The Thirty Day Challenge

I signed up for Cal Newport’s email list and as one of the introductory emails, I received a “Thirty-Day Challenge” to focus solely on one project. Nothing else. I was challenged to limit it to just one project.  Note: I mentioned his books here

It’s an intriguing idea. I decided one of things I’ve long wanted to do was update all of my gardening ebooks. Make sure the formatting is consistent across all the ebooks, get improved covers uploaded and get back to testing them.

For the month of January 2022, that’s what I’ll be doing – upgrading all my ebooks. 

I”m also looking at other projects I can tackle in a 30-day window. 

And I’m only taking on one project at a time.

These are the possible 30-day projects I’m considering. Some may last  longer or be shorter than 30-days – I’ve already decided I can repeat a big project over multiple 30 day periods. But as nothing is carved in stone (not yet anyway – see the left hand column, bottom, for stone carving) I will modify the list as I go. It’s one of my “works in progress.”

my 30-day project board

Wrinkles 

You’ll see the 30 Days To Fitness is off by itself. That’s a mandatory one I’m not giving myself an option to ignore. 

In months where the number of days isn’t 30, I’ll modify the challenge to the number of days in the month.  I can track directly on a calendar hanging beside the white board (check mark on the days I hit my goals.) 

Bottom Line

I’m rather pleased with this process (for the moment). It allows me to focus on one area at a time and two things spring to mind.

  • I can continue with any given area for more than 30 days – repeating as I wish and
  • If something goes “south” it’s not the end of the world as I’ve only invested 30 days in that project.
  • Having a well-defined focus for a short period means I can relax knowing I can modify anything in the near future.

If you’re interested in following along as I report on this project (and others) click here

Messing With My Memory

Here’s a recipe for making a mess of one’s memory.  I did it so you wouldn’t have to. And yes, I took one for the team. 

In no specific order, I give you the ingredients:

  • Take one pandemic with high stress levels.
  • Mix in a dash of aging.
  • Add massive amounts of addictive news as U.S. empire implodes.
  • Don’t socialize except digitally.
  • Research increasing my social media exposure to drive book sales using advanced software.
  • Adopt a full schedule of social media in a test to see increased book sales result. Abandon it several months later (interesting results not relevant here but a lot of time, energy and short term thinking invested.) IMHO social media is time and brain-sucking software
  • Don’t see family. Miss all more than can be described.
  • Add 20 pounds of chocolate to one’s waist.
  • Blow major leg muscle doing my younger-man-than-you hobby of dry stone walling. Gain proficiency in couch-surfing but reduce my to-read-someday list.
  • Reduce meditations – because why not?
  • Stay in old, poorly-insulated three-season cottage for four seasons because borders are closed. Physical stress? What physical stress?
  • Use iPhone GPS for all driving to schedule ferry terminal arrival rather than have to wait extra time. (I relied on the iphone software rather than the clock in the car and my head.)

  • Write all the above on paper.
  • Think about it seriously.  

Fail.

The Bottom Line: Fail?

Fail? What do you mean “fail?”  That’s not a word I’m accustomed to.

Thinking about it, I realized I had remapped my brain to an extremely short term, social media, 300-word post level of work.

I was horrified. (How do I write books when I think in 300-word blog microbursts?) The appalled look on my face reflected back at me in the mirror that morning.

Note: The brain remaps itself to deal with what it’s presented – yes, even an adult’s brain – and is not a fixed system. This is true for all ages according to all the research I was able to find. 

Even Worse:

I was even more concerned when I realized  – as a digital senior citizen – I was offloading my memory (in things like research, notes, to-do lists and scheduling appointments etc.) both short and long term – to sync across all my electronic devices.  Without the devices, I would be…  

There is room here for a discussion about whether offloading information compared to remembering it is something that’s common and beneficial in our society across multiple age groups and whether this has advantages as well as disadvantages.  

In my case, I found it disturbing when I discovered I was offloading my short term memory to a digital device but a younger person who grows up with this offloading may be less concerned.

For Me:

I asked my brain to do short term work and find information online, and it became extremely efficient at doing this in extremely short times.

I was not asking it to a) remember that information or b) think deep thoughts so that capacity was reduced. 

So Now What?

