287. Resetting in the New Year (Replay)

After such a wild year, most of us can understand the need to turn ourselves off and back on again. Today hosts Michael Nunez and David Anderson discuss how you can reset yourself and build positive habits. We dive into the topic after a quick reminder that this is the last week to respond to our listener survey. As we explore how you can reboot your brain, we touch on the benefits of being helpful, exercising, maintaining your social connections, eating more healthily, learning something new, and keeping a consistent sleep routine. We apply this advice to the coding environment, showing why and how these general life tips are relevant to software engineers. Later, we talk about strategies to enact change like starting with small habits and recruiting an accountability buddy. Tune in for more insights on starting 2021 with your best foot forward.

Key Points From This Episode:

  • A reminder that this is the last week to respond to our listener’s survey.
  • Introducing today’s topic of resetting yourself in 2021.
  • From being kind to exercising, hear the top ways to reboot your brain.
  • Applying advice about positive habits in the coding environment.
  • Eating healthier while working from home.
  • The importance of maintaining your social connections. 
  • Hear how you can be helpful, keep social, and learn all in one go. 
  • Never underestimating the need for a healthy sleep routine.
  • Enacting change by starting off small. 
  • Exploring a formula to help you form habits.
  • Having an accountability buddy for added motivation.


Transcript for Episode 287. Resetting in the New Year (Replay)


[0:00:00.2] MN: Hey, Dave. How’s it going?

[0:00:01.2] DA: Not bad, Mike. Happy 2021. 

[0:00:05.2] MN: 2021 as happy as we can be. We still have that survey out and available, still in the wild, right? 

[0:00:13.2] DA: Yeah. But this is the last week. We're going close it out. But then there were some reasons we just kept it going. So, this is the last week for responses. So, get them in there. We’re going to have a fabulous prize for one person who completes the survey. And thank you all for the responses you've given so far. 

[0:00:34.3] MN: Yeah, I think as I mentioned before, we'll have a Raspberry Pi kit or equivalent, if you live somewhere other than the US. We'll have to figure it out after the drawing.

[0:00:42.2] DA: Yes. This is the first time we're doing this. We're figuring it out. There's no legal mumbo jumbo. It's a social contract between you and us. We'll get in touch with you. We'll figure it out. 

[0:00:52.2] MN: Yeah, I mean, we're trying to be as agile as possible in this dry way of doing it and we'll figure it out. We'll be agile about it. The survey, you can find it bit.ly/rabbit-hole-survey.

[0:01:08.6] DA: That’s rabbit-hole-survey, kebab-case.

[0:01:11.8] MN: There you go, rabbit-hole-survey, kebab-case, that's bit.ly and you know what to do from there. We'll probably have it in the show notes too, to make it like easily clickable, I guess. And we hope you take the time to fill out the survey where you can be a lucky person to receive the Raspberry Pi kit or anything equivalent. We'll figure it out.

Hello and welcome to The Rabbit Hole, the definitive developer’s podcast. Live from New York. I'm your host, Michael Nunez, our cohost today.

[0:01:43.3] DA: Dave Anderson.

[0:01:44.9] MN: Today we'll be talking about resetting in the new year. You might want to turn it off and turn it back on again. I guess we’re talking about our brains, not habits, not behavior. 

[0:01:54.3] DA: Or the whole year. Let's just roll back to a week ago. Yeah, I mean, when you flip to the new calendar, people kind of approach it with a sense of optimism and hope for the future where it's like anything is possible, I can change everything. And then there's like reality, and it's like, “Wait, do I have to actually change these things? Like what what can I change? What is helpful?” 

[0:02:25.6] MN: This week, especially called for figuring out ways to reset the mind and to come up with healthy behaviors. And we're at the beginning of the year. And we'll be talking about some articles that Dave had picked up and how it applies to us as software engineers. And we'll add them to the show notes as well. So, you can also have read and we'll be able to get some content from you guys and figure out have a conversation about it. 

[0:02:52.2] DA: Yeah, I found this article through pocket on the conversation.com, Six Ways to Reboot Your Brain After A Hard Year of COVID-19 According to Science. So, I do love science. 

[0:03:06.4] MN: Science is good. Science is always good. Got to love the science. You want to kick off the first one or would you like for me to?

