Life, Technology

ともだち

Last year I had the wonderful opportunity to utilize my stage skills and teaching background for the Tomodachi Summer 2013 SoftBank Leadership Program. The gentleman running the program stateside reached out to my previous employer and other startups in the area to find folks willing to volunteer and I was more than eager to oblige. During the experience, I learned a lot about myself, a lot about the kids, and discovered how entrepreneurship differs so wildly around the world.

“You’re going to do what?

This was the common response from my co-workers, friends, family, and basically everyone else. I was going to be delivering a 60-90 minute presentation, in English, and have it translated on the fly, to a bunch of high-school aged students from Japan. This sounded like madness to some. I was a teacher for many years and I’ve been an actor professionally or otherwise, since I was a child. This opportunity was definitely going to be different but I was up for the challenge and I’m so glad I did it.

Leading Up to the Event

Working with the organizer for the event was a lot of fun. My day with them was going to be sort of a culmination of everything they had learned throughout the program so I knew it needed to be fun and interactive. We came up with ideas and brainstormed and ultimately decided on the following itinerary for my day with the kids:

  • Presentation at UC Berkeley in the morning.
  • Sushi lunch with them in the afternoon.
  • Bus them over to the company I worked at and give them a tour.
  • Get a big group photo with the kids and their surprise new shirts.

I was able to get some logos together, and we were able to get some cool shirts together for the kids featuring the Tomodachi logo, as well as other logos of companies that had helped with the initiative. Ultimately, it was an incredible success.

Translated on the Fly

The presentation itself was a lot of fun. I had hoped to be able to deliver my deck to the translator prior to meeting him, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. I had not ever given a presentation that was translated into another language on the fly. The closest would probably be sign language alongside a performance.

I got to meet the translator for about 20 minutes before the kids started arriving. He was a younger student and was clearly worried about what he was going to do. I told him not to worry; that I was a trained actor and I would promise not to go too fast. We practiced a bit, with me speaking to reassure him that I would speak clearly and slowly. He was able to follow along just fine and was very relieved after our little practice session.

I was still a bit nervous, but that was quickly washed away by excitement as the kids started arriving and the room started filling up. When I entered the room there were 100 or so faces of Japanese students, as well as a few adults with the program staring down towards the podium at the front of the room.

“I felt at home again. I hadn’t been up in front of a classroom for years and it felt great.”

The kids were like any typical group of high school kids. Some daydreaming, some dozing, some paying extreme attention, some giggling, some texting. For the most part, however, they were very attentive; more so than most classes of US students.

After some brief introductions, I was up and it was time to test the waters of having your thoughts and speech interrupted and translated. I began speaking slowly and clearly. I would say a few words or sentences, or convey an idea, and then pause and wait for the translation. We quickly got a rhythm and it proved to be a big success.

Surprising Questions and Finding Answers

I always love the point when it’s time to ask questions because it’s my chance to learn from my audience. The students asked some great questions that showed that they were clearly interested in entrepreneurship, technology, and my presentation.

“You said that you couldn’t live without your iPhone, what would you do if you didn’t have one?”

This was the question that hit me the hardest.

During my presentation I had brought up the idea of organization, and how there are tools and services available to allow you, as an entrepreneur, to stay organized. I mentioned in passing that I had everything available on my iPhone and that I “couldn’t live without it.” That apparently stuck with one of the students and they asked the question of me.

I felt a ashamed. I didn’t mean for them to take it literally. Most of the kids were from broken homes, had lost family members, parents, and everything to the massive damage caused by the earthquake. In Japan, I would later learn, an iOS device is a thing of extravagant luxury to many.

I looked out over the sea of kids, clutching their iPads that were given to them as part of the program, and came up with:

“I guess I would have to build a new one.”

This delighted and excited all of them.

Entrepreneurship in Japanese Culture

After speaking with the students, their advisors, and talking to friends of mine who have lived and spent time in Japan, I discovered that the “entrepreneurial spirit” is not what it is here in the states.

