Navigating Self

My attempt to have a writing habit. Writing forces me to have clarity with how I'm living my life.

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Two-month break of taking new projects

I’m taking a two-month break of taking in new projects. Not out of burnout, but out of desire to try a different direction. I have this itch of starting something of my own initiative. This is especially hard for me because I’m not a visionary. I’m more of the person someone would trust executing a vision.

Timing also feels right as I’m turning 30 in two months. This is the kind gift I want to give myself before starting my next decade.

My focus for the next few weeks

  • This website
    • Create structure/framework/process that makes it real easy for me to publish and share
  • Create a habit of sharing of things I’m doing and learning
    • I love to teach. Sharing my journey teaches other people too.
  • Create a habit of writing and publishing
    • Publishing is the notable change here. By publishing, I’m forced to articulate my thoughts in a way another person can understand it.
  • Optimize on producing, not on consuming

Fill your cup and let it overflow around you

I have this guilt that I’m doing so well with Coronavirus’ quarantine. The only thing that changed with my routine is I haven’t been able to go to Starbucks to work. It feels unfair and wrong that a lot of people are in a bad place.

I know that, by nature, people tends to help those in need. The problem is there’s a lot of people in need and it’s obvious that I can’t help them all. There’s this choice paralysis on how and who to give assistance to.

The strategy I adopted to workaround this is: fill your cup and let it overflow around you

First, I make sure that my family are taken care of. This means that I feel secure that we’ll be able to weather the crisis in the next few weeks despite the uncertainty. 

Then, I give away the excess I have to people around me that I’m aware needs help. Relatives, employees, coworkers, old classmates, kapitbahay, friend of a friend, kapitbahay ng friend, it doesn’t matter who. As soon as I knew about their struggle and I know how to help, I do it. I even reach out and ask about their situation.

Meritocracy doesn’t apply here. There’s no qualification if someone deserves help or not. No one deserves to be hungry.

Walking the talk: My cup is full. I already gave away more than 100% of my pay this month.

Time for introspection

The time after Christmas and before New Year is a perfect time to stop and reflect.

There’s a lot of downtime. Almost everybody stops working. There’s minimal pressure to work.

Looking back makes me relive the good stuff. It also makes me think about how could I better handled the bad stuff.

Looking forward gives me clarity where I want to go. If I have that vision in mind, I have a reference to check if I’m still on the right track and reassess if I want to continue the path I’m in.

Questions I ask myself to kick-start my introspection:

  • What’s the highest point of my year?
  • How about the lowest point?
  • What’s the biggest lesson I learned?
  • What’s the most significant realization I had?
  • What change did I do that had the biggest impact?
  • What did I do that I’m most proud of?
  • What did I do the I’m most ashamed of?
  • What’s the happiest thing that happened?
  • How about the saddest thing?
  • How about the most unexpected thing?
  • Am I still heading to where I want to be?
  • What am I aiming to do next year?

Relative size perception

This is an optical illusion called Ebbinghaus illusion. It shows that when you put a circle around bigger circles, it looks smaller. But when you put it around smaller circles, it looks bigger despite that there’s no actual difference in size.

There’s this saying that you are the average of your friends. I think it’s the same thing, because we tend to be around people we don’t feel little in.

We are inclined to avoid uncomfortable situations.

If we want to grow, being the circle with bigger circles is a more optimal position to be in. There’s a lot of room for growth.

Unlike being the circle with smaller circles where we already feels big, there’s no incentive to grow.

The good side of being unfair

When I hear the word unfair, it usually comes from the perspective of the one being taken advantage of.

I didn’t realize that being in an unfair situation has a good side too. We can be unfair by giving more than necessary, by giving benefit of the doubt when it’s not warranted, by being the more loving when it isn’t even reciprocated.

I think this is the unfairness we should strive for. To be on the giving end. To be in a position where we have too much, we absolutely have to give without expecting anything in return.

Life isn’t fair. It’s good that we strive for fairness. It’s even better if we strive for unfairness, but on the giving end. 

Wishing for a stress-free life

I’ve been dreading having another unexpected stressors for the past weeks because it kept throwing me off-balance. Every single time it happens I get flooded with anxiety, which make me not able to function properly. I end up binge watching a Netflix series which only exacerbate my problem, which causes me more anxiety, until I’m at a full stop. My knee-jerk reaction is to wish for a life without stress.

