under certain conditions, and speeds. However, after going to another level of speeds, and another context they fail to generalize. In other words, they were correct in a certain context but the big picture is still missing. They solved part of the problem, which is good, but didn’t solve everything.

Don’t understand me wrong that I see research as not useful. Definitely no. I am from the research lovers by the way. Research is the mother of advancements with no doubt. But I don’t want to be so certain about everything research discovered because of the possible inaccuracies in research for the reasons I mentioned above. Having doubt pushes us to ask more questions, see our findings’ limits so that we could see what possible improvements we could make.

Therefore my advice is to take research results as guidelines for you, but feel free to experiment around these guidelines or be guided by them at the beginning and see what works best for you in your current life period after experimenting with yourself.

2.2 What I Want to Say

What I want to say is that given that breaks are so useful, how could we design them to be even more useful? Why should we set a timer and take a break at a certain time like the Pomodoro technique? Could it be that setting a time limit for ourselves makes us feel as if we won’t be able to concentrate more than that time? Could we be decreasing our true potential by putting limits on ourselves even before we start? I know that the Pomodoro technique is really good for avoiding procrastination. But is it really good for excelling, and doing brilliant work? I remember more than one of the great achievers was able to sit for an extended amount of uninterrupted times like for 3 hours or even some of them for 6 hours or a day? I know that it could be abnormal and could be seen as an anomaly or outlier. But why not question ourselves if by approaching things differently we could do something similar? Why put limits on ourselves although we saw others did that thing? Yes, they could be outliers, but we shouldn’t ignore that they could be normal people that through specific intensive training that they did unintentionally they reached these levels of focus. We could think of focus and engagement as muscles that could be developed through deliberate practice of experimenting with what best works for us.

What I want to say is that at the end of the day, you have to experiment with yourself and see what works for you. Try to expand your limits, and to explore unexplored terrains in yourself. Experiment, enjoy and don’t worry. And remember, small experiments could lead to bigger experiments. You can’t tell what will happen in the future, but you could start small with what you have and see what you can do.

3. Key Takeaways

  • Try to use inertia to push yourself.
  • Why not try to really concentrate as much as you can and take a break only if needed? Expand your limits. I think it depends on your engagement level. Even I think you will have a more rewarding break when you know that you did good job instead of becasue it is your break time. Specify a certain good metric by which to measure your break, and experiment with it. That’s what I think after experimenting with myself, and it could be correct or wrong with you. So experiment with techniques, and see what best works for you.
  • Don’t limit yourself by what you already know. Acknowledge your ignorance, be uncertain and experiment and you don’t know what you may discover.
  • Pay attention to how you spend and design your breaks. They could be uplifting, motivating, and pushing you forwards or they could be negative and not the best thing to have.

4. Useful Pieces of Information

  • Organize your tools, and don’t organize your materials for enhancing creativity. Not finding a tool could make you lose much time, and even lose motivation. But sifting through unorganized materials could give you good ideas, and could open new doors to you that you never imagined.
  • It is observed that struggles could either break people or could make them much stronger. Struggles could lead to developing high stamina, and to push yourself to very high limits. Successful people transform their struggles into opportunities by learning from them, and exploiting this feedback to being better persons.
  • Fake it till you make it. Start by doing what you finally want to do. You will figure out things you need to know, then go and learn them. Beware that this isn’t necessarily applicable in everything. But it is really useful when you want to learn a new useful skill.
  • If a baby didn’t believe that he could walk, he would has stopped trying to walk because he falls a lot. You know he tried, but failed. But those who walked, and ran must have fallen many times to be able to do so. There is a process behind many successes, and don’t assume that it is an overnight success.
  • Don’t be afraid of being odd, or embarrassments. People don’t usually regret trying and failing, but they regret not trying.
  • Your environment could sometimes be more important than your will power, so design it carefully.
  • Never wait until you are ready. Just start now, and learn in the journey.

Finally

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.

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