Monday, November 21, 2011

The Pen is Mightier Than... Well, a Lot of Things

Whew! Looks like rubinating myself (wait, that sounds bad)... spending so much time with Ruby is leaving me less time to focus on writing other stuff. That's one neat thing about writing, it's a truly mono-task activity. You can't really do something else while you are doing it (yes, you can listen to music, I suppose, or you can have the TV on in the background, or you could conceivably hold a halting conversation). In many ways, I use this fact to my advantage. If there's something I shouldn't be doing (fill in the blank on what that may be) I often pull out a notepad to help me break whatever it is I'm doing.

This might seem a bit weird, but go with me for a minute. What's one of the first things so called "experts" do when they encourage someone to get in touch with a bad habit or practice? To pull out a pen and paper and write it down (and in this case, I'm happy to substitute a laptop, tablet or smart phone for pen and paper, whatever makes you happy).

  • If you want to lose weight, the first recommendation is that you write down everything you eat for a week. Amount, frequency, caloric content, etc., it's all game and the more detail you record the better. Have you ever asked why? It's because you really get a feel for what you actually eat. Not what you *think* you eat, but what you really and truly eat. The paper won't lie if you are being totally honest with what you write down.
  • Do you want to exercise more? then take a pen and paper and write down all of your current physical activity. If you walk, track the time and the mileage. IF you lift weights, track the poundage and repetition and exercises you do, as well as the time you take. Do aerobic sessions, yoga, plates, biking, swimming, whatever exercise thrills you? Write down what you do. Be specific. Capture it all.
  • Do you want to really see what you do with your time? Keep a running log in a text editor (or on a pad of paper, or use a tool like rescue time if you want to see what you are doing online).
  • Are you having trouble sleeping? Start keeping a sleep journal and track your to bed's and your to rise's, and everything that happens in between.

There's lots of other things I could mention, but you get the point.

Why is the pen and paper (or its electronic substitute) so powerful? What makes this process so effective? It forces us to step outside of our automatic actions. We have to take the time to pull out the pen and paper and jot down what it is we are about to divert to. When we do this, we get clarity on our actual actions. We see ourselves for what we really are, and what we are about to do. When I am on a diet, I often go back to the "food log" and when I do, the very act of pulling out the pen and paper to write down what I'm about to eat stops me in my tracks. If I actually need it, or it's genuinely time to eat, then great, I'll do so. If it's not, and I'm just mindlessly snacking, I'll stop mid pull, think if it's worth my time to write this all down, and usually decide "naah, I'll pass". The pen defeats the wayward brain :).

Seriously, if you find that you want to conquer an area that is currently getting away from you, or you want to exercise a little more control or "will power" give the "power of the will" the "power of the pen". Let me know how it works for you :).
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