Mindfulness

    Reconnecting with Minimalism

    My time with maximalism taught be I don’t need much stuff

    I have to be honest, I have let a lot slip in the past few months. To me, I had it in the back of my mind that I had to try new things that would usually be ignored. New experiences, lifestyle choices, a ton of new apps, different approaches to social media use, and to live a little with maximalism, just to name a few.

    I’ve had fun, discovered new things and lived to tell the tale. But it comes at a cost, mentally, physically and financially. Just my overindulgence in apps has been overwhelming and costly. A lot of time wasted, but I learnt new things that I can apply across over apps.

    A collection of note-taking apps I have spent two months testing out together.

    The brunt of the whole experience will not be paraded all over this blog. The details of my endeavour will be stretched over multiple blogs (I’ve got to earn that money somehow).

    If anything, the experience of going all in with maximalism showed me the impact the world has on the human mind and body. I could not imagine living in a part of the world where you are subjected to advertisements everywhere you go, junk food galore and excessive debt (you know where I’m talking about).

    The less you own, the more freedom you have. — Angela Horn

    Simplicity is best.

    Simplicity is best. You would be mistaken to think minimalism is all about having less. The only part that is ‘Less’ would be ‘less stress’. Just like Horn mentions in her TEDx talk, we actually experience more. More money and more time for a start.

    Not only have I wasted money on stuff I have recently acquired, I have spent too many hours consuming or messing around with stuff. None of it brought me joy, money, or my time back. I am in deficit, in fact.

    I am happy I have experimented with the life I would have led if it weren’t for my fortunate discovery of minimalism, alongside stoicism and essentialism (plenty of isms, I know).

    But now — it is time to go back to my happy place. Somewhere I know I thrive and become a happier person. Some might see the journey as doing without. It is. It is doing without the things I don’t need in my life.

    Just this morning, I cancelled three subscriptions and deleted three apps from my life. The list will certainly expand. Tumblr and Reddit went, too. By focusing on less, you give other things more value.

    Less But Better

    There was an adorning moment when I was reading Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Gregory McKeown. Gregory spoke about a lead designer at Braun who thought everything was noise. He had an eye for observing what was truly essential. Dieter’s design criteria can be captured in three simple words — Less But Better (translated from the German words: Weniger aber better). He changed an industry by inventing the clear top record player, which was a far-cry from the furniture infused offerings at the time.

    Emphasising Dieter Ram’s point, we can get better outcomes with fewer things in our life. Both minimalism and essentialism have a pursuit of less but better. Get rid of the trivial many to focus on the essential few.

    Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

    As much as people knocked Steve Jobs at Apple, he had it right when he was re-instated as interim CEO. Getting rid of all the products and focusing on a small handful, but doing them better. On his return to Apple, he removed 70 percent of the stuff on the product road map. Jobs’ “Think Different” opening to Apple Employees on 23rd September 1997 was a poignant moment, as he said they would only work on 30 percent of the products. To get back to basics and do it better.

    To quote Steve Jobs on his drive for Less But Better — “A lot of this doesn’t make sense, and it’s way too much stuff, and there’s not enough focus.” There lies the issue with myself presently, and I know millions around the world could relate. We are absorbing and chasing too much stuff to truly get the basics as perfect as they can be.

    Dieter Rams and Steve Jobs both knew that we need to have fewer distractions in life to truly enjoy life. This is essentially what I am doing. I’m removing everything I don’t see as essential and focusing intently on those things that stay in my life.

    I will keep you posted on my progress. There might be some shock changes along the way.

    As always, thank you for taking the time to read my post.

    Mark @ CodeMacLife

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    One Year Without Gaming 🎮

    Quitting gaming helped me refocus my attention on creativity

    At the start of the 2023, I set out on a quest to remove gaming from my life completely. I, personally, had doubts about it being a success because gaming had been a considerable part of my life and identity (sadly). However, I knew I had a problem with working on my priority tasks over gaming. “One more go,” I would tell myself. Or the classic — set a timer for twenty minutes and hit the repeat button enough times to rack up over two hours of gaming.

