Offensive Thinking

Brain tumors suck. Hi, I'm Patrick btw. This is my cancer blog. My "normal" stuff is over here.

About Habits and Routines

HabitBull Screenshot
HabitBull Screenshot

I cannot remember exactly when my interest in habit building was sparked initially, but I guess it was a process that slowly evolved after I first started to use the Getting Things Done (GTD) method in my life. I definitely developed an interest in how to build sustainable habits when I started my bodyweight exercises journey.

There’s a lot to be said about habit and routine building, but as other have already put a lot of effort into describing how to build habits, I will not repeat everything in this post. Let me just reiterate the most important points:

  1. Make it as easy as possible in the beginning. If you want to establish a routine of daily meditation for example, you can start by sitting comfortably for just one minute, or start with the habit of listening to your favorite song at a certain time of day. If you want to start flossing everyday (which you really should do, by the way), you could start with one tooth. You’ll soon find that you will do more as soon as you have established the task as a daily routine. Starting the habit is the hardest part.
  2. Only introduce one or two habits at once, otherwise you’ll be overwhelmed.
  3. Just keep going and don’t beat yourself up too much if you “break the chain” sometimes. Just know that if you slip up, the next time you have to exercise/meditate/study/whatever habit you want to establish is the most important one, because otherwise you might start to lose the momentum.
  4. Be aware of the difference between establishing good habits and getting rid of bad habits. The latter can sometimes be much harder and usually gets easier if you replace the bad habit with a good habit, instead of just trying to remove it altogether.
  5. Discipline trumps motivation, always. Sure, in the beginning you might be motivated enough (either externally or even internally, which is the better source of motivation), but there will be a lot of days where you need to be disciplined enough not to give up.

A useful resource for learning more about habit building is for example the Get Disciplined Subreddit. I’m currently using HabitBull to track whatever habits I want to build and to get some data on those I already have established. Before HabitBull, I’ve used Habit Streaks. They both use the idea of “growing a chain” of successful days and the psychological effect of you wanting to keep going so the chain does not break. Works well for me. HabitBull also lets you define habits that do not occur daily, but you can add some more granularity to them (e.g., you have to succeed three times in a week or only on specific days. This is quite handy for exercise regimes).

At the moment, I’m tracking the following habits:

Morning

  • Bodyweight Training: Three times a week as per my GMB Rings One program.
  • Cold Shower: I’ve established the habit of taking a daily cold shower, with the only exception being two days a week where I shave my head (as that takes too long to be done under cold water).

Evening

  • Handstand Training: At least five attempts at doing a decent handstand. I’ve set the bar deliberately low here, I usually do more, but this way I have no excuse not to do it. Remember the “start easy” part?
  • Stretching: I like to stay flexible, which also helps with my general training. I’m working with GMB’s Focused Flexibility program here (no, they don’t pay me for advertisement, they just have great programs). I allow myself to call it a success if I manage to do at least three different stretches per day.
  • Meditation See my previous blog post.
  • Getting Rid of Something: This one I only started recently. Many of us tend to unnecessarily hoard stuff, so I wanted to force myself to get rid of something daily for at least a year. Getting rid does not necessarily mean “throw away”, it can also mean to sell or give away a possession of mine. I mostly throw old stuff away though ;)

The purpose of all this is to improve your quality of life by making good habits the default way of acting, and not something you need to force yourself to do. Yes, having a cold shower in the morning is still something I don’t find very appealing every day, but I know how great I feel afterwards and the sense of accomplishment is so profound that I haven’t skipped that habit since last year October, if I remember correctly (I only started tracking it with HabitBull starting on February 29th, so I know I definitely succeeded since then).

Have fun building your own habits!