Sunday, June 19, 2016

Kata and What I've Learned

There's a concept I learned about this week called "kata". In the traditional sense, kata refers to the drills or routines that martial artists perform. They are building blocks, and as one progresses in a martial art discipline, they become longer and more complex as the learner's knowledge and skill increase.

The concept of kata emphasizes practice over theory. It's important to come up with a hypothesis, but it must be proven or disproven with experiential evidence. Kata is applicable to any area with potential for improvement. It follows the basic principles of the scientific method and the Plan-Do-Check-Act problem-solving method.

1.) Identify your goal (where you want to be).
2.) Determine your current condition.
3.) See the gap between your goal and your current state.
4.) Form a hypothesis about how you can close that gap.
5.) Experiment.
6.) Measure the results and see if your hypothesis was correct.
7.) Adjust as needed, and repeat steps 3-7 until the goal is achieved.

In the spirit of Kata, I will continue activity that has proven to be effective, discontinue what is not, and experiment to learn new information about what works and what does not. It requires a spirit of humility and not jumping to conclusions without testing first.

What I have found works for me through experience:

Physical care:
1.) Eating the same breakfast and lunch every day. Specifically, cereal and coffee for breakfast, and a big salad with lots of protein at lunch.
2.) Spending money on a salad from a salad bar at lunch. I've experimented with a few different lunch sources and this one, while a little expensive, is working the best. Spending money on quality food is a good investment, though.
3.) Bringing a big bottle of water to work. When I do this, it's gone by lunch and I refill it at least once more before the day is over. This tool consistently results in drinking enough water throughout the day, and as a result I have not had any headaches during the workdays when I did this.
4.) Enriching time spent commuting, exercising, and doing chores by listening to radio programs and podcasts. I don't always make time to read, but it is easy to 'find' time to listen. I have learned so much from this practice.
5.) Going to bed by 9 most nights. I have been waking up on my own before my alarm. An adjustment may be needed though - I have been waking up a little earlier than I'd like (and getting to work before I have the chance to listen to my 7:05 Living on the Edge radio program). I'm going to try to push it a little later and see what happens.
6.) Getting and using a FitBit Flex. I have been moving more since getting it, especially with setting a daily goal of at least three miles.
7.) Taking my medication at the same times every day.
8.) A relatively low-carb diet. Although my breakfast and snacks are typically carbs, my main meal of the day - lunch - is very low-to-no carbs. This has helped me not crash or have stomach issues post-lunch.

Around the house:
1.) Doing 5S on my house on the weekends. This has resulted in the following:
    a.) A cleaner house, overall
    b.) Something to look forward to on weekends, actually
    c.) Shorter cleaning time - takes about 1.5 hours / week
    d.) Easier to identify problems and inventory what is needed at the grocery store
2.) Going to the grocery store 1x on the weekend. By practicing this, it's easier to predict what we will need and therefore determine what I need to gset without going over or under what our actual needs are. We're much less likely to run out of something before the next grocery visit. I'm also less likely to forget anything, as I bring a list that has been populated throughout the week.

Time Management:
1.) Leaving at 11:40 for lunch to beat the noon rush.
2.) Writing down my top three to-do items for the next day at the end of the work day. This is a great way to prioritize and it enables me to pick up where I left off the following day.
3.) Keeping my daily planner with me and using it to capture everything. This is something I picked up at a former company that has stuck with me.
4.) Keeping a running personal to-do list for all those 'back-burner' items.
5.) Reviewing the past week's goals and setting the upcoming week's goals once a week. Typically I have been doing this Sunday afternoon. I think I need to review my goals at least once during the week though - sometimes I just plain forget some of them.

Mental/spiritual/relational health:
1.) Going to church on Sundays. It really helps give time for worship and reflection and sets the right tone for the upcoming week.
2.) Doing things for others, even if they are small, lifts my spirits.
3.) Investing in my relationship with my sister has paid back exponential dividends.
4.) Making time to talk with my husband. This does a lot to both strengthen us as a couple and individually. We've been taking a lot of walks together lately as well, which has been particularly enjoyable.
5.) Time with God in the morning with a quick devotional. I found myself reflecting on this during the day when I started this way. It sets the tone for a more positive day, and seemed to make me more aware of the needs of people around me, and not just what I have going on.

What doesn't work / indeterminate:
1.) Taking vitamins and fish oil. I can't say I have noticed a difference, but based on my knowledge I'm going to keep doing it.
2.) Coupons. They don't generally seem to pay off in terms of time.
3.) Abstaining from diet soda. Maybe I did not do it long enough, but I did not notice a difference. The benefits (taste, energy) are worth it to me.
4.) Morning workouts. They did give me a little extra energy in the morning, but they cost me sleep and deprived me of one of the main benefits of exercise - stress relief, which I need at the end of the day, not the beginning.
5.) Very low-carb diet. I try not to eat too many simple carbs anyway, but eliminating them did not seem to have an effect on me other than making me grumpy that I couldn't enjoy some of my favorite foods. And beef jerky is an expensive snack! However, a relatively low-carb diet overall has been of benefit.
9.) Being extremely cost-conscious. I've relaxed with this, and have enjoyed the break from the anxiety as well as the convenience that spending money can sometimes buy. At this phase in our lives, we can afford to be less penny-pinching.

So in the spirit of kata, I will keep experimenting while continuing the practices that have proven useful.

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