    I knew it wasn’t healthy, but I did anyway. I also continued to get stressed when I was behind on my work due to my lack of available time. Not only that, but I had lots of time, but I chose to waste it on gaming. Similar to the website I referenced in my first post, I thought about a 90-day game detox. However, three months would not be enough for me to complete the goals I wanted to achieve in 2023. I needed much longer than ninety days. Let’s go for the full 365 days!

    It’s called procrastination.

    It’s called procrastination, and I have a lifetime full of it. I completed plenty of jobs and projects in my day before the challenge, but I don’t enjoy it, even if I would benefit from putting in the effort. Procrastination, to me, is prioritising what I want to bring me joy over everything else. However, procrastination is not always a good action to take if it causes stress further down the road. There have been countless times when I have looked helplessly at the clock while staying up late to complete a piece of work that should have been done earlier in the day.

    How quitting gaming helped me refocus my attention on creativity

    I believe I have mentioned in another post somewhere I had put off the act of creating a blog for nine years. I went on a pursuit of happiness instead. Gaming, YouTube (of games), and listening to music were my preferred choice to chasing my aspirations. These habits were toxic for me. I don’t believe any of them are bad in moderation.

    To say I was bored throughout the year would an understatement. Boredom can be uncomfortable. Boredom can also open up your mind to becoming creative. I had read in several articles, books, and University lecture notes while studying pedagogy.

    No gaming left a void that was filled with creativity.

    With no game to turn to, I had one choice — look for something else to do. I spent hours researching how to blog, what platform(s) to use, and what skills would be needed. I signed up for a few courses and developed a style of blogging that I knew I could keep up consistently.

    I read a lot more than I have ever in my life. Furthermore, I drew ideas and thoughts from these books that fed into my blogging. There were more hours freely available to read the bookmarked articles I had stored up to through the years. Some articles were not relevant any more, so I deleted them. I even managed to clear the 48 articles I had saved on Medium.

    It’s remarkable what you can achieve when you make the time to follow your aspirations! Well. It has been a year since I posted that post (and the seventh month update).

    How did I do?

    The good news is I kept to my promise and stuck it out for a whole 365 days. I achieved something I knew would be the hardest challenge to date. I love gaming. It is the one thing I remember growing up and hanging out with my friends. We had our other adventures, bike rides, late-night kickabouts, but gaming always crept into the conversation.

    The hardest part was breaking a habit I had relied on for a long time. Time blocking and revisiting my note of how I was going to achieve my goals helped me massively. I wrote a personal journal about the experience, reflected daily, and kept a closer eye on the other goals I had on my list. The experience was difficult from the start. There was no rational reason why I should have chosen to game over my goals. Gaming would not help the process of gaining what I truly wanted.

    Temptations

    Yes. There were many temptations because I’m human, after all. Gaming had been a habit for more years than I would like to acknowledge.

    These temptations were directed at specific games, not gaming in general. In fact, it was three games I wanted to play: Minecraft (Java edition) on my MacBook Air; Forza Horizon 4 on my Xbox; and finally, Mario Wonder for the Nintendo Switch. I abstained.

    I was exposed to gaming through online posts, friends, and my son gaming at home. I decided to unfollow users on X (formerly known as Twitter) (sorry) and gaming topics because I would rather not read content that was not relevant to me. Bookmarked links in my browser were removed, and I made sure there were no games on any of the devices I used. Apple must have known because the top suggestions on the App Store were games. Nothing was ever creative or productivity related.

    My friends were understanding for what I wanted to achieve. Unfortunately, there were evenings when they all FaceTimed, and I was excluded. I was like the green bubble in the group.

    My son wanted to show me something he was doing on a game. These requests slowly reduced over the year as he sensed I did not want to be around him while he was gaming. I felt bad. I want to show enthusiasm in what my son finds interesting. He also missed the times we would game together. Now that the challenge is over, I can sit with him and play something like EA FC24 or Minecraft together.

    Around the tenth month mark, I started to get twitches. The gaming industry started spewing out new titles. My son made a list of what he wanted for Christmas. He mentioned what his friends were into and why X game was going to be a great hit in 2024.

    Office gaming setup in 2022

    Moving into 2024 — Will I start gaming?

    Absolutely! I have been excitedly counting down the days. I won’t, however, be going back to my old ways. The difference being I will be selective and schedule the time in on my calendar. I have chosen a Friday evening for a maximum of one hour. I consider it to be a reward for working hard through the working week.

