Introduction

This journal entry was written by me, Brandon Nolet, in the context that I have sustainability and focus on the mind.

Feeling Low

As I mentioned in my last post I was feeling low and for a while I’ve been feeling like I’m out of control. Not like I was going crazy but just that I’ve been feeling like I don’t have a lot of control over the things that I’ve been doing. In short, I’ve been feeling the effects of cognitive dissonance where I say/think/make a goal stating I’m going to do one thing, but then do the exact opposite of that thing.

Impulse and Discipline

For a while, as I believe I mentioned in the last post, I’ve been mostly just wandering aimlessly without much structure in any of my routines, without standards of how I’ll do things, and without any real dedication to any given direction.

I still don’t know exactly what I want to do with my life, I don’t even know what I want to do next year. But what I do know is that I can’t continue to let impulsivity be the defining part of my character as it has been. I’ve given in to every whim, I’ve let external forces manipulate my desires, and even this post has very little direction. How about I change that right now.

*proceeds to make an outline for the rest of this entry*

Ah, that feels a little better, though I worry how long this post is going to be now ;)

Impulsive Situations

There are a few common situations where my impulses prevail and my self-discipline fails. These situations happen often and practically on a daily basis. I’m sure I can get these things under control, but I’m not sure how. I think meditation might be a good start?

Eating

This is probably the worst of impulses.

I love food, I love eating, I love the satisfaction of a full stomach, but this is not sustainable. Oftentimes I’ll turn to heavy or simple carbs, big part of my diet, because they provide the most instant sense of satisfaction. Breads and starches are known to be immediately filling but provide unlasting satiation.

I know that I should include more fruits and veggies in my diet, I know I should diversify and add more proteins like tofu and certain nuts. I’m so habituated cooking with carby foods, however, that I draw a blank when I’m proposed something like “nuts, shrimp, and tofu” as a meal. I’m so accustomed to using carbs that those are the only recipes I know. Obviously the solution is to try and find a few days a week to cook something novel and unexperienced before. This will require the help of my partner, for sure.

As well, I find myself buying out often, to my financial and health detriment. Because I often forget my lunch at home, or am too lazy to venture to the grocery store to get some proper food at work, I go to somewhere like McDonald’s and feed into my (unhealthy, unsustainable) desire for shitty food. The solution to this would be to…not forget my lunch and stop being so fucking lazy. Also, don’t give in to peer pressure.

This impulse is directly opposing my desire to lose weight/be healthier.

Social Media

I’m sure that some of you reading can resonate with this. You sit down at the dinner table and immediately after sitting down, you hear/feel your phone vibrate. So you tell your significant other that you’ll just check it so your mind can be settled during dinner.

Your SO rolls their eyes and says ok, you check your phone and take care of a notification, replying to whoever mentioned you on Mastodon.

Halfway through dinner, another notification. Now your mind is bumbling about that notification because something unfinished is nagging at you. You can’t focus and ask if your partner would mind if you check it again.

This is unsustainable and it takes your attention away from the now leaving you with very little conversational and mental momentum (I’ll talk about the latter in a future post). I have this problem, absolutely. I find myself not being able to stay in the moment because some online conversation is transpiring and I feel like I’m being left out. Either that, or I feel like I’m being a bad conversation participant.

This isn’t something that directly opposes any of my goals but I feel like it is counterproductive in the sense that it interrupts my flow. I lose where I am mentally and have to get back into whatever I was doing before I got distracted. Having ADHD makes this even harder, more on that later.

YouTube

This is probably the biggest time-waster out of all of the things I do that is not sustainable. I have about 10-15 videos on YouTube that I can watch on a given day that pop up in my subscriptions feed. The content of these videos range between topics like technology and science, to news, to entertainment, and even some rare gaming posts.

The majority of the content that are part of my subscriptions are certainly informative. I wouldn’t be able to say, however, that the majority of these videos are educational in nature. It’s more like fact/trivia consumption than anything with some videos. It’s of importance to me to keep up to date with tech and world news, but I don’t think anything like Massive Back to School Tech Haul is of any importance to me.

I know for a fact that Belle Delphine Farts in a Jar and Sends it to Me is…not something that I should waste any time on.

