Category Archives: Daily Energy Curve

Grounding Myself to Improve Disposition

I believe that we create our own reality in how we interpret and react to the world around us. If we have a positive interpretation, we find ourselves living in a positive world. If our disposition is negative, the world reflected back to us is negative. I’ve always been interested in how to reshape my own reactions to the world through regular routines similar to those we find in physical fitness programs.

Grounding Myself to Improve Disposition

Borrowing from the various lessons I have learned from Byron Katie’s The Work, Liberation Unleashed and the writings of Anthony DeMello, I decided to test a technique of grounding that looked more like doing repetitions in the gym than any once a week spiritual routine. I designed a fast way to ground myself in simple, sensation based direct experience using a survey as one “repetition” and did nine reps a day.

My Question

Could grounding myself in direct experience nine times a day change my overall disposition?

What I Did

I created a routine that I could easily repeat multiple times a day where I captured my mood, identified any negative thinking in the previous hour then regrounded myself in direct experience.  By filling out a web-based survey on my smart phone, I walked through this process in a pragmatic and easy way. The key was for me to identify my thinking, then ground myself in direct experience.

Direct experience is a sight, sound or felt sensation in a given moment. Thinking is everything else. For example, “sound of fan” is a direct experience of hearing a sound and “fan being on is costing me money” is my thinking assessment of my situation. Understanding the difference takes practice. The idea was to in each iteration of the exercise I would bring myself out of thinking or negative thoughts and bring myself to the experience of the current moment.

How I Did It

I created a Google form on my iPhone to capture my mood, an upsetting thought, and an observable direct experience when an alarm sounded. This simple survey I could fill out in under fifteen seconds.

The process would be that the alarm would sound, I would open the form and record my mood via a multiple choice question. I could rate myself as upset (1) to completely in flow and happy (5). The form also had text entry boxes where I would capture a negative thought or worry I had from the previous period and a noticing of direct experience in that moment I was recording these impressions.

I set the alarm for nine sessions a day and captured 317 sessions over a 45 day period.

What I Learned

Grounding myself in direct experience multiple times a day improved my overall disposition. Here is a graph of my disposition over the period of the experiment.

Grounding Myself to Improve Disposition

The trend line rises over the period. Though a 3 or 4 remained a consistent state most of the time, the number of 1’s and 2’s reduced, increasing my average. So I wasn’t becoming more euphoric, I was reducing the time I spent in a grumpy state.

I had a baseline of 200 mood readings prior to this experience for comparison. When I compared the 200 baseline readings with the 317 readings post test, I found a significant difference after the test was started: PValue

My average mood score had increased and comparing the two data sets using a Students T-Test there was a statistically significant difference in my disposition (P Value smaller than .05).

The lesson for me is that improving the tendency to be grounded in the moment can be trained, like any type of fitness.  By using the interruption of thinking with a very simple self-assessment process, I had created a repeatable exercise, and with sustained repetition of that exercise had gotten tangible results.

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Eating Any Time With More Energy

Continuing to look at my Daily Energy Curve, I wanted to understand how my meal schedule would impact my energy levels. I have been working on feeling as energetic as possible. I imagined the times I ate would contribute to that.

I thought I had detected a pattern when I ate a big breakfast I would feel warm and alert for several hours. And a big breakfast would account for all my calories until dinner. Would I crash in the afternoon if I had no lunch? Or if I ate a smaller breakfast would I crash mid-morning?

big breakfast

My Question

Did I have more energy through the course of the day if I ate one big breakfast and skipped lunch or if I divided my intake between a modest breakfast and modest lunch?

What I Did

I captured how alert I felt four times a day for 50 consecutive days during which I either ate a large breakfast and skipped lunch or ate modest breakfast and modest lunch. I then compared my alertness at different parts of the day during the two types of meal intake.

How I Did It

I set my alarm on my iPhone so it would alert me eight times a day. When the alarm went off, I used my DIY Tracker on my iPhone to capture how alert I felt.