    I will allow myself to have one game, preferably a puzzle game, on my iPhone. I’ve seen a few on Apple Arcade, but I haven’t decided which one I want to pick. Stitch looks like a good one to go with.

    On my Mac, I have decided to continue with Minecraft because it is one of my favourite games of all time. Survival, in particular, is the best option for me, as the challenge of playing on hard mode gives me enough endurance.

    I bought Super Mario Bros. Wonder for my wife and son. I want to try it out because they rave on about how good the game is. My wife, who is not a gamer by any means, has not put the Nintendo Switch down over the festive holidays. She absolutely loves this game and recommends it highly.

    Final thoughts

    Obviously, I can’t play all of these games at once. I am contemplating rotating them each week for variety. I’m sure there will be a time when I want to focus on a certain game. Either way, I won’t be going back to my old gaming ways.

    Limited, but accessible gaming is the way forward for me. There is no way I would go through with this challenge again. The challenge was a success and I can say I have achieved what I set out to prove I can focus on other things.

    My creativity, sleep, and motivation improved during the gaming challenge. I don’t want to let that slip in 2024.

    As always, thank you for taking the time to read my post.

    Mark @ CodeMacLife

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    My favourite place

    Life at the beach is priceless. Every time.

    A place to escape with my family

    There are moments in life when I feel most grateful. As 2023 ends, I reflect on the most important adventures and people. My family stands out above all the rest.

    One adventure, where I get to relax and disconnect from the world, is my time I spend on the beach with my wife and son. Nothing beats the feeling of complete relaxation with the people you care the most about.

    My memories at the beach are priceless. I can’t think of a better place to be. The smells, sounds, and beauty are all too vivid. Here lies my true Nirvana.

    It is a time to put my phone away, remove my watch and get caught up in fun activities on the beach. Time stands still.

    I will intentionally leave my Apple Watch at home and put my phone in the place we stay in (these photos were taken by my wife, who doesn’t disconnect like I do). Disconnection through my digital detoxes helps me relax more. Even a post this year by Outer Banks Vacations listed a few benefits of spending time on the beach. I agree with it all. Ideas for my creative thinking go into overdrive. My mental health feels restored. Moreover, I could do with a bit of vitamin D.

    Life is better at the beach.

    In 2024, I plan to take a few trips to the beach with my family. We are even lucky enough to explore Cancun, Mexico, later in the year. I am excited about that experience because Mexico is a country I have wanted to visit for a long time. I’ll make sure I upload some images from the trip, courtesy of my wife’s camera.

    Life is, indeed, better at the beach.

    As always, take care and thank you for reading my post.

    Mark @ CodeMacLife

    Email me at connect@codemaclife.net

    Five days of NOTHING!

    Why the five days after Christmas are my favourite time of year.

    Why the five days after Christmas are my favourite time of year.

    I know people who can quickly tell me what their favourite time of year is. They can tell me why and make the connections to something significant in their lives. I have never had that time of year to appreciate.

    That was until I started reviewing previous journal entires, both handwritten and digital, spanning over the past three years.

    There is a common theme. There is a moment of the year I feel more relaxed, motivated, grounded, and happier than any other time of the year. From Boxing Day to New Year’s Eve, I am at peak happiness (26th — 31st December).

    Why?

    Why, I hear you ask. Well, it’s simple.

    For a start, I’m with my family and at not at work. This is not saying work is bad. I love spending time with my immediate family — my wife and son. We are all relaxing and enjoying the time together as well as the gifts we received. Moreover, I look forward to the annual Boxing Day lunch at my in-laws. This year it was lasagne, which is one of my favourite meals.

    Lasagne and salad - the best!

    Secondly, I go through the process of reviewing the year and what I have achieved as well as the things I did not achieve. Through the reflective process, I find I am grateful for plenty of things that have happened over the year. Even the adversity brings new and significant opportunities.

    Finally, there’s nothing to do. Truthfully, there are plenty of things I could do, but I don’t, intentionally. It is my time to relax, procrastinate and follow any hobbies I have neglected over the past twelve months. For example, I spent two hours this morning colouring in a Zen mindfulness book. I only stopped because my hand was hurting. An hour later, I was writing this post without a care in the world.