There are rare moments though when I regain enough self-awareness to understand what’s going on. I realized that my anxiety will not be solved by a stress-free life. Stress are inevitable. My anxiety will be solved by knowing that I have the capacity to handle any stress that come my way. Instead of wishing it to go away, it’s better to wish for increased capacity to handle stress. Being better at handling unexpected turn of things. That is the way forward because it prepares me to whatever lies ahead.

How should I deal with it next time it happens?

  1. Ask yourself “What’s the worst thing that could happen? R u gonna die??”. If not, consider that your brain is most likely exaggerating it’s effect on your life. If the worst thing that can happen is losing your job or client, you can definitely find another one.
  2. Exercise and eat right. Mind and body are obviously connected. The better you take care of yourself, the better you’ll handle life.
  3. Reframe stressors as life’s challenges. It’s like a puzzle that’s waiting to be solved. Solving it will reward you a natural high (a flood of oxytocin).
  4. Pray. Praying is an exercise of self-awareness. When you pray, you put in to words what you‘re wishing for. Putting it to words makes your thought concrete. A concrete thought gives you clarity and helps yourself understand what you are going through. It helps you focus on things you can do for yourself. For the things that’s out of your control, you can leave it to God. Do your part, then let go and let God.

All these will most likely turn my anxiety to ansaya teh.

I built Julie a Contract Maker

Every time Julie create contracts for her clients, she always complains. It’s one of the things she isn’t looking forward to do in her business. She have this Adobe Illustrator file she manually edits for every client. Even computation itself is manual work.

Her process looks like:

  1. Look for her laptop
  2. Look for laptop’s charger because it’s been a few days before she last used it 😄
  3. Open her Adobe Illustrator file
  4. Dig in client details. Is it in Facebook Messenger, Viber, email?
  5. Add client details
  6. Add payment terms
  7. Save to Dropbox
  8. Send to client for signing

All this takes her around 10-15 minutes per contract. At the end of it sumasakit daw ulo niya.

At one point I told her I make her a “contract maker” for her phone. She will only have to put in client details, then it will produce a PDF based on her AI template.

This video is our initial MVP (minimum viable product).

This removed half the steps of her current process. This also removed the need to have her laptop around to create contracts. Less friction to do as soon as her clients paid the down payment, with all the wedding details still fresh from their conversation. Computation and breakdown of payment terms are done automatically.

She tried it on an actual client who followed up her contract. It took her less than 5 minutes to do. Most of all, she doesn’t get headache doing it anymore. 🙂

Making a Personal Dashboard

I have been out of track for a while now. Julie is starting to get worried that I’m getting a little too present-oriented (YOLO lyf).

I think the problem starts when I stop checking in life metrics that directly correlates to my “sharpness”. Having no idea of how am I doing makes me care less of my performance. Resistance to know grows because I might not like what I find haha.

Somebody said that if you can’t track it, you can’t improve it.

What do I need to track?

I have 2 key performance indicator (KPI) that’s correlated with my work capacity and ability to plan about the future.

1. Screen Time – How much time I spend using a computer. This is tracked by running RescueTime that’s running in background of my computer all the time.

2. Intentional Work Time – How much time I spend intentionally working on something. “Intention” is the keyword. Regardless of how much I time I spend on a task, the important thing is if I am aiming at a clear end goal. Opposite of this is jumping from one distraction to the next without accomplishing anything concrete.

This is tracked by Toggl. The way it works is before I start using my computer, I have to put a short description of what I’m about to do and explicitly start Toggl’s timer.

Normally, I should have more or less 40 hours of screen time per week and around 20 hours of intentional work time. If I dip below 40 hours of screen time, it usually means I’m trying to avoid working by doing something else.

When I’m at my sharpest, I am more self-aware, this makes most of what I do to have clear intentions before I do them. The closer intentional work time to screen time, the better.

Out of sight, out of mind. The opposite is true too.

I need those 2 KPIs to be always in my sight. This will give me a general grasp of how I’m doing based on a concrete data. I can do my “getting back on track” checklist if I’m doing poorly.

