Worrying has become one of my closest companions over the years. Everyone worries, but I do it a lot. Debilitation from constantly racing thoughts of how I could be spending my time, interrupt spending my time. My mind and being is not at its peak when my thoughts are spinning. I do things to try and alleviate this and calm my brain down; meditation, exercise, diet. Over the years I’ve tried all sorts of remedies and recommendations from various sources. I’ve only found a few things that really work, but with a racing mind, it’s hard to keep at them.
I want to change that.
My companion, named anxiety, is not a friendly companion.
What Anxiety is for Me
Being a geek and doing my research, I know I’m not alone in this. Folks in our field of technological creation are generally intelligent and so anxiety is not an uncommon presence. In The Relationship between Intelligence and Anxiety: An Association with Subcortical White Matter Metabolism, it was shown that:
“…a high degree of worry in patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) correlates positively with intelligence and that a low degree of worry in healthy subjects correlates positively with intelligence.”
For me, anxiety presents itself in numerous ways that are problematic towards my happy existence. Anxiety manifests itself physically in all the ways it can: physical pain, knots in the stomach, headaches, racing heart, troubles sleeping, restlessness. More personally alarming to me, however, is the way it manifests itself mentally: troubles concentrating, incomplete projects, inability to be in the moment, troubles being happy, depression. This is something I experience every single day and it is not a pleasant way to be.
The Importance of Destroying Personal Anxiety
First I need to clearly describe why I want to destroy my personal anxiety. I tried to start listing the various reasons as to why I wanted to destroy my personal anxieties. Things like:
- Being fit
- Being happier
- Clearer ideas
- Calmer life
- Better partner
- Better friend
- Live more
- Create more
- And so on…
These are all things that I think everyone generally strives for in life. Enumerating these reasons for wanting to alleviate my personal anxiety, I realized:
I want to be a better person.
I have lots of difficult goals that I want to achieve. I cannot obtain them by being the person that I am. I need to be a better person. With such a great and magnificent world, there is so much I still want to do but I am holding myself back.
Experience working in technology has taught me something very important: you cannot determine success without measurement. My wife bought me a Fitbit for Christmas. The Fitbit is a simple little wristband that measures my physical activity. This allows me to know how much I walk, how well I sleep, and generally how active I am, without much effort. For the first time in my life, I feel like I have a personal API. When I had the numbers in front of me to see how active or inactive I was or wasn’t, I started to feel like there was something I could do about it. Previous attempts at tracking my health or performance went by the wayside since they were manual processes.
I now automatic, actionable data about my physical self and I feel more obligated to do something since I can easily know what the result will be. This has been the motivation of thinking for the past week.
I was eating the same advice I’d given to CEOs and business owners:
“You cannot know how to improve or what to do to move forward if you don’t have accessible and actionable data in front of you to measure your progress.”
The tools that Fitbit offers on their website allow you to create a custom tracker. Having physical data automatically tracked, it makes sense to track other things that cannot be automatically tracked, alongside this data. I plan on using this to allow me to not only improve my physical self, but hopefully track and improve my emotional self and anxieties as well.
List of Anxieties
I had data on my physical self, so I could get started on that, but I needed data on my emotional and mental self. Since there isn’t an easy automatic way to track the mental anxiety, for now that the best thing I could do was create a list. I knew this list needed to be simple and accessible from everywhere. Seeing as how I’m already a big fan of Evernote, I went ahead and opened it up and started a new note.
Sitting for a moment, I began listing the worries that immediately entered my head.
- Blog post
- Personal project
- Wife’s website
- New platform at work
- Existing platform at work
- Weight & Exercise
- Old client work
The last post in this blog was in February of 2013. That means 2013 was the worst year of writing since I started this blog in 2007. Every day I think of finishing a draft or writing a post. I dream of new titles for posts or new content but I don’t actually do anything. I would like this year to be different but I need to be able to measure my progress. I really enjoy writing and I get good feedback from it as well. Along with the other benefits, it’s a no brainer that I should destroy this anxiety and just do it. I need to finish this blog post and attempt to write at least one post a week for the rest of the year.
I have a personal project that has been in the works for many years. Countless hours of research has gone into this product. I get quite a few offers a year to advertise on the site. I have a lot of members and good, consistent traffic, but I can’t seem to bring myself to improve things. I need to start spending time on this project because I know it will be a good investment in the long run and people love the site. I cannot work on this project at work so I need to spend some personal time on it. I must devote at least 2 hours of time to my personal project(s) per week.