For many Japanese, the idea of wanting to start a business on your own, and do your own thing, is not a commonly accepted one. There, the cultural path towards success is typically about, not creating your own success, but working for the people who have been the best at creating their success. The ultimate point of career, or even a life, would be to obtain a position in a big company, not to own one.

This was evident in some of the questions and responses from the students. Seeing their eyes light up at mentioning the fact that there are resources available for them to learn, to make their own connections, and to start their own businesses was very fun to watch.

The impact on a large portion of the students was palpable.

Touring the Company and Saying Goodbye

When the busses started rolling up and the kids started pouring out, the cat herding began. We split the kids groups. While some kids were busy touring the campus of Pacific Shores, the rest of the students were coming into the offices and getting their shirts.

During their tour, they were able to see the offices of a growing Silicon Valley startup. They went through the packaging areas, storage areas, got to say hello to the designers and developers and got their t-shirts.

Once all the students had gone through their tours, we all got together for a final group photo:

I had an incredible time and would do it again in a heartbeat.

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Life, Technology

Front Page of the Hitchhiker's Guide to Medievia

I stumbled across a website I created 15 years ago, still online. Clicking through the pages brought me back to a very different and beautiful time of the Internet. 1999 was a time where you connected to the Internet to gain access to other things. These days, the Internet is always available, always on, and always connected.

Read on to learn about a time before “The Internet” was synonymous with Facebook, search engines, web pages, chatting, photos, and the phone in your pocket. A time when you had to connect to the Internet.

Technology of 1999

To give you an idea of how people were connecting to the Internet in 1999, here are the numbers for you from a 2000 FCC report, quoted here:

Dial-up, for those of you not familiar, was a connection through a modem over regular phone lines, popular in 3 speeds at that time. 28.8, 33.6 and 56k. Those are in kbps, so for download speeds you’re talking maximums of: 3.6 KB/s, 4.2KB/s, and 7 KB/s respectively. These speeds were rarely, if ever, achieved. Putting that into into perspective: we used to plan on downloading a single song, that’s 1 MP3, over the course of many hours, if not days. Downloading an entire album, as file-sharing was gaining popularity during these times, meant multiple days worth of connecting, re-downloading, and retrying.

The population of the United States was 272,690,813 in 1999. Having roughly 62,186,000 Internet users in 1999, that means only 22.8% of the United States was using the Internet at the time. Compare that to the latest census report stating that 71% of homes have Internet usage.

Most people still connected to the Internet on a dial-up modem and the connection offerings were becoming dominated by free access providers. We were growing from an AOL-dominated marketplace. NetZero had been released the year before, offering the first nationwide free Internet access. They gained 1,000,000 subscribers in just 6 months. 1999 brought competition like Juno Web and others. Free Internet was available as long as you didn’t mind highly targeted advertising throughout the experience. There were plenty of hacks available to get around the advertisements, but the majority of users dealt with them.

“Don’t pick up the phone!”Lost cry of the earlier generation of Internet users.

Deciding on a 56k Standard

The two big sides of the 56k fight had finally come to an agreement and the v.90 standard was born. Previously, you had to pick an Internet Service provider that was compatible with the technology of your modem if you wanted 56k speeds. No more deciding whether you wanted to connect to the Internet as Rockwell / Lucent saw fit with K56flex, or with USRobotics’ X2 technology. Cable Internet was on the rise. RoadRunner was dominating broadband cable access and would be swept up by AT&T the next year in their acquisition of MediaOne. Broadcom, one of the main chipset makers enabling the high speed revolution saw $518,000,000 in revenue for 1999; 12 times what they saw just two years prior.

Instant Messaging

Instant messaging had become an accepted and widespread technology. 1998 saw America Online acquire ICQ‘s user base of 35,000,000 registered users. Microsoft released their own version of instant messaging, MSN Messenger Service, in 1999, attempting to push against America Online’s proprietary technology by touting the IETF standards. This was a massive and odd shift to see from Microsoft who had just a few years prior been in hot water with their Netscape VS Internet Explorer browser wars. During this time, Microsoft refused to let another internet browser interact well with their operating system. Eventually, Microsoft would open an API to allow access to the Netscape folks and Netscape was then picked up by AOL.

