Habituals Update

It’s been relatively quiet around Casa Testerman for the past week or so. There was a trip to Philadelphia, thick with unexciting wardrobe malfunctions, but otherwise I’m plugging along with writing, reading, and trying to get these damn habits locked in. Lemme sum up:

It’s been a very good month for me as far as new reading experiences go; first there was Terry Pratchett’s Nation, then Neil Gaiman’s wonderful Graveyard Book, and I had the pleasure of catching up with all the cool kids and read The Lies of Locke Lamora on the Philly trip. Great book. Just enough ‘new’ in the fantasy world, with great characterization and plotting. Capers are capered, swashes are buckled, and a great many skulls are duggeried. I came fairly close to sleeping on the couch a couple times, thanks to interrupting Kate’s own reading with chortling, out-of-context excerpts. Recommended (as are the others I mentioned – highly).

The “Adrift” story continues, in which Finnras seems to be engaging in some kind of Cunning Plan. We’ll see if he’s as good at such things as Locke Lamora. Odds are not good.

Habit the First – Tracking what I Eat
This went very well in the first week – I even dropped a few pounds. (Actually, according to the website on which I track such things, I dropped too much in one week, and now they want to me to eat more this week — as in… a lot more… “I can’t afford a whole cow!” more — it’s confusing.

I have regained control of my eating patterns by keep meticulous records.
I have regained control of my eating patterns by keeping meticulous records.

Habit the Second — Getting up an Hour Earlier

This one isn’t going as well. Yes, I’m getting up earlier, but I never have to use an alarm clock normally, and I for damn sure have to right now. Also, I’m dragging through large portions of the day, short on energy and long on nap-tropism.

I think part of the problem is that I haven’t set up any kind of reward for when I succeed at this each day (the other part of the problem is that I have no personal desire or investment in this – it’s wholly external) — so I need some help with that: what kind of reward should I be giving myself for getting up at the crack of dawn every day?

Suggestions need to be something concrete: that early in the morning I don’t think highly enough of my fellow humans for “a sense of moral superiority” to mean anything. Gimme some ideas in the comments.

In May, I will form a habit.

I’m not always fantastic at practicing what I teach.

For instance, a number of my classes have to do with modifying your own behavior (time management, giving feedback, verbal communication, how to not be a pain in the ass for everyone who reads your email, et cetera), so when I talk about what needs to change, I also talk about how to change that habit or, more to the point, how to make the change stick.

Failure to form this habit will result in the tape-and-body-hair punishment.
Failure to form this habit will result in the tape-and-body-hair punishment.

Changing a habit is always the hard part, after all, and it’s why people fail at things like ‘keeping the house clean’ or ‘saving money’ or my personal weak spot, ‘maintaining a healthy weight.’

Usually, this failure stems from one simple thing: none of those goals involve changing just one habit; they require changing a lot of habits and frankly people aren’t very good at changing a lot of habits at the same time. In order to make progress, you need to pick one habit out of the whole mess, and focus on that.

There are, in fact, steps.

1. Commitment. Commit yourself to a habit change, big time. Make your commitment as public as possible.
2. Practice. Changing your habits is a skill, and like any skill it takes practice. Commit yourself to a 30-day Challenge and try to do your new habit every single day for 30 days.
3. Tracking. It’s best if you log your progress every day. This will make your habit change much more likely to be successful.
4. Rewards. Reward yourself. Do so often, early on — every day for a week or so, then every three days, then the end of every week, and then at the end.
5. Focus. It’s hard to do more than one or two habits at a time — you can’t maintain focus.

This is basically what I tell people. I even coach them through it.

Sometimes, I make use of this for myself.
— I wanted to find the time to do at least a little creative writing every single day. This led me to the Adrift story, via twitter, which I’ve now written an entry on every day for the last three months. This simple fact makes me goofy-grin happy.
— I went a long while without blogging very regularly, and I wanted to change that, so I told myself I’d try to write a blog entry every single day in April. With the exception of this last Saturday, I succeeded, and I believe I can continue that habit. (I didn’t write every single blog entry for this blog, but I did always write one.)

Sometimes, I don’t do this for myself, when I should.

As I’ve already mentioned, one of my personal goblins is weight gain. I don’t gain weight fast by any means (I kind of wish it did, as the problem tends to creep up on me, unnoticed), but over the course of the last two years I’ve managed to put on roughly 1 pound a month. I’m nowhere NEAR as bad as I have ever been – my Medium shirts and some slacks have just gotten snug, but that’s it – but about two months ago I decided enough was enough.

So… it’s been two months. And I’ve put on two pounds.

*shakes head*

I’m failing at this because I’m trying to re-institute all the habits I had two years ago – tracking my intake and daily exercise and all that – all at once. It goes for a couple days, and then it falls off my radar for a week. Not for lack of trying, but just because there’s too much “Habit” there to handle all at once.

So, here and now, I am getting a Habit going: During the month of May, I’m going to get back to tracking my food intake. As I have said before, paying attention to what you’re putting in your mouth is far and away the most important thing you can do for yourself, so I’m starting there.

1. Commitment. Well, this is about as Public as I can make this commitment. You can also