Life Experiment: 30 Posts in 30 Days in 30 Minutes or Less

In an effort to fight off creative boredom and get my writing chops chopping (chomping?) with more regularity, I'm embarking on a 30-day writing commitment here on BarryMorris.net.

I have no plan for this other than to just crank out a daily post for the next 30 days and see how it feels. I have no topic plan, length of post plan, nothing.

Oh, and I can spend no longer than 30 minutes on each post, from inception to publication. Yeah, baby...this is serious stuff.  :lol: 

I'm also going to include original photography in each post, starting with the photo above of my desk at work that I took a few minutes ago. (I'm still successfully avoiding the use of my employer-issued PC laptop).

Each photo will capture a piece of my daily experience. They may not all be gorgeous photos, but they will be all be in black and white in keeping with the motif.

I'm all about the motif. Motif...yeah, I like that word. It just begs to be italicized, don't you think?

I know, you're thrilled

But please, try to contain yourself. 

This is going to be like Julia Cameron's morning pages exercise except my whiny stream-of-consciousness type thoughts will be shared to the world or rather my 600+ readers...a number that I actually don't believe it accurate judging from the lack of comments on my past posts.

Of course, that could just mean I write crap that no one cares about. Whatever. I write for my own sense of gratification anyway. :roll:

This isn't the first time I've done this. When I first read Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, I embarked on a similar project, but those writings weren't published. But you have to love her guidelines for daily writing practice:

  1. Keep your hand moving (or typing my case)
  2. Loose control
  3. Be specific
  4. Don't think
  5. Don't worry about punctuation, grammar, or spelling (I'll ignore this one)
  6. You are free to write the worst junk in America
  7. Go for the jugular

Where did this idea originate?

No clue. Actually, I do know. I was thinking this morning about how Ev Bogue used to post each day to his minimalist blog, Far Beyond the Stars, in the days before he kind of went off into the wilderness to recreate the decentralized web on a used Chromebook. It's a long story.

This was at a time when minimalism was unique and living with less was intriguing. Now it feels like no one gives it much credence beyond the minimalist celebrities among us.

Perhaps the idea was in the ether and I inhaled...unlike Bill Clinton. OK, that's it...enough bad jokes.

See you tomorrow for my first post du jour

Wearing All Black Clothing - Results of a 4-Month Monochromatic, Minimalist Wardrobe Experiment

Four months ago, in this post, I outlined an experiment to wear only black clothing. Today's post is a report on how the experiment is going and whether or not I'm going to continue only wearing black.

I began this experiment to simplify my choices and experience the benefits that I've heard accompany those trailblazers who made it popular, like Mark Zuckerburg of FaceBook who wears a gray t-shirt every day or former President Obama who, after catching hell for wearing a tan suit one day out of 8 years, wore only blue suits thereafter.

Each stated that with the hundreds of decisions they needed to make on a daily basis, not having to make one about their wardrobe each day was a no-brainer.

I've found this to be largely true as well, though none of the decisions I make have anything to do with selling customer names to Cambridge Analytica or tipping the balance of national security.

Still, it works for me on this level.

Comments I've received

The only negative comments I've received have been from those who, in my opinion, might be afraid to boldly plant their fashion flag on a hilltop and proclaim their style as their own, preferring instead to blend in with the fields of khaki-wearing cube dwellers across corporate America.

The head honcho in my office is an Executive VP who disdains wearing neckties as much as I do. He dresses in long-sleeved dress shirts and slacks or if it's Friday, jeans and pullover.

He's made it a point to notice, in a joking manner, when I've worn something other than black pullovers or black dress shirts. There is a dark gray half-sleeved casual button-up shirt with a pajama collar (think Kramer from Seinfeld) that I like to wear every once in a while and he always notices. 

Those in my office that do dress in ways that express their personality haven't said anything negative. My favorite thus far is from Natalie who put it this way, "You be you, Barry."

Yeah, I like that. Thanks, Nat.  8-) 

I've even seen a young engineer in the office wear all black more often over the past few weeks. Who knows, it could go viral and I might be on the brink of becoming a world famous monochromatic fashionisto!   ;-) 

I actually don't miss wearing colors and/or prints

I've never been too concerned with keeping up with fashion trends; I've always purchased and worn what feels and feels good. For example, neckties do not feel good and should be outlawed...but that's just my opinion.