[0:03:14.6] DA: Yeah, I can kick off the first one. I mean, this one like kind of really resonated with me, like over the winter break. Like we took a little time where we weren't recording between the holidays. And I was just kind of hanging out and scrolling through Reddit and I saw a live stream that like really resonated with me and also resonates with this first thing that you can do to like reset, and like re-energize yourself which is being kind and helpful.

I saw a live stream of a guy picking up trash in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the town of my alma mater, Rutgers, hurrah. He just was like live streaming every day for the past 50 plus days, just picking up trash, one piece at a time. And just really having a great time. He's like, “Oh, yeah, get that trash.” He’s like saying to himself. 

[0:04:16.1] MN: It’s like, “Oh, the Arizona iced tea can. That's a big can. Get that out of here into the trash bag.”

[0:04:16.1] DA: Yeah, so that just like really resonated with me and I was like, “Oh, it's such a small thing but there's a lot of little pieces of trash everywhere.” Yeah, so I tried that out. And it felt pretty good.

[0:04:34.1] MN: Just like being kind and helpful to the environment by picking up the trash, I imagine, is a great way to look after yourself and people in your neighborhood. When you see trash, how did you pick up the trash? Did he have like the little claw thing? That looks like a lot of fun.

[0:04:52.4] DA: His video is like him with his phone was mounted on the claw. So, it was like first person.

[0:04:58.5] MN: First person trash picking up, that’s amazing. 

[0:05:02.1] DA: It's just like grabbing things. He had a little thing where you could buy these like gloves and these claws, my recommended claw and glove combination. But yeah, I just did it while I walking the dog and it's pretty fun.

[0:05:15.5] MN: Awesome. 

[0:05:15.7] DA: But like, being software engineers, I'm sure we can think of some other trash that we could pick up.

[0:05:22.0] MN: I mean, I wouldn't call it trash and picking it up. But I do think that like, every day, you run into some piece of code that needs some feedback via pull request, or whether you're pairing. I think that like pairing in itself leads to not calling anyone trash or anything. 

[0:05:42.9] DA: Yeah, I guess that's like the opposite of being kind and helpful, calling someone's PR trash.

[0:05:48.3] MN: In your case, you're literally picking up garbage. But the idea of programming, you're pairing with someone and being kind and respectful about the things one can do to improve the code. Because you don't want to go up to a pull request and just like bash the person who opened the pull request with the thousands of comments, and how this should change and those other stuff. But being kind in a pull request goes very, very far, I think. 

[0:06:17.7] DA: Yeah, and providing like really useful feedback in a pull request that’s definitely a solid thing you can do. Prioritizing your time to get with that person and move their code along the line. There's nothing worse than doing work, spending some time and energy on a piece of work only to anticlimactically have it sit around. So, jumping on that PR is a great way to be helpful. 

[0:06:47.8] MN: There's just a ton of ways of just being helpful to your fellow peers and engineers in that regard. And you don't have to wake up and choose violence, you can wake up and choose to be kind and helpful. I think that's one thing that we can do. One way we can do that. 

[0:07:03.2] DA: Yeah, totally. I'm sure there's like a lot of things that people can think of to, from stand up or your general interactions or being helpful or friendly. Yeah, if people have good ideas about how to be kind of helpful, let us know.

[0:07:18.4] MN: Yeah. The next one on the article is to exercise. I don't think that I have been exercising explicitly, like I got a workout routine, or that I have some resistance bands that I'm using to workout. But my son weighs 27 pounds, and I carry him a lot. So, I would consider that to be exercise. 

[0:07:42.0] DA: Yeah, you got those wraps in. 

[0:07:43.2] MN: Oh, yeah. I don't do squats while holding him. But like, I'll lift them up in the air and I try to do that 10 times. That’s my squat right there. 

[0:07:53.3] DA: That's really how you get the dadbod, like doing the child assisted exercise.

[0:08:01.5] MN: Child assisted exercise, that’s awesome. I need to make a video program of that, of all the workouts you can do with your child. 

[0:08:08.3] DA: Well, my buddy, he was doing that. He was doing some kind of squats where he had the kid on his legs and was pushing the legs out, doing kind of a Superman. It was like, “Wow!” Intense.

[0:08:20.7] MN: I need that. I need that program. That’s the workout that I’m doing.

