An Experiment in Motivation and Development

I spend most of my time at home reading things and watching things. I read mostly books and news articles on the internet. I watch mostly junk on my AppleTV, punctuated occasionally by something great, just to remind myself what good cinema looks like.
It’s an appalling lifestyle if you want to take yourself seriously.
So I’ve decided to cobble together some of my favorite lifestyle choices I’ve made throughout my life and use them to fashion a new, preparatory lifestyle for myself. The material that I’ve read (online) suggests that the recipe for success consists of four things:
1. Define a workspace and use it exclusively for work.
2. Set concrete, realistic goals.
3. Create a regular, daily schedule that involves activities pertaining to the accomplishment of those goals.
4. Keep a journal to chronicle your progress and motivate yourself as you go.
My career is going to take a vey different direction as soon as I settle on what I really want to do with myself, but I have three major focuses right now toward which to direct my efforts: software engineering, industrial design, and social sciences. As you might have guessed, I’m grooming myself for a job with Apple, the modern intersection between technology and Liberal Arts. For those of you who have been paying attention, I graduated from St. John’s College with a BA in Liberal Arts. 
I won’t share too many of my opinions about Apple, but I will tell this story: I decided to apply cold for a Quality Assurance software engineering position. I found the listing on Apple’s jobs website. “Experience with Unix and shell scripting” was listed in the requirements, so I went to Google to find a good shell scripting primer. Type “shell scripting primer” into Google and click “I’m Feeling Lucky” and you’ll find this, Apple’s own guide to shell scripting.
Apple is very good at creating products and providing resources that (ideally) enable individuals to do whatever they want to do, so I’m hoping I can look to Apple for all of the information I need to accomplish my goals and learn what I need to know.
But first things first.
1. Define a workspace and use it exclusively for work.
Dedicating a workspace is both a physical and psychological activity. Physically, you have to allocate space to keep your work things. I like things in threes, so I will have three workspaces: one for exercise, one for meditation, and one for actual work. The first two are integral to the working process; again, I’ve read that exercise is conducive to productivity, and meditation is helpful for focus and discipline. 
The tabletop will be my workspace for studying programming, design and sociology. My MacBook Air is more than sufficient for taking notes and organizing my resources, and my iPad 2 will serve as my lecture hall for courses I’ll be downloading from iTunes U. Coffee or tea is necessary for me, and my Blu takes the place long occupied by cigarettes in my studies.
Meditation will be done on the floor using a zafu that I have yet to return to a good friend of mine from college. I swear she said I could have it.
Finally, I’m going to return to my roots as a runner and run around my neighborhood, outside. 
Having defined workspaces allows you to train your monkey-brain to expect certain things when you’re in certain locations. Though I may use my computer and my iPad in other places than my tabletop, I will understand (by repeated association-conditioning) that when sit down to them here, they will be used solely for work. No Twitter, YouTube, Facebook or games. The same for sitting on the floor; I should only sit when I sit. Using the same space for many different purposes is very dissociating and counter-productive for primates like ourselves, because we can never set the proper expectations with our minds and bodies about what is to transpire. Creating a ritual around these spaces serves to further ground us in the present activity.
2. Set concrete, realistic goals.
My goals are simple and straightforward. Using iTunes U, I will find three free courses to study, following the subjects I have outlined above. I will study each of them twice a week, in the evenings after work. To cultivate within myself the discipline to accomplish these tasks, I will meditate and run in the mornings. In four months, I expect to be in good physical shape, with a sound mind and spirit, and have a competent working knowledge of a programming language, elements of design, and social science. 
3. Create a regular, daily schedule that involves activities pertaining to the accomplishment of those goals.
This will be the hardest part to maintain, just like starting any new regimen, so I will start with subtle manageable changes to my lifestyle and work up to a larger overhaul. First and foremost, I will meditate for ten minutes in the morning, then run outside for ten minutes before eating breakfast or even touching the internet. I’ll keep track of my exercise routine using Nike+ and my iPod. 
I usually work during the day, so I will reserve an hour after work, after dinner, for study. This shall immediately follow my meal so I don’t get so distracted by my shiny technological devices that I forget or waste too much time.
Both in the mornings and evenings, I will save leisure activities (like reading on the internet, watching TV shows, or casual reading) for after the completion of my obligations. I will maintain a duty to myself to accomplish these tasks daily.
In keeping with this schedule, I will have to try to go to bed and wake up at the same times every day, or else I may skip over one or more of these prescribed activities.
4. Keep a journal to chronicle your progress and motivate yourself as you go.
Last, but not least, I will ensure that every evening, before bed, I write a post about my daily activities, whether I accomplish what I set out to do or not. This will hold me accountable to myself and the internet at large, as well as create a record with which to review my progress.
It begins tomorrow.

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