Zooming Out, Big Water Bottles, and Air Quality

Oct 2020 - Evergreen Thoughts

What’s on my mind…


Zooming Out

Over the past couple weeks I've been using a website called 10Q to help me pause, zoom out and reflect. You get prompted 10 questions over 10 days during the Jewish high holiday season between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Two examples:

Day 3: Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?

Day 6: Describe one thing you'd like to achieve by this time next year. Why is this important to you?

After you answer all the questions, it locks your answers into a virtual vault. One year later the vault opens and you can revisit your past self. Sort of like when Seth Rogen plays an immigrant worker at a pickle factory who is accidentally preserved for 100 years before waking up in modern day Brooklyn. Except probably a little less funny and a lot more meaningful and interesting because it’s all about you.

This is my 3rd year doing it, and it's become one of my favorite traditions. Reading past answers is like stepping into a time capsule. The perspective helps me appreciate where I’ve made progress and recognize areas that are overdue for change. It’s also a fun and meaningful way to connect with loved ones.

While this service is technically geared towards Jews as a way to reflect during the Jewish New Year and high holidays season, the questions are applicable to folks of all backgrounds and religious (or nonreligious) beliefs.


Drink Water. A Lot. Mostly from a Big Jug.

I've experimented with lot of habits. Some high effort, high return. Others low effort, low return. Last year I reflected on all these experiments and wrote about the 3 that had the best bang for buck. Number 1 on that list was chugging a bottle of water first thing in the morning.

It's time to expand upon this recommendation. In addition to filling up a bottle of water before going to bed and chugging it first thing, I've also become amazed at the effectiveness of using a bigger water bottle to help me drink more water.

Prompted by this tweet I decided to buy a large water bottle. It even has time markings to prompt you when you’re not drinking enough:

This "one small trick" has been super effective at helping me stay hydrated and feeling good throughout the day. As someone who is always looking for low effort, high return tips and tricks, I highly recommend trying this out.

Note: For those that don't recognize the structure this section’s title, it's a (bad) attempt at riffing on nutrition advice from one of my favorite authors, Michael Pollan: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.


The Air We Breath

In September my fiance and I moved back to NYC after 6mo in New Jersey and Cleveland with our parents. A combination of COVID, west coast wildfires, and working from home made air quality top of mind. So we decided to invest in an air quality monitor.

So far it’s been only a couple weeks, but it’s been wildly informative and led to meaningful behavior change. I’m also obsessed with the industrial design. Extremely elegant and functional:

Below is an overview of what it monitors, what we've observed, and what we've learned.

Awair monitors 5 factors:

  1. 🌡 Temperature: Just like papa bear, you don’t want it too hot or too cold.

  2. 💦 Humidity: Similar to the above, you want it just right (40-50%). Too little moisture can lead to dry skin and make you sick. Too much can increase risk for toxic mold.

  3. 💨 Carbon Dioxide: While harmless in small quantities, too much CO2 can meaningfully affect your productivity and health.

  4. ☣️ Toxic Chemicals: Volatile organic compounds ("VOCs"), can be found in everyday materials such as furniture, paint, and cleaning supplies.

  5. 🧹 Dust: Too much fine dust can magnify existing health conditions like asthma and allergies.

While potentially obvious in hindsight, here were some unexpected observations:

  • Without any ventilation our carbon dioxide levels rise to unhealthy levels.

  • Using our gas stove shoots carbon dioxide and chemical levels through the fucking roof, making ventilation that more more important while cooking.

  • Temperature and humidity vary wildly depending on the weather and time of day.

These observations have motivated us to be more mindful when it comes to air quality hygiene. After our first week of using Awair we started opening our windows 10x more and bought our first real apartment plants. Similar to Levels Health, it’s crazy how effective real time feedback is at driving behavior change. Some related tips and tricks:

  • Improve ventilation via windows, fans, and open doors

  • Invest in an air purifier

  • Use natural cleaning products

  • Invest in some carbon dioxide and chemical reducing plants

  • Clean or change air related filters (a/c, purifier, vacuum) on a regular basis

  • Target 40-50% humidity using windows, fans, a/c, humidifiers and dehumidifiers

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👋 Until next time,