[0:08:24.7] DA: I got to that myself a bit more. I'm consulting for an exercise related product right now. And so, I actually have access to all these exercise videos. And I'm like, “Oh, I should check that out.” But I also saw that there's like – to go with my standing desk, there's now the seven-minute workout, where it's like, “Oh, if you do this workout for seven minutes, you're going to be et.” So, they also have a standing seven-minute workout. 

So, I'm thinking kind of marry those, do the standing, actually standard stand up, that might be something I could do as well. I haven't stood and stand up for a very long time. Yeah, so I think there are a lot of things there. But it's just like getting started, I guess, that's the hard thing, but I'll figure it out. We'll get to that in a little bit. 

[0:09:15.3] MN: I think the next one that was mentioned in the article is to eat well. I mean, we've all been at home. There’s nothing like cheeseburger deluxe that tastes really good and that hits the spot. Well, but you know, you can't eat that every day. You can't order that all the time. 

[0:09:36.4] DA: I had to move my car for parking and I went to Wendy's. I'm an awful human being. I think I have weakness for that spicy chicken. 

[0:09:44.0] MN: Did you get like a triple Baconator? What did you get?

[0:09:47.5] DA: No. I got spicy chicken. That's all I got. I can't get that triple bacon. 

[0:09:52.9] MN: Yeah, I mean, you got to make those decisions slowly, right? If you normally get the triple Baconator, try to just get like the double. I don't know, you have to gradually go down like the triple Baconator is not good for you. You get exhausted looking at that thing 

[0:10:15.4] DA: No. I can't deal with that. 

[0:10:17.6] MN: You got to eat well. I mean, I think one of the things that pressures me to eat well is the fact that I can't feed Gio a triple Baconator. If I did that, I'd be a horrible parent. So, I have to eat something that I can share with my son oftentimes. I look at it that way. Like, “Oh, can Gio eat this?” And it’s like, “No, I wouldn't feed this to Gio. So, let me not eat this myself.” 

[0:10:41.0] DA: That’s some good accountability. I think I have my wife for that, as well. We're trying to make more salads at home and make a little salad bar. So, we had that for a couple lunches this week. So, the Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich number six combo is really just a regression, more than like the pattern that I'm trying to shut down.

[0:11:09.0] MN: Like I said, it could be a progression if someone usually gets a triple Baconator. That’s all I’m saying. It's progress somewhere. We’re going to do it together, 2021. 

[0:11:20.1] DA: The other thing that you can do to like reset, get some positivity going, is to keep socially connected. Admittedly, one to be a hermit and resist social connection. But then I always am surprised at how good I feel when I actually do come through and like hang out. Doing a podcast with you, get that dopamine ahead. Just hanging out with people at work like we have. Set up a space for us to touch base on a weekly basis in a more informal way. We call it a walk and talk, but we don't walk. But we do talk now. It's nice. It's good. It's good having a little bit of extra time to catch up. 

[0:12:14.5] MN: Yeah, I think one of the things that I've done in the past that I might have to bring up again, it's just like a lunch meeting, I guess. I wouldn't recommend it if you had a day full of Zoom meetings, but just like inviting people to have lunch over Zoom, just so you can chat with someone, no different than if you were in a roundtable talking with people eating lunch. I tried to do that before and it was like really cool to just catch up and talk banter, like non-work-related stuff. 

[0:12:43.6] DA: Yeah, like even having cameras off, kind of having a stream for passive chat, like a discord, audio chat, group chat, or even just taking a few minutes before meetings. I think we've talked about this before, but we don't have a water cooler. And if you're just hanging out at the end of a Zoom meeting, that feels kind of awkward, in my experience. So, I think making time at the beginning is kind of a natural way to kind of ease into things and you chill. 

[0:13:18.6] MN: Just like reserve that first five minutes for everyone to land and have a conversation before kicking off the meeting. And one of the things, I mean, on this list, we're getting close to the end, we got two more. The next one is learn something new. I think we've had quite a few conversations on the idea and the concept of learning something new, especially in our workplace, we may need to learn a new language or a new framework. And this is a perfect, good time to reset your brain because you are forced to think differently. Like one would be able to think right now, thinking in one particular programming language and thinking in a different one, you get an understanding of how resetting your mind to learn this new thing will work. So, I need to figure out something to learn. I need to learn something new, maybe a new programming language. I have to figure out what it is.

