How I updated my “habit chains”

My last two posts were summaries of Jeremy Dean’s book, Making Habits Breaking Habits.  I wanted to write a little bit about how I’ve incorporated some of his ideas into my daily life since then.

I mentioned this earlier but before any change was done, I spent about a week meticulously calculating every action that I took during the day, how long that action took, and how it could be categorized (work, leisure etc).  This exercise showed me a few things…

  1. I definitely had routineschains of habitual actions that triggered each other in succession without much conscious effort or emotion.
  2. Even though my afternoon varied wildly, my morning and evening routine was almost identical every single day.
  3. My routine patterns were broken up by their physical location: upstairs, downstairs, or outside. As soon as I left the room and went upstairs, the routine began to vary considerably.
  4. The length of the routine chain was generally determined by my energy levels. I would get up and start something new once I either felt awake or tired.

Old Morning Routine:

  • Wake up (feel so sleepy still)
  • Zone out in bed, reading email and news on my phone until I am more lucid
  • Come downstairs and make breakfast
  • Eat breakfast at the table
  • Finish coffee while going through my blogs on Feedly, still at the table
  • Continue doing this until I feel “awake” enough to head back upstairs

I didn’t like how long it took me to get ready.  If I was in a rush for a morning appointment, the whole day would feel “off” because the morning routine was interrupted.

I also didn’t like the habit of reading Feedly in the morning.  Initially, the decision to switch to Feedly was a way to replace my bad habit of reading Reddit and Gawker/Jezebel in the morning.  Reddit and the Gawker network are pure trash and even though the funny cat pictures make me laugh, there was nothing edifying in them at all.  In fact, the content would annoy me about 50% of the time.  With my Feedly, I could import all of the interesting and useful blogs to enrich my mind.  But now that Feedly is well established in my morning routine, I realized that sitting down to read some interesting blog post was just not helpful in getting my day started. It is distracting!

When reviewing the full day, I also saw many vital little actions that never really “fit” into the time of day I wanted them too.  One of my on-going goals is to become truly fluent in Japanese but reviewing kanji and flashcards at the end of the day (relatively low energy tasks) was just…so….boring.  I kept forgetting to keep track of baby kick counts and other temporary (low energy) pregnancy-related duties because, when am I going to be just sitting around counting belly movements?  On the other hand, I kept trying to make myself review my daily agenda right after breakfast.  How am I going to mentally switch from Brain Pickings or Apartment Therapy (via feedly) to the “oh, I got to pick up dry cleaning after 4pm” tedium of my day?

New Morning Routine

  • Wake up (feel so sleepy still)
  • Zone out in bed, doing baby kick counts on my smartphone app
  • Come downstairs and make breakfast
  • Eat breakfast at the table
  • Finish coffee while going through my Japanese flash cards, still at the table
  • Since I usually finish my cards more quickly than not, I will head back upstairs with the remainder of my coffee and look over my schedule for the day. 

These small updates have been just seamless – so easy and perfect! I can take advantage of low focus moments to replace 2 bad habits with 2 good ones.  All of these are easily incorporated into the general morning chain of action.  And the best part? By the time I trudge upstairs to start my day, I’m less distracted and have spent less time on the early morning routine.  Yaay!

These still aren’t fixed habits.  While they are context and trigger driven, I still have to remind myself to bring my phone (flashcard app) down to the kitchen table with me but this has been helped by leaving a small pad of paper and pen next to my seat for kanji practice.  All the same, I’m REALLY HAPPY that I haven’t broken a single chain for a week and feel really confident that these will become unconscious daily habits well within 66 days.

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One Response to How I updated my “habit chains”

  1. Pingback: Is planning counter-productive for certain goals? | tokyo breakfast

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