I spent a bit more time tidying up the work I finished on the wellbeing course (thing 3) last week and I’m quite happy with what I’ve done.
I’m struggling at work with finding ways to deal with a job that is, at the moment, very reactive and, consequently, not giving me much of an opportunity to work in the way I do my best work. I like to sit down and focus on something for long periods uninterrupted and I’m finding my inability to do this at work is flowing over into my personal work too. I’ve been looking for ways to manage this better at work and at home because I don’t see this changing any time soon. The procrastination tips I learned last week have certainly been a good start.
I missed a few days of my creative 15 minutes in the mornings this week, which is not something I’m happy about. Part of this is because of the longer meditations I’ve been doing, which is giving me less time in the morning, but lying in bed for half an hour after the alarm clock more than wipes out the time I could be doing my creative work. So I can’t really blame the meditation, can I? The days I did do it, I felt good about it. When I actually got started. I just need to convince lie-in-bed me that it feels great to get up and do the work. Even if it is freezing cold!
In amongst me not doing a whole lot of stuff, a nice little milestone slipped by this week. My habit tracking appnow records my reading habit (thing 14) as being 100 per cent consistent. I’m not sure exactly what that means but I think it means I’ve done the habit more or less consistently for at least 90 days. I was thinking about this as I updated my reading list and noticed that I have almost read as many books before the halfway point of this year than I did in the whole of 2019.
This got me thinking about goals and habits, and some of what I’ve read about that. Essentially, what some people who know lots about habits and productivity say is that focusing on building a consistent practice rather than focusing on your goals is what will get you to where you want to be. So if you want to run a marathon (I don’t know why that always comes up as an example, but it seems to be one of the go-to goals in these explanations), you have your goal of running the marathon but you don’t focus on that. You focus on setting up a training program, showing up for every session and doing the work, and the consistent work is what gets you to be able to run a marathon.
So in my case, in 2019, I set a goal of reading 12 books (low bar, I know) and I set out to achieve this by reading 20 pages every morning after my walk. That worked well for a while, but I wasn’t wedded to the 20 pages thing and all I really wanted to do was check the 12 books thing off the list. After I’d done that, which happened in March, I didn’t have anywhere to go. The goal wasn’t there to motivate me any more and I let the habit gradually fall away, with the result being I read 21 books in 2019. Twelve in the first three months and only nine for the rest of the year. I met the goal but I didn’t make reading a habit.
This year, I decided to focus on the habit instead of the number of books I read. My thing for 2020 was to develop a habit of reading for pleasure. I tried a few different ways of doing it. Reading after my walk hadn’t worked for me. Reading on the way to work on the bus did, but I didn’t catch the bus every day and for the last three months I’ve been working at home so there’s no bus ride to read on. I decided to try reading in bed before going to sleep. In the past, this hasn’t been successful. I think this is because I would stay up too late and be too tired to read by the time I got to bed. A major part of that was drinking alcohol in the evenings. That’s a story for another time, but I’ve found by not drinking at night, not only am I going to bed earlier (and getting more sleep and better quality sleep), but I’m also able to be sufficiently alert to be able to read for 10 or 15 minutes before I go to sleep. According to the habit tracker, I have read every night (apart from one) since 2 March, which gets me the 100 per cent tick. Yay! And I have read 19 books so far in 2020, only two fewer than for the whole of 2019.
I’m not sure when you can call “develop a habit” as a thing done, because I could just as easily stop doing it today. I don’t subscribe to the “it takes 21 or 66 or whatever-other-magical-number-people-have-come-up-with days to build a habit”. After all, I meditated for 515 days in a row and still managed to lose the habit after missing just one day, so I don’t think the number of days means much at all. I bet I could develop a habit of eating chocolate every day in less than a week and then take the best part of a year to break the habit. For my reading, I think 90 days is enough to convince me that this is a habit I want to continue, combined with not drinking and going to bed at a decent hour, so I’m calling this thing done.
That means that I’ve now finished ten out of my 20 things (yes, I know there are actually 22 things) before halfway through the year so, based on the numbers, I’m on track to get through all 20. However, obviously, some things are bigger commitments than others and are going to take a lot of time, and some of the things I’ve done were pretty easy wins (reorganise my sock drawer, anyone?), so just looking at the numbers isn’t really that helpful in terms of predicting how I’ll be sitting at the end of the year, but it does still feel good to be into double digits.
Summary for the week
Things completed this week: 1 (14)
Things completed to date: 10 (1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 14, 15, 16, 18)
Things I progressed: 2 (8, 17)
Things in progress I didn’t progress: (7, 11, 13, 22)