Jun 8, 2017

Habit Building Strategy - Some Tweaks

Reporting back in on the all-nighter plan.

It's, um... well it's not ideal.  I'm torn because I really, really enjoy sitting down and powering through a website in one night BUT if I don't have a recovery day, it affects me pretty noticeably the rest of the week.  When I'm tired I don't handle the baby's fussing as well and my willpower is low so I succumb to poor health choices.

Part of the problem, too, was that I got overexcited and started abusing my all-nighter powers, pulling several late nights with 5 hours of sleep or fewer in addition to the all-nighter.  So I need to limit it to just the one, or maybe 2 short nights, but not both.

I also have a few new ideas.  Immediately after Better Than Before, the library decided to give me The Power of Habit, which is a powerful combination and has a slight aura of fate hanging about it.  Mysticism aside, I feel like Rubin gets you interested and helps increase your self-awareness and then Duhigg teaches you the science behind it all and adds to the toolbox.

Here's my takeaways so far.

Keystone Habits

After listening to Better Than Before, I was all set to make big changes, because they're easier for me.  But it turns out they're not really.  It's just that certain habits, like exercise, make it easier to make good choices in other areas too.

Knowing that, I can focus more of my effort on those keystone habits, which will then start a chain reaction into other things.  Saving up willpower for the ones that will make the most drastic changes is important because willpower isn't infinite.  In fact...

Willpower is a Muscle

Duhigg talks about a few different studies where people performed more poorly on test involving willpower if they had to expend it prior, even in simple or unrelated tasks.  This is important because if I know I want to workout at the end of the day, I need to conserve enough willpower in order to make myself follow through.  It also explains why people who workout first thing in the morning see a better success rate in the long term.  Because they're doing it early, before their willpower has been used on other things.

Small Wins

I can't remember if Rubin talked about this or not, but the idea that, like keystone habits, successes build on each other.  Tracking food might seem relatively unimportant if you're not controlling your consumption BUT successfully following through with tracking gives you that feeling of achieving something and makes you more aware of each choice that you're making.

Duhigg's example of people asked to track their calorie consumption explained that even without the intent to change their dietary habits, people who tracked improved because they gained increased awareness into what they were doing AND they strengthened their willpower "muscle."

What I'm Doing Now

So what this means for me is that I'm shifting my focus away from trying to do everything right all the time and I'm picking a few key areas to focus on.  I want to work on building my willpower muscles and getting some momentum going with small wins.

Rather than healthy eating all the time, for now I just want to track it.  I already noticed that the healthier I try to be overall, the more likely I am to brush my teeth at nighttime so I'll keep doing that one because it's easier to force myself to do at 3am than yoga or meditation but can eventually lead into a full nighttime routine.  I'm going to use the bathroom on the 4th floor at work, because, again, the amount of willpower needed to climb the stairs is small but that small win makes me want to chase additional wins.

I also want to incorporate more of the things I learned from Rubin, about obligers and their need for accountability.  Momma and I are going to get back to yoga on Sundays - we'd stopped after the baby was born but prior to that, it was my longest running exercise routine.  With only small breaks, we'd been doing it every Sunday for years.  I'm still considering what else to do - whether it's an online exercise group or just reporting in here for Sunday Sweats.  I read a strategy on Rubin's website for getting up early that involved scheduling an embarrassing Facebook post for the time you want to get up.  This was intriguing because it's a way to use other people for accountability without them even knowing.

My Goals

Duhigg mentioned that people recovering from hip surgery were far more successful with their physical therapy if they wrote down goals with specific measures to deal with setbacks and difficulties.  (Gretchen mentioned this as well with planned exceptions and dealing with setbacks.)  So here's mine!

1. We will be having a family dinner 5 days a week by the time Orion is 6 months, and cooking 3 of those meals.

I'll make this happen by continuing to meal plan and grocery shop on Sundays.  IF I don't grocery shop, or we forget some of the ingredients, I'll figure out a workaround or make one of our backup frozen meals.  Ordering out is fine for the other days but there must be some sort of vegetable involved that we can share with the baby.

2. I will have a sleep routine that I follow religiously by the time Orion is 9 months old.

I'll make this happen by setting aside specific days for catching up with client work and not over-promising what I can do for clients.  I will also limit the number of social events I agree to each week and set reminders to myself to go to bed.  I will create a consequence for myself if I don't get up early and when I don't want to go to bed, I will remind myself that wake up time is non-negotiable and I'll feel crappy if I don't sleep enough.  I may also bribe myself with mint tea.

3. I will be exercising once a day by the time Orion is 1 year old, and doing cardio at least 3 of those days.

I'll make this happen by utilizing workout buddies, and building workout routines that I can do with the baby, like jogging with the stroller or using him as a free weight.  On the days when I'm tired and don't want to exercise, I will remind myself I only need to do it for 5 minutes and that will help me get started and keep the habit consistent.  Duration is not important, but I will set individual exercise goals, because I find goals incredibly motivating.
I wasn't planning on making these centered about the baby, but being a good role model is a big part of my motivation so I guess it makes sense.  I wouldn't care about meal planning all that much but it's important to me now because he'll be eating with us soon.  Exercise is for my own health but also to teach him healthy habits.  Sleep positively impacts everyone I come into contact with BUT will be easier to do once Orion is sleeping through the night and in his own room, so I'm giving myself a little extra time for that.

What are your most effective habit strategies?  Do you have keystone habits that help you keep the others?

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  1. The Power of Habit is on my TBR and now I really want to bump it up, I love hearing more about the science of things & I loved your recap on some of the ideas. I love the idea of picking a few areas to focus on, instead of trying to tackle everything at once- I like the idea that small wins, motivate you to keep going in other areas too.

  2. I really loved the idea of Keystone Habits too. For me, the first one had to be sleep. I'm still not great at it, nor will I ever be, but sleeping means I work faster and have more free time, am more likely to exercise, and if I go to bed at a decent hour I don't eat junk food all hours of the night. When things seem to be unravelling now I try to fix sleep first, and the rest is either easier to fix or falls into place on its own.

    For me, a big consideration is integrating new habits one at a time where possible. When I read Anna Kendrick's book this one line stood out to me SO much and I was like YESSSS. She said something about trying to become responsible all at once, getting overwhelmed, and putting everything off. So like with managing sleep first, it's more likely to work for me if I put one new thing onto my schedule, test it for a week, and then add or subtract, using each week or two weeks as a test period before making changes.

  3. I really need to schedule slow days after busy days. If I don't I'm a mess. I also need to get almost 9 hours of sleep. I haven't been good at adding any new habits.


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