DH is getting furloughed again

DH’s company will be between grants/projects again.  So this time instead of laying everybody off, they’ve decided to furlough 20% and actually give time off, not just a paycut.  Everyone seems pretty happy about this solution.   It’s going to be Fridays starting this month.

DH promises he won’t use his extra day of weekend to do yardwork, which seems to be where his free time has gone in the past.  Given our lack of childcare, we’re not too unhappy about this state of affairs.  And, given the number of reimbursements we’ve received over the past few months for travel and summer camps and so on, I think it’s possible we won’t have to dip into savings at least until I start getting paid again in October.

They’re not sure how long things are going to last– the problem is that their next project money involves a lot of travel… and Covid has messed all of that up.  Even states allowing travel have had restrictions about who is allowed to visit the places DH would need to visit.

Hopefully the company will stay in business.  Otherwise, I don’t know, maybe it will be time for him to take an early retirement.  Or moving to Paradise.  Who knows.

Have you and yours been affected by the pandemic/recession?

No camp for DC2

It sounds like kid-to-kid transmission isn’t much of a thing, and that outdoor transmission with masks isn’t so bad, so we won’t negatively judge anybody who is doing summer camp.  DC2 is so energetic and so extroverted that summer camp has seemed like a necessity.

There are three summer camp options in town for 7-8 year olds.

The school-run camp doesn’t open until Mid-July and they are doing everything correctly.  They’re limiting the number of students at each campus, they’re putting them in groups of 5 that don’t interact, they’re requiring masks (except at meals) and they’re doing most of their camp outside.  Curbside pick-up and drop-off of campers only.  Problem:  it is already regularly 100 degrees outside so that sounds MISERABLE.  (Plus it’s so inexpensive and slots are so limited, I feel guilty taking a slot that someone who can’t work from home needs, though that problem could be solved by just waiting to sign up.)

On the other end of the spectrum, the Children’s Museum is making zero changes.  They’re doing their full programs at full size, indoors, masks optional.  The Children’s Museum itself will be open the same as usual with no mention of additional cleaning procedures.  That all sounds like a recipe for disaster on top of us feeling like zie had really outgrown it last year at age 6.

In the middle is the Science Museum, which is limiting each of their summer camps to 10 kids total, two groups of five.  Masks required. They’re only doing half-days, mostly indoors.  The museum itself will be closed during the camp (it will open for the general public after camp finishes).  The problem with this is that the two groups of five are separated by age with 4-7 as one group and 8-12 as the other group.  DC2 is 7 and grade-skipped.  They don’t expect kids to be able to say, read, in the younger group.  It seems like the benefit just wouldn’t be worth the risk.  (DC2 also isn’t interested in any of the topics from this camp this year.)

What are we doing instead?  DC2 is still going through workbooks and other chores.  Zie is zooming with hir friends (though some of those friends are signed up for the school’s summer camp and won’t be around in a month).  We’ve been working on getting them to be able to play minecraft together safely. (It looks like we can buy a subscription to a private minecraft server after signing waivers on behalf of our kids, but there are some wrinkles with there being different flavors of minecraft that don’t all talk with each other.  We’re hoping to work those kinks out soon.)  Zie is rapidly going through the kids’ collection of novels, manga, and comic books.  Zie is also allowed 2 hours of unsupervised screentime each day and has been watching Card Captor Sakura or playing several of a ton of switch games that DH bought recently.  There’s also bike riding (indoor or outdoor) and Ring Fit playing.  And 15 minutes of cleaning up their rooms.  But… there’s also a lot of whining and a little bit of sibling squabbling and quite a bit of parent shouting at them to knock it off and go outside if they can’t stop while we’re trying to work.

We still haven’t gotten reimbursed for our dependent daycare account– I thought that was supposed to happen last month, but I emailed and they said it would be in my “July paycheck” but this year I don’t have a July paycheck, so we’ll see what happens.  But even if we just flat out lose the money, I think we’re making the right decision not sending DC2 to daycamps here.

What do daycamps in your area look like?  What are other people doing with their kids?

 

Things I want at work to better help with the BLM movement

I’m a university professor.  Here’s places I think the university should be throwing resources.