    A bit of Zen colouring from the morning

    Reflection

    I had time this morning to complete the Embrace the Year collection journal in Stoic App. It was an opportunity to truly reflect on 2023 and plan ahead for 2024. I believe the year will be great. I made a list of things I wanted to achieve in 2024, but I won’t touch any of it until 1st January 2024. What I have wrote in my list of things to achieve will take a lot of work. I’m not ready to start on them until I have enough physical and mental energy to challenge myself properly.

    Getting ready for 2024 in Stoic App.

    The next five days are all about guilt-free ‘free time’ where I can do what I want and not worry about optimising my productivity outflow or whatever nonsense these productivity gurus spew out. You know the people. The ones that have to optimise everything to be more productive or more hardcore!

    I’ve been alive for 41 years and worked in several industries. I’ve found the key to productivity — happiness. No-one will be their best if they don’t love what they do. One aspect of building that happiness is switching off from the grind and resting. Your body will thank you for it. Your mental and physical self are connected.

    These five days will be focused on resting to let my body recover from a busy term I had working in a school.

    Thereafter, I will have one week to review and draw out actionable plans for the year ahead. Until then, it is time to relax and enjoy my favourite time of the year.

    I wish you all the very best for 2024. Aim towards your goals, but please don’t burn yourself out in the process. I’ve been there. It’s not pretty.

    As always, take care and thank you for reading my post.

    Mark @ CodeMacLife

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    Bullet journaling in 2023 is still going strong for me.

    I am aware people on YouTube and other social media platforms say the bullet journaling craze is over. For me, it will never go away.

    The approach to bullet journaling has changed my life for the better. I am consistent with my journaling. I didn’t want my bullet journal to be inundated with work commitments, so I decided to split my BuJo work responsibilities from my main journal. Only the information I think it important will be added to my main journal.

    White Bujo by scribblesthatmatter.com

    • this is my main Bujo. It is a hardback A6 dotted with 216 pages of 120gsm paper. There are two strips of ribbon to use as bookmarks. The black ribbon stays in the monthly future log and the white ribbon jumps to each day.

    Black Bujo by fieldnotesbrand.com

    The Field notes memo book consists of 48-pages.

    I don’t add any future logs in here. This Bujo sits in my back trouser pocket while I am at work or going on a walk. It is small and built with quality, so it sustains everything I throw at it.

    My field notes Bujo mostly consists of events, tasks and notes that I need for the day. I will also transfer anything from this Bujo to my white Bujo if is needed. As each Field notes memo book holds 48-pages of dotted paper, I want to be mindful of anything I put in it.

    _Each November, I reread the Bullet Journal method book to remind myself to why I use this approach, and also, to remind me of what I can add to the Bujo. _

    #bullet journal #bujo #fieldnotes #journaling

    How is my gaming challenge going? 7 month update

    Is there life after gaming? My seven-month update discusses my experience during the year.

    It has been seven months since I posted that I was going to quit gaming for 2023. A whole 12 months of no gaming on any platform or device. How have I held up to the challenge so far? This post will go over the ups and downs and why I am still succeeding. My post is a cumulation of journal entries and things I have recorded in Twos app.

    The beginning

    I stepped into the challenge with great determination. There were so many things I wanted to achieve in 2023, and I knew by quitting gaming I would have more time on my hands to focus my attention on my goals. Completing my coding course through an online college was my priority. I also wanted to start learning how to be a full-stack web developer, even if I didn’t take it up as a full-time job.

    Everything was going well. I managed the month of January with ease. No distractions and I managed to complete one assignment of my coding course within two weeks. For context, each assignment was taking me five weeks to complete before I started this challenge. Unfortunately, something major happened. Nintendo and Xbox announced Golden Eye 007 was coming out at the end of the month. What? This was one of my favourite games growing up. I had bought a Nintendo N64 when it came out with my money (life goal). Now, I knew the challenge was on! I managed to watch one or two reviews of the game and moved on with my life.

    The next hurdle came when I realised I had a habit of going to my phone when I was bored. As a Apple One subscriber, I enjoyed the games out on Apple Arcade. Nothing exciting. Just the casual games such as Stitch, Alto’s Odyssey, Jetpack Joyride 2, Asphalt 8: Airbourne+, Skate City, Charrua Soccer and Sonic Dash+. Instead, I had tools that served a purpose, and my iPhone became a phone. I knew. Crazy!