  1. I’m rereading Newports ‘Deep Work’ book (paper edition) and his Digital Minimalism book (paper) and I’m making copious handwritten notes in a new Doug 5.0 workbook.
  2. I’ve cut way back on short term projects such as social media posts and the software to accomplish this. (My personal health takes precedence over business health.)
  3. I’m writing first drafts of my work using a fountain pen including blog posts such as this one. This forces me to slow down, think more deeply and forms an association with the written word and hand-eye coordination. 
  4. I’m also forcing myself to slow down my reading by making hand-written notes as I progress through my reading list and book piles. I note I’ve been a native speed reader since I learned the alphabet – so this is one of the more difficult tasks I’ve set myself.
  5. I’m investing in paper books wherever possible to avoid digital inputs. (Which is somewhat ironic considering all my work is now online.)
My to-read pile

The Process

Only once the first draft is finished on paper (I write every second line to give myself editing space) will I transcribe those notes via voice dictation to Scrivener software. 

I’ll do the second edit, spell check etc and then cut and paste to the Net or into ebook formats and the job is done. 

Note the initial brain work is (now) all done by hand rather than electronically.  It’s much slower but it’s apparently healthier. At this stage of my career, I’ll vote for health over productivity any day.

But How Long Does It Take To Remap An Adult Brain?

The data I found suggests it takes three to four months for an adult brain to remap itself.

I’ve set the calendar. 

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Postscripts

Back in the day, I worked in a psychiatric hospital so have some experience with mental issues. I suspect it will be tempting for physicians to do a lot of testing on seniors for Alzheimers (hey, the boomers are aging although we may not admit it)

At issue now, imho is the level of connectivity for individuals because the higher the level of connectivity, the potentially lower performance of short term memory.

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Jerod Morris over at Copyblogger wrote a great post on this subject. It’s well worth reading given it’s coming from one of the Net’s leading experts on delivering great information. If you read nothing else on the subject, this is the note.

I also wrote a post here about internet attention deficit and your memory. And quite frankly, I’ve slipped back into multiple info-streams albeit at a much lower rate than before but… (Another bad habit.. sigh)

Thanks for reading to the bottom. (And congratulate yourself for being one of the few readers to do so because short and sweet on the Net still rules) But now you know why…

Click here if you want to be advised when I publish something new.

Don’t Start Your Seniors Fitness Program Like This

I started my Doug 5.0 seniors fitness programme off with a bang, setting the goals, starting the workouts, and learning (thanks to some introductory yoga videos), my body really wasn’t flexible.

At this point, I would have shared my goals with you. Indicated how many pushups, situps etc I was doing and inviting, encouraging you to join me at your own level.

Well….

My leg injury put me out of the picture for any kind of exercise – the pain was significant with just walking – never mind knee bends or supporting myself in pushup position.

The numbers of all those things are now zero or close enough to it that I’ve put that on my daily notes. I can do zero pushups, zero situps, zero squats, and …. You get the picture.

My fitness is so bad (and my leg still hurts a bit) that I hesitated to write this post, never mind share my embarrassing numbers. Seriously, I put off writing this post for as long as I could but then decided wtf, this is part of life so get over yourself and get on with it. In for a penny, in for a pound – as my grandmother used to say.

It’s Easy To Forget You’re A Senior

I forgot for a brief moment I was a senior and had to be kinder to myself (the little voice in my head has been unrelenting this past few weeks) when it came to limitations.

For example, here’s a link to my post on deconditioning or what happens when a senior loses fitness for any reason. I can confirm to you this process is very fast. Sigh…

A simple thing like my muscle sprain led me to lose a significant amount of muscle mass.

It’s humbling. Very humbling.

How’s The Leg?

It’s not 100% yet but I did start walking yesterday – it was sore afterwards and again this morning as I write – so I’m still taking it easy and not going for a fast walk (more like an amble) 🙂 But at least I rebooted the fitness project albeit at an extremely basic level.

In the coming weeks, I will (slowly, very slowly) expand the health and seniors fitness work and I’ll report on both the fitness and emotional impact of injuries “soon.”

You can follow along with this and other stories and “stuff” I write by clicking here

Setting The Objectives For Doug 5.0

So this is where the rubber meets the road. It’s one thing to write about doing a self-experiment and it’s quite another thing to post the starting points and report on the embarrassment of my lack of fitness.

The voice in the back of my head chuckles at my discomfort and points out the end points to this project will be different if I can keep my act together. And knowing I’m going to have to write and post both the successes and failures has a serious motivating effect.

Physical Objectives

These are the easiest to identify but potentially the most “interesting” to discuss.

Weight:

Back down to playing weight in university at 185 pounds but ideally anywhere below 180 to high school playing weight.

  • Currently 201 thanks to a year of Covid popcorn eating.

Note I have a mesomorphic body type (shorter, thicker). Think football running back rather than long-distance runner or basketball player. These types of body weights are almost always heavier than the recommended health guidelines for the age/sex your doctor will quote.

