Thursday, March 3, 2016

My Intellectual Health

As my life continues to get fuller, time for myself continues to decrease.  Most recently, this has been the addition of my third child Nolan.  Of course I love him dearly, but that doesn't negate the fact that there is no free lunch.

With less time to myself, I have thought more about the various ways in which I spend my time and what purpose they serve.  Some of them are more selfish, while others fill me up so that I can continue to pour my life back into others.

Below, I have listed seven categories that consume my time.  The list is roughly sorted by the following criteria: (1) what keeps me alive and (2) decreasing order of how much time is spent in each category (and, getting rather meta, the order of the items in this list of length two is also intentional). Each item also includes two words to describe what my mind is like when I don't and do (respectively) get enough time for that item. After the list, I give examples from my life of something in each category.
  1. Time to eat (good) food
    1. Scale from distracted to focused
  2. Time to sleep (without interruptions)
    1. Scale from cloudy to clear
  3. Time to rest
    1. Scale from distant to near
  4. Time to learn
    1. Scale from stale to fresh
  5. Time to understand
    1. Scale from messy to organized
  6. Time to share knowledge
    1. Scale from full to empty
  7. Time to exercise
    1. Scale from dull to sharp

1) I would hope that this category is self explanatory given that everyone spends a significant portion of their time eating as well.  But I promised examples, right?  I have been eating more salads lately, including making them at home.  My preferred salad has everything in it, and it is not uncommon for me to prepare the salad for 30 minutes (and then eat it in 15 minutes more).  A second, more selfish, example involves my kids.  When they ask for more food, I usually take one more bite of my food before getting up.  Those seconds preparing that bite were spent on me, not them.

2) Almost everyone sleeps, so this should be rather clear as well.  Nevertheless, on to the examples.  Sleeping at night really doesn't need any further explanation.  If I don't get enough sleep at night, I can take naps, both on accident and on purpose.  When I lay down to take a nap on purpose, I immensely prefer to not need to be awake again before I would naturally wake up, which can vary from one to three hours depending on how sleepy I am.  If I only have an hour to nap, I usually pass up the opportunity to nap.

3) By resting, I literally mean not moving, especially in a comfortable position.  Examples include sitting on the couch, sitting down or laying awake in bed, getting my hair cut, or getting a massage.  In contrast, driving a car doesn't count because it is either not long enough to count as not moving or too long to be considered a comfortable position.  Sitting at my desk doesn't count either, even though I rock one of the most ergonomic chairs.  In addition to relaxing my whole body, these activities are particularly important for my legs and feet, especially when I am getting little or interrupted sleep.

4) I always want to learn new things, but they don't have to be technical things.  Good examples that would also appeal to a broad audience are TED talks.  I often try to accomplish this while also spending time with Shannon.  For example, together, we have wanted many documentaries on Netflix, watched many episodes of Crash Course (especially World History 1 and 2), and reading books together (especially about food, like Salt Sugar FatThe Omnivore's Dilemma, and In Defense of Food).

5) It is not enough to merely take in new information and facts.  I have to process these inputs in order to understand concepts.  This is probably my favorite thing to do.  Unfortunately, it is not possible to just do this at any moment.  It is a timely matter that requires the right subject and ripe material for my current level of understanding.  I spent most of my PhD studies doing this; trying to deepen my understanding.  I was also spending time in this way when forming the idea for this blog post in my head.  I was obtaining a better understanding of myself.

6) The output here is much more than the facts and information that I learned.  Instead, it is the conclusion of the previous time spent understanding.  Google defines knowledge in part by saying "the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject".  Yes, exactly.  The writing of my research publications and the writing of this blog post are both examples of time spent in this way.

7) My favorite form of exercise is playing pickup basketball (not formally structured with referees and slows the game down and causes people to takes things too seriously).  And since this item is last in my list, it shouldn't come as too big a shock to learn that I haven't played pickup basketball now since last summer.  The biggest reason for this is moving out of Madison, WI.  I had established friendships and gatherings where I could play every week.  Someday I will be at that stage again in my new home of Coon Rapids, MN.  In the meantime, my formal exercise has been limited to shoveling snow, picking up trash in my neighborhood, and a walk around the block the other day.

Now that I have spent the time for myself to write this, I'm ready to go pour into other lives again.