NoNothingNovember 2015: What Can You Learn From One Vice-Free Week?

First week done.

As I mentioned in my introduction to NoNothingNovember 2015, I was going to let go of three vices: online distractions, sleeping in and eating sweets and snacks. I also vowed to work at least an hour on this blog per day and publish one blog post per week.

Unlike last year, where I updated my progress daily on this blog, I chose to write those posts on Reddit and then only use my blog to provide weekly updates.

Several of the habits that I am following for NoNothingNovember are also part of Victor Pride’s “30 Days of Discipline”.

NoNothingNovember Purple Rain

No online distractions

I strongly reduced the amount of distractions. 80% of the times where I was tempted to give in to distractions, I stayed the course. 20% I still clicked one time too many, but even there, I managed to drag myself back within a couple of minutes.

Three principles and habits helped me to avoid temptations. Some of them I already outlined a while back.

#1 – Bookmark the site for later.

A link you click on may be useless – or it could provide interesting information. It makes sense to not dismiss it outright – after all, we keep our ideas written down even if we don’t know immediately whether they will work out.

When I see a link that I find interesting, I click on it, have a fast glance across the page to see whether there is anything of urgency, and if not – I bookmark it for later. Sometimes, when I am in the middle of a project, I even bookmark the link outright. These ways, the website does not get forgotten, while I still stay on task and do not get distracted.

#2 – Keep tally on your temptations.

I had a little post-it note where I would make a vertical line any time I withstood vs. gave in to temptation. That way, I still got a little “dopamine kick” every time, now from a mark in the right category, not a click on the link. It could look similar to this, when you track several days in a row:

NoNothingNovember Tally

Over time, you want to make the bottom lines disappear, completely.

#3 – Define your project as clearly as possible.

I find that I am in the biggest danger to get distracted when I am feeling aimless, disappointed or exhausted. All emotional states with a high level of insecurity. The perfect conditions to be distracted, because clicking from link to link provides some appearance of directionality.

To avoid aimlessness, it helps to define your project as clearly as possible.

Don’t do the mistake I did in the past and have a to-do list that is vague and for example says “manuscript”. “Manuscript” could mean a lot of different things. I don’t want to even think about what all that “to-do-mountain” could contain!

First, define the purpose, which could be in this case: Finish the manuscript, so you can send it in for review and ultimately share your research with the world.
Second, define the next action steps very clearly. For example “Load all raw images of your figures into photoshop, add the legends, then save the image as .tiff file.” Thereafter, you would “load the polished images into word”, then “proofread one last time” and finally “save the manuscript as pdf and send it to the journal for review.” If these action steps still feel overwhelming, divide them further until they become doable, for example “proofread page 1” instead of “proofread one last time”.

Once you know your purpose and know precisely what you have to do next, any dithering, delaying and procrastination vanishes.Things fall into place, almost automatically. A purpose adds clarity to the whole endeavor.

And thus, the danger of distractions will be vastly reduced.


No snacks

One reason I wanted to let go of snacks was to reduce my body fat through a low carb diet. Therefore, it was tough when I realized that my body fat was still going up at first. I stuck with it, and slowly but surely, my body fat fell from 27.1% on 11/01/15 to 26.1% on 11/08/15. A good first step!

Then, another challenge arrived in the middle of the week – Christmas cookies from my uncle!

NoNothingNovember Christmas Snacks

Something to look forward to once December comes around. And until then, an extra challenge of my willpower. If it becomes too much to bear, I can still give the candies to a friend for safekeeping.

Three habits helped me withstand sweets and snacks so far:

Three habits that helped me weather this goal:

#1 – Track your progress.

If you measure your weight and/or body fat every day, you will realize that even despite a very constant and healthy diet, there are fluctuations and small plateaus. It’s easy to get overly excited about a strong loss – or unreasonably depressed about a lag in your progress. If you track your progress though, ideally with a graphic representation, you will see that on the long run, you are approaching your goal. As Mike Cernovich said in a recent article – don’t look at where you are right now, look towards where you are going.

If you look at the figure below, you will notice that the orange curve (real body fat values) has had quite a few fluctuations, but on the long run adhered to my planned (blue) line that will bring me right down to 8% body fat by the end of 2016 (the vertical axis represents % body fat).

NoNothingNovember BF 110815

#2 – Spice up your normal food.

Add some herbs to your meals. Vary a bit – instead of hard-boiled eggs, you can make an omelette. Monotony can increase your cravings for snacks and sweets, simply to have some change in your life. Food should be fun and not a chore.

Provide some variety with your normal diet and you will never need sweets to fulfill that role.

#3 – Don’t have your snacks on display.

You won’t see any open snacks in my kitchen. Even the cookies I got from my uncle (see picture above) I keep inside a closet, still in the original package. Don’t trigger yourself by looking at the snacks!


Getting up early.

“Early” meaning preferably at 5 am, latest by 7 am. This is also something that Victor Pride mentioned in “30 Days of Discipline”, and I have lately gotten up too often towards 7 am, not 5 am. What happened in the first week of November?

I got up at 5 am. Daily. Apart from two days where I went to bed late the night before – in which cases I woke up at 7 am. The majority of days woken up at 5 am. Great! What’s the secret?

The purpose of NoNothingNovember gets me going early! No kidding – at the end of the day, I am looking forward to getting up the next day.

If you get most of your important stuff done by late afternoon and make sure you work every day at least a little bit towards your purpose, you will look forward to every next day.

Maybe meet with friends every day.

You like music? Practise the piano or guitar for 20 – 30 minutes a day can already give you fulfillment.

Define something you love working towards and do that every day. In this sense…


Working 1 hour per day on this blog

That worked out well! I spent the first day almost continuously working on notes that had accumulated over the last months and put them into clear, actionable steps.

Then, I drafted a little booklet and started with the 180 Idea Challenge.

I initially was not sure whether I’d be able to keep up working every day on this blog, but with NoNothingNovember and now the 180-day-challenge, I have a strong purpose and the necessary actions move into place.

This purpose was not the ‘big vision‘ that all of a sudden fell from the sky. It’s a purpose for the next month or at the most the next half year. Any further ideas, I will get while working on my current purpose.

If you are looking for an overview on how last year went, you can look here.

If you’d like to participate yourself, you can find further instructions on Reddit. There is a large and incredibly determined group of people taking part in this challenge.

I’d be greatful if this article can inspire you to join, and I’ll see you on the other side.

To get back to the starting page, click here.

(First image in this post taken from Wikimedia Commons.)