Grey

Living in grayscale. It feels like that’s what I’ve been doing since I turned off colour on my phone.

Although some people do it to reduce phone usage, I find that it hasn’t brought on that effect for me. 

But while my time spent on the phone hasn’t reduced, it’s changed my phone use behaviour. 

Although I’ve turned off notifications for most social media, I still found myself opening these apps at random times of the day. I still found myself scrolling through aimlessly. 

That is, until I switched to greyscale. 

The first thing that greyscale does is make those apps less noticeable from my home screen. 

When I do click into them, greyscale makes them less engaging. 

What I end up doing is switching to one of my reading apps instead — iBooks, Kindle, Medium. Or even to my Notes app to write. 

Having on greyscale doesn’t make the real world more colourful. It hasn’t made me more focused on the now. It hasn’t made me more mindful. 

It’s just made certain phone activities less interesting, and has created a change in my default behaviour when it comes to phone usage. 

There are days when I think the human brain is much like a computer. There are complex algorithms at play within our grey matter that handle more variables than we are aware of. 

Like AI, our brains need to be trained. So that our bodies do what they should, not what they want. 

Order

Today I finally sat down to work on a couple of my own projects. The aim was to build a bit of a directory of the cocktail bars in Malaysia (that I like or would like to visit).

This serves a dual purpose — to document, as well as to pick up Vue.js where I left off. The goal was to build an app with Airtable as the database and Vue.js to handle the frontend.

However, like the trumpet, coding is something that’s rather unforgiving. Stop practising for a while and you get rusty.

I gave myself a deadline — get the website up by today. But after reading, learning how to use Airtable and trying to set up my local environment for two hours, I was getting nowhere. I ended up with a plain HTML page (without CSS even!) and an embedded iframe.

It’s a start, I suppose. The website is up, and it’s a skeleton of what I imagine it to look like in the future.

The reason I gave myself a deadline was so that I would focus on what was necessary in the present. Right now.

And also because the other part of my day was meant to be spent on my documentary pitch, for which I had blocked out time for as well.

One of the best things about time-blocking is that there’s no such thing as writer’s block. It’s just unacceptable when you’ve got a task to complete within a specific timeframe.

In the midst of all the chaos, I’ve discovered order.

Focus

It’s crazy how much one can do, with focus. This morning, I found myself awake at half-past five. (My stomach was acting up last night.)

After reading for a bit, I decided to get an early start on work.

(I do this intermittent sleep thing, not on purpose, but because I have irregular sleep habits. I sleep as much as I can at anytime during the day.)

I completed one assignment, submitted it. Did some agenda planning and research, to make a list of recommendations and next steps for a meeting I have today. I looked at the clock, hoping that I’d have time to go back to sleep. And I did! Heaps!

It turns out, I had done that in less than 20 minutes. There are days when I love the duality of time. Even though the 24 hours in a day seem to go by in a snap, a third of an hour can seem to stretch for an eternity. 

If you’re focused, a lot can be done in an hour. 

Time blocking has proved to be rather effective for me. Besides helping to control my anxiety and that feeling of being overwhelmed, it also helps me to focus. 

One task at a time, don’t even think about anything else. 2000 words in an hour? No problem!

Surmount

I’m not a morning person. After midnight is when my brain comes alive, even if I was up at 6am that day (only when absolutely necessary). 

When I first started work in media, I ran on three to four hours of sleep per night. Then if I needed to, I’d pay back my sleep debt on Sundays. 

By that I mean I would sleep from Saturday night until Monday morning, waking up only to drink water and pee. (Someone I know calls that “sleep-water therapy”.)

Getting out of bed anytime before 9am has always been a struggle but these days, I manage to force myself out of bed earlier. 

Although I have no fixed working hours, the main “person” I answer to is my calendar, in which I time-block periods of time to do specific work — either for clients or for my own projects. 

“If you wake up earlier, you’ll have more time to do your thing,” I tell myself. It works. 

Even an extra half hour to slowly sip my coffee, to journal, to just sit and let my mind wander, is therapeutic. 

I actively not worry about productivity, or the upcoming tasks of the day. I’ve already blocked off time to do those things — this is my time. 

Somehow, it makes the rest of the day feel more surmountable.