  • Bystander training both for general situations for everybody and for what the professor can do in class.  I would very much like to expand my tool-box about what I can say when a student says something racist.  Especially when it’s something racist out of the blue.  I’m generally better at dealing with racist comments when I can guess what they’re going to be and am expecting them (like when I’m teaching something with common misconceptions that I can treat as such), but in the past I’ve been shocked at students out of the blue denying the fundamental humanity of immigrants, or interrupting a statistics lecture to go on a racist screed about Hispanic-Americans (that last guy has a restraining order against him and was escorted out by police the last time he visited the department and thankfully dropped my class before the midterm after not doing any of the homework meant he could not pass mechanically).
  • I want my colleagues to get training on how to make a comfortable environment for underrepresented people to speak.  Things like allowing time to write down the answer to a question before cold-calling.  How to sure cold-calls are evenly distributed, etc.
  • Another student climate survey.  The last one was done 4 years ago, generally every 5 years seems reasonable for these kinds of surveys, but so much has changed since then, it makes sense to do this one early.  Maybe even annually for a while.
  • A major problem is that there are a small number of faculty, mostly contract or untenured (but also me and one of my white male colleagues who just got tenured this year) who are getting the bulk of the emotional pressure from when our underrepresented students are treated poorly.  It is hard and we don’t get service credit for it and the contract and untenured folks are endangered by it.  I’m brainstorming with my chair and another chair they’re bringing in about this problem later this week, but either we need to spread this out somehow or we need to concentrate it into an ombuds-type position and give the faculty member service credit for it.
  • Before the Corona virus we’d had reports of several students across several sub-fields in several classes say horrific things that denied non-white-non-US-non-etc. their basic humanity.  (Things like, if it’s in the US’s best interests, shouldn’t the US government encourage dictators to genocide?  Also basic Fox news talking points about why children deserve to be in cages because their parents “broke the law” [sic].  )  When it gets to this level, it needs to be addressed somehow from a department-wide basis in order to show support for underrepresented students and to show bigoted students that their behavior is really not acceptable across the board (and not just in one class from one teacher).  But how?
  • Bringing in outside people as consultants who are not horrible, preferably minorities with consulting businesses who are probably going to (and should) be terribly expensive this coming year.  But it can’t just be “we brought in a consultant for a 3 hour training”– the training has to actually be more helpful than harmful.  And it shouldn’t just be an implicit bias training– our leaders need training on how to make systemic change, and we need advice on things like how to shut up white conservative Christians who have joined the student diversity committee to “provide the voice of victimized white conservative Christians” (have I mentioned again that we live in the heavily white Evangelical South?).  Given the Corona situation, I’m hopeful that some of these expensive consultants will make video trainings available, but we probably also need to have leadership talk with an expert about our specific situation.  And we need someone to tell the dean that having agendaless “conversations” to which everyone is invited (including white police officers?!) and given equal time is going to shut out underrepresented groups.
  • Getting rid of that last bigoted statue on campus and replacing it with the prominent black alum one they’ve been talking about since the 1990s WITHOUT requiring private donations to do it.  Come ON.  One of my colleagues just donated $500 for it and my dean wanted to make a big fundraiser among our faculty, but this is something the University should be doing.  I know we’re getting budget cuts and no raises for the foreseeable future, but this should have institutional weight behind it.  (That said, if an outside private donor wants to give the university a restricted donation, I’m aok with that.)

 

What else should I be suggesting?  What would help you at work to help your marginalized students/coworkers/etc.?

Ask the grumpies: Favorite apps for life/productivity

Leah asks:

Do you have any favorite apps for life/productivity?

This is a timely question!  This summer I have decided to try Trello with two of my summer RAs and Github for another project.  These are both project management apps and for myself I have a Trello board that I’m using like a to-do list (sort of kanbanish, but not quite).  I am liking Trello very much.  Github is more complicated but it can do more and has better integration with things our university owns, particularly in terms of file attachments.  After working with both for a few weeks, Github’s project management software is not very good, nor is it as well-integrated as it should be with the repo.

