Building Habits

Daily habits can amount to great change and accomplishment. It’s really that simple. Building and maintaining them can be extremely challenging, but the facts are out:

-If you study Japanese 30 minutes a day, you will be able to speak decent Japanese next year.
-If you floss every day, your dental health and hygiene will be significantly better than it was.
-If you exercise a few times a week and eat healthier, well, a whole lot of things will be better.
-etc, etc.

It’s not that we don’t know this, it’s just hard to stick with it because the results are often so incremental that they are impossible to see before months of unbroken commitment.

I (not so) recently read Tynan’s book on building habits, “Superhuman by Habit,” and found it enjoyable to read and quite motivating. This kind of reading can be a crapshoot, both in writing quality and practicality. The subject matter isn’t profound, or even thought-provoking really, but I like to read (and write) about self development just enough to keep myself in a positive and productive mindset. It can all get a little silly, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that this kind of stuff has a positive effect on my psychological state and work ethic.

I particularly like Tynan’s most recent book for his focus on practical application of his recommendations. He walks the reader through a lot of habits that he himself has cultivated, explains why he thinks they are valuable, and advises what he thinks is the best approach to accomplishing them with consistency. In a genre that is too often steeped in abstraction and wordiness, his conciseness and practicality are much appreciated.

Habit-SIdeFor me, the most effective habit-building system that I’ve created is quite simple: I keep a weekly chart (hand-written in a notebook in my case but could be done digitally) of all of the habits I want to accomplish every single day. On the Y-axis I list the habits, and across the top I list the days of the week. I just throw a check mark next to every habit under the current day as I do them throughout the week. At the end of the week I can look back and easily see that I meditated every day, exercised four times, read every day, etc. It’s super simple, but it holds me accountable to the habits and ensures I know exactly how often I’m doing them. It also takes the mental energy out of “remembering” all of the things I want to do, because I can always refer to my list.

I also do this for longer term projects I want to touch on frequently, and I keep a “to-do” list below that. It all fits on one page of a notebook and then I redo it for the next week. It’s a system that I continually tinker with, but its simplicity is important to me.

Below is a photo of one of my weeks; finally, your opportunity to judge my failures and the weird shit that I do. This is like letting someone read my diary…


2 Reactions

  1. Ken Robbins

    Well done. How is the meditation going with such a busy schedule? It seems like some large chunks outside of the “habits” might be helpful.

  2. Bill M

    How to you keep to the daily grind of work while keeping up with all the activities on the checklist?

    The daily checklist reminds me of Ben Franklins 12 Virtues diary. The checklist is something I must do though.