Personal

On Habit Forming. Or: Resolutions 2013

Over the last few years, I, like every one else on the planet, have created and failed to follow through on New Year’s resolutions. However, as I think I have stated before, even though I failed, I was still glad to have tried. This year, I want to try harder. If trying and failing felt good, trying and succeeding must feel great.

So, this year, I have come up with a couple of ideas to help me stick to my resolutions. First, I am not considering them resolutions. These are habits I want to form. Things that I want to make a part of my life. I want them to be so ingrained that I think about them as often as I think about brushing my teeth, which is to say not at all. I brush my teeth everyday, but I don’t have to think about it; it’s just something that happens. It’s a habit. I will explain my other plans for success, but not until after I list out my resolutions, or rather the habits I want to form.

Exercise Every Day

I have back problems and knee problems. But they are all due to my laziness. I know this, because every time I start exercising regularly, the pains go away and stay away. Right up until a couple weeks or a month after I stop exercising regularly. For the next month, I will exercise every day. After that, I will exercise 13 out of every 14 days. At least three days a week, this must be by doing kettle bell swings. I can do other things, too, but I must do kettle bell swings three times per week.

Get Enough Sleep

All my life, I have had sleep issues. Even as a baby I had night terrors. I have gotten better at getting good sleep, and I have a pretty good routine now, but I want to try to stick to it harder. I will end every day possible at 10PM. This doesn’t mean I will be in bed by then, but it does mean I will start wrapping up my day then, and get into bed as soon as possible. If I’m watching TV, I can finish the episode. If I’m out, I will pay my tab and head home. I think I may have cracked the code to what it takes for me to get good sleep. It is complex and different enough that I think it justifies its own post. Keep an eye out for that, if you’re interested.

picaday2013

I started tagging photos on Flickr with picaday2013 (That’s PicADay, not PicaDay). I am going to take a photo of something interesting every day. I have found that I have a greater appreciation for my environment when I am on the lookout for photo opportunities. So far I’m only batting .500 on this, but I didn’t have the idea until the 3rd, and I didn’t have any of the systems described below set up.

Write Every Week

This is actually something I tried a couple years ago, and it went really well, for as long as I kept it up. I have always enjoyed writing, but thought I suffered from perpetual writer’s block. When I did this last time, I discovered that the more I wrote, the more I thought to write about. e.g. while writing this post I decided to create a post just about my sleep routine. This won’t necessarily be a blog post, but most of the time, it probably will be. I have been threatening to submit articles to Linux Journal for a long time now; maybe after I get a rhythm going, I’ll actually take a stab at that.

Get Weird

This is something I tried the same year I committed to writing regularly, but I called it something different: Do Awesome Things. The premise here is the same, except for two things. 1) I am not requiring myself to be alone. 2) I don’t want to get stuck in a routine with this. I started going to book signings as a result of the Do Awesome Things resolution, but I have gone to so many now that, while I still enjoy them, they aren’t all that Awesome anymore. Calling this Get Weird is a reminder that I should try to experience new things that are awesome. I plan do to this at least once a month.
Now, how do I plan to keep up with all of this? How can I possibly remember all of this stuff? I can’t. And even if I could, remembering to do something isn’t enough. I need motivation. The last time I was exercising regularly, I followed this tip from LifeHacker, who claim it comes from Jerry Seinfeld. He wanted to write every day, so he bought a calendar that was the whole year on one page, and every day he wrote, he crossed the day out in red ink. I tried that and it worked really well, for a while. I didn’t want to break the chain of days with red ink, so I exercised even on days that I didn’t want to. Eventually, though, I fell out of the habit. Partially because I would skip the morning, saying I would do it after work, only to forget I had plans after work, or be too stressed at the end of the day and needing to decompress. Partially because I lost sight of why I was doing it to begin with. I was exercising just to keep the chain going, rather than because it made me feel better. In order to form these habits, I need two things: Accountability and Perspective.

Accountability

For my exercise resolution / habit, I will use the calendar and red pen again. It worked last time. Combined with my plan for Perspective, I think this will be sufficient. For writing and gettin’ weird, this blog will be my accountability. I will be able to look at the post dates, and see if I’ve posted every week. With Do Awesome Things, I blogged each Awesome Thing I Did, and I plan to do that this time too. As an added bonus, this guarantees me one blog post a month, making it easier to keep up with writing something every week. Similarly, since I will be posting picaday2013 photos to Flickr, I will have accountability there as well. Regarding accountability for getting more sleep, I think my job will be sufficient. I am a better employee when I get good sleep. That and my Perspective plan should be enough.

Perspective

Like I mentioned, keeping perspective is what I was lacking the last time my exercise plan fell through. I was reminded that I needed to do something, but not why. So, for each of the above resolutions / habits, I have created a phrase that will remind me of why I created this goal.
As you might have noticed, each of the phrases above is a link to an IFTTT recipe. Those phrases will be sent to me in a text regularly. Every day at 7 AM, I’ll get a text reminding me that I feel better when I exercise. At 10 PM a reminder that I feel better when I get enough sleep. At 6 PM a reminder to take a photo. Every Saturday at noon, I’ll be reminded to write something. At noon on the first of every month, I’ll be reminded not just that I need to find something weird to do that month, but also why.
I think this will really help improve my chances this year. And if I’m struggling to find something to blog about some week, I expect you’ll get an update on how well it’s working.
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