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Watching the Lightning

I've been trying to sleep less, ideally between 4 and 7 hours a night. It's amazing when you get 20 hours in a day - it's almost like two distinctively different days. I feel twice as alive as when sleeping 8, 10, or 12 hours.

I'm still adjusting to it, though. Often I'm slower immediately upon waking up, which is not great, but not terrible. The way I start my day is by stretching and going for a walk or otherwise exercising, then eating some simple food, and having a shower. That first hour or two comes pretty automatically.

But then, I find my energy waxes and wanes more when on lower sleep. I actually feel more alert during my peak moments when sleeping less, but then I hit a low patch of exhaustion for 20 minutes to an hour every so often. During this time, my mind is mostly empty and scrambled.

The danger is that it's easy to get into some mindless clicking around at that point, and get stuck in click-click-click-click online for the next few hours. Normally when my mind is foggy, I like to do really low level admin that doesn't require thought: Reply to routine emails, clean something, things like that. Right now, though, it was a little frustrating, because I have basically no low level tasks to be done. Inbox is pretty much empty, no errands to run, my things are generally clean and orderly. So I was starting to click-click-click mindlessly.

I mixed some instant coffee and went outside. I'm staying on top of Mount Davis on Hong Kong Island, and lightning was striking across the water on the Kowloon Peninsula. So I sat out there watching the lightning strike again and again.

Triggers for Automated Habits

On Tynan

I've had a few friends who've gone through quitting smoking. The hard part, they say, is that certain things trigger wanting to smoke. Stressful situation? Time to smoke. Driving a car? Time to smoke. Drinking at a bar? Time to smoke. The reason that bad habits are so hard to quit is that we have these many triggers that start us down that path almost automatically. A compulsive eater might get into a stressful situation and have a hamburger halfway into their face before they even consciously think about whether or not they should be eating.

The silver lining of this nuance of human nature is that we can also harness triggers to create positive habits. Just as bad habits are so hard to break because of our triggers, good habits can be made resilient using the same mechanism. And just as bad habits are built slowly and incrementally, so are good habits.

I meditate for five minutes every day. As soon as I wake up, I grab my phone and press the start button on a five minute meditation timer. Waking up is my trigger. At first I had to remind myself to do the meditation every morning, but now I do it almost automatically. It would feel strange not to meditate. Just as a veteran smoker is likely to have a harder time quitting than a new smoker, the longer I keep my meditation habit, the easier it becomes to maintain.

There are two main types of triggers: contextual triggers and constant triggers. Waking up is a constant trigger, since I do it every single day and want to meditate every day. A contextual trigger is something that happens at an inconsistent frequency. For me, feeling tired during the day is a contextual trigger. Whenever that happens, I drink a glass of water, because I've found that sometimes I'm just dehydrated and not actually tired.

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