How To Evolve Your Habits

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It has been about 16 days, over 2 weeks, half a month, since I decided I wanted to start publishing on Medium every single day again like I used to last November. Clearly, since I haven’t posted anything for the last month and a half, that isn’t going so well.

In fact, many things are not going so well right now. I’m doing catastrophically bad in school, I’m barely working enough to keep a positive bank account, and my stress is straining my relationship. But, I’m moving forward.

It has been about 16 days since I realized I was on track for massive failure. I set up 10 check boxes on my phone to tick off every single day. Each box contained different things that I wanted to improve on. Some as simple as brushing my teeth every night (I forget a lot, I’m working on it). Some as large and daunting as ‘Publish’.

‘Publish’ carries a lot of weight. It’s big, it’s scary, and it hasn’t happened yet. I was getting close though. About 5 days ago I changed ‘Publish’ to ‘Write’ and something changed. The first day I wrote some paragraphs for school. That checked the box, but it felt like cheating.

The next day I wrote some of my thoughts out but it was rambling and incoherent and not fit for publishing on Medium. I knew I was on the right track with that though so I kept writing my thoughts out. I did that until today and I decided to change it from ‘Write’ to ‘Personal Writing’. That took more weight off.

I no longer had to write something specifically for an audience, there didn’t have to be an underlying message, it didn’t have to be perfect, and only I would see it. It was for me.

How To Evolve Your Habit Tracking

Step 1. Set up habit tracking app. Step 2. Fail to track anything. Step 3. Revise and Try Again.

My original habit of ‘Publish’ was the least successful of my 10 habits, right alongside ‘Homework’. The change to ‘Personal Writing’ is still new, so I can’t use that as an example of how powerful this was.

Some of my other habits have undergone some similar changes though.

  • Awake before 8
  • Bed before 11.5
  • Brush Teeth
  • Publish
  • Read
  • Homework
  • Exercise
  • Clean
  • Limit Video Games
  • Screen Time > 4

This was my original list of habits. Several are meant to be ticked off when I go to sleep, like ‘Bed before 11.5’ and ‘Bullet Journal’. Others are meant to be ticked off as I go through the day, ‘Exercise’ and ‘Clean’.

Some of these are rigid and can’t change. I cannot wake up after 8 most days, that habit is specifically for the days I don’t have class or work. I probably could but don’t really want to make ‘Exercise’ more specific. I think it’s broad enough to allow me to check it off for going for a walk, or doing some push-ups, or doing some yoga.

Some have changed multiple times. ‘Read’ for example became ‘Learn’ for a while to include podcasts or Medium. It also went back to ‘Read’. Then I split it into ‘Affirmations’ and ‘Read a book’. ‘Affirmations’ included reading Daily Stoic every morning. That has now evolved into reading Daily Stoic, writing a page of things I’m grateful for, and writing a page of idea’s. (Credit to James Altucher)

‘Read a book’ now forces me to read a book and learn something that is timeworn and tested. Sorry Medium, but reading 10 five minute articles just doesn’t always provide value, and sometimes is just used as a way to kill time. Which is a no-go now because of my screen time habit that I’ll talk more about another day.

That’s a good way of showing how my habit’s evolve though. To check off one, sometimes I had to change another.

The system has to evolve with your needs. You have to keep track of success and failure then ask yourself what makes the difference.

Why does ‘Bullet Journal’ have only 3 days missed? It’s accessible, always right by my bed. It’s useful and gives me a good feeling. It was started a week earlier than the other things I’m tracking, so it already had a chain to keep going.

Why does ‘Tidy up’ have nothing checked off for a few days at a time? Because I haven’t been in a good enough mood to want to spend time cleaning up.

How can I change that? I could make it more specific. ‘Put dishes in dishwasher immediately’ or even break it into smaller pieces, ‘Dishes’, ‘Sweep’.

That sounds like the best way because I know I won’t put away my dishes every day but sweeping is pretty quick and easy so I’ll build on something.

Thanks for reading, I’d love to hear any responses, positive or negative, about the methods or my writing style!

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