Sunday, August 24, 2014

Engineering Yourself - How to increase your performance. Or not.

Time in bed: 5:13h
Sleep quality: 46%

I am at IAD in Washington waiting for my flight to Addis and feel a bit tired. Which makes sense because I only go 5:13h of sleep last night due to a delayed inbound flight. For the last six months I have been tracking my sleep with the sleep tracker app ( I thought it'd be good to get more transparency on my sleeping patterns so that I could make sure to monitor whether I go to bed early enough and which days of the week are especially tough for me to get enough sleep (Mondays by the way). I have noticed a couple of things and with the help of the app tried to smoothen out my sleeping pattern over the week. As a result I actually get more sleep and feel better. Whether thats true or just placebo I don't know. I just feel better.

After I go to the gym I have a protein shake. I take it with water and a splash of milk. Too much milk makes it more difficult for the body to absorb the protein. Or so I have been told. I watch my diet to not eat to many carbs and make sure to get enough other proteins in order to gain muscle and not get fat.

Before I go to bed I watch (German) news for fifteen minutes. During the day it is really difficult to keep up with whats been going on in the world. I feel that I need to know about current events in order to participate in conversations and to fit that image of smart, self-reflected and informed young professional.

When my mum tells me about an upcoming birthday in the family I ask her to send me a calendar invite so that I don't forget. At Stanford my day is very planned and does not leave a lot of room for a lot of spontaneity. Sometimes I block two hours for myself. I also block time to read or to go for a run. If its not in the calendar I'll have a hard time making time for those things.

Isn't it weird? I sometime feel that I am treating myself like a machine. Oil it well, push certain buttons and one gets great performance. It is as easy as that. I wonder whether thats actually the case though. I can see that this is actually counter-productive for certain (probably more creative) individuals, but maybe I don't give myself enough room for nothingness and for unplanned things. Maybe I should not worry about not getting enough sleep when I am out with friends and maybe I should not constantly think about that nagging conscience when I am haven't been working out lately. Yes, I might not get as buff as planned, but maybe I gain something in a different way.

Alright. I have to answer some emails and get a protein shake.

Cheers + bis bald,


  1. Well written, Tim! Totally identify with your dilemma. But, the key question is - if not plans, structures, calendars, then what?

    Also, a recent/related NYT piece that you might like:

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