DH uses Pivotal Tracker for work and likes it.  My university doesn’t have it for free so I haven’t tried it, though it’s probably available in some limited fashion for free.  Jira is also popular, but the free version is limited to 10 people so I haven’t tried it.

Probably my biggest productivity app is the leechblock add-on for firefox.  This keeps me from reading twitter and other common sites except during scheduled breaks and outside of work.

I’m eager to hear what productivity tools people in Grumpy Nation have found helpful!  Three years ago it seemed like only a few people were using project management software (preferring low-tech things like google docs or to-do lists), but suddenly it seems a lot more common.

What do you all recommend or find not worth the effort?

How do I find a personal assistant: Ask the Grumpies

Houstonian asks:

I just got a huge raise at my corporate job and am now making $180K as a single childless person with two cats.  I have way more money than time.  I’ve heard of people hiring personal assistants to do things like wait for the plumber or figure out how to get someone to refinish the front door and so on, but I don’t know how to go about doing that myself.  Have you ever hired a personal assistant?  How did you find them?  How do you figure out what to get them to do?  Any recommendations for working with them once I’ve found somebody?

At first I was going to say that we’ve never hired a personal assistant, but then I remembered that’s not actually true.  We’ve had mother’s helpers do additional personal assisting stuff.  So… I guess the lesson there is have a kid, then find a nanny or mother’s helper, and then hire them for more hours.  Kidding!  That is very much not useful advice!  Kids suck away way more time than personal assistants bring!

My first thought is that you should ask around and see what your higher paid colleagues are doing for personal assisting.  (Hopefully not all answers are, “My wife takes care of everything.”)  If they’re using someone part-time maybe you could hire the same person.  You can ask around to other folks as well– you may find that you have friends of friends who would love to get paid to sit at your house waiting for the plumber so long as they’re allowed to take their child along.

Otherwise, you might have luck with some of the online services out there.  I know some people swear by care.com for nannies, and I’m pretty sure they also do longer-term personal assistants.  People talk a lot about upwork.com and taskrabbit.com for smaller jobs.  Possibly you could try one of those out with a smaller project and see where that goes.  Alternatively you could advertise at a local community college or university.  I bet there’s a lot of Sam Houston State students eager to do odd jobs for $15 or $20/hr depending on where you live.

In terms of how to figure out what to get them to do– we wrote a really long list of tasks we needed to get done that just weren’t getting done.  For us this was things like painting DC1’s dresser or getting rid of a bush in the front yard.  There were a bunch of small deep cleaning things as well and some web-searching.  Once we got someone to take care of things, all of a sudden we had a ton of other stuff we realized she could just take care of and we wouldn’t have to.  It was great!  (Sadly for us, but happily for her, she graduated and her husband came back from Afghanistan and she left us for a full-time job.  But by then our list of delayed chores was empty.)  Some people use personal assistants for regular tasks like grocery shopping or laundry.  There’s a ton of stuff that people can do for you in exchange for money.

In terms of working for people– make things clear up front.  Make sure you know what their limits are and they know what your limits are.  What happens if they don’t show up or if they’re late?  How and when should they communicate questions?  How much autonomy do you expect them to have?  You may need to make this clear generally or on a project-specific basis.  It’s probably not that different than any kind of management you do at your corporate job, except that they have a different set of job responsibilities.  Be willing to fire people if you need to.

Here’s one person’s experience with hiring an assistant.

Here’s another person’s recommendations— I especially like the cat litter rule (yes, you can have a personal assistant clean out the cat litter box).

Here’s an entrepreneur article.

Grumpy Nation– do you have any experience with hiring personal assistants?  Do you have experience with being a personal assistant?  Any advice for Houstonian?

Challenge update: In which I fail

So this month’s February challenge, I said I was going to do two things:

  1. No devices in the morning.  (I added to this:  no social media in the morning, since getting up and going to my computer to check twitter isn’t great either)
  2. Write every morning

I did really well on the first.  And I think it helped.  I ended up spending less time on social media overall, which is good during my busy times.  I didn’t do as many phonecalls to politicians, but I think I still got the big stuff from activist emails and the short times I was on social media.