[0:14:11.6] DA: Yeah, hopefully there's like kind of, in our position as software engineers, there's always like a steady drumbeat of little tiny new things that we're learning and delivering. But I thought of like a triple whammy, a way to tie together learning, keeping connected socially and being kind of helpful. If you teach somebody, something that you know, then you'll –

[0:14:34.4] MN: Wow. That’s a triple right there.

[0:14:37.3] DA: Yeah. You'll learn more yourself because you'll have to explain it in a good detail. You’re keeping connected because you're talking to somebody. You're being kind of helpful, because hopefully people are trying to learn something new as well. 

[0:14:50.9] MN: That’s good. Yeah. If you can teach something to someone, you can get yourself in a triple whammy of resets, if you will. 

[0:14:59.4] DA: And if you, I guess, are not very good at teaching, then you may help them with this last thing, which is sleeping properly. Maybe you'll put them to sleep and help them –

[0:15:13.1] MN: Yeah, sleeping properly is helpful in terms of resetting your mind. Definitely, I know I've read articles about going into a routine, make sure before you go to sleep, have this routine set so that you will then fall asleep. I don't sleep properly. But I make sure that Gio has a routine that we follow. And it's called starting the night, and like Gio, we're going to start the night now. If we have him as our time of phone, we could take the phone away, we'd go upstairs, brush his teeth, we give him a bath, lay him down, put the diaper, put some lotion and put them to his onesie. And then by then, he's like falling asleep. This routine has helped him fall asleep. I just need to find like an adult version. 

[0:16:07.9] DA: Yeah. I think routines are helpful too. I have had success in the past with kind of some level of consistency like brushing my teeth and then like reading a book and whatever. It's kind of fallen apart lately because of reasons, I guess. But I think that's a great point, like why not? Yeah, why not start the night and start a routine?  

[0:16:39.9] MN: I need to figure out how I start the night for me, because I already got it down for Gio, but for me, myself, I really need that. 

[0:16:47.2] DA: Sounds like you started the nigh, starts with him starting the tonight. And then it has to change into something else. Which actually, that's a pretty good segue into the next thing that I thought it would be cool to talk about, which is like, how do you actually get started with any of these things? 

So, these are all great things you can do to feel refreshed and rejuvenated. But actually, following through and doing things is kind of hard sometimes. There was a podcast that I listened to, love podcasts, called Life Kit, enjoying it. And they had a guide on there, called, BJ Fogg. And he talked about how to start a tiny habit which sounds a lot more manageable than a big habit. 

[0:17:40.1] MN: Yeah, or like just the habit, right? I hear the word habit and I think, “Oh my god, I got to learn how to do it.” How large is this habit that I need to learn? But a tiny habit sounds more approachable.

[0:17:56.5] DA: Yeah, I had this app for a while that I enjoyed. But it was also kind of like, it was a long-term thing. It was like, “Oh, you got to stick with it for 20 days before you officially level up your habit or something.” And it's like, “Wow, this is a lot.” But I liked his framework for thinking about these. His framework was like, you could just have a moment and that could be enough to propel you into the next moment, and that's all you need, which sounds like super agile to me. They'll always kind of, stuff like, waterfall delivery for your habits. But this guy's equation is basically behavior equals motivation, possibility plus a prompt. 

The prompt is you decide the exact trigger for when you're going to do a thing. So, it's an if statement, if blah, call habit. So, calling back to being kind of helpful, I was like, “Oh, when I walk my dog in the afternoon. I'm going to pick up some trash.” That ties into the next one which is ability where like, “I'm not going to pick up all the trash, just a piece of trash and anything above that is just a bonus trash I picked up.” So, as long as you pick up like one piece of trash I've been looking at for the past month on my streets, then that's a win. And you can go to motivation where that's celebrating and be like, “Heck, yeah. Got that trash. It's out of here.”

[0:19:36.4] MN: He's cleaning the environment. Cleaning my neighborhood. One trash at a time.

[0:19:40.2] DA: One trash PR at a time.

[0:19:47.5] MN: I think, as you mentioned, even if your goal is to pick up one piece, I think that’s part of the tiny, you don't say, “Oh, I'm going to pick up trash”, because then you may think that you're going to pick them all up, and then you don't pick up any of them because you're just so overwhelmed by the amount of trash.  

[0:20:05.6] DA: There's a lot of garbage out there. I'm looking at my window, and I'm looking at garbage. It's there. But it's a little bit less garbage than there was earlier. 