So what’s the solution? Should I ditch YouTube altogether? Obviously not, there’s some cool stuff there. Should I eliminate a lot of the subscriptions I have? Probably.

I would have listed here the names of the channels that I was unsubscribing from but I felt like that was doing them too much lip service as well as just straight up name dropping. So I’ll just say that I’ve just unsubbed from 26 YouTube channels. Some of these were straight up entertainment, others just tech gadget reviews, and some basically just re-runs of old TV segments.

This should, at the very least, help me run out of content to watch daily, forcing me to get back to work, or whatever.

Lack of focus

A lot of the problem can really come down to a lack of focus. Because I lose focus, and get bored, and have trouble getting back into what I’m working on, I tend to meander on to something else (usually YouTube or social media). Sometimes, that also becomes a time where I impulsively eat. I eat and that satisfies my boredom while also filling my stomach, giving me pleasure.

What sucks though is that when I end up meandering, it’s super easy for my attention to continue to wander. Instead of taking a break I often find myself in a chain of distractions jumping from one thing to the next as things attract my attention. So the working memory is highly lacking in development.

Those with ADHD have been shown to have less executive control due to a smaller or less voluminous frontal lobe region of the brain. The frontal lobe region is, in part, responsible for reward-seeking behaviour, motivation, attention management (including selective attention). As well, the frontal lobe helps in the regulation of impulse behaviour. This part of the brain is highly impaired when you’re drunk. It’s mildly impaired when you have ADHD.

To make things work, I constantly tax myself with a plethora of things to do and projects to take on. There’s always a new challenge that I want to bring into my life. There’s always something to do but there’s always too much to do.

There’s two possible outcomes from this, and neither are sustainable:

  1. I constantly jump from thing to thing to thing
  2. I become paralyzed with choice and do nothing.

I experience both of these and neither give me any sort of pleasure. With the jumping from thing to thing to thing I never get into that mental state of flow. I never end up gaining any sort of momentum and so progress becomes slow and tedious. With the paralysis of choice it’s never a sort of panicky thing, it’s more of a lazy thing. I have so many things that I can do, and don’t have a clear idea of what needs to be done or what the next action in each thing is(thinking of the next actions list in GTD right now). So I just end up not doing anything and turn to one of my impulses.

Narrowing Focus

ADHD is no excuse and I’m not saying any of this is not my fault, but it explains why these are the most pressing difficulties that I have. I’m not sure what to do except structure my routines, my environment, and my thinking around these shortcomings. Reduce the number of potential distractions and maybe even put intentional pseudodistrations that are actually reminders to return my focus back to the task at hand. I’ll be doing some research into how to structure my environment so that I can better cope with my ADHD tendencies. These few things seem worth reading/trying.

Another angle, of course, is to cut the amount of projects I’m taking on to what I’m currently making progress in, plus one other project that’s…smaller and been weighing on me for a while. Those projects include Genera/GeneraList, the 100 day writing challenge, my novel, and the additional one is moving my self-hosting from a VPS to my own in-home setup (more on that in another post). As well, I need to refuse taking on any other personal projects. I have this habit of coming up with different project ideas randomly and then those things weigh on my mental state and just stress me out.

The are the projects weighing on my brain that I’m writing about ditching just to remove that weight. Some will be put on hold(h) until I finish my current projects, some are being completely ditched(d):

  • I was going to build my own desk (h)
  • I was going to build a desk PC (d)
  • I was going to sell decommissioned HW from my job (d)
  • Hosting self-hosted projects for others as a business (d, maybe)
  • Digital Parental Prudence (miniseries teaching parents about the dangers of the digital world)
  • Homemade Mycroft device
  • publishing my college tech manual (h)

For any of the ditched/held projects, feel free to ask me about them either through email or on the fediverse. I’m glad that I’m formally writing off these projects in this way because I feel like it’s going to remove some of the mental drain that they’ve been having on me.

Conclusion

Hopefully this narrowing of focus and less informal personal evaluation will help me feel like I’m more in control. I hope that cutting down on the options of what I can do will help me concentrate on the things that I know I should do. I hope that I’ll have more of a desire to go outside and enjoy the weather. I haven’t biked in a while, that might be nice to do.