I crashed and burned on the second.  I did fine the first week, but then I didn’t have things to write because other things had to be done first before I could write and then I’d end up writing all day because the thing was due.  I’d have days filled with just teaching and service.  Early in February I had a melt-down in the hallway when my department head, after PROMISING there would be no more service this year given how much I’m already doing (and how little my next closest substitute is doing) asked me to do something again.  While I was in a faculty meeting last week I got 2 referee report requests and about 5 more things requiring attention.  I just don’t have the time or space right now to do regular writing in a fashion that makes sense.  I need space and time to set that up and that’s just not my life right now, even though it means I’m being more scattered and less productive flitting from thing to thing.  I sent out two referee reports, submitted an IRB, handled 3 editing jobs, was part of a grant, and submitted to two conferences… but none of that was in an orderly fashion and very little writing got done on any actual papers.  I have nothing under review right now which I HATE.

I’d like to try #2 again for March, but it’s March and all of my problems from February are still there.  I’m going to see what Spring Break brings.  Everything is still a mess.

I’m not sure what to do, but all that seems to have worked for me for February is to take things one day at a time based on next deadline.  I know that’s not efficient, but everything is so scattered that having a master plan just isn’t working because when any part changes everything else goes to heck.

February snuck up on me: February Challenge, gotta get some stuff out

I am so far behind on everything, Grumpy Nation.

But… for the first time since NOVEMBER, my computer desktop at work is finally fully functional.  Like, I can use dropbox and WinSCP and not get a BSOD 5 minutes after logging in.  So… that’s a miracle.

February is the best month for challenges, even if there’s an extra day this year.

I’m going to combine two previous annual challenges:

1. 2018’s No Devices In The Morning Challenge

and

2. 2017’s Write Every Morning Challenge

I will be taking one weekend day off for the write in the morning challenge, which is good since I didn’t realize February 1st was February 1st until Saturday afternoon.

Everything I said in that 2017 post is 100% true this February as well, up to and including the 8am office hours one day a week.

Work problem Part 2: Creating Good Habits: Trying out Atomic Habits

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:

  1.  Surfing the internet instead of working in the morning and at work.
  2. Not being able to work from home, even during working hours.
  3. Not following my work schedule, instead binging on service/teaching tasks.
  4. 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.

  1. Surfing
    • 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.
  2. Home
    • 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.
  3. Schedule
    • 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)
  4. 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

  1. 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.
  2. I have stacked being at the computer with work.  Being awake at night with work instead of play.
  3. The schedule is a stack.  I just need to start following it.
  4. N/A

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

  1.  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.
  2.  Home.  Most of these things are covered under bad habits (increasing friction).
  3.  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.
  4. 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.

  1. Surfing. Leechblock and other things from bad habits
  2. Home.  Isolate particular areas of the house, specific machines, and specific times of day for work vs. play.
  3. Schedule.  Have a working computer.  Remember to take Vit D (possibly even schedule in the second pill?)
  4. 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?

I have a work problem: Breaking Bad Habits: Trying out Atomic Habits’ list

This summer and this semester a lot of things have gone wrong with work.  All summer was non-stop bad research news, followed by almost an entire semester of my work computer being broken and/or replaced unpredictably.  I also taught at days/times I’d never taught before and never really figured out a new rhythm (next semester I’m back to one of my more regular schedules).  And I had so many emotional conversations with students needing to drop a class or out of the program entirely (why me? I have no idea).  And I have a ton of service and teaching and those are just so much easier to do than hard research.  Finally, DC1’s heavy homework load and DC2’s lack of a heavy homework load mean that both our kids need more individualized attention in the evenings than previously. These things combined caused me to feel unmotivated and to lose many of my good research habits and to replace them with the quick hit of websurfing and watching youtube videos.  I kept thinking, I’ll be better later…

But, like tomorrow, later never comes.  But in my case it’s jam every day.  And I need a bit of spinach to grow a strong research agenda.  (Obviously my mixed metaphors need work.)

I finally decided enough was enough.  I need to fix my bad habits so I don’t stagnate.  I’d like to get another paper under review before my annual review in Spring and I have lots of projects, just none close to the right stage, and nothing will be close to any stage if I don’t start now.  Today even.