My wife works for a scuba shop. Like all scuba shops, they have difficulties scheduling customers along with dives and equipment. I started on a project to take care of this problem but haven’t finished it. My wife asks me for it all the time and I don’t ever make time to do it. There isn’t a huge amount of work needed to finish it, I just need to do it. I need to devote at least two hours a week to my wife’s website until it is completed.
New Platform at Work
I’m working on building a new platform at work and it is consuming me at work and at home. I need to get more accomplished at work and spend more time enjoying life at home and not worrying about it. I love the ease and flexibility for creating gantt charts you can get over at Tom’s Planner so I have a tool to track my progress for this platform. I need to stay within 2 days of planned delivery dates for the new platform to feel good about my progress on it.
Existing Platform at Work
Our existing platform here is profitable and successful. I didn’t create it but I am now the one who will be available to make changes to it. I have a tremendous desire to improve the platform so much that we can’t help but use it all the time for ourselves as well. I want to make the existing platform at work an integral part of our own daily operations.
Unfortunately, I still own a car. I wasn’t able to sell my Jeep before leaving the island so it’s still there. It’s currently being rented but I’m really tired of having to worry about it. I really need to get my Jeep sold. I need to figure out how much I still owe, how much I need to make, and get it done. I need to figure out a solid plan for selling my Jeep.
I have some outstanding debts from folks that owe me money. I am not a confrontational person and am generally trusting so I have procrastinated on this and I think about it all the time. I need to communicate with people who owe me money to balance my finances and decrease insecurity.
Money has never been a strong suit of mine. For the past few years, I have made a good living, but have not been able to save a lot from it. When I do have money saved, I feel more secure and less anxious about things. For a while I was able to put a couple hundred dollars aside in savings every check but with a recent move and the holidays, that behavior has gone by the wayside and it simply cannot. I need to get my savings back up to where they were before the move and continue the habit of saving a fixed percentage of my income.
Weight & Exercise
Tracking the amount of exercise I am or am not getting throughout the day has definitely made me more aware of my weight as well. While we have a scale in the apartment, we have no idea of the accuracy and I don’t want to track anything manually if I don’t have to. I’m excited to get the Aria scale and add it to the information that is being logged. I want to exercise more and be more fit so using my personal tracker and having my weight and BMI be tracked as well will be extremely useful. I want to look and feel more comfortable with my body by losing 10 lbs and reducing my body fat.
Old Client Work
I have an old client that I did web design for who still has a few tweaks they need for their site. I’ve been procrastinating on this even though it isn’t a tremendous amount of work. I need to make the final adjustments for my old client’s website so I don’t think about it anymore.
Since moving to downtown San Francisco, things have been incredible busy for the past couple months. Now that things are starting to settle down and settle in a bit, I need to build a bigger social circle than just work, wife, and cat. There are a ton of possibilities for things around here, I just need to do them. I kick myself every day for not taking advantage of the fact that I live in one of the most incredible cities in the world for the work I enjoy doing. I need to go to at least 2 social outings or gatherings per month.
List of Actionable and Measurable Life Changes
Now that I’ve listed out my anxieties and applied a measurable goal to them, I have a list that looks like this:
- I need to finish this blog post and attempt to write at least one post a week for the rest of the year.
- I must devote at least 2 hours of time to my personal project(s) per week.
- I need to devote at least two hours a week to my wife’s website until it is completed.
- I need to stay within 2 days of planned delivery dates for the new platform to feel good about my progress on it.
- I want to make the existing platform at work an integral part of our own daily operations.
- I need to figure out a solid plan for selling my Jeep.
- I need to communicate with people who owe me money to balance my finances and decrease insecurity.
- I need to get my savings back up to where they were before the move and continue the habit of saving a fixed percentage of my income.
- I want to look and feel more comfortable with my body by losing 10 lbs and reducing my body fat.
- I need to make the final adjustments for my old client’s website so I don’t think about it anymore.
- I need to go to at least 2 social outings or gatherings per month.
That’s much better than a list of anxieties. I can track every single one of them; automatically with my Fitbit and Aria or manually on the same platform, or by simply crossing something off of the list in Evernote. Already today, I’ve gotten responses from folks who owe me money, and I’ve finished this blog post. I’m feeling less anxious already.
Here’s to hoping 2014 is my least anxious, most successful, and best year so far. And here’s to hoping I’ll have the data to prove it.