December 2020 Review

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time lapse photo of stars on night

Here’s a quick update on December, because I’m behind on my monthly reviews and writing this retrospectively.

Obviously, Christmas consumed much mental energy and disrupted regular routines.

Work

Work-wise, I felt pretty exhausted at the end of the year, chiefly because I barely took any time off last year.

Remote working is fantastic for the freedom it affords, but is also a double-edged sword, with no real delineation between business and play.

Whereas work usually begins and ends in a normal office job when you enter and exit the building, there are no such boundaries when operating at home.

And if they do exist, they’re harder to discern.

Uninterrupted connectivity means we’re always plugged in and on-call.

So it was a relief to take a whole week off over Christmas.

Time off

I often underestimate the power of non-doing.

Having an extended period of time off over Christmas was restorative, filled with aimless enjoyment.

I wasn’t able to spend time with family due to COVID restrictions, which was a shame.

However, I made up for it by eating and drinking heartily, watching Christmas films, and going for long walks, providing a key psychological recharge.

It reminded me of my love of travelling – the feeling of waking up and making impromptu plans for the day.

In contrast to the productivity subroutines that normally drive our lives, it’s liberating to return to an undirected state of childlike play, at least for a time.

Reading

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Christmas, aside from all the films, is the extended reading time available.

There’s nothing better than whacking on the heating, sitting in a comfy seat with a coffee and immersing yourself in a good story:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I picked this book up on good reviews and was surprised to discover that it was a story about an apocalyptic pandemic that had wiped out most of humanity. Cheery stuff.

The book centred around the survivors’ slow attempt to rebuild their lives.

What really struck home was how specialised our society has become.

Obviously, this has yielded incredible progress, but simultaneously, our existence has become increasingly fragile due to our over-reliance on esoteric skills and extended supply chains.

The Dark Forest (The Three-Body Problem Book 2) by Cixin Liu

This Chinese science fiction series has rave reviews and having lived in Beijing, I was eager to pick up the first book to compare Eastern sci-fi with its Western equivalent.

Although I finished the first book, I couldn’t get into it.

Thinking it might just be me, I started the second book in the series, just to abandon it a quarter way through.

Perhaps it’s me or maybe the translation, but I just don’t share everyone’s enthusiasm for these stories.

Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz

Perhaps the founding text of personal development literature.

Maltz was a plastic surgeon who was fascinated by the effect his surgeries had on the self-image of his patients.

While changing outward appearances could enhance self-belief and confidence almost overnight, for many, emotional scars remained.

This book outlines Maltz’s recommendations to bolster self-belief.

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

A comprehensive history/autobiography of Nike and its founder.

Overall it appeared a very honest account of one of the most successful companies of the modern era, including the many obstacles Knight overcame having begun his entrepreneurial journey selling shoes from the back of his car.

Meditation

With the all this festive fun, my meditation routine was impacted. I only managed to perform 15 sessions. But despite the lack of formal sitting practice, I do feel I was present, interspersing the days with many mini-mindfulness moments.

Exercise

I did manage to sustain the exercise habit and offset the festive food consumption somewhat, as you can see from my running and walking sessions completed below:

Conclusion

Although many of my habits were affected, I enjoyed stepping away from the productivity treadmill and enjoying some undirected festive free time.

Overall a fun December and much-needed break in the regular repetitive routine.



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