Needless to say, drama in and amongst technology companies is not anything new.

Gaming in 1999

Gamers on the Internet were classified by the technology and speed they had available to them. You were either a high ping bastard (HPB) or a low ping bastard (LPB). Most folks were still on dial-up connections. They were happy with ping times having latencies in the 2-300 range. Heck, 400 was okay as long it was a stable 400. Meanwhile, the exceedingly lucky users sitting on connections that were incredibly fast for the time getting ping times of 100 or less. These types of connections could only be found in places like: Internet cafes, in colleges on unregulated Internet pipes, or employees in places like ISPs or technological or scientific organizations. There, you would undoubtedly find fellow nerds laughingly scoring a head shot with ease, leaving the HPBs wondering what happened.

The end of 1998 brought about the revolutionary Half-Life video game. Counter-Strike was entering Beta 5 at the end of the year, paving the way for the oft-remembered beta 5.3. Unreal Tournament and Quake III Arena were at the forefront of modern video game technology. Ultima Online had introduced massively multiplayer online RPGs to the world outside of the glorious text-based MUDs in ’97. This allowed EverQuest to be released in March of 1999, combining an FPS-like experience with the massive multiplayer online experience in a way that had never been seen before. QuakeSpy had picked up a couple more titles and was morphed into GameSpy.

Technology was exciting for gamers at the time as well. The Pentium 2 and AMD K6-2 were still trucking along as great processors. For the first time, OpenGL saw a competitor in Microsoft’s DirectX offering. Direct3D 7 offered hardware acceleration for transform and lighting as well as allowing vertex buffers to be stored in the hardware memory. The first card to take advantage of this was the GeForce 256, an incredible card for the time. Some other cards from the time that will surely bring back memories:

  • Riva TNT22
  • 3dfx Voodoo3
  • Matrox G400
  • ATI Rage 128
  • S3 Savage 4

Who doesn’t remember digging through massive Computer Shopper magazines looking at those things?

The Landscape of the Internet

Connecting to the Internet in 1999 opened up a world of different services and technologies. Whether you wanted to browse the World Wide Web, chat with friends over IRC, instant message someone over AIM / MSN / ICQ, download files from Usenet and IRC or that new Napster thing, connect to aggregation servers to find a game to play, or enter an online text-based world in a MUD, “the Internet” was not what most people consider it today.

Because of the relatively low average speed of Internet access, it would be unthinkable to have a web page coming in at a full megabyte or two worth of content. It would simply take far too long to load. I was able to find some mentions on the Internet that the average size of a site was around 60,000 bytes in 1999. That is 4% of the average page size of the top 1,000 sites today.

Browser Wars

Internet Explorer was the obvious king during 1999 but it wasn’t always like this.

Prior to Windows 95 and the Internet Explorer 1.0 offering they gave in their add-ons pack, Netscape had completely dominated the browser market on Macintosh and Windows platforms. Connecting to the Internet and browsing the web had become synonymous with the Netscape name and their nautical imagery of lighthouses and ship’s wheels. To get all the professional features, you had to pay money for your browser; a ludicrous idea today. When Microsoft started bundling a browser with their operating system for free, things started to heat up. Netscape realized that they had to be bigger and better since they couldn’t compete with the free price. Attempting to beat out Microsoft led Netscape down the road of developing some terribly buggy and horrendous browsing experiences with some versions of Netscape lasting on the market less than 6 months.

Thanks to the bumbling and fumbling of the Netscape brand and technology, the Mozilla Organization was formed in 1998 and the Netscape Communicator 4 source code was made open source which was a massive shift for the time. 1999 was a time when open source wasn’t as well known, particularly at the consumer level.

