I thought I have cracked the code to having a good day.
I’ve been tracking my time and activities on spreadsheets since Dec 2018. I know the hours I sleep, the things I eat, my mental clarity, my physical fitness, what I consumed that day, what I produced aka achieved that day (non work related), what my work day was like, what supplements I took, what my digestion was like (sorry TMI), and I rated each day on a scale of 1 to 5.
I came to the conclusion that the days with the highest ratings fall into two categories:
- when I managed to pack a little bit of everything into the day. A little of good food, a little of nice work, a little of family time, a little interaction with my friends, read or learned something, written something — having it all. Where I get new experiences I haven’t had for a while, or ever.
- where I have the most variety of feelings. So yes, having bad experience with my internet provider in the morning and then having a chill night would rate higher than a fully uneventful day. But a truly mundane day after an eventful day would be rated highly as it provides that variety. That’s the maximiser in me.
Another thing I concluded 3 weeks ago is that I almost never rated a day low when at least one of these happened:
If these things happened, generally life feels alright.
Voila. I thought that was it. I have found (Theresia’s) secret to life. The anatomy of a perfect day.
I “just” need to optimise for variance and make sure I cover these things, from primary to tertiary. Seems doable. These things would indicate to me that I didn’t waste today. I made the most out of today. That I felt the day.
But then I had 2-3 days last week where I have multiple of those criteria met, yet I felt terrible. I didn’t feel like doing anything. I wanted to call in sick. My mood was on the floor. I can’t focus, I don’t know where to start tackling my todo list.
But everything was perfect on the paper. Logically, everything was OK.
Well shit, the formula doesn’t work?
I had average of 8.75 hours of sleep (yes it was a week of catching up on sleep apparently), worked out quite intensely, ate well (and was particularly hungry the past 8 days), delivered something substantial at work, got good amount of writing done and actually published stuff, got 3 upcoming speaking engagements, got some social interactions, even received praises for the newsletter (yay social approval / validation), the family is fine (wasn’t fully present when I was with them but nothing bad, usual stuff), had some intentional social media leisure time, took a shower (not really, that was yday wasn’t it?), purchased some supplements online (done personal errands).
Every single thing that I thought will make a good day happened today, and I was restless.
To be clear, I don’t think I am depressed. I don’t feel tired, I don’t feel sad… I was just feeling UGH. I want to pause and take some time to… well I am not sure what I need the time for and for how long, but definitely need more time to get ready for the day. As if I’m trapped in a moving car without brakes.
Then I realised I do have things on my mind:
- am worried about my average calories count the past 6 days (150-200% the past month)
- different things at work I am worried about: team performance issue I need to address, a new initiative that might not fly (haven’t figured out / there are still vagueness on the why and how. hence unprepared and worried about doing a rollout session — which eventually got cancelled and poof there goes my worries), haven’t progressed a stretch goal I personally pitched (and really want to take on as a challenge because having it solved would make my life much easier down the line).
- feeling IDGAF about the work in general. the buzz of burnout is turning up its volume again
- haven’t prepared what to say for tomorrow’s AMA
This time the worrying was made worse by not having the bandwidth to confront and resolve the worries. I usually have enough buffer to give a f*** and just get started.
Burned out and anxious yes, depressed no.
Worrying can cancel a perfectly good day where everything seems to be going right. This is not new news! I have come to this conclusion many times before.
Alongside sleep, peace of mind is my primary needs, apparently.
So: self reminder(!!!!) When things look great on paper but you feel like crap, you’re probably worrying about something.
- Mind dump, trap your thoughts in words. What are you worried or unhappy about? What’s in your mind?
- Look at them and go do other things. Put them in the backlog, let your brain strategise. 24 hours is a lot of time. I usually can sort things out and come up with a plan in 10 minutes if I just get started. I often spend 8 hours worrying about the work instead of spending 20 minutes actually doing the work.
- Everything usually works out better than I expected anyway. 98 out of 100 I go “huh I definitely overprepared and overthought that” afterwards.
My revised list of formula:
Also published on Medium.