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Lifestyle

A Letter to 35-Year-Old Me (2020)

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

Bill Gates (1955 – )

Dear 2030 Chris,

This is 2020 Chris and right now I’m 25 years old going on 26. I’m writing this letter for a few different reasons.

1) I’m writing a blog post every week and the other one I’m working on is taking too long, so I’m writing this to publish in its place.

2) I wrote A Letter to my High School Self a little while ago and I thought it would be fun to write a letter to my future self.

3) I know how intensely and harshly we can judge our past selves for making idiotic calls and I want to make it perfectly clear that 25-year-old Chris is trying as hard as he possibly can.

4) I want to provide a list of hopes I have for us and you can let me know if they happen.

First off, I just want to say that I hope I’ve made you proud and we are enjoying the life we are working so desperately hard to get. For the first time in my life, I feel as if I’m finally doing things on purpose. I think it’s because I’ve been around long enough to see the consequences of my actions play out over the medium-long term. I feel like I finally understand the importance and value in delaying gratification, working diligently and consistently, focusing on skills and learning, and dedicating my energy to myself and my own work. At 25 I started taking myself seriously and began working on what I hope to be our life’s work. I’ve finally dedicated myself to making our past selves proud as opposed to other people.

18 to 24-year-old Chris would have definitely let down 12-year-old Chris, but 25-year-old Chris would have blown him away. My thriving relationship (that other people are openly jealous of), my music portfolio, my writing, investment portfolio, and my tech collection are all something 12-year-old Chris would have been way too excited to have and they’re all things that help me feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to. That being said, I hope you are still making 12-year-old Chris proud, not because the 12-year-old version of us is our God, but because staying true to ourselves is what will give us the deepest life satisfaction.

Right now I feel like I’m doing everything I can to make our life as full and beautiful as humanly possible, but I also feel like I’m spending much of our valuable time cleaning up the mess of not only the carelessness of 18-24-year-old Chris but also the carelessness of others. I hope this doesn’t prove to be detrimental. In some ways, I hope I learn to be easier on myself without sacrificing everything that our life could be. I know there’s no way of knowing if that’s the case, but I want you to know that I’m trying really hard. Other people can see it too. Some people think we have it all figured out and our life will be an effortlessly beautiful story, but all versions of ourselves know that the challenges we deal with privately are more than adequate payment for all the blessings and gifts we receive. I know we don’t see past versions of ourselves as wise or intentional and I’ve learned the futility in setting up life timelines, things never go as planned. (That was made glaringly clear during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still going on as I’m writing this.) However, 35-year-old Chris I want you to be proud of who I am now, who you were then, because he is a beauitful and special person who is trying to make the world a better place for himself, his future family, and his community. I’m not sure what things are like 10 years from now, but I hope we stay strong, happy, and healthy.

I know creating timelines for life can cause a lot of unnecessary suffering, but I still think it’s fun to project my hopes in the future. After all, we do need to know where we’re going.

I hope we have a beautiful home. Trust me, you are busting your ass to get that. If you have it, please don’t take it for granted man. If you don’t, I hope there’s a good reason for it.

I hope we have a loving family of our own. Bro, you are working just as hard, if not harder, to get this. Right now, it seems like I’m on the right track for it. I hope we don’t mess that up or fortune doesn’t decide to give me a bad hand. I’m not sure how things will change, but I’m planning on being the best father in the whole fucking world and I will bring my level of intentionally, intelligence, and intensity to that.

I hope we have finished at least 1 book and sold a few copies. We don’t need to be an NYT bestseller or anything, we just need to honestly change the life of at least 1 person. If the books aren’t written, you NEED to get back to it. Literally nothing is more important than our works, but I’m sure you know this. If it’s written but aren’t successful, push it. What you have to say is life-changing and worth the attention of others. If everything has worked out as we planned, then I hope you are enjoying it wholeheartedly. I would be very happy if we finished the 2 books I’m working on right now. What would really impress me is if we were writing our 3rd book, but I don’t even know what that would be about right now. I’m just throwing things out there. I’d also be impressed if we kept up doing a blog post a week for this long. I’m sure this can go without saying, but I hope you’re still reading too. Reading has been the #1 best decision I made in my life so far.