I don't own a single necktie, but I do have a black sportcoat for when I need to ramp it up a bit as I did recently for employer's holiday cocktail party. Besides, I'm an introvert and the last thing I want in social situations is attention. Blend in, Barry, blend in.

I thought I'd get bored with wearing black all the time, but surprisingly I haven't. When I go shopping at Target or even name brand shops here in Irvine (of which there are many) for odds and ends I usually peruse the menswear section for any needs. I find myself not even considering an item if it isn't black. 

I think it's safe to say I'm going to continue wearing black for the foreseeable future.

Have a Happy Monochromatic New Year, everyone! 

My Process for Setting Habit-Based Goals That Are Guaranteed to Help You Live a Phenomenal Year

Each year in December I revise and republish this post. Originally written in 2015, the core principles haven't changed, but finer points have been clarified. Truth be told, I've relaxed how I personally go about setting goals for the year (I'll be writing about that in 2019), but I think there is value in reviewing the comprehensive approach.  Be well, and Happy Holidays! 


Why I Set Goals Each Year 

Because it results in a better life. Because nothing I want, need, or desire just drops into my lap. Because if I want to live an awesome life, I need to follow a plan.

Awesome lives don't just happen; they are carefully planned and executed."

What gets written down, gets done. I used to haphazardly dream up resolutions for the new year but seldom designed a plan to reach them. By January 31 they were a distant memory...just like the ones from the previous year. Then I wondered why my life sucked so much.  8-O 

Like anything in life, you'll get out of this exactly what you put in. Just setting loosely defined goals that aren't relevant to your daily life or that are unsupported by a plan to accomplish them is a total waste of time. If this is where you are, you're better off waiting for the Tooth Fairy to give you what you want from life. Good luck with that.

I Take Goal Setting Seriously

The reason I take it seriously is that it works.  My life is exactly how I designed it. I'm not indiscriminately tossed about by the tides of circumstance nor do I wait for life to unfold. I plan, execute, evaluate, and adapt. It's how I roll, kids.

But it's not effortless. It requires work...like anything worthwhile in life. I took three full days to plan out what I want to accomplish in 2016. Can you dedicate three days to do the same?

If you can't spend a weekend or a few days thinking and planning one year of your life, then you're already behind the eight ball. It's not going to plan itself."

Every one of my life accomplishments is the result of setting goals:

  • It's how, at the age of 18, I flew by myself to the United Kingdom and lived there for a time
  • It's how I attended three colleges simultaneously in my senior year and got into medical school
  • It's how I later became a college professor and Dean, and later a college President
  • It's how I survived a sad time in my life and raised my youngest of four children as a single-parent
  • It's how I write and publish books as well as run a consulting business

But it's not just about material gain or checking off items from your bucket list. Setting goals and working to achieve them is how you create a life that you enjoy every single day.

I've just concluded my goal setting for 2016. It's a process I'll share with you in this post. The process is straightforward, effective, and time-consuming: it took me three full days to complete. Life design requires us to spend time where it will benefit us most. Each year, I dedicate a few days in December to doing this and each year I accomplish more than I did the year before. 

It took effort, clear thinking, and some planning. I used my Zen-Journal to do it and the photos below depict stages of that process. As a result, I have 17 specific and measurable goals to work on in 2016 and each one is exciting to think about.

My Goal Setting Process

Working pages from my Bullet Journal used in planning my goals for the year.

Here's my process from A to Z for setting goals that have continually served to enrich my life. If you choose to follow it, I urge you to dedicate time to think about what you decide. You can't plan an entire year in an afternoon. OK, you can, but your year will be shitty. Trust me on that one.  :roll: 

1. Habits Rule Everything

I have six habits that provide the foundation for each of my goals.  My habits include:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Lifelong Learning
  • Being Kind
  • Healthy Choices
  • Embracing Play
  • Minimalism

Habits are the result of what we emphasize in our daily lives. Habits can be positive, like the ones above or they can be negative, like being a couch potato or eating convenience foods. They rule us and not the other way around. That's why it's important to emphasize habits that are positive and lead to positive outcomes.

2. Areas of Focus (AOF) 

I have six areas in life that I'm focusing on in 2016. Yours may differ and I would expect they would. We are, after all, two different people. :-)  The AOFs are the main areas of your life. They can be the habits you want to incorporate into your life as I’ve done in this example. If your life was a three-ringed binder, AOFs would be the dividers or tabs. You can also think about them as categories or facets of your current life.

Areas of Focus may evolve from year to year. That's OK, because so do you."

