Clean January

Stacking rocks, kaizen.

I am a huge fan of short-term experiments to see what works and what doesn’t before I make a long-term change. I have tried to make changes the way that most other people do, and it doesn’t work for me. Noah Kagan, (CEO of Sumo.com and AppSumo), sent an email about a Clean January group that he was putting together back in December of 2017.  I replied and got into the group.

Most of the people in the group were just going to cut out alcohol for 30 days. As usual, I decided to go for more. I decided on no alcohol, no soda, AND no fast food for the entire month of January.  It went well, (better than expected), but I slipped back into the old habits almost immediately.

When the call came out in December for this year, I knew that I wanted to get back in there and do even more.

Clean January 2019:

  • No soda
  • No alcohol
  • No fast food
  • Journal every day
  • Meditate every day
  • Read for 30 minutes a day
  • 15 minutes or more of some form of exercise daily
  • In bed before 11 PM and up at 6 AM

I scaled way back on my drinking a couple of years ago, so this wasn’t difficult for me. I will write a post about it eventually. It wasn’t that I had a problem with drinking, I just decided that I didn’t need to do it. So I didn’t. At most, I might have one or two drinks a month these days.

The food and bedtime changes are subjects for another post. Today I want to focus on the daily tasks I set for myself and the accountability that helps me achieve all of this for a whole month.

One of the reasons that I had success with this is because I set a trap for myself. I have talked about traps before, and I think that they are great for sticking to new habits. My trap for this is that I said that for every day that I didn’t do these new behaviors, I would have to donate $10 to Trump’s border wall.  

Not to delve too deeply into politics here, but I set this as my trap because I believe the border wall is useless and a huge waste of money and resources. I told some people around me, including my partner, so that they would be motivated to help me stay on the path.

Traps + Support system = Accountability

Without accountability, reaching any goal is infinitely harder. It really is that important.  

Here are the results and notes from the month.

Journaling:

I am a huge believer in journaling. I sincerely believe that it is one of the main reasons why I have any level of success. Journaling has allowed me the insight to get to where I am. I don’t think I would be an entrepreneur and selling would be a much bigger struggle if I didn’t journal.  I write in it every day about what I have to get done, the things that I am grateful for, and how I get past mental limitations that I uncover as I work to improve.

A good friend told me that journaling on the weekends when your role is different is very helpful.  

This made a lot of sense to me because during the week all my journaling is about work and selling.  On the weekends, I try very hard to not work at all, so journaling on those days should be about being a good partner and father.

Unfortunately, I found that I didn’t see much change in journaling on non-working days. It is a small sample size and the benefits of journaling take a long time to realize, but I don’t think I am going to continue for now.  

Meditation:

I have been wanting to build a better habit around meditating for quite some time, but it has always been a struggle for me. Typically, I don’t meditate first thing in the morning like many people do, mostly because I am scared of falling back asleep. I try to fit it in at some point during the day.  But, as is the case with everyone, shit gets in the way.

For the month of January, I missed one day of meditating. For quite a while now, I’ve used Headspace as a tool to help me meditate. I think it is one of the best ways to make meditation approachable to both beginners and advanced practitioners, and the way he describes things is absolutely next level.

I saw a lot of positive change from this practice. I just renewed my Headspace subscription for another year and would like to keep doing it daily, including weekends.  There were many times during sales conversations in the past month that I realized that I was present in the conversation, but detached from the outcome.

Also, I noticed that things didn’t seem to rattle me as much as they normally would.  I can’t quantify this in any measurable way, but conversations and interactions that would normally get me wound up in a negative way, had less impact.

Workout:

I recently started training in jiu-jitsu, and I am really enjoying it.  I currently train 4 times per week in that and do at least one bicycle ride or indoor trainer session per week. That leaves two days per week that I need to fill with some activity.

I decided that I would work on empty handed forms from my former martial arts practice, Kung-Fu, and do some calisthenics and balance ball work on those days.

I got into the meat of a very thick endurance training book over the course of the month that is making me change how I feel about training (book review coming later).  One of the big things is that Training = Effort + Rest, so I won’t continue trying to force myself to do something every day.

Reading:

There is so much content out there that you can spend a lot of time reading and not much time doing. I wanted this goal to help me put more purpose behind my actual book reading, but I also included the time I spent reading online articles and guides.

I would like to continue this practice, but with some changes. I would only count time that I am sitting down with a book in my hands. Finding 30 minutes each day is not hard, but if you don’t manage your time well, you will always find something else to do.

Soda:

Like so many others of my generation, I have loved soda since I was a kid. I can remember being seven and finishing my dad’s Dr. Pepper after he would go to bed. I have tried to quit soda many times, but it has never stuck.

The rules for this experiment would be that I wouldn’t drink anything that didn’t have water as the first ingredient. This would allow me to drink things like sweet tea, (I’m from the south, it’s in our genes), flavored carbonated waters, and soda substitutes like Zevia.  

Zevia calls itself a soda, but the first ingredient is water. If people in the keto community drink it, I think it is okay for the sake of this experiment. I get tired of only drinking water, and even LaCroix and sparkling water get old.

This was easier for me this year than it was last year.  Since the end of Clean January, I have only had two diet cokes. They didn’t taste as good as they used to.

I think it really comes down to being more mindful about what I am eating and drinking. This will be expanded on more later, but the point is that it made me plan more than usual, which made me want to go off the rails less.

Conclusion:

For the whole month, I missed 4 days. A couple of them were for missing journaling or meditating, and the other two were for missing bedtime. The wall fund has been taken down, so I was unintentionally saved from giving money to that. I will find another cause, one that will actually do some good, to give the $40 to.

Overall, I saw many benefits from the changes I made over the course of the month. There are some large adjustments that I am going to work on and some small changes that have been easy to incorporate into my daily life. I would say that this January, despite the increase in restrictions and changes, has been more successful than last year.

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