I hope we are still making music and people are still responding to it positively! Making music gives us vitality and allows us to connect with others in a unique way. I’d love to hear how good I get at making music with another 10 years under my belt. Our music is a really great thing we got going, it brings so much happiness to ourselves and other people. It would be a huge disservice to stop.

I hope you’re happy and fulfilled. I know that isn’t the meaning of life, but I hope you are anyway. I know high school Chris would have wanted 25-year-old Chris to feel weightless and unstoppable, but I can’t hold up that part of the deal. I’m definitely on the way and I’m doing what I can to make that happen, it’s just things are harder than I expect. But I guess that’s life. I hope we get better at this game with another 10 years of experience.

Finally, I just want to say that if some crazy turn of events happens I want you to know that all you need to find what you are looking for in within you already. I’ve just started meditating and the experience of being with myself can be comforting and warm. If you ever feel alone, know that you are a great company for yourself. I don’t mean that in a cocky way, I mean it seriously. Being alone can be hard, but being alone with ourselves can be enough.

I wish you the best and I hope you’re doing well,

Christopher S. Mukiibi, 2020

Categories
Education Lifestyle Productivity

5 More Tips for Better Scheduling

“There are two types of time: alive time and dead time. One is when you sit around, when you wait until things happen to you. The other is when you are in control, when you make every second count, when you are learning and improving and growing.”

Robert Greene (1959 – )

If you haven’t read my other post about scheduling you can find it here -> 5 Tips for Better Scheduling. I believe that scheduling is a skill that needs to be developed over time. Over the years, I have found a few things that work best for me. One thing I love about scheduling is that it’s a metaskill, meaning getting better at scheduling will help with your other skills too! So here are 5 more tips for better scheduling – take what you love and leave what you don’t.

Change Your Repeating Unit of Time

A balanced life, the ideal of many people. But what does it mean to live a balanced life? If we were to take a 24 hour period and divide up the time based on what was important to us, what would that day look like? Most people work an average of 8 hours per day and sleep for the same amount. So if we did the math, after working and sleeping we’re only left with 8 hours for the rest of our lives. How much of that do we want to spend with our families? Or making art? Or watching TV? Or reading books? How much can we actually accomplish in 8 hours? It’s pretty much impossible to have a balance life this way. There are only so many hours in the day. But what if we used more than a day?

We have 24 hours in a day, so in a week we have 168 hours. If we subtract 8 hours per day for sleeping and working, then we are left with 56 hours for the rest of our lives. I find it a lot easier to think about my time in terms of weeks and not days. 56 hours is much easier to work with than 8. Another thing about this scheduling hack that I love, is if the 56 hours still aren’t enough time for you, then you can observe the repeating unit of time as two weeks and you have 112 hours to deal with.

Let me break this down further.

If we considered Monday at midnight to be the beginning of the week, then the middle of the week is Thursday at noon. So don’t stress if the first half of your week is a little unbalanced, you can make up for in during the second half of the week.

Hour Sweet Median Dots (2019) – Christopher S. Mukiibi

A balanced life is a myth (for the most part). Sometimes the key is a paradigm shift and a little self restraint. We can’t live our entire lives in a day, but thankfully we’ve been given more than one.

Internalize Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s Law comes from Cyril Parkinson’s The Economist, which basically states that:

“work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”

I noticed this whenever I put my assignments off untill the last minute.

It would go something like…my professor would give me 30 days to do an essay. I spend 29 of them (if I’m being honest) doing nothing for the paper. The night before the due date, my anxiety kicks in and my adrenaline fueled hands bust out the 20 page monster in less than 12 hours. Thankfully, I kicked this habit by the time my semester-long chemical engineering senior design project came along – that probably wouldn’t have been finished in 12 hours.

This phenomena is seen all over the world, from people of all ages, and in all fields of expertise. People tend to use up all of the time they plan for something. Most people have an 8 hour workday but don’t need all 8 hours to do their work, yet it takes them 8 hours anyway.

This is why deadline and due dates can be useful. Whenever we see that we are at risk for experiencing something really painful like embarrassment or a misstep, we get down to the really important parts to get our goal accomplished. When we procrastinate the night before a paper is due, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about which font to use or even which words could best convey our ideas. We just focus on getting the entire paper done as a whole. When it comes down to it, there is something that activates within us, cuts the fluff, and gets shit done.

