Soda-Free April: Day 1

Levelling Up and Productivity

When I started 2019 I had wanted to spend every month work on a new challenge or habit. During January I worked on ‘Saying yes’ (no blog post) and was really successful (never done karaoke before…) . In March I didn’t have a particular challenge, but I did work on consistently doing exercise I found fun… Like dancing – badly 🙂

This April I’m cutting out all carbonated drinks! Ironically this become a bit of a problem during my no takeaway challenge back at the end of last year, which just shows how your dependencies can shift onto something else.


1. No carbonated drinks, at all.

2. Juice or a pint or two if I’m out with friends.

3. Drink more water! I just bought a new bottle — nothing fancy, it was super cheap — and hoping to use it at work.

That’s it! I can’t imagine this being extremely hard past the first week or so — I mostly get cravings when I buy a meal deal or something like that, as I would typically get a coke or something with it. I mostly want to cut that out, and rehydrate 🙂

Will update more this week!

Why 2019 Will Be Awful: Cleaning Rituals

Levelling Up and Productivity, Values based living

Every New Year’s Eve, for as long as I can remember, I have cleaned my room from top to bottom, cleared out documents and thrown away items I don’t want anymore. It’s a larger version of a mini ritual I do every weekend — ‘a weekly review’ you might call it, if you’re into productivity communities. When I feel stressed at work I clean up my desk as well, or delete all my emails. A cluttered mail inbox makes my skin crawl.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to clean and minimise. Looking after your belongings and taking care of your surroundings can certainly boost your mood. A weekly review is also a useful tool to get a picture of your week and learn from your mistakes. But in my hands it’s also been a compulsive tool.

Going Warm Turkey on Phones: Week 1

Phone Addiction, Self Care, Values based living

I recently installed an app, Quality Time, to track how much time I was spending on there and what I was doing. I had a vague idea that it was a lot but wasn’t sure exactly how much, and for the last few months I’ve not really wanted to know. But after finally getting diagnosed with having tension headaches that have been plaguing me at work — and finally realising my phone usage was one big compulsion I’d just decided was “fine” for some reason — I figured it might be time to bite the bullet.

12 hours. On both Saturday and Sunday. My work days weren’t much better, and were characterised by multiple unlocks just to check … Something that wasn’t even there?

Taking Stock of Your Life – The Inventory Exercise

Resources, Values based living


The inventory exercise comes from a video by mental health fitness coach Mark Freeman.  He goes into more detail about it in his book but in short, it involves mapping out two things: 1) how you currently spend your time and 2) how you would ideally spend your time. The idea is to gain visibility on where you’re wasting time on compulsions/unhelpful actions, and what you actually value in life. And then take steps to align the two inventories.

I’ve done this at numerous periods during my life, and it’s been helpful to take stock of where my time is going, and also how quickly you can slide back into old habits if you’re not careful.

Here’s my inventory at the beginning of this year. Suffice to say, I was going through a rough time. But nonetheless, very aware of my compulsions and my time disappearing into them.


Jan/Feb 2018

My inventory just after moving, before I started my job. I remember being extremely pleased with myself as my inventory was finally starting to look the way I wished it would.


14th June 2018

And then here’s my most recent inventory, from this week – a few months into this job.


21st August 2018


It’s certainly better than it would have been a month ago; however, I’ve fallen very quickly back into compulsions, rumination, and moved away from spending time where I value. It’s been harder working out where to spend time with work – I need to define my values more in that area. Nonetheless, every time I do this exercise I gain a clearer idea of what I actually value and how that translates into values.


My ideal inventory – Aug 2018


Miniskills Monday: Urge Surfing

Levelling Up and Productivity, Resources

This is a series I’m starting, primarily for my own benefit – where I commit to researching, applying and exploring one mindfulness/mental health skill in depth that week. Or heck, maybe I’ll look into other skills in the future. How exciting.

Anyway, today’s entry is on a technique called Urge Surfing. This is a mindfulness skill pioneered by the psychologist Alan Marlatt, who worked extensively in addictions – however, I learned about it from the book The Happiness Trap. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been lax at applying this one recently.

Why is Urge Surfing useful?

US is a great skill to answer the question of what you’re actually meant to do instead of compulsions, or when your Rat Brain goes a bit crazy trying to jump back on the wheel. Under Marlatt’s view, any urge, compulsion or addiction can be thought of primarily as physical sensations in the body. They are akin to a wave in the way they peak, crash and eventually, subside altogether.

Instead of trying to distract yourself, do something or argue with yourself to make a thought or feeling go away, you tune in to the urge. You embrace it.

The urge may not go away, and indeed will probably reappear quite a few times. But this way you aren’t giving in to the craving or the compulsion, and eventually the intensity will lessen over time.

How to Urge Surf:

  1. Bring to mind of an urge or compulsion you want to engage in right now. It doesn’t have to be a big or overwhelming one – perhaps simply an urge to eat a piece of chocolate right now. Just because.
  2. Tune in with your body, and notice where you actually experience the urge. Your stomach? Your back? Your jaw? Find the place where you notice it the most. The location might not be the most obvious.
  3. Focus on that physical sensation in particular; examine it. What does it feel like? A pressure? An itch? A restlessness? Can you pinpoint where it is? Does it have a colour, a smell, a defined shape? Could you draw an outline around it? Does it ebb or flow, or is it constant?
  4. Notice whatever comes up. Whatever thought, feeling emerges, take note of it (non-judgmentally).
  5. Use this focus on the physical sensations to help you ride the urge. Within time, the urge will probably start to weaken. However,
  6. If the urge starts to become overwhelming, then return your attention to your breath for a few moments. When you can, return to the sensations.

My mindful goal for this week:

My issue is always setting too many goals at once and setting myself up to fail. So for this week I’m just going to practise noticing a single urge: the urge to use my phone.

The interesting thing about this urge is that I will eventually need to engage in this action. For example, I don’t want to check my phone right now but I will need to read my messages or email at some point. That’s okay. But with this situation, I hope to engage in my values to help me.

I might have the urge, but right now I value the work I’m doing more. As such, I won’t check my phone until X time. Importantly, I need to stick to the time I decide on so that I’m not then just delaying an urge to engage in later, but making decisions based on what I want.