By February of 1999, Internet Explorer had taken over the web, accounting for 64.6% of traffic. Over the course of the next few years, their market domination would grow until Internet Explorer owned the browser space in 2004 with 95-96% of all web browsing. And we were all suffering through Internet Explorer 6. And it wasn’t good. I still find it amazing how much has changed in the browser space over the course of 15 years.

Content and the Rise of Web Hosting

Just a few years before 1999, the Internet was delivered in the flavor of the choosing of your provider. AOL had a version of the Internet with their own chat rooms, storefronts, websites, and content. CompuServe and others had theirs. Simply viewing HTML-based pages in a browser over the Internet on the World Wide Web was eventually made available to AOL users. But, as anyone who tried to pull up a website during those times could tell you: it was slow, clunky, and not where AOL et al. was trying to get their users to go. This walled-garden approach to the Internet was extremely popular before privately owned Internet Service Providers started popping up, offering simply a connection to the Internet. What you did once you were connected was up to you. This was a very different idea than the CompuServe and AOL days.

Before the popularity of shared hosting or even mentions of anything resembling “the cloud,” users of the Internet could find a spot for themselves on the World Wide Web at a number of free website hosts. Exchanging banner advertising for hosting megabytes, companies like Tripod, GeoCities and Angelfire started popping up. These companies increasingly offered more and more megabytes of content available for hosting as time went on. Eventually, they started offering additional features like email, or dynamic HTML elements and applets that would offer things like a “hit counter.”

Being 16 on the Internet in 1999

Before you turn 16 today, you’ve probably already created a massive online presence. Even younger kids have hundreds if not thousands of pieces of content on the Internet; whether it be photos, chats, messages, or anything else. Being in high school, you probably have a presence on multiple social networks. You’ve probably tried to start a a blog or two. More than likely, you’ve got a couple of AKAs on some forums or websites, multiple instant messaging nicknames and email addresses; a different persona, or 10.

Having a presence on the Internet, whether it be in chat rooms, on the World Wide Web, or in a video game, was definitely not the norm in 1999. Tools were just starting to come available to make this more and more popular, but mention HTML or a building a website to your peers in high school and you’d likely be finding yourself amongst the “geeks and nerds” social group. Keep in mind: being a geek or a nerd was in no way trendy or cool in 1999. Being a nerd then was a far cry from the kids today wearing fake glasses and proudly claiming their geek cred, or whatever the hell they call it.

Creating your own presence or website on the Internet was something you had to want to do on your own because there weren’t a lot of resources to help you along.

Web Technologies in 1999

1999 saw the invention of the XMLHTTP ActiveX control in Internet Explorer 5. This new technology allowed for elements of a web page to update dynamically like stock quotes or news stories. This would eventually become the XMLHttpRequest that would power AJAX and the Web 2.0 movement a few years later in 2004. However, 1999 was the first mention of Web 2.0 when Darcy DiNucci laid out what would become the future of the World Wide Web in “Fragmented Future“:

“The first glimmerings of Web 2.0 are beginning to appear…Ironically, the defining trait of Web 2.0 will be that it won’t have any visible characteristics at all. The Web will be identified only by its underlying DNA structure — TCP/IP, HTTP, and URLs. As those technologies define its workings, the Web’s outward form—the hardware and software that we use to view it—will multiple. On the front end, the Web will fragment into countless permutations with different looks, behaviors, uses, and hardware hosts.”

While Darcy certainly had a handle on how services would grow and evolve, she went on to say something that is particularly striking and true of today:

“The web will be understood not as screenfuls of text and graphics but as a transport mechanism, the ether through which interactivity happens.”

Before Web 2.0

But, we weren’t there quite yet. Dynamic content on the web, so far, meant you needed to know some obscure technologies for some CGI handling (like PHP), or you knew Java and wrote massive and heavy applets that users would download. Learning these technologies generally meant going to a book store, paying a decent chunk of change for a book and set of disks (or CD), and sitting down on your own; just you, the author, and the computer as your resource. You couldn’t Google for the answer or head to Github to download a package to do what you wanted to do.