In the past, I've used terms like Materials, Recreation, Education, Creativity, Professional, and Health to describe my AOFs. But in recent years I chose to make some of the AOFs more interesting, hence "Embracing Play' combines Recreation and Professional; 'Being Kind' is a mix of Spiritual and Education. Since my kids are grown and raising their own families, 'Family' is no longer an AOF in the same way it used to be ~ evolution in action. 

Choosing your Areas of Focus is an important undertaking. Just think about what's most important to you. Limit your AOFs to no more than six; four is best for the first time you follow this process.

3. Setting Goals for Each AOF

Brainstorming your goals is critical. The three goals you see listed under each AOF on my goal sheet are the result of brainstorming a much longer list of possibilities. After I did a brain dump of all possible goals for each AOF, I then chose no more than three. In my case, six AOFs would result in a maximum of 18 goals. That's a lot, but I've been doing this a long time and even taught an entire class on goal setting during my years on academia. Try to limit your goals to two for each AOF. 

Here are five tips for choosing appropriate goals:

TIP: Only choose goals that you can incorporate into your current life. For example, if you're a university student, a goal to start a million-dollar business isn't going to be something you can most likely incorporate into your current life. 

TIP: Choose goals that support one or more of your habits. Let's say you listed 'Being Kind' as a habit you want to work on in 2016 because you see too much anger in the world and your immediate environment. Potential goals might include smiling at five strangers on the subway or helping seniors by volunteering weekly at Senior Center for an hour or two. Working on the goal reinforces the habit and the habit provides the foundation for the goal.

TIP: You don't have to work on every goal every day.  That's a recipe for burnout if you're not used to setting goals. If you are used to this or a similar process, you can work on some goals every day. For example, my goals of reading 24 books, meditating and doing yoga daily are perfect for incorporating on a daily basis. But traveling internationally isn't. It's good to have a mix of daily and weekly touch points with your goals.

TIP: Choose goals are really fun to achieve and that will really benefit you. When you love something, you want to spend time on it. So choose a goal that really lights you up and you'll naturally want to work toward achieving it. 

TIP: Choose an accountability partner or a Goal Buddy. Achieving goals in life aren't for wimps. We all need support. Goal buddies can provide that support. They can mean the difference between getting support in tough times and abandoning your goal altogether. You might not need a goal buddy for every goal, just the ones that are most likely to be challenging...like quitting smoking or doing ab crunches every day. ;-)

More pages from my Bullet Journal used to explore my goals for 2016. I used successive pages to line up my goals with outcomes and emotional leverage guides.

4. Creating Outcomes and Emotional Leverage

How to use measurability and emotion to achieve your goals. Key to making goals measurable and relevant is the use of anticipated outcomes and emotional leverage points.  Anticipated outcomes are expressed in short statements (or longer ones if you prefer) that will set a metric for successfully achieving the goal.  Emotional Leverage points are critical as they provide the Why that supports the What

If your 'why' is emotionally important, the 'what' will take care of itself."

Make your outcomes and leverage points personally meaningful. If you spend the required time to make these very personal, you'll be internally motivated to work towards achieving each of your goals. That's my totally secret sauce, by the way. Shh...don't tell anyone!

5. Pulling It All Together with New Routines

I don't see anything wrong with a routine as long as you enjoy it and it doesn't exert a negative effect on you or others. In fact, achieving your goals for the year demands that you look at and alter your routines to incorporate the steps you'll be taking to achieve each goal.  

For example, a goal of reading 24 books this year needs daily attention and so I'll read for approximately two hours each day. I love reading so it will seem effortless. On the other hand, traveling internationally isn't something that demands daily attention...perhaps weekly attention is all it will need.

6. Assessing Your Progress and Adapting to New Realities

When you're driving a car, you check in with your speedometer every so often to make certain you're not speeding. You also check your fuel gauge to make certain you don't run out on some desolate stretch of highway. Similarly, it's a good idea to check on the progress you're making toward meeting your goals. You can accomplish this using your Bullet Journal or notebook.

Assessing progress on your goals is no different. Rarely, but it happens, you'll start work toward one goal and then halfway through the process, the goal becomes irrelevant. For example, if your goal was to buy a house by the end of the year and then your job transfers you to a new state or country, then your goal might become irrelevant. That's fine. Just move on and adapt to the changing reality.

Sharing Your Goals

Sharing my goals? Are you nuts? These things are private!"

