Our friend and productivity ninja from Think Productive, Graham Alcott, is on an experiment where he joins us to fast during the first three days of Ramadan. To know more about this experiment, you can read the introduction here. In this series, he shares his reflections regarding fasting and productivity based on this experience. (Read Fasting Experiment: Day 2 | Day 3)
As I write this, it’s 8pm on Wednesday 10th July. This could easily be mistaken for just another day, but it’s also the first day that thousands of Muslims in the UK fast for Ramadan. So given this month’s productivity experiment is all about ‘fuel’, I’m joining them.
(For three days, anyway).
So how has my first day of fasting been? It’s safe to say it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster:
2am. Up from my bed, in the kitchen preparing omelette and a brain fuel shake, which I was eating on an already pretty full stomach. According to the Muslim calendar, sunrise is less than an hour away, which I can’t quite believe as I gaze out into the pitch black night, but who am I to argue! I’m perhaps slightly overdoing the preparation with all this extra food, but hey, Ninja Preparedness matters!
8am. Up again. This time my usual routine of jumping out of bed and putting the kettle on is redundant. And I’m already feeling a bit thirsty and peckish, despite downing at least three pints of water before I went back to bed.
10am. Feeling peaceful and serene, sat at my desk and hacking through a backlog admin pretty successfully. There’s something about knowing you’re entering something tough which gets a little bit of adrenaline pumping and there’s something about not having eating or drinking as a constant distraction which focuses the mind.
12 noon. Being on the tube, in the heat before lunch sets off hunger pangs. I cruelly have to walk past several inviting food outlets. A bit like mile 10 of a marathon: you’re under way, but oh so far from the finish. Or like a cake that you’ve slaved away at, but it’s only just entering the oven.
3pm. What should have been a quick errand to pick up some temporary parking permits for when our visitors come to stay in a couple of weeks turns into a 45 minute wait with a deli-style queuing system. Utter inefficiency and one of the worst customer service designs I’ve seen in years, which I stew over whilst I wait. And I’m grumpy about it.
4.30pm. Back at my desk, with the Ashes cricket on in the background. Realise that my hunger pangs are returning. In fact, like for most of the day, it feels like hunger but my urge is always to find some water. Feeling pretty dehydrated now and my brain going a bit fuzzy. I snack on some easy emails and then decide it’s time to stop to watch the Ashes properly with a cup of… oh.
5pm. Nap time.
6pm. Wake up after about 45 minutes of sleep, strangely feeling pretty fresh again! I was told that you do push through the worst of it and get a ‘second wind’. From the research I’ve done, I’m guessing this is your body switching from glycogen stores to fat stores… which means I have work to do this evening in replenishing!
7pm. Back at my desk, wrapping up the day. As soon as I start trying to concentrate properly again I feel hungry. But I’m learning to push through that now.
8pm. Writing this as my relationship with food changes back to my 34 year default setting of “what next” (as opposed to today’s new setting of “don’t think about it!”). I can actually start to plan my meal and even start preparing it.
So what have I learned so far?
It’s too early to start jumping to big productivity conclusions, much as I’m sure our friends at Productive Muslim are itching for me to start coming up with some! Obviously there are things you can do to try and gear your metabolism around slow-release energy foods (low GI, etc) and there are choices you can make to segment your day around when you’re likely to have higher energy and proactive attention. But today is really just a day for me to recognise what a huge and profound thing it is to undertake something like this, that radically changes the normal flow of life and that requires such discipline. I can also see immediately how this sacrifice of the day-to-day helps people to experience their life and their faith more deeply, and feel appreciation for the present moment.
I’m thankful that I have another couple of days to experience this some more, but thankful too that I’m not committed to a whole month!
Until tomorrow, Ramadan Mubarak!