Being Mindful for 122 Days

It’s been nearly four years since I started the journey of understanding how my attention & focus work. Along the way I’ve learned several things that have been key factors in developing tools to modify my behaviors to perform better.

Most importantly any tools/habits you use or create are ephemeral. The tool may or may not work for you. Maybe the tool works for you for a couple months but then it becomes a hinderance. Possibly even the tool feels like it has always worked but something lets you understand it never really did help. The key thing to realize is your toolbox will and should continually change with you over time. No matter what people say you’re a continually changing person – even old dogs learn new tricks. It’s okay to throw things out and to try new things.

Don’t try to change too much too quickly. This is probably just as important as the first key but it’s not very obvious until you start trying new things. If you try to change too many things or switch a habit drastically it’s much easier to abandon when you don’t feel immediate successes. Instead try to incrementally change towards something longer term.

I’ve always wanted to have a meditation practice and make it part of my daily regimen. I felt it was the one missing piece to my daily routine with exercise that could help curb some of the ADHD symptoms. The problem was I didn’t know where to get started and was really afraid of being a failure. I’ve always had a very open heart and mind when it comes to spirituality – if I couldn’t “get” meditation then that would make me question a lot of things. I realized that my biggest fear was based upon my perception of how meditation can work and look.

Mindfulness meditation is one of the many ways you can practice meditation. Specifically it focuses your mind on being present in the moment – to be aware of what you’re doing but not getting overwhelmed or misdirected by emotions, memories, and other inputs. My husband started meditating with the Calm iOS app to help with his challenges with anxiety. I learned that meditation doesn’t require hours of effort every day and having an app on my phone made the barrier to entry super low. It also helped that he broke the ice by starting the practice and the two of us support each other with motivation to try to get a session in every day.

Today marks the 122nd day that I’ve done a mindfulness meditation – either with the Calm app or on my own. I usually find streak analysis to be demotivating when life gets in the way and you miss a single day. I found after about 30 days of use of the app I started incorporating small moments of mindfulness meditation when I felt my attention slip. On the few days where I forgot to do a formal session with the app I logged a few minutes of time where I knew I was being mindful.

Mindfulness will slip into parts of your day where you don’t expect it. When giving one-on-one reviews with my team I frequently find myself popping into a moment of reflection before the video chat starts. Being mindful upfront brings the memories and feelings of that specific teammate into focus so our conversations are relevant and scoped to the purpose of a one-on-one. In the past those calls frequently were disconnected from the past because I got caught up in the actions of the operational nature of the call rather than the true nature of what they should accomplish.

It only takes a couple of minutes out of your day. Pick a time that is quiet and consistent throughout the week including the weekends. For me lately that’s been in the morning after the dogs get fed and before I have a cup of coffee. On average I’ll do a 10-minute session but try starting with a shorter amount. Calm uses a subscription model but they do offer a seven day cycle for free as well as several other options. There are plenty of other apps out there as well but I would suggest to start with one that provided some guidance narration.

Being mindful isn’t just about listening to yourself. Developing a mindfulness practice will help you realize when your own emotions and memories are preventing you from seeing things external. Think of it like wearing a pair of sunglasses that have been cloudy from smeared sunscreen for years. Laziness stopped you from cleaning the lenses and over time you stopped even noticing the reduced clarity. Mindfulness lets you recognize the cloudiness, without judgement, and lets you understand what you’re seeing differently because of the smudges. You can then choose to clean the lenses and see how the world looks with more clarity.

My Favorite Screenshot Tool – SnagIt

I’ve been using Techsmith’s SnagIt for years for taking screenshots. It started as a Windows-only product but then a Mac version came out. It’s extremely simple to use and has most everything I want for a quick image including cropping, border effects, transparency, and annotations like arrows and text.

What’s your favorite screenshot and annotation tool?

Data from Star Trek playing a violin with a thought bubble containing "Unlimited?"

Limiting Data While Tethering on a Mac

Using Too Much Data

Being a remote worker, I tend to work at home a lot. I also like to roam around to coffee shops and coworking spots on occasion in addition to traveling to meet up with my coworkers. This means I tend to tether quite often and use mobile data.

One of the biggest annoyances I have with Mac OS X is that in 2015 it isn’t aware of tethered vs. (relatively) unmetered connections. I wish there was a mode in Mac OS X that would intelligently back off autoupdates, file sync, and other expensive data operations while on specific connections. This includes when you’re tethered to your iOS device using the iCloud automatic tethering option and WiFi access points you’ve specified as being metered connections.

I’ve never gone over my data allotment but I’ve also probably been way too careful and not been as productive as I could have been. I just want this to be somewhat automatic.

Limit Your Data

I was delighted to discover TripMode recently. TripMode is the missing piece of the operating system to block connections when you’re on a metered data connection. It sits in your menu bar up top and remains inactive until you turn it on or when you rejoin a WiFi network previously marked as metered.

TripMode screenshot

You can turn off individual applications and known services (like iCloud). Each application shows the current usage for the session/day/month depending on what you’ve selected at the bottom of the popover. So far it’s worked well in my limited testing. I hope to report back positive results after the one week trial is up.

TripMode is a kernel extension and therefore isn’t available from the Mac App Store. They promise to not collect specifics about the connections and apps you are making but rather gather general stats about volumes and usage.

Still Check Your Device

After all is said and done, TripMode isn’t the end-all indicator of your current data usage. Your cellular carrier will be able to provide you the most accurate measurement of the data used in your current billing period. iOS does provide usage statistics in Settings > Cellular with tethering being one further deeper in System Services under Use Cellular Data For:.

Please be aware that even iOS can be wrong about the total amount of data transferred. Your cellular carrier’s method on determining bytes transferred may differ from how your phone sees it. Its also possible from tower to tower the algorithm may differ. Ultimately the billing system from your carrier is responsible for the total usage. Usage while roaming or on partner networks can also be delayed for up to a month. Most carrier don’t apply that delayed usage to the month it actually occurred in but rather the month it hits their billing system.

Live Storm Chasing App

Enjoy chasing storms from your couch like me?  There’s a great app called “TVNweather Live Storm Chasing” that I’ve been using to watch live streams from actual storm chasers out in the field.  You’ll see names like Reed Timmer (TornadoVideos.net) and the team running the Dominator 2.

TVNweather Live Storm Chasing for iOS

The app itself needs some work with stability, but the collection of active streams is incredibly handy and fun to watch.  An Android version is coming soon as well.  Until then you can also watch on their site at http://tvnweather.com/live.

Grilling Season with my Range Thermometer

It’s grilling season again (finally) here in Wisconsin.  I got my Range iOS-enabled thermometer over the winter season and only used it once with a ham.  I used it today with grilling burgers, brats and steak and really enjoyed it.

Range Thermometer

The Range thermometer is really fast at responding to temperature change.  The problem I always have with even the best analog thermometers is that once they reach a high temperature, it’s hard to test temperature of meat that may be a little bit colder.  I can move the Range thermometer around from each thing on the grill and not have to wait for it to reset.

The Range also has a great feature that isn’t well documented.  On the silicone cord there is a ring magnet that helps keep the cord under control when you want to close the lid to your oven or grill.  It’s fantastic because the ring is a little bigger than the cord so it can move freely through it.

The application Range built is fairly basic but extremely useful.  There is also a developer SDK available for anyone that wants to write their own apps to work with the Range.  It’s definitely worth the money!