IMG_0112

The DIY Tracker captures a score of 1 – 5 on my alertness. After 50 days I took the data generated and eliminated days where I did not measure correctly or had food intake what was outside specific tolerances. This yielded 30 good readings. I separated the list into the two types of food intake and did a TTest comparing them.

What I Learned

There was no significant difference in energy levels through the course of they day based on whether I ate all at once or spread the intake over two periods. I compared the different intake schedules for each of four day parts and the average of the four. The TTests revealed that there was no difference between eating a single meal vs. splitting it into two.

SlideRedo

Another personal story debunked. My body would process the nutrients on its own pace and as long as I was putting in the right amount by noon I was ok. Knowing this gives me a tremendous amount of latitude based on what is happening in my day.

I think about all the upsets around trying to eat on a rigid schedule in the morning and how much time I spent planning eating based on having to eat the “correct” amount. The answer is if I had enough calories and did not distract myself with hunger I would be ok.

If you want to try using your own DIY Tracker, you can download free instructions to get you started.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Energy Curve: Blue Mondays

I’ve been enjoying debunking my own cherished stories about my Daily Energy Curve and I went after a good one about the restorative power of the weekend. I always thought that I had a fresh start each Monday after a weekend of rest. I thought each Monday I was like this guy, ready to get going and make it happen.

happybusinessguy

 

I was curious about this because I would assign work to either Friday or Monday based on how stressful I thought it would be. Given my story, I would move the tough stuff to Monday thinking I was more rested.

My Question

Was I more rested, awake and ready to go on Mondays vs. Fridays?

What I Did

I captured how alert I was and how much stress I was feeling eight times a day for 25 consecutive days. I then compared Monday to Friday’s in terms of mental alertness and stress.

How I Did It

I set my alarm so it would alert me eight times a day. When the alarm went off, I used my DIY Tracker on my iPhone.

IMG_0112

 

The DIY Tracker captures a score of 1 – 5 on my alertness and stress level. After 25 days I took the data generated and cut it by Monday and Friday, doing a TTest comparing the two days.

What I Learned

I was no more mentally alert on Monday than I was on Friday. The TTest on Mental Alertness showed that there was no significant difference between Monday and Friday.

 

Awake Mental Alert Stress
Friday vs. Monday 0.10 0.50 0.04

 

Stress, however, was significantly higher on Monday than on Friday (p = .04). This made sense as I was moving tasks to Monday for no real reason other than my story about being rested. I have to conclude that I was overloading my Mondays as a result. What a lousy way to start my week.

Another story I had is that I was more alert in the morning than I was in the afternoon. I had even organized my day so that I would do my heavy lifting mental work in the mornings. Turns out that was wrong. Looking at the entire data set and comparing morning to afternoon, not a single measured dimension was significantly different.

 

Awake Mental Alert Stress
Morning vs. Afternoon 0.23 0.22 0.72

 

So combining the two, I think I was generating my own Blue Mondays by believing these two stories. I would try and shift all my hard work to Monday mornings, and the result was not better output, just more stress.

I will look to spread out the work more evenly and compare that to this baseline. At the very least, I will look to try and make Mondays less hectic.

 

DIY Tracking the Daily Energy Curve

I have reported in earlier posts that I am mapping my Daily Energy Curve so I can make changes in diet, exercise and mental frameworks that will maximize my physically feeling good. In the world of self quantifying we tend to maximize for a desired weight, blood glucose level, steps we take in a day or distance we can run. It gives us an organizing principle for our activity and measurements. My current work is to maximize just like this guy does:

feeling good

I needed a simple way to capture how I was feeling at different times. I like Taplog but it is only for Android and I had just switched to iPhone. I could not find an iPhone app that I liked. So I created a Google Form that would be easily accessible on the iPhone and I could capture my data often.  The survey on the phone looks like this:

IMG_0112

I started gathering reports along three dimensions, six times a day. The dimensions were how awake I felt, how mentally sharp I felt and how stressed I felt.

I am very early days so I can’t describe what I have learned yet. I can show you what the early data looks like and how much data you can gather with a DIY tool like the one I created. This represents four days of data and 37 data points.

