The Streaming Diet, plus Saved by the Pomodoro?

Today’s two things come via links courtesy of Daniel Pink. His book Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – has been sitting near my bed for months. Now that I see all the great content on his site and twitter account (@danielpink), I might just be motivated enough to move it up in the queue.

Today I learned:

1. The Streaming Diet:

“Personal Productivity is the new Dieting”

– Daniel Pink

The central concept proposed (linked below) is that information, much like our caloric options, has proliferated to such an extent than an entirely new industry has been created to help us manage the issue. Essentially, he suggests we pile too much information on our plates now, in the same way we started to pile too much food on our plates decades ago.

A useful analogy, in my opinion, and a concerning one.

Despite a multi-billion dollar diet industry, collectively we clearly haven’t figured out food. Obesity rates continue to climb, particularly in kids.

Does the similarity between food and information mean one day ADHD will be the new Diabetes?  It’s been 72 years since McDonald’s was founded and we haven’t yet figured out how to deal with the food in front of us. Certainly in the 6 years since Twitter launched the stream of cool stuff coming at us has simultaneously multiplied and become more difficult to say no to. I have never been great at turning down the chance to super-size my value meal. I am no better at avoiding the seduction of another glance at Twitter, email, RSS feeds…the list goes on.

That all said, I actually had some personal success with dieting through 2011.  My breakthrough came when I translated a trick that had helped me manage a family with two kids, full-time work and a part-time MBA program for 2.5 years. The solution was simple: meticulous planning, diarizing and recording of everything on my calendar.  In translating the idea to food this meant keeping a diary of all food intake via an app on my phone. I set no goals or dietary restrictions, but found the simple act of keeping track kept me honest and motivated. Personal drive immediately and drastically improved the quality and volume of what I consumed. In 9 months I lost about 20% of my body weight – a drastic improvement with almost zero effort.

It all makes me wonder: Could the same “diet” concept translate to managing a information overload?

This seems to me a worthy experiment. So, here is my plan:

For one week I will keep a simple but meticulous checklist recording every time I do the following things:

  • Check my work inbox
  • Check personal email
  • Review my Twitter feed
  • Navigate to Google Reader
  • Click into Google + (accidently of course, because why else would you visit a ghost town every day)
  • Check out my Facebook timeline

If, after a week, the idea seems manageable and promising I will continue my checklist in hopes of seeing if my behaviour changes over time. My working title is The Streaming Diet and March 1 (tomorrow) sounds like a natural place to start.

Link to Daniel Pink: How to Say No…Especially to Things you Want to Do

2. Saved by the Pomodoro? Keeping on task is a problem for just about everybody. If you don’t have issues with it, you probably quit reading this post somewhere in #1 above.

The question is, can a Pomodoro save us from ourselves?

Pomodoro is italian for Tomato, and apparently the shape of most simple timers in Italy, so in North America this idea might gain wider appeal as the Egg Technique (though it would not have the same marketing appeal).

The concept, via pomodorotechnique.com is simple:

  1. Choose a task to be accomplished
  2. Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes
  3. Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
  4. Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
  5. Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break

I find the concept appealing in its simplicity. I also find it appealing in that there is an app for it.

Screenshot from ITunes Canada

I’ve been an advocate of mini-breaks for years and I used them incessantly while studying to artificially “chunk” my progress.  I like the concept for work too, due to the natural tendency to allow interruptions – phone, email, open-door – to impact my ability to buckle down and keep me from critical tasks for the day.

This seems like another worthy experiment for me. I have a sense that the short time blocks might simultaneously make me more productive, and help me with The Streaming Diet that starts tomorrow.

Time to go shopping in the app store.

Link to the inspiration for this post, Daniel Pink: Can a tomato make you more productive?

Link to the “cheat sheet” on pomodortechnique.com

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Fasting Goes Slowly plus Before and After

Just a brief, knee-themed, post today as I spent most of the afternoon under general anesthetic for ACL reconstruction. I consider it a moral victory that I made it in under the wire today by blogging on my phone from the recovery room! Pardon any spelling/grammar issues. I will clean it up post morphine induced stupor.

Today I learned:

1. Fasting Goes Slowly: Apparently a blanket rule applies. No matter what time your surgery is scheduled for the following day, they force feed you the same message: No food or drink after midnight.

This hardly seems fair. I am sure the guy with the 8am booking barely noticed he missed his first coffee of the day, and he would have been in post-op recovery room before his tummy even started to grumble. On the other hand, with my 1:45pm time slot, I had to suffer through the entire morning and into the afternoon void of anything at all.

The worst part of my painfully slow fast was a toss up. It might have been making my kids breakfast – the little ones dined on vanilla yogurt with fresh strawberries and mangos, while I wasn’t even supposed to lick my fingers. I think though, the worst part was the caffeine headache that kicked in at 10:17am when my body realized it was not going to receive the latte that it has grown so fond of. If it wasn’t that, then it was the man in the waiting room openly salivating over his plan for a Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast at 1:03pm.

That all said, the question for me is this: Why is there an across-the-board midnight rule on fasting before surgery?

I can’t find a reasonable resource that explains why my fast needed to be 14 hours when someone else gets off with only 8 hours. In fact, Wikipedia even suggests 6 hours is fine. Without a plausible explanation then, I am left to assume this rule exists because some hospital administrator assumes I can’t do math and count back 6 or 8 hours. Next time I am going to beg for the early spot and then order a take-out brunch delivery to the recovery room.

2. Before and After: A knee looks very different in the morning before a surgeon starts digging around in it than it does afterwards. I suppose I didn’t really learn this – it seems rather intuitive – but I was able to obtain the photographic evidence to back up the lesson.

Before – right knee with all the pieces, sans a ruptured ACL, where nature intended:

After – right knee with a piece of hamstring tendon now fixed in place where the ACL once was. I assume the old ACL (not pictured) is in a waste bin somewhere. The rest is on ice:

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