Because of the high barrier to entry for most dynamic programming tasks on the web, services like Bravenet offered different dynamic content that you could sign up for and include on your website. Some entire businesses and websites were built on the backs of such services like Bravenet forums.

Because the idea of a page ranking wasn’t really available, a counter was placed on most websites to list the number of visitors. This was a defining metric of the day, letting you know the difference between some site that someone just put on the web yesterday, and a bastion of information that had become popular and withstood the test of time, sporting thousands if not hundreds of thousands, or even millions of views. Even owners of websites relied on these counters to know, from day to day, whether people were visiting their websites. Google analytics or popular traffic stats packages simply weren’t readily available.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Medievia

Amongst this landscape of the Internet in 1999 is where I brought to life one of my earlier examples of dabbling with technology and programming. Hosted on Tripod, I created The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Medievia. This guide was meant to be a compendium of information for a popular MUD at the time called Medievia. Smattered throughout the pages are my hopes and dreams of content that will eventually appear on the guide, relics of the age of the web before Web 2.0 and many other hilarious things.

Why Did I Create the Page

I’ll let my 16 year old self explain the necessity of the page of the time from the Why page:

“It would contain maps of all the zones, lists of equipment, information about things that you probably don’t even care about, and it would all be created by one man…So, here it is. All of the information. It wasn’t created for me, but created for everyone. Created for all Medievians who ever had troubles finding the answer. I often found myself looking through every single web page in my bookmarks to try and find the thing I was looking for…A place that had all of the information. A place that had everything you needed. In short, a guide to Medievia. Well, welcome to that guide.”

Because there was no Google to aggregate and sort through the depths of the World Wide Web, and Wikipedia had not yet popularized the idea of a “Wiki” for different types of information, it was up to individuals or organizations to compile information on their own.

The only good way you could find a website or content was for it to be linked to somewhere you already were.

While there were tools available to search the web, they were nothing compared to the aggregation and auto-indexing that we see today. I was a huge fan of this particular game and there wasn’t a great source of information about it at the time for newbies or veterans of the game. So, I took it upon myself to do something about it.

From Minimal Design to Content Overload and Back Again

Looking back on my old static HTML code, my lack of abilities to use a database to create entries for dynamic pages, and the overall abundance of text with very little imagery, I can laugh at how we’ve come full circle in regards to web design.

When bandwidth started increasing and broadband started becoming more popular, the web became more and more chocked full of images, animated content, and eventually even more sophisticated media like videos and audio. As technologies became popular and available and the idea of using AJAX or similar technologies to move from static sites and page reloads to dynamic content got more adopted, the average website became more and more cluttered. Tons of images, videos, advertisements, animations, sounds, guestbooks, counters, and multiple technologies became the norm. A couple of years ago, people started developing plugins for browsers because the world wide web had simply become unweildy.

Today, we see designers touting that, at its core the Internet (as they call the World Wide Web these days) should go back to the time when text was the main content and an image or two was necessary. Typography has become the king again and we see minimalist blogging platforms with designs focused around the content and text becoming very popular, even trendy. Yet, as we look at a screenshot of the websites we were creating during the early days, we can see that it is at is always has been:

Spreading Open Source Before SourceForge

SourceForge, what would become the popular repository for open source projects to browse and download, had only been created in 1999. Before it was covered with ads and became a graveyard of old projects, SourceForge was an incredible resource. There weren’t any big repositories for open source software that were popular outside of academic or otherwise small circles of developers. Because of this, users who were gracious to software would often host or re-host tools to get them out there. This type of behavior can be seen on my DerekWare HTML Author page. Apparently, the original website for a piece of software had disappeared so I took it upon myself to re-host the application. From the sounds of things, my 16 year old self would have loved to have been introduced to Vim at an earlier age:

“It’s not a big fancy program with a bunch of point and click crap, it’s basically a window with some toolbars to make your life easier. Once you’ve been coding with HTML for a while you start to not really need the point and click stuff anymore and you’d much rather just type out everything. Well, this program allows for both. It’s easy to use, has some point and click stuff, and yet you can be advanced with it as well.”