Sharing my goals in this manner are an important part of my entire process. It sets it all in motion, so to speak. It creates the ultimate accountability. You don't have to have a website that displays them to the world like I do, however sharing your goals with a trusted friend or significant other is a good idea. It allows you to get feedback and encouragement...depending on whom you choose. 

Choose the right accountability partner and chose your own rules. When you ask someone to be your accountability partner, you get the set the rules for accountability. Invite someone you trust to partner with you and give you feedback. Feedback isn't about being critical, but supportive. Ideally, choose someone that also chooses you to be theirs.

Good luck! Set some goals and make it yours! 8-) 

21-Day Intermittent Fasting - Reporting of Results

This is a follow-up post on my results from taking part in a 21-Day Intermittent Fasting Challenge that I wrote previously about here

If you're new to this idea, the program involves fasting overnight for 12 hours for a few days, then lengthening the number of hours you fast over a 21 day period culminating in a 24-hour fast on day 21. It sounds like it would be torture, but it wasn't.

Quoting from my earlier post on why people voluntarily take on a challenge involving Intermittent Fasting, here's why I did this:

The science says that at the terminal end of our regularly recurring daily fasts, while we sleep, fat burning occurs more efficiently. However, most of us wake up and consume a donut, a bowl of sugary cereal, some fruit, toast, or some other form of carbohydrates and we end the fat burning right then and there.

Intermittent Fasting (IF) prolongs the fasting time beyond the normal sleep period of 6-8 hours to a progressive 12, 14, 15, 16, 18, 20, and 24 hours over a 21 day period, and by doing so I can boost my fat burning, resulting in an additional fat loss.

My top 3 insights

Whenever I undertake a personal journey of any kind whether it be losing weight, exercising, or looking for a job, I tend to learn more about myself in the process. The results are important, but even more meaningful are the lessons learned along the way.

What did I learn about myself in the process of fasting for three weeks? My top three insights are listed below:

1 - I don't need to eat breakfast. For decades, I've practiced the same morning routine when it comes to the first meal of the day. I bounded out of bed, made my signature pour-over coffee, and started cooking breakfast, usually consisting of eggs, perhaps a meat like bacon or sausage or my favorite, leftover fried chicken and eggs. OMG! So good! I'd then sit down, gobble it up and get on with my day.

Insight: My eating is largely linked to both habit and boredom, and not hunger. Animals eat only when they're hungry, yet we humans eat for all sorts of reasons. A study I read in college/university stated that humans eat more frequently if food is available, free, and presented in an attractive manner; further it found that if food is plentiful, people will consume more than their usual amount in one sitting. I can say I'm more conscious about why I'm eating now. If it's not due to hunger, I reconsider the choice. 

2 - I eat far more than necessary to maintain optimal health.  Most eating behaviors are a function of habit, as I described above. We tend to eat at the same times each day with little variation. That's not a bad thing, just an observation. We also tend to eat the same amounts at every sitting and this can be a bad thing. It's a bad thing because we don't need to eat these massive amounts of food to stay alive. We can get by on far less. Those who moderate their intake quantities are usually less obese and healthier overall.

Insight: Taking part in the IF challenge revealed to me just how little food I need in comparison to the amount I usually consume. I no longer eat breakfast and I don't get hungry until about 11am after a 16-hour fast. This feels normal to me now. When I do eat, I try to eat something light in carbohydrates and heavy in fat/protein. I keep a ready supply of walnuts and other mixed nuts handy for a snack mid-afternoon and then eat a keto-friendly dinner. I'm quite content eating only two meals per day in this manner.

3 - IF is a more effective weight-loss method if you're not already losing weight. After losing 30 pounds on the ketogenic plan, I plateaued. My weight loss stopped and even though I was still eating according to the plan, I wasn't gaining or losing. I started the IF to see if I could break through and open the gates to more weight loss. 

Insight: I lost four additional pounds in 19 days. That, to me, was a key breakthrough and key insight—not so much for the effectiveness of IF as a weight loss method—but that I need to periodically aler my nutrition routine in order to keep losing weight. Some of the other guys taking part in the challenge had similar results. In my opinion, it's all about how many carbs you eat. If you want to lose weight, you have to cut the carbs. They keep you hungry and fat.

Will I do IF again?

I've just surfaced from a two-week period of long work days that included a week of business travel. It afforded little time for planning my meals. My plan is to get back on the ketogenic plan and observe its guidelines as religiously as I initially did in the early months of my journey for about 30 days and then undertake another IF challenge.

