Posts Tagged “habits”

Daily routines

The last two months have been something of a blur. Client work has taken up most of my day now and even into the night as well when I shouldn’t really be working. A pattern, or lack of pattern has emerged.

It started a couple of months when I decided to scale back on my daily writing. I thought that not writing as much would let me focus on getting other chores and such done. Truth is, it was the start of a slow decline in what I had carefully built up over the best part of a year. The daily routine.

My work day pretty much had the same format for the most of last year and it worked for me. I had the same routine in the morning for preparing for the day ahead and the same routine at night for reviewing the day. It worked for me.

Once I stopped writing on a daily basis though the routines started to be skipped, and then the calendar was running empty, the task list built up and before you know it, my daily routine consisted of nothing more than simply putting out fires. I’ve been in that place before and it wasn’t a good place to be.

I ended up reacting to problems rather than anticipating problems and setting time aside for them. I was context switching multiple times a day and losing focus. My inboxes and lists were stradily climbing with not view of the bottom of them.

No more. The routines are back in place, the daily writing will be started again and a plan of attack has been formalised. Let’s see where this goes.

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Breaking Habits for the Best

Even the best kept habits require a break. Regardless of how well you think it’s working for you as a habit, it’s only when you step back from it, breaking the habit, that you can see the true impact and value of it.

If you’re like me, you’ll have tried to introduce hundreds of habits in an effort to improve your health, your career, your finances or even your relationships with people. For me some of them have truly stuck over the years. Keeping a journal is one of them and something I do on an almost daily basis. Whether it’s a family event, work or even a thought, it gets written down and saved for a future review or reflection. It took me a number of months to get this habit down on a daily basis and while I can see the benefit of it, I’ve never taken a break from it.

Last week though I decided to drop the journal tools for a few days and just enjoy the time off I had with the family. It was a real eye opener. In that time I realized that although keeping a journal is a good thing for posterity and also for remembering where I was with some work, I was missing something.

Looking back at my journal entries over the years and months, there has been a subtle trend in my journal entries. In the past I would journal once a day with a review of the day, now though I’m logging journal entries multiple times a day. Whenever I complete a bit of work, whenever I have the inkling of an idea, or even when a link catches my eye but I want don’t want to just read it later, I want to read it from a particular angle. Every day I’m working I’m writing multiple journal entries as I’m working. When the weekend rolls around, the context of my journal switches and I focus on one entry for the weekend if I did something with the family that was fun.

Before I didn’t recognize the pattern of my journal activities and how I was switching between work and family journals. Having stepped back from the habit of keeping multiple journals, I can see that the shift in change is better for me. When I read the last month’s worth of entries I found it so much easier to read the frequent updates per day rather than the single monolithic update done on a daily basis.

I also realized something else. I put too much emphasis on writing a journal entry every day when it wasn’t necessary. Having not kept a journal for the best part of a week, I can see that it’s okay to miss a few days here and there. It’s taken a break in my habits to see the true value I’m getting from keeping a journal.

Sometimes we end up switching to automatic-pilot when we habituate processes that we think will make us better people. Truth is though, we need time away, a holiday from these habits so that we can properly evaluate and review their value. Only when we can do this can we see how that habit is truly working for us.

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The Daily Checklist

In an effort to be more productive, healthy and fit I’ve decided to keep a daily checklist for work days so that I can start tracking progress on my day. Here’s the list I’ve decided to center on for weekdays:

  • Do one major important task - Ideally this will be completing some work for a complete or working on a feature for one of my own products.
  • Do one minor important task - This is really a secondary bit of work for a client or for myself. If my major task is for a client, then I will always try and complete a task on one of my own products for that day.
  • Eat a healthy portion of fruit and vegetables - I’m not fanatical about my weight, but I do like to eat sensibly. Making sure I have a good portion of fruit and vegetables at least once a day is a good starting point to eating better.
  • Workout or go for a walk - To coincide with changes to the diet, I’m also looking to get some exercise in during the day. Starting from next week, I’ll be walking my son to school every morning and I’m also going to fit in a couple of runs a week. Sitting at a desk all day as your job can be brutal on your body, so it’s a good idea to stretch your legs when you can.
  • Journal - Lastly, the journal entry. A time for reflection on the day and to log idea, progress, notes and other stuff. I do this a few times a day but I try to write a summary at the end of the day.

I haven’t bothered setting a list for the weekend, as it’s not really important to have a checklist on days like this. The weekend should be a work-free zone anyway and as long as I get some time to spend with the family and relax then I’m happy.

I’m doing this for the month of March to see if I can get some kind of order in my work day. One thing I’ve found about freelancing is that the day can quickly run away from you and before you know it, you haven’t completed any of the things you set out to do at the start of the day. Embedding these five habits should ensure that I keep my clients happy, I make progress on my own projects and I keep myself healthy.

I’m using Habit List to track my daily habits but there’s a lots of other habit tracking apps or methdos you can use instead.

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