Having just read Atomic Habits, I decided, why not try their recommendations to see if they help at all.  Of course, it’s really easy to create a new habit if the habit is easily definable.  Like, you want to exercise at a certain point each day, or you want to drink more water, or what have you.  It’s a bit hard to know where to start when your problem is a big amorphous work problem.

So my first step was to list my bad work habits (and, in a later post, to list the good habits that I want back!)

  1.  Surfing the internet instead of working
    1. This has particularly become a problem in the morning– I used to just check email and read a few webcomics.  Lately I’ve been watching full youtube videos!  What used to be ~15 minutes before getting ready can stretch to TWO HOURS.  That’s ridiculous.  I should either be asleep or working.
    2. It’s also a problem at work.  I’ve been avoiding leechblock by using chrome in addition to firefox, or by getting out my phone and surfing on that instead.
  2. I have completely lost my ability to work from home (other than some successes with doing anything involving pdfs on my iPad Pro– more on that when I talk about good habits).  This wouldn’t be a problem if I was being productive at work, but sometimes I have to stay home because DH is out of town and I want to be here when DC1 gets off the bus, or I want to hide out from well-meaning students and colleagues who just want to chat.  I’m great at writing blogposts at home, but not so great at sitting down and doing work.  My home desktop just doesn’t feel like a work computer anymore.  I mean to work, but I either end up surfing the internet from my desktop or I end up on the couch watching youtube videos or reading novels.
  3. I have stopped following my daily schedules for work.  I generally put the important big stuff on my list for the mornings and then the stuff that doesn’t take brain power (service/teaching) and has shorter deadlines in the afternoon.  But instead of doing research in the morning, I’ve been doing the service/teaching stuff and then when afternoon rolls around instead of switching, I just do more service.  Or I go home meaning to work but end up on the couch reading instead.  I would say that service fills up any time hole, but actually one of the reasons I said enough is enough is that I ran out of obvious stuff to do and I want to get back into good habits again before it starts filling up again.
  4. I am not using little bits of free time, and my definition of “little” has gotten pretty wide.  It’s no longer, oh I have 5 min, let’s check twitter, it’s more, oh, I have an HOUR, well, can’t do that thing on my to-do list that’s marked for 2 hours, might as well surf the internet.  This needs to stop.

I would link to the atomic habits cheetsheet here, but it looks like he’s taken it offline.  You have to buy a copy of the book AND KEEP THE RECEIPT if you want a printable version.

In any case:  Here are his laws of breaking bad habits:

Make it Invisible:

  1.  Surfing:
    • Move the iPad charger from the bedroom to the bathroom.  I had initially thought to move it to the living room, but that just lured me to the couch.  I do need to briefly check my email in the morning at home, otherwise I end up checking it at work which leads to a bad habit there.  Putting it in the bathroom provides a good place to do a quick check.  DH also suggested that I allow myself to use my phone while eating breakfast, which will bundle those habits as well (more on this in the good habits post).
    • Leechblock Youtube at work
    • Hide the shortcuts for all web browsers that aren’t Firefox so I don’t just move to chrome when Firefox is leechblocked (my “new” work computer has all the shortcuts)
    • Make the phone more inaccessible at work.  I need it to be such that I can hear the buzz if someone texts or calls, but such that it doesn’t call to me when I should be working.  I am thinking about putting it in a cloth bag that we get tamales in, but it might make sense to put it in a drawer or put a sheet of paper on top of it or just turn it over so I can’t see the face.  I will work on this.
  2.  Working at home:
    • I can’t hide the couch or the bed, so I’m not sure what to do here.  We talked about maybe setting up a work station just for work in another room, but my spot in the office really is ideal (nice window, DH’s desk next to mine), so I’m hoping I can reclaim it for work instead of play.  Also I might have to buy a new desktop or laptop to get another station, and I would definitely need another monitor.
  3. In theory I could hide the service/etc. from myself until later in the day, but I think that might be counterproductive.  For this one I don’t think making it invisible is the best idea.  It will probably require willpower.
    1. DH suggested a calendar reminder for the schedule, though I’m not sure if that will help nudge me when the list is right there.  But who knows.
  4. Using bits of time is more of a pro-active thing than a re-active thing, but hopefully #1 will keep the internet from being as attractive as it had been.