Set deadline that seems a little too short. You’ll be surprised how much you can get done.

However, beware of the planning fallacy – we aren’t good at predicting how long things will take. Sometimes we will need more time for a project and sometimes we don’t. Parkinson’s Law is not like gravity. It’s more of a rule of thumb that tends to happen if we aren’t being 100% intentional. I have this small theory that this can apply to bags when I pack clothes too or money I budget for a trip, but those are for another time.

Maintain an Impeccable Calendar

When I first started to schedule things, my calendar quickly turned into something that I couldn’t trust. When I got a notification to study or work on a project, part of me wasn’t sure if I really needed to be doing that thing so I didn’t. Over time, my calendar wasn’t reliable and honestly just an extra burden in my life. This is when I found the importance of maintaining an accurate and updated calendar. Scheduling is meant to be a tool to help you, not an extra chore or another “right things to do.” Our calendars can only help if they are reliable, and they can only be reliable if we take time to make sure the inputs are accurate, specific, and updated. If not, they’ll turn into just another hurdle and not only will it be a hindrance in our lives but our calendars could actually make things worse!

So keep a good relationship with your calendar. Trust it and put in the effort to make it something that you trust. It can help keep you on the path.

Nothing is Too Small To Schedule

This is something that took me a little while to really understand. One of my mentors even told me this when I first started using my calendar consistently. I used to just schedule the big things (e.g. lectures, work, client meetings, etc.) and honestly, I thought it was a waste of time to schedule in the small things. I figured, as long as I had the big events covered then I was good. But as the fate of all false perspectives, this wasn’t sustainable over time and I found myself in a worse position. My schedule wasn’t working for me the way it should and I felt more pressure trying to keep it up.

So I took my mentor’s advice and started to schedule the small things like texting my boss back, rewriting a song lyric, or uploading something to the internet. This brought my scheduling game to a new level. My calendar became an extension of myself. Whenever I get the feeling like I’ll forget something, no matter how small it is, I put it right in my calendar. Now, the only time I forget to do something is if I forget to schedule in my calendar. Still human right?

Always Set Alerts – the More Obnoxious the Better

I like to set alerts for when to leave. Smart phones usually update as the traffic changes so we can be alerted when we need to leave a little earlier. This is super helpful (if you trust technology like that). In order to get the notifications to leave and when traffic changes, you must set the location of the event. This goes with the Be Specific as Possible tip from the last scheduling post. Give your calendar as much information as it can and let the technology do the work for you.

Usually, I am 100% against notifications. Notifications are terrible for our productivity and mental health. I have all notifications of my phone shut off except for 2. The notifications constantly grab at our attention forcing our minds to task-switch which prevents us from doing any real deep work or being present.

The 2 notifications I still keep on my phone are when my bank account balance falls under a certain amount and when it is time to leave for the next event on my calendar. The first one is so I can make sure no fishy business is happening with my money and the second is to make sure that I am punctual to my appointments. I like to use the Apple calendar app synced with my gmail account so I can have my calendar on all my devices.

Categories
Education Lifestyle Productivity

5 Tips for Better Scheduling

“These things, they take time.”

Gabe Newell (1962 – )

It took me about 3 years before my scheduling skills were good enough to actually rely on my calendar. Today, scheduling is an integral part of my daily life and it’s a skill I’m happy I decided to take some time to develop. With better scheduling came better performances at work and school, plus I was forgetting less and never double booking myself. Here are 5 tips from my years of practice.

A few lessons from years of experimentation and research…

Start by Scheduling High Priority Events First

When I build a schedule, I start by scheduling the highest priority events first. This ensures that I have enough time to get the important stuff done. Everything else comes after. If I didn’t know what to schedule first, I would take some time to reflect on what I would be proud of accomplishing by the end of the day. The famous business consultant, Jim Collins, says “If you have more than three priorities you have no priorities.” Get clear if you aren’t. Open a fresh schedule and start with the important things. During my semesters sessions in college, I’d make sure I would schedule my classes first. Nowadays, when I’m building a new schedule I start with my work schedule on the ambulance since it’s the least flexible commitment I have.