I'll report back on how this works.

The 30-Day Live-Like-You-Travel Experiment

  

You know the feeling

You lock the door behind you, sling your bag into the trunk of your Uber or taxi, and head to the airport with everything you need in your carry on suitcase or backpack. You have a spring in your step and an energy that's simply infectious. You tip your driver a bit extra because of how great you feel.You bound past the curbside check-in and go directly through security and arrive at your gate well in time for your flight. You break out your book or just engage in some people watching while sipping a nice cuppa. or... You lock the door behind you with a furrowed brow because you're almost certain you forgot to pack something vital into one of your three suitcases— suitcases that will end up costing a fortune to check to your destination. Just to be sure, you unlock the door, make a quick trip through every room one more time but don't find anything silently shouting, 'You forgot me!"A honk on a car horn interrupts your search-and-rescue operation; your Uber driver is waiting. Hurried, you leave the house and lock up, still uncertain that you've got what you need. You get into the car and take off, mildly agitated while wracking your brain for a clue to the identity of the forgotten whatsit. You arrive at the airport, clumsily schlepping your three cumbersome bags to the curbside check-in while virtually pinky-swearing to yourself and any attentive travel gods that you'll change your ways so as to never again experience this level of travel frustration. 

If you had to choose ...

If you had to choose one of these scenarios for your next trip, which would it be? Of course, we both know you'd choose the first one. You'd have to be a lunatic to choose the second scenario...and yet... we all have chosen the second option repeatedly.Why?

In my opinion, it's because we have too much stuff in our daily lives.

Because we're used to living on a day-to-day basis surrounded by a metric ton more stuff than we truly need, when we leave the house with only the essentials we feel like half of our life is missing. Probably more than half.

How to know what's essential

How do you sift through the layers of emotional attachments you've formed to your belongings to uncover those that actually matter...those that are truly essential? It's not easy, but it's very possible.I have a brief life experiment for you to undertake in order to gain this valuable knowledge. It's a great way to become aligned with your desire to live with less. Further, it will change how you feel about the rest of your stuff for-ev-er.  8-O Are you ready? Let's begin...

The 30-Day Live-Like-You-Travel Experiment

Think about the last time you traveled with only what you needed for your trip...just the essentials. Can you recall such a trip? If you can, I'll bet it was one of the most memorable. And, I'll bet it was because you weren't encumbered by a ton of luggage and belongings that you needed a spreadsheet to track.I routinely travel for business. If I can help it, I travel with only one bag. I do so because I love the way I feel when I'm carrying only my essentials. If I find that I've forgotten anything, like I did yesterday when I was in Salt Lake City, I can easily obtain whatever is missing within 20 minutes and usually for less than $20.Hair gel: Yesterday I forgot my hair gel. But rather than buy a small travel size (the very size of the item I left in my bathroom at home in California), I decided to forego my usual look for the default Baz hairstyle.And you know what? No one cared, including me.

How to get started

You can easily get started living like you travel, by purposely living with only the essentials. Here's what to do to run this experiment.

  1. Get out a suitcase, even a large one if you prefer
  2. Pack as if you were going away for a month
  3. Close up your suitcase
  4. Live out of this suitcase for the next 30 days; Yes, you can wash your dirties but wear only the clothing you packed in your suitcase
  5. If you truly need something (other than household utensils, pans, etc.), obtain it and place it in your suitcase, keeping a list of such items
  6. Don't use anything that doesn't have a place in your suitcase
  7. At the end of 30 days, go through your suitcase noting items that you used and didn't use
  8. The items you used are your essential items for living day-to-day
  9. CELEBRATE KNOWING THIS ABOUT YOURSELF - just not by shopping for more crap you don't need

What you'll learn

By taking part in this experiment, you'll most likely learn that you have what it takes to live like you travel, with only your essential items. Then, and only then, will you be empowered to jettison your extraneous possessions.

This knowledge is the cornerstone of your evolution as a minimalist.

If you used a large suitcase during your 30-Day Live-Like-You-Travel experiment, that's OK as it can be the first step in your journey. The next time you run this experiment, try a smaller case...and donate or sell your larger one.You'll probably come away from this experiment with confidence and a new perspective on all the other stuff currently in your possession.Good luck and if you undertake this, be sure to tweet about it using the #livelikeyoutravel hashtag!