    Positive outcomes

    Because I was focused and intentional, I managed to complete my coding course in record time. I got great results back and I felt accomplished. The weight of the course kept me distracted from the gaming. The relief of completing something I had set myself up to achieve was incredible. Before the challenge, I completed another course through the same college. I missed deadlines (a lot) because I did not have enough time to fit college work in. This was a complete lie. I had plenty of time, but I was pacifying myself through gaming. I managed to get through my business administration course. However, the number of extensions I had was embarrassing.

    If anything, the challenge allowed me to be more present. I wanted to spend more time with my family and friends. Instead of ignoring my son’s pleas to go outside to shoot some ball (his words), I went outside and played basketball and got to know my son’s interests more. Prior to this, I would say I was busy, surfing the web aimlessly and gaming on my phone or Xbox. I feel so bad for the missed opportunities with my son due to my selfishness to find instant gratification. My wife appreciates the time too. I am helping out more at home and talking more.

    My sleep has improved. I am not gaming before going to bed. In fact, I spend at least an hour away from any screen before going to bed. I think the process of gaming last year before bedtime kept my mind racing when I slept. I never felt like I was getting quality sleep. I use the hour before bedtime to get everything organised and ready for the next day. This means I am not rushing in the morning and I know what I am doing. In turn, I can sleep better knowing everything is sorted.

    Cost. I must mention this part. Coming off the gaming bandwagon has financial positives too. I would not like to admit how much money I have spent over the years on games, hardware, and subscriptions, but I know it will enough go on a nice holiday. There were a few games I saw this year that would easily have set me back £400 in total. I resisted. I don’t have to worry about having the latest and greatest any more.

    Challenges

    One word comes to mind from the challenge so far — boredom. I love gaming. I’m not an avid gamer who spends hours on gaming, but I enjoy the dopamine hit it gives me. There have been temptations along the way. I have a few favourite games I liked to play before the challenge. Forza Horizon 4/5, Fifa 23, Minecraft, NBA Playgrounds, Stardew Valley to name a few. The urges often come in the evening when I have more time to wind down. That time is now replaced with reading, meditation, exercise and reviewing my workload.

    Ironically, one of the issues is my son wants to play some games together. With the summer holidays coming up, it will be difficult for him because we would usually spend time bonding while playing Minecraft, Roblox or another of his favourites together. I’m sure he can cope with playing physical games outside this summer.

    New titles that came out have tempted me this year, and there’s more to come out later in the year that will certainly challenge me. Street Fighter 6, Mortal Kombat 1, Super Mario Wonder, Turnip all look incredible. I will have to hold out.

    Post 2023 gaming

    As much as I have liked the challenge, I won’t be continuing with it into 2024. What will be different, however, will be where I focus my attention. I will allow games on my iPhone again. These will be little brain puzzler games such as Sudoku, Stitch, Tetris and SpellTower+.

    My son’s aging Xbox One will be replaced at Christmas with a PlayStation 5, which he is excited about. I’m sure I will be tempted to play a game with him when he gets it. I won’t spend my time on the games console alone, though. Furthermore, I know for sure that I want to keep that barrier in place.

    Both my time on the PlayStation and phone will be timed. Possibly 30 minutes per day maximum? As boring as it may sound, I want to schedule this time into my calendar and stick to it. I think three times a week is enough.

    The challenge has shown me the power of intentional living. It has highlighted how productive, creative and determined I can be when I apply myself. I have five months left. These months will be important leading up to Christmas. I want to complete my web development course on Udemy by then and have a .dev domain set up with my portfolio on.

    I feel I am succeeding with the challenge because I set out goals and intentions from the start. I had an idea of how I was going to accomplish the challenge, as well as why I wanted to achieve my goals. My life was ‘busy’ without anything been completed. My life wasn’t busy at all. Instead, I spent time procrastinating over games, social media and YouTube to realise I had enough time. The desperation to reach my goals outweighed the need to procrastinate like I had all my life.

    I will make another post about the challenge when it is complete. As always, thank you for taking the time to read my post.