I have the skillset to quickly whip up a simple dashboard that displays those data. I also have a spare tablet that I’m not using. I can use it to display my KPIs on 24/7 with very little power consumption (5V/1A).

Getting my hands dirty

1. Preps

I did not bother using any framework. It doesn’t matter how dirty the setup and the coding is since it’s personal use only. The goal is to display the correct data.

Originally I planned to use curl fetch the data but it looks like using API wrappers will be much faster and future-proof. I always went to the fastest solution because I want to have a working dashboard in one sitting.

I started 2 files: index.php for the gluing all the parts and composer.json for dependency management.


2. Getting RescueTime data

For RescueTime, I used borivojevic/rescuetime.

$rescuetime_key = "RESCUE_TIME_API_KEY";

use RescueTime\RequestQueryParameters as Params;
use RescueTime\Client;

$client = new Client($rescuetime_key);

$day = date('w');
$week_start = date('Y-m-d', strtotime('-'.$day.' days'));
$week_end = date('Y-m-d', strtotime('+'.(6-$day).' days'));

// Fetch activities for this week
$activities = $client->getActivities(
  new Params([
    'perspective' => 'interval',
    'resolution_time' => 'week',
    'restrict_begin' => new \DateTime($week_start),
    'restrict_end' => new \DateTime($week_end)
// Compute total time spent
$totalTimeSpent = 0;
foreach ($activities as $a) {
  $totalTimeSpent += $a->getTimeSpentSeconds();

$totalScreenTimeThisWeek = number_format(round($totalTimeSpent/60/60, 2), 2);


3. Getting Toggl data

For Toggl, I used ixudra/toggl.

$workspaceId = 0;
$apiToken = 'TOGGL_API_KEY';
$togglService = new \Ixudra\Toggl\TogglService( $workspaceId, $apiToken );

$response = $togglService->summaryThisWeek();

$totalIntentionalWorkThisWeek = number_format(round($response->total_grand/1000/60/60, 2), 2);


4. Displaying computed data to the page

    <p>Screen Time</p>
    <h1><?php echo $totalScreenTimeThisWeek; ?></h1>

    <p>Intentional Work</p>
    <h1><?php echo $totalIntentionalWorkThisWeek; ?></h1>


5. Keeping the data up-to-date

<!-- Refresh page every 10 minutes -->
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="600" >

Putting everything together

I end up having a working dashboard in around 1.5h of intentional work. After the coding is done, I uploaded it to my server and load it in the tablet.

It sits on a shelve where I can see it everyday (together with The Daily Stoic, which I read 1 page everyday).

This sets a framework that I can update as needed if ever I need a new KPI to track. The process of adding a new data source will be just 1) figuring out how to get the data 2) displaying it. The boilerplate is done. The friction to update will be minimal.

If you are interested in this project, have a KPI to recommend, or just want to talk in general — feel free to reach out!

Monday Weekly Reviews

I figured that Monday is the perfect time to review my week. I have a fresh outlook and high energy because of the weekend break. I always try to follow this one important rule: Don’t end the week with nothing. If I get to accomplish a single important thing every week, I consider it a big win. What are my wins this week? What needs improvement?

Another important part of my reviews is to plan my upcoming week. What do I need to look out for? What do I want to accomplish?

Reviews easily takes 1-2 hours to do. Despite the hours it takes, I see it as worth the time because it helps me realign whatever am I doing now to the big picture I want to be in. It helps me see if I am at the right direction or am I straying away.

Right questions helps me focus on the right things. Currently, the questions I ask myself during reviews are:

  • How was your week?
  • What are you proud of this week?
  • What needs improvement?
  • Do not end the week with nothing. What’s the single most important thing you need to accomplish next week?
  • What’s upcoming this week? What do I need to look out for?
  • What else do you plan to accomplish next week?


On reading books

Read one book at a time.

While reading, highlight and take notes ideas that come up to your mind.

At the end of the book meticulously edit your notes to make each idea self-contained for future lookup.

Add the self-contained idea to your Anki flash cards.

Move on to the next book after you have finished editing your notes and published it.

Shelve your book and you can move on to the next.


What should I read next?

  1. Area I want to improve on, inline with my stretch goals – check learning path mindmap
  2. Something that induce a terrifying longing. Making me drop everything else to pursue it.
2020 © Jerico Aragon