Plan Everything to the End

I cannot even begin to express the amount of half-baked plans that have ruined otherwise great days. From not studying everything I should for my exams to wasting time being bored with my friends, not planning to the end has totally blindsided me time after time.

Robert Greene talks about the utility in planning to the end in his book The 48 Laws of Power, which is on my Must Read List. It’s Law 29 and I highly suggest checking out the whole book, at least that chapter.

It really would have helped if I took the extra 5 to 10 minutes (or even 40 minutes) to bring my plan all the way rather than complacently telling myself “ah, this is good enough.” Planning everything to the end helps with managing overwhelm and gives you a clear finish line. Just the planning to the end in itself (not even executing your plan) is a great exercise in patience and foresight.

Immediately Schedule when a Task will be Done

And by immediately I mean right when you find out you have to do it, schedule it. I like to put it down in some free space for then readjust it to a more reasonable spot once I get a free moment. If done properly, this prevents me from forgetting the little things that slip through the cracks. And as long as I maintain integrity within my calendar, I can consider that task already done. Honestly, I probably open my calendar app more than any other app!

This really helped in college when I was drowning from the flood of assignments. I would always ask myself “Where am I going to find the time to do all of this?” As long as I scheduled something in my calendar, and I knew myself as the kind of person that follows through on my commitments, then I didn’t have to worry about how or when this was going to get done. This little tweak helped me be more present, which allowed me to perform better in classes and have more fun when I was enjoying my leisure time.

Be as Specific as Possible

Set up a time AND place. Be as specific as possible. Leave nothing up to choice when you schedule something. I find that having to make decisions increases resistance.

For example, if I wanted to study I am going to

  • schedule a time I am going to start and stop
  • decide which library to go to
  • which chair to sit in
  • which back-up chair to sit in
  • which subject to study.

When you schedule something, do yourself a favor and make as many of the decisions early on as possible so it can be an effortless process when you’re on the go.

I want to leave as little decisions for Future Chris as possible because he will do anything he can to wiggle out of a less than ideal situation.

Best selling author and social psychologist researcher Heidi Grant Halvorson argues, it is not enough just to articulate what needs doing, it also requires clearly laying out what needs to be done, by who and by when. This is know as If-Then Planning. Halvorson also makes many decisions early on too. Planning the choices that I make has saved me tons of time! This is a huge secret for getting myself to do what I say I’m going to do.

Schedule Entropy Management & Downtime

First, let’s learn a little bit about thermodynamics. There are three (kinda four) main laws of thermodynamics, but we’re just going to focus on the 2nd law for now.

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states that the entropy of the universe, if viewed as an isolated system, increases over time.

So what’s entropy?

Entropy – en·tro·py /ˈentrəpē/ – noun – lack of order or predictability.

The first time I heard of entropy was during the thermodynamics unit in my AP chemistry class. Actually, I was absent that day and my classmate, Matt, explained it to me. He told me the easiest way to think about it is as a measure of randomness. The more entropy there is, the crazier things are. I think its so funny that there’s a way to measure how chaotic something is.

So what does this all mean?

It means everything gets more chaotic over time. This applies to your calendars, finances, grades, anything. Don’t believe me? Just watch what happens to your room if you don’t clean it for a year. You could neglect anything for a month and watch entropy increase indiscriminately.

The natural state of things is that they decay and become more entropic. It is not the default state for things to get better, or ever work properly. So we have to actively maintain the entropic growth that naturally occur in our calendars.

Yportne (2019) – Christopher S. Mukiibi

How do we stop our lives from getting too chaotic?

The best way to manage the chaos is to schedule time to manage it. Since we are aware that things get more chaotic over time, we know that we have to set aside time to restore order.

I literally schedule time in my calendar to clean up any of the inaccuracies or mistakes in my calendar. Just like when we have to do our laundry, clean our rooms, or take showers, we need to set time aside to clean up our calendar so it can help us. I like to schedule in an entropy management (EM) session at least once every two weeks.

Sometimes I have longer time periods when I don’t have an EM session but then I notice my life starts feeling more stressful.