Fitness Targets

I have no idea where to begin on this so I’m picking what I hope are very low fitness numbers and working up from there.

I expect to exercise strength and cardio 3 times a week and do Yoga (flexibility) 5x week.

I’m keeping the numbers in old-fashioned paper notebooks on my desk and I’ll share them as I develop baselines and results.

Walking

I already have a walking routine so will continue doing approximately 2 miles a day for 5-7 days a week.

Dieting

I will eliminate snacks in the evening as a first step.

What about a “real” diet? Well, maybe. There are only so many changes I can realistically make in a short time. If you find yourself in this position you might want to read “Atomic Habits” by James Clear

Note, I’ve put this book on my reread pile and will review it shortly.

Common Problem:

A very common problem in these kinds of weight loss plans is to overestimate the weight loss you can achieve and underestimate the difficulty in achieving it.

And as I said above, taking on too many new habits in a short time is almost a recipe for failure.

The Real Objective

While the numbers are guesses, my real objectives for this first week or two are to

  1. establish the habit of exercising and
  2. avoid snacks.

The numbers will become relevant slowly but surely as the habit sinks into my daily routine and I find the appropriate workout levels.

I’ll report regularly on this adventure – and the amendments I make – just to keep myself honest.

Personal Update on Exercise Programme

I wrote this two weeks or so before it was published.

My fitness project took a whack when I blew out one part of my thigh-muscle (quadriceps) moving stone.

My “exercise” currently consists of: stair work (hobbling up and down stairs to my office) and deep knee bending (lowering myself gingerly onto the couch.) Oh, and there’s marathon hobbling to the refrigerator for a beer, high jumping onto a dining room chair for meals, and long distance running when I hobble out to the car to drive my sweetie for our shopping trips.

I’ll get back to you…

Join me for regular updates as I rebuild my fitness and health levels

Introducing Doug 5.0

Eighteen months ago, my better half told me I was retired. Note this wasn’t a question or a request, it was a “demand bid” and there wasn’t an alternative.  

I’ve spent that time trying to decide what “being retired” meant to me – a writer/storyteller/creator. I even filled several notebooks with thoughts, rants and whining.

But all those hand-written words, (aided by several bottles of ink for my fountain pens and an entire sack of coffee beans) solidified the other day into something I’m calling Doug-Five-Point-Zero or Doug 5.0   Let me answer a few questions to get us started.

Where Did Doug 5.0 Come From?

I split my life into different stages:

  • Infant  1.0
  • Toddler  2.0
  • Youth  3.0
  • Adult 4.0
  • Senior 5.0

Objectives

So these notes report on the things I discover and/or experience – as a creator of a “certain age.”

Will they be useful to you if you’re not a senior?  

  • Let me ask if you intend to be one some day? If the answer to that is “yes,” you might want to stick around.  
  • Got parents?  This may help. 
  • And who really knows – being older may not be a handicap to explaining things of interest to other ages. 🙂

Other Topics?

Yes, I’ll continue to write about other topics as well.

I”m updating a rather large chunk of the posts on this site as well as getting it ready for some other book projects I’m working on.

Random Thoughts On Being Retired

I don’t identify as “senior”. I’m healthy, active and curious. I still move heavy stones around as I build dry stone walls as a hobby so I’m not yet doddering around the garden.  

But yes, the knees and ankles complain when the weather changes and on those mornings, I do feel each and every year. (An active athletic life left some injuries behind.)

And yes, my age does qualify me for senior’s discounts. 

And yes, I’m still trying to adjust to this label (not sure I ever will.) 

My brain seems to function as well as it ever did – in some ways even better – but we’ll talk about how senior’s brains differ from younger folks brains in upcoming notes.

Building Dry stone walls for our garden – this one contains 50 tons of stone.

Will I research topics for readers on being retired or otherwise?

Sure, if it interests me. You can suggest topics by using the contact-me form here.

Other Topics?

l continue writing about other issues as well and you can see those in the menu.

What else am I doing moving forward?  

All of my creative projects are clearly being evaluated again this simple criteria: “Hell yeah or no.”

One fiction pen name has already been nuked and no longer exists.

Several projects have been deleted from my “maybe project list.”  There’s nothing new about this, my project list is as much a work in progress as I am.

As I said, it’s a work in progress (damn, do seniors repeat themselves?) 🙂

All the best

Doug

p.s. you can get updates when I post something new by clicking here

I’m Having A Mid-Life Crisis

I’ve probably said this a thousand times in the past year, “I never thought I’d retire.” Part of that is I’m a storyteller and I can’t see stopping telling stories. Just can’t.