[0:20:14.8] MN: Yeah. And that was because you went out there, and you picked up that tiny habit of one piece of trash. And I imagine, like, at some point, you're like, “Oh, yeah, that was easy. That's one, maybe I could do two.” And then you could probably get the little claw thing. and the glove and then make that the thing. But it started out tiny, which is great.

So, yeah, I would suggest anyone who has any behavioral changes that they want to do, try to make it as tiny as possible. I guess that's what the equation would tell you. That way, you can start really, really small. I think the one that I have in mind, I think my ability might have been too big, but I've been working my way through it. And I need to read 20 pages a night of a book. And I chose a personal finance book, it’s like a personal finance for your 20s and 30s for dummies or something like that. And I was like, “I'm going to try and read 20 pages.” And I don't really count how many pages I read. But the fact that I opened the book and have been reading it and stuff like that, it's been great. And maybe I should bring it down to five and then actually track it. So, that way I can see like, “Oh, I'm actually reading 20 or 5, a 10.” 

[0:21:20.9] DA: I mean, I'm giving you credit just for opening the book. 

[0:21:23.0] MN: Yeah, there you go. Thank you. I need it. 

[0:21:26.0] DA: As a parent who's bruised recently, you get credit just for opening the book. 

[0:21:31.1] MN: Yeah, it's kind of wild. But I need to get my personal finances in. I'm in crippling debt right now.

[0:21:38.5] DA: Well, congratulations, you're in America. 

[0:21:40.1] MN: Oh, yeah. I live in America. But yeah, I think this little equation is pretty dope for anyone who wants to create new behaviors and starting out very small and just slowly increasing that behavior, hopefully for the better and the positive in the past six things that we talked about. 

[0:21:59.1] DA: Do you have a buddy who keeps you accountable?

[0:22:02.4] MN: No, I don't actually. As we were looking for this, I realized that I should have one. So, the ideas that you have an accountability buddy, that allows you to keep you accountable on the things that you’ve been doing, and I think I need to find the accountability buddy for like reading this book. 

[0:22:22.7] DA: Yeah, I've tried apps and alarms on my phone and other things. But I think if you have a good person who can help, that would be best. Maybe Gio could be your accountability buddy. 

[0:22:38.0] MN: I think I'm just going to get the same book until to learn personal finance for his 20s and 30s right now.

[0:22:44.4] DA: Yeah, programming and personal finance. Great. He’s going to be set. 

[0:22:49.7] MN: He needs a job already anyway. He’s eating a lot. I need to do something. But I do think, this Twitter account, maybe I'll start tweeting those things like, “Hey, someone keep me accountable. I'm trying to read a book.”

[0:23:02.0] DA: I think that count, if you try on social media, maybe someone out there will be like –

[0:23:08.2] MN: I can't lie to my friends in social media either, so I had to think about that. I'm going to do that. I’m going to try that. This is great. If you need an accountability buddy, hit me up. I'll do my best and be your accountability buddy.

[0:23:25.5] DA: Yeah, I googled Mike on Twitter.

[0:23:27.6] MN: Google Mike on Twitter, holler at me. I will try and keep you accountable on things. Let's do it 

[0:23:35.1] DA: You can add me on Twitter, but like, I'm a ghost. You can add David Anderson without the bells. But why not? 

[0:23:41.9] MN: @radiofreerabbit, yeah, let's do it. Why not? We're going to be accountable. We're going to reset our brains, turn it off and turn it back on again and we'll do it together. We got this, 2021. We need to reset it and to start over again. Even though it’s the second Tuesday, I mean the first Tuesday – 

[0:24:00.0] DA: 2021, take two. There we go.

[0:24:04.4] MN: This now the first Tuesday, people. Let's just call it that for what it was. No matter how many Tuesday just passed. We'll make it happen. 


[0:24:10.8] MN: Follow us now on Twitter @radiofreerabbit so we can keep the conversation going. Like what you hear? Give us a five-star review and help developers like you find their way into The Rabbit Hole. Never miss an episode, subscribe now however you listen to your favorite podcast. 

On behalf of our producer extraordinaire, William Jeffries and my amazing co-host, Dave Anderson and me, your host, Michael Nunez, thanks for listening to The Rabbit Hole.


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William Jeffries

‘Six ways to ‘reboot your brain’ after a hard year of COVID-19 – according to science’

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Life Kit