Online Presence Before Social Networks

Before a social network was the place to put all of your information about yourself, “A/S/L” was the common phrase in chat rooms. Age, sex, and language, was the basic information necessary to know the minimal details about someone in order to determine whether you wanted to create an interaction. You didn’t see a photo of the person, or get to read over their personal details prior. There was no place to go and find new friends or explore people in your area. Because of this, users would often create a page on their websites that would explain information about who created the content and offer an opportunity for the website creator to put themselves out there.

Here, I can see my 16 year old self, in a tiny little town in Montana, attempting to reach out to someone, anyone else, who actually had a computer connected to the Internet. There were only a handful of people in my tiny high school who even owned a computer, much less one with a modem, and even more rare: one connected to the Internet. On my Creator page, I list out what I feel is pertinent identifying information for the time. Age, height, weight, eye color. I even lament that doing so seems lame, but there really wasn’t any other avenue available at the time:

“So there you have it. That’s me in a nut shell. Well, actually, that’s more like my driver’s license info, but, it gets the point accross(sic).”

Shopping Links that Work 15 Years Later

The name of the website was taken from a popular book called Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Because of this, I created a page dedicated to the inspiration. There, I provided 4 links to purchase the book. One from Amazon, one from Barnes & Noble, one for Borders and one for Buy.com. Surprisingly, two of those links have withstood the test of time, still linking to the correct content! Those links are:

The Internet, Today

What we consider “the Internet” today, the collection of technologies like email alongside the presence of the World Wide Web, has always been about trying to make a connection or create. As we find ourselves in an infinitely more connected world than we were 15 years ago, it’s easy to look around and find all sorts of ways that this philosophy or idea has come to fruition.

Imagine what the world would be like if everyone who wanted to create their place on the web, or connect to someone on the Internet, needed to learn a bit of HTML or borrow a bit of programming to do so. Today, the only requirement for being on the Internet is being born in a place that’s connected. Heck, your parents will probably put you on the Internet before you are even out of the womb.

For now, I’ll leave you with the footer of my old webpage. The contents of which are so indicative of the signs of the time:

Oh the times, how they have changed.

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Life, Work

According to a 2011 study on the subject, around 80% of us still eat lunch at our desks. I quit eating lunch at my desk and not only has it been incredibly enjoyable, I’m much more productive as well.

Everyone Says Don’t Eat Lunch at Your Desk

For the past few years, there have been a lot of articles written about the benefits of not eating lunch at your desk. A simple Google search of “eat lunch desk” quickly reveals articles from popular publications. Some examples are: CBS News with Eating Lunch At Desk: Distasteful, Entrepreneur with Why You Should Never Eat Lunch at Your Desk, or Huffington Post with Is It Better To Take A Real Lunch Break Than To Eat At Your Desk?.

My Previous Justifications

Some of the common thoughts that would go through my head as I would laugh off the advice time and time again:

  • I like browsing the Internet during lunch.
  • I can get things done while I eat.
  • I don’t like eating somewhere else.
  • I’m such a rockstar that I just keep on working through lunch!
  • It’s a waste of time.

Adopting this practice just didn’t resonate with me. For some reason, I was always able to find something to justify ignoring the advice. I thought I knew better, for sure, than some advice in a magazine, blog, or newspaper. Interestingly enough, the first response from a friend of mine was similar to what I usually thought:

“Depends what you spend your time doing. If I feel like being productive, I’ll watch personal development videos and take notes as I go. It’s a good way to consume information when you have limited capability, like when you’re stuffing food in your facehole.”

Scientific Findings Too

I also felt like I could be productive doing other things. Productivity is always a good thing, right? Well, again, plenty has been written to contradict this like Fast Company’s If You Think You’re Productive During Lunch Think Again article. I responded to my buddy, saying that not only were there tons of articles espousing the greatness of not eating lunch at your desk, but also science to back up what they’re saying:

“These results suggest that enhancing meal memory by paying attention to food while eating can reduce later intake and are consistent with the suggestion that memory plays an important role in appetite control.”