Another part is I didn’t plan to retire. I have no idea how to retire. And I’m not totally convinced I want to retire.

Instead of retiring, I think I’m going to have yet-another mid-life crisis. Having one of those has always worked for me in the past. I’m probably up to ten or eleven of them.

How does a seventy-something have a mid-life crisis?

How does a seventy-something have a mid-life crisis? The answer to that is the same way his twenty-seven year old self did when he built his first small greenhouse on the back of his house. He simply looked at what he was doing in his civil-service, hospital job, tossed every option into the air and sees what catches his fancy as they all drifted down to crash onto the floor.

And yes, some of you may not consider your 70’s as “mid-life.” I have no idea either but if I decide I’m mid-life it gives me far more options than if I decide I’m “old-life.”

So everything – absolutely everything – has been tossed into the air.

The process is simple

The process is simple.

  1. Write out a list of the things I’d most like to do.
  2. Eliminate the impossibles.
  3. Consider what remains.

I’ve decided playing in the NHL is likely out of my reach. For the record, as a high-school aged athlete, I played goalie against a few players who went onto hockey careers. When their slap-shots were pinging off the posts and I’d never seen the puck coming, I knew it was time for two things: 1) get glasses and 2) never, ever get back between the pipes. Both of those things have been successfully accomplished.

Ditto driving for F1 or NASCAR. I don’t think I could afford the laundry bill I’d need after driving at those speeds surrounded by some totally crazy drivers intent of passing me one way or the other. I mean, have you ever seen what a car does when it’s going about 200 mph and somebody deliberately gives you a “push” with their bumper on the rear of your car?

I’ve either driven or been in a car in Toronto, Montreal, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, France and Jordan in rush hour – those were all close enough.

FYI – the craziest, without a doubt, was Amman, Jordan. As an example, I was in a car on a regular city road – two lanes (one in each direction)- when rush-hour drivers morphed it into a three-lane road all going in one direction. Want to go in the other direction? Sorry you’re SOL.

Garden writing?

What about more garden writing? Well, let me tell you a true story. I had a small but specialized flower nursery with about 20,000 square feet of greenhouse growing space (plus some outdoor beds) along with an equal sized retail operation. We grew somewhere around 1900 species/varieties of perennials and 600-800 kinds of annuals and vegetables. It supported the family and it was pleasant enough work to support our decision to live in the country.

I gave a talk to a local group about starting seeds and one of the Harrowsmith magazine editors was also speaking. After the seminar, she asked me if I’d consider putting my talk into an article format. I said sure. (With 4 growing kids, you don’t refuse any gig.)

It took me about an hour to write up my notes into an article. Another hour or two editing it and it was shoved into mail and forgotten in the ongoing nursery work.
A while later, a package from the magazine arrived with my article nicely laid out between the covers and more importantly a rather large (for the time) cheque.

  • My response was to look at the size of the cheque.
  • Remember the number of hours I spent on it.
  • Decide this was far more profitable and pleasant than fixing balky furnaces at 2am when it’s 40F below and you have 10-15 minutes to get the furnace fixed or drop $20,000 of your gross income.

Over the next few years, I wrote more and more to become an award-winning garden writer and never regretted it for a second.

But then the Internet and “fake news” arrived. Sigh…

I’m not getting into a content production battle

Garden writing has changed with the rise of social media and content farms producing garden information. I once met the owner of one of these content farms at a wedding and we had a really interesting discussion over dinner about what his team did. But as a single writer, I can’t duplicate what they’re doing. I no longer even want to try.

And don’t get me going about fake gardeners who promote “solutions” like milk powder for tomato blossom end rot or Epsom salts for damn near every other garden problem.

Getting into a content production battle isn’t on my life list of things I want to do. I’m tired of that fight so while I’ll continue to post, I’ve cut back… way back.

And what about fiction?

I just finished putting both of my pen names on hold. Lots of fun to write but I’m retired and I’m putting damn near everything on hold to evaluate and decide what I want to do. I may bring them back and I may not.

Hence the mid-life crisis (again).

I have other stories I’d like to tell and some tech “stuff” I’d like to play with. I have personal gardens to build, tons of stone to pile creatively, friends to hang with, cool plants to find, books to read (oh, so many books and new ideas!) and a mid-life crisis to enjoy.

There’s a good chance I’ll return to storytelling and writing but…

What’s next? Who knows? I’ll have to get back to you.

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