In my previous post, I discussed my work problem and how I’m trying to break some bad habits.
As a reminder, my bad habits were:
- Surfing the internet instead of working in the morning and at work.
- Not being able to work from home, even during working hours.
- Not following my work schedule, instead binging on service/teaching tasks.
- Not using unexpected free time chunks wisely.
The laws of creating good habits are similar to those of breaking bad habits, but they have a lot more detail.
Make it Obvious
A. Fill out the habits scorecard: I opted not to do this as I want to fixate on specific work habits, not a complete life audit. Instead I thought about problem points with work.
B. Use implementation intentions for each habit.
- On weekdays I will either snooze or get up/use restroom/brush teeth/get dressed/eat breakfast/leave when I am woken by DH’s showering. I will not lie in bed with the internet.
- I will work when sitting at a computer. Playing/surfing will be relegated to the small iPad and my iPhone except during specific break-times when leechblock is off.
- I will write for one hour when I get to work.
- If I wake up in the middle of the night and using the restroom/trying to get back to sleep doesn’t help, I will get up and do work. I will not surf the internet.
- I will work when sitting at a computer.
- I will continue to use my iPad pro only for reading/commenting on pdfs.
- I will follow my schedule by prioritizing harder things in the morning and leave class prep/service/etc. for after 3pm (exceptions: lunch break I can do whatever and getting reviewers for articles newly in my editorial box can happen whenever)
- Free time use
- I will not consider half hour or more chunks to be small chunks of time, but rather larger ones in which tasks can be started.
- I will have a list of things I can do with unexpected free time (email, cleaning out office, updating classes for next semester) for smaller chunks of time. I will not binge through these over the course of a few days, but leave them to be spread out.
C. Use habit stacking
- I have stacked the iPad to the restroom which is stacked to teeth brushing. Other internet usage is stacked to breakfast which is stacked to getting out the door.
- I have stacked being at the computer with work. Being awake at night with work instead of play.
- The schedule is a stack. I just need to start following it.
D. Design your environment
Most of the things here were covered under bad habits.
Make it Attractive
A. Use temptation bundling– give an immediate reward for working on or completing the habit
One of the examples in the book is to play podcasts or watch shows while exercising. Unfortunately, the tasks I need to do require attention and so do the temptations. I mean, I could eat chocolate while working, but that seems likely to be not good for me in other ways. Post-rewards used to work for me, but lately I’ve been realizing that I can just give myself the reward any time I want to and I end up just, say, reading the entire novel. I think this may have something to do with being financially independent– I seem to have lost a lot of that delayed gratification muscle.
B. Join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior
I mean, I do work at an R1, and I did start that weekly brown bag. So I already kind of am in this culture, but I’m definitely not doing great.
C. Do something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit
This is what has gotten me into trouble in the first place, so not a good idea as the enjoyment part has been stretching out.
So I’ve kind of struck out on the “Make it attractive” step. Any thoughts?
Make it Easy
A. Reduce friction
- Surfing. Most of these things are covered under bad habits (increasing friction), but for writing in the morning I will plan ahead the day before to know what I will be working on writing.
- Home. Most of these things are covered under bad habits (increasing friction).
- Schedule. I need to continue to plan the morning work the afternoon before. I used to do this and it worked well. One of the current problems is that even when I do this, I just ignore the schedule. This started happening when things out of my control messed up my schedule too many times in a row.
- Free time. I need to make a list of odds and ends that can be done in shorter amounts of time that is easily accessible.
B. Prime the environment.
- Surfing. Leechblock and other things from bad habits
- Home. Isolate particular areas of the house, specific machines, and specific times of day for work vs. play.
- Schedule. Have a working computer. Remember to take Vit D (possibly even schedule in the second pill?)
- Free time. Have the list easily available.
C. Master the decisive moment
Not sure what to do about this. Maybe just be better about getting started on things? (Though getting started isn’t my only problem– not getting distracted is also a problem.)
D. Use the two-minute rule to downscale your habits until they can be done in two minutes or less
I think that doing this is part of the problem– it’s not the small habits I have trouble with, it’s the longer ones.
E. Automate your habits. Invest in technology and onetime purchases that lock in future behavior.
I’m not sure what to do here. I could buy another computer, but that’s worthless if I just start using it for play.
Make it Satisfying
A. Use reinforcement.
See above on “temptation bundling”
B. Make “doing nothing” enjoyable– this actually belongs under getting rid of “bad habits”
C. Use a habit tracker. Keep track of your habit streak and “don’t break the chain”
I need to think about whether or not this is worthwhile for keeping track of writing or getting into work by a reasonable time. In the past keeping track has been more of a pain than a help because I know if I’ve broken the chain or not without plotting it on a chart. And plotting on a chart is another step that takes effort I’d rather use for something else. But I can think more about good metrics.
One big problem with measurement is that when you measure, you tend to focus on the measurement rather than on the larger goal. For example, with weightloss, you focus on the number which can lead to unhealthy behaviors and forget about the “why” (it’s not actually weightloss that’s the goal, but health or whatever– pounds is a really bad metric for that. Even if fitting into your clothes better is the goal, pounds are not the right metric). So I can see myself wasting time writing unnecessary stuff or coming into work completely sleep deprived just to hit some arbitrary metric when that actually hurts my true goal of getting stuff done. So this is non-trivial. What are good short-term metrics? I don’t know.
D. Never miss twice. When you forget to do a habit, make sure you get back on track immediately.
I will try to be better about this. Part of my problem has been multiple days of interruptions outside of my control. But hopefully those will have settled down.
How do you keep up with good habits? Any thoughts on how I could fit my desired habits into these laws of creating good habits? Do you have any tricks to suggest?