From: Focusing on food during lunch enhances lunch memory and decreases later snack intake.

Personal Discoveries and Findings After 1 Week

The very first day I started feeling great about my decision. Harboring slight regrets and arguing with myself using the aforementioned justifications, I went to one of my regular lunch spots, ordered my food, and instead of taking it back to the office and my desk, I wandered a couple blocks in the city to a sunny area where a lot of folks convene during lunch time. Here’s the location near the E*Trade office here in downtown San Francisco:

View Larger Map

I found my mind wandering to other things and realized that I was actually enjoying my food a lot more; remarking internally on how the bread actually taste in the sandwich. Finding joy in listening to the conversations of the bike messengers, glancing over at people sitting and writing things near the fountain, and warming my face in the sunshine, it didn’t take long before I knew I had made a good choice.

Spending Time Outside the Office

Just spending time not inside the office is amazing in and of itself. Spending that time outside eating is just an additional bonus and possible thanks to the mild and consistent climate here in downtown San Francisco. Not only is it just nice to have a different environment for a little bit during the day, exposure to other people and their activities is quite stimulating and fun. I find inspiration from others and what they do so being around others completely outside my realm of normal activities in the office is a great bonus too.

I Was Eating Boring and Repetitive Lunches

By having the office as my place for eating, it had restricted me to a diet that wasn’t particularly varied. I consider myself a bit of a foody, so it was odd to discover I had started this behavior without even knowing it. Because of the geographic location of my office, I had basically created a small circle of a couple blocks as my possibilities for lunch. Without even thinking about it, I would make a rapid decision as to what was going to satisfy that sort of eating thing I was doing every day. I wasn’t actually thinking about meals or choices at all. Since there wasn’t a clear separation between eating lunch and working, I wasn’t really doing either of them well.

I Was Very Wrong About Productivity

I had reasoned with myself multiple times regarding productivity. I had fully convinced myself those extra 30-60 minutes I could spend out eating lunch was better spent towards tasks. I was totally wrong about this.

The quality of the productivity I was getting during those 30-60 minutes was peanuts compared to the actual productivity I feel upon returning from lunch.

I am getting so much more done immediately upon returning from lunch; much more than the 30-120 minute window of productivity surrounding my previous lunchtime activity.

Not only has my productivity increased, but the amount of time I spend in a state of eating lunch or at lunch has decreased a lot. Eating at my desk, I would often find myself nibbling on my lunch an hour or so after I started; sometimes even just an hour before leaving. I was in a state of perpetual munching alongside whatever I was trying to get done. Ultimately, I was doing both tasks poorly. By separating the two, I spend less time in lunch mode but I enjoy it more. I spend more time in work mode not thinking about food at all. That is a great tradeoff.

Separation Between Life and Work

Speaking of separation, one of the overall themes and bigger surprises was how much this practice improved my feelings regarding work-life balance. I’ve never had a job that mandated I eat at my desk, or even in the office. The choice was always available to me as to where, when, or how I enjoyed my lunch. I just mostly defaulted to eating lunch at my desk. However, by not ever exercising this choice, it turns out I was enjoying none of the benefit of it. A 2013 study backs up the finding that the choice itself is a tremendously important part of enjoying lunch at work where they found that:

“a critical element was having the freedom to choose whether to do it or not.”

Quoting the same study, it was revelead:

“…relaxing activities during lunch, freely-chosen by workers, led to the least amount of reported fatigue at the end of the day.”

Exercising my choice in the matter gave me a sense of freedom and entitlement that I wasn’t ever getting from eating at my desk. The choice was still available, but I wasn’t benefitting from it. This feeling has allowed me have greater sense of ownership over my time when I’m “at work.” Summing it all up:

I’m enjoying work more and I’m enjoying life more.

I can’t think of any good reason to go back to the way I was.

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