Some quintessential signs that I needed an EM sesh were:

  • feeling like I didn’t have enough time to do everything I wanted
  • accidentally double booking myself or miss appointments
  • forgetting to do my assignments
  • feeling spread too thin
  • feeling like I’m reaching my limits

Scheduling downtime is a concept for the people, like me, who get so excited when working on something that they forget to attend to their other responsibilities. Honestly, sometimes I forget to eat, sleep, or even go to the bathroom when I’m pulled into my zone.

Downtime is a time of inactivity or reduced activity in order to recover and allow better performance for the primary function.

Sleep is a fantastic example of downtime in nature. Our bodies have to rest for roughly 8 hours a day to function properly. There have been plenty of studies done that explain how terrible losing sleep is for us. Creativity is one of the first things to go when we don’t allow ourselves time to rejuvenate, and when we lose creativity, we lose our ability to problem solve. If you are interested in how sleep affects us, I highly recommend checking out Dr. Matthew Walker’s research on sleep. It’s alarming to say the least.

I schedule downtime every single day. I usually have my downtime at the end of the day (after 10pm), but sometimes I’ll take a few moments throughout my day if things run a little ahead of schedule. I like to give myself some contingency time in between my scheduled events. I simply leave an extra 15 (sometimes 30) minutes in between some of the events just account for this.

I’m not as efficient, but it takes real life into account. Sometimes things run a little longer than expected or shit happens and we will need that extra time to make up for it.

Plus, if we don’t have a few extra minutes to enjoy a beautiful moment in our lives, then do we really have a life at all?

This is a skill like everything else and takes a while to become proficient. Remember, it took me 3 years before I could really count on my scheduling skills. The first 3 years were months of me making mistakes and figuring out what works best for me. I’m still tweaking things and developing myself in this skill every day and every day that I do, I am making my life a little easier in the future. Scheduling is for everyone, we just need to figure out what works best for us as individuals.

Categories
Lifestyle

A Letter to High School Me

“The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”

Neil Gaiman (1960 – )

Dear ’09 Chris,

It’s 2019 and the last ten years have changed our lives more than we can imagine. Like seriously. Almost nothing you think will happen actually happens. The fact that I’m even writing something down (that isn’t a song) without someone forcing me seems like a straight up miracle.

At first, I thought writing a letter to the old me would be stupid. But now, I feel like doing this can:

  • help me straighten out my thoughts
  • maybe give you some advice (if time travel ever becomes real)
  • help other people who read this too.

I know you feel capable and smart but there are so many things you need to learn.

Chris, I’m not going to pull my punches because I know what hurts you and gets your attention.

You really can’t fathom the depths of your ignorance. This lack of knowledge is the reason why your life gets thrown off course time and time again.

Yes, you will be forced to walk the beaten path. It will hurt and it will be hard. Try not to be scared and please, for the love of God, don’t frantically try to figure out how to prevent it. The lessons you’d need to learn to prevent all of that pain can only be learned by going through it. That being said, you don’t retire at 24. You are not a doctor. You went to a state college. You work for almost minimum wage with really bad hours. You do not know enough to play the games of life well. You will enter a world where you must compete with people much smarter than you who have been playing the same game for much longer than you have. So listen up.

You will go through challenges that are harder than what most people have experienced and you will not be understood. You will have a hard time articulating what happened to you for years but the bright side is you are tough enough to get through it! And even better, you will turn all of that pain and hurt into such a positive force in the world that you will gain new insights on what it means to be successful and fulfilled. Do not be afraid of anyone and trust your gut. That’s the only way to do it.

I know I’m being super general and to be honest, you probably don’t have the attention span to read all of this but if you got this far then I’ll give you some actionable advice and some spoilers.

Stop worrying about your family. Everything that you are worried about today will either not matter in 2019 or will keep happening so learn to make peace with it. Dad won’t stop drinking no matter how many ultimatums you give him, but Mom learns to how to stop making it a bigger problem than it is. I know that sounds super weird but Mom and Dad start to become less like enemies and more like other adults you are on this planet with.

You will learn about their flaws and why they act the way they do and through this understanding you will find a new level of compassion.

Mom gets better with respecting your time and controlling her emotions, and you need to forgive her sooner than later.

