Monday, October 23, 2006

Habits

For as long as I can remember I've sought to bring some semblance of order to my life. In it's earliest incarnation it was a schedule. Homework from 8-10 pm, Shower from 6:30-6:40 that kind of stuff. After I read the "7 Habits" by Covey it morphed into a mission statement, and roles, etc. At times I've had New Year's Resolutions, Five Year Plans and a spreadsheet called Overlord. In general the tread has been to continually simplify things. My tendency is to try and do way to much, and inevitably whatever system I've come up with collapses under it's own weight within a few weeks, a few months at most.

So from these two principles of simplicity and sustainability (really two sides of the same coin) I had the epiphany that led to my most recent system. The problem with sustainability is that eventually my will flags and/or I become bored, so how does one get around that? ...make it a habit! One would think that this whole habit idea would have come to me back when I read Covey, but I'm slow to pick up on stuff. From there the idea of simplicity flowed pretty naturally. It helps that I've spent the last decade systematically reducing my expectations to a managable (some might say miniscule) level.

So here's the system: At the very beginning I pick an activity I want to make into a habit. It has to be something small, and something that's very specific. For example my first activity was "Make a to-do list every weekday and one for the weekend." Now most people will tell you that a straight to-do list is not the most effective method for managing tasks or time, but I don't care, making the to-do list more effective is a seperate habit, even doing things on the to-do list is a seperate habit (though that generally happens anyway) at this point all I'm interested in is a simple narrowly defined action that I can do a over and over again until it's habitual.

In addition to the activity I come up with seven things I can do to facilitate performing the activity often enough that it becomes habitual. Why 7? Because it's a mystical number... Actually it's just a number I happened to pick, and it may go up or down as I refine the system. Finally I come up with some standard for success, some way of knowing when it's gone from a potential habit into an actual habit.

A week later I add another habit, and the week after that another. You get the idea? Actually that's a trick question because once I have three potential habits on my plate then the plate is full, and at this point if I want to add a new activity I have to retire one of the old ones. And I can only retire an activity if it's become a habit, because then I can retire it without fear that I'll stop doing it. If none of the three activities on my plate are habitual yet, then I don't add a new habit, and there's also a potential that I'll retire one activity and pull another one out of retirement, because I've been slipping recently, rather than add a new one.

So anyway that's the system. I have fairly high hopes, but then again I always have high hopes at the start...

Another in a long series of attempts to make responsibility palatable

2 Comments:

Anonymous john said...

Will this include the new habit of not walking into people's cubicles even though it was once yours?

7:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"When asked how to achieve success more rapidly--came the quick reply, 'Double your failure rate.'"
--Thomas J. Watson, Sr.
1874-1956, American industrialist who founded the International Business Machine Co. (IBM).

4:47 AM  

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