Here is the early data on how Awake I felt over the course of the day:

Awake

I was surprised to see how much the curve held up in the back end of the day. Here is mental alertness:

Mental Alert

Too early to be definitive but the drop the afternoon seems to be interesting.  The curve for how stressed I felt has a different and flatter curve:

Stress

I can now start running randomized experiments on the day parts. I am pleased to have created this tracker because I have a lot of control over what I can capture and I already have expansion ideas. And it keeps my tracking top of mind.

I encourage you to make your own DIY tracker. To help you out I have created a set of step-by-step instructions in a PDF and you can download it for free on QuantXLaFont.

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Exercise and the Daily Energy Curve

One critical task that I solve for is ensuring that I maximize my energy during daily negotiations. I want to be present and balanced when I engage with others and not have my physiology defaulting me to Vapor Lock because the night before I had a bad batch of cannoli. So I look to maximize my Daily Energy Curve.

To measure my state of balance I use Heart Rate Variability (HRV).  I know that my balance and energy goes down over the course of a day as I shared in a past post. If that was the case, was a hard workout in the morning depleting my energy before I went into negotiations?

WorkoutExhaustion

Logic said that using energy early in the day would leave less for the remainder of the day. So I had to test it.

My Question

Was exercising early in the day lowering the remaining energy I had for the remainder of the day when I would be in negotiations with others?

The Resulting Potential Action

If exercise first thing in the morning had no effect on my energy levels I would continue to exercise in the morning. If it did have an impact on energy levels on the days when I was engaged in important negotiations I would either skip the workout or workout later in the day after the negotiations.

What I Did

I created a random list of Workout/No Workout days to ensure that the results were not skewed by some personal bias. On days I was to workout, I exercised for 30 minutes on an elliptical machine either at my house or in a hotel on the road.

I took a measure of my HRV at least three times a day, one on waking, one in the afternoon and one on going to bed in the evening. The combination of these three measures I put into a Google spreadsheet and calculated the slope of the three measures. To measure my HRV I used a Polar H7 heart rate belt, an iPhone6 and the Heart Rate Variability app.

I took 25 readings over the course of a month. 19 of the readings were from randomly generated instruction, 6 were due to life events (elliptical not available, had an opportunity to workout).

What I Learned

The difference in my HRV slope on days I exercised had no statistically significant difference than on days that I did not exercise. There was no correlation between exercise and my energy levels.

The idea of the HRV slope reflecting my Daily Energy Curve which would steadily drop over time  means that we would expect the slope to be nearly always negative. Supposedly HRV starts high and ends low. With that assumption, the workout would drop the early day energy and the negativity of the slope would increase. The Daily Energy Curve in the Exercise or Not Exercise would look something like this:

Slide1In the actual readings, there were 9 days that the slope of the curve was positive, with close to an equal number of those positive days being on both Exercise and No Exercise days. You can see the positive days in the scattergram of the readings over time:

SlopeOverTime

And a scattergram of the Exercise (1) vs. No Exercise (0) showing the distribution during the study:

Slope Exercise or Not

Running a few statistical tests on the data it came back that there was no difference between the HRV slope on days of exercise and a random sample of HRV slope readings. On both a T Test and Pearson Correlation the difference was not significant.

So in a (semi) randomized test of exercise effect on the Daily Energy Curve I dispelled a cherished personal myth. In the past, when I would wake up on the day of an important negotiation I would say “I should save my energy for the discussion” and blow off the workout. A study and a bit of math now tell me that I’m not really saving up energy if I skip the workout. I’m just blowing off the workout.

I have to give full credit for the randomization method to Cara Mae Cirignano of Whatify. I did use Whatify for a portion of this study but because I did not get the entire study done with them they are off the hook for methodological irregularities. I highly recommend you check out their service.

So going forward my workout decisions are independent of my pending negotiations. And I have to take more of a look at the HRV Slope. If sometimes it is positive, what is driving that? For a future study.