It’s tough out here Chris, and you need to learn that it’s hard for everyone. Everyone.

I know you’re worried about losing loved ones to death because, well it’s natural to fear death. Don’t worry. Mom, Dad, and Madelynne will make it. You even get a dog! His name is Aries and he’s an interesting pup for sure. You will love him to death, after you accidentally abuse him. Grandma passes away at the beginning of 2011, so enjoy those weekly visits at the SNF (you’ll learn my lingo later) because one day they’ll end and it will be the last real unity of the Balanza Clan. After she passes the family fragments, but the important ones will stay in touch. Sean’s mom passes away during our junior year. This hits us hard because it’s the first time we lose a parental figure in our lives and boy does that put things in perspective. A few years later, Robbie’s dad will pass away. Yeah, Mr. Stowers will leave us early man. That death hits harder than any other so far. Cherish the times he rambles on, be respectful (as you always have been), and remember him for the generous and kind man that he was. You won’t ever let him know how grateful you are for him and when you get the chance you will be too overwhelmed to tell him. Try not to let that bother you so much. I know it’s hard though, because it still bothers me now. Try to celebrate his life and have a big fucking party.

Start to tell people exactly how you feel.

I say “start to” because it’s going to take years before you begin to effectively communicate half of what you really mean. Practice early and always strive to be better at communication.

You need to toughen up. You will aim too high and berate yourself when you don’t reach these peaks but Chris, the sad truth was you never had what it took to get there in the first place. You have the ability to get what it takes, but currently you are ill equipped to handle the world.

Do things that you don’t want to do. Find a joy in struggling. It is okay to fail. It’s actually good to fail! The fool is the precursor to the hero, so when you fall get back up.

Don’t quit IB. Don’t quit track. Apply for appeals when college admissions comes around (especially for UCI). There were like 3 or 4 other key choices I made in high school that really messed me up going forward. You’ll know them when they appear because you’ll experience a lot of friction when trying to do it and everyone will tell you it’s a bad idea. I know you’ll take those as signs that you have to do it, but you’re wrong. It’s tough to figure out when that’s true, I know.

Pay attention to who your friends are. I know they’ve been with you for years and they will stay with you for years, but many of them will betray you. I wish you could see the signs now. As for the ones who don’t betray you…you end up wronging in terrible ways. Either way, you lose almost all of the people who surround you now, the ones who you call “family.” It’s a painful loss, but a necessary one.

Keep toxic people out of your life and keep your toxicity away from others.

Be yourself and focus on the the love and approval of a few people.

It’s not all bad though.

So many amazing things happen too!

The next 10 years will have some of the best memories of your life. You’ll start a band….well LDT will break up and it’ll just be you and Zac. You’ll travel and meet amazing people. You’ll have insane adventures! You will feel so undoubtably alive.

Keep the creative spirit alive in you.

I kept it pushed down for a few years, for reasons you’ll understand later, but I found that it was not worth it.

If you are not being creative, you are dying.
Understand that about us. It’s a nonnegotiable.

Believe it or not, you will actually meet girls who like you back. You’ll get your heartbroken a few times but you’ll be in a few relationships too. You’ll end up in 3 relationships in the next ten years. Do better in the first two. They won’t work out, but they deserved better than how I treated them. The third relationship will be one of the best things that has ever happened to you. When you’ll meet her, you’ll instantly understand what I’m saying. She completes us and makes us better dude. Like way better. I’m still dating her now and things are pretty good.

Take time to learn about how to act in relationships and what it takes to build a strong foundation.

There’s so much I still want to tell you, but know we learn to love the things about ourselves that we hate so dearly. The things we are scared to show people are the things we probably should. It’s cheesy, but it’s worked out for me most of the time. Pay attention in class. You’ll need all of this useless information more than other people will. Oh yeah, your driver’s license is one of the best investments you’ll make so make sure you get that.

Be bold. Trust yourself. Don’t worry so damn much. Find joys in the experiences and opportunities in front of you. Don’t quit on yourself. You have a lot to offer, but a lot to learn. Push yourself further than you want to go.

Maybe things could work out a little better for you.

Best,

Christopher S. Mukiibi, 2019