Make it Unattractive:

After talking this one over with DH, we decided this one wasn’t helpful because “highlighting the benefits of avoiding [my] bad [work] habits” just makes me depressed.  I need to think less about this stuff, not more.  Because thinking leads to anxiety, anxiety leads to 2am wake-ups, which lead to too little sleep, which leads to poor work, mistakes, and lost willpower.

Make it Difficult:

Many of the “Make it Invisible” bullets above are also making it difficult.

Make it Unsatisfiying:

The two items recommended here are to get an accountability partner and to make the consequences of bad habits public and painful.  I have a great accountability partner for going on a walk each day, but I have been far less successful in getting an accountability partner for work.  Invariably they start slipping and get irritated by my nagging or they start slipping and I take it as permission to start slipping too.  And when my accountability partner is DH, *I* start slipping and he lets me.  So yes, it would be lovely to get an accountability partner for work, but it’s not realistic.  I did start a weekly brown bag for research at work, and that helps somewhat.  I did have to forbid the phrase, “incremental data progress” from the weekly update recently after using it one last time as it is far too easy a phrase to hide behind.

There’s another item in the “How to create a good habit” list that actually belongs in the bad habit list:  “Make ‘doing nothing’ enjoyable.  When avoiding a bad habit, design a way to see the benefits.”  The example given in the book is each time you don’t eat out, move the money you saved from not eating out to your vacation fund.  I’m not really sure what an analog for any of the four items above would be.

So I wasn’t able to think of ways to get all of my bad habits into his methodology.  However, many of these had opposites that seemed to fit in the “How to create a good habit” section which I will discuss in a future post.

How do you break bad habits?  How do you stay focused at work?  Any thoughts on how I could fit my bad habits into these laws of breaking bad habits?

Atomic Habits: A book review

After being less than impressed with The Power of Habit, I decided to give Atomic Habits (amazon link=> we get a cut) by James Clear a spin.

tl:dr Although this book is much better than The Power of Habit, it is ultimately still an imperfect book.  Definitely worth giving a read, maybe not worth purchasing unless you have a specific easy-to-define-and-implement habit you want to focus on.

Unlike The Power of Habit, most of the book (until the last section) is made up of examples that make sense and are not taken out of context. It also goes much more into depth with more nuance than the previous book (which it does cite extensively).

Each chapter ends with bullets and potentially actionable items.  There are habits cheat sheets with “laws” explaining how to create a good habit and how to break a bad habit.  These laws are broken into easy to remember subheaders:  Make it obvious, Make it attractive, Make it easy, Make it satisfying.  Make it invisible, Make it unattractive, Make it difficult, Make it unsatisfying.  This is helpful– I hope that the podcasters at By the Book pick this one up sometime.

The “Advanced Tactics” section that the book ends with is problematic, relying almost entirely on anecdote and contradicting most of the rest of the book, leaving the reader with a particularly confusing “it’s complicated” message, along with additional bizarre messages like you should only try to do what you do well (I should really be a grocery bagger, I thought to myself, though that is not where my comparative advantage lies) but you should also only chase your passion (because people do more when they enjoy the work) but you should also do the boring bits (because the most successful people do the parts they don’t enjoy).  Examples from this section are very correlation is causation.  After reading it, I felt a sense of hopelessness, like maybe I should just early retire and forget my career, which I hope was not intentional.

For me– most of the stuff discussed in the book I already do or have done.  But I also have been struggling with bad work habits for the past couple of years.  I used to have very good work habits, but somehow they’ve been broken.  I need to fix that, but I’m not sure how.  It seems to be more complicated than say, getting into the habit of taking a walk every day or calling about politics.  (And… when I start focusing on one area of life, something starts slipping in another, which is not what any of the online lifestyle bloggers ever mention… it’s always exercise more and everything else will get better too.)

I’m not sure if this book will help with that, but I’m going to think really hard about the systematic problems I’ve been having with my work and give these checklists a spin.  I also want to get a book on habits by an actual academic to see if that has any useful advice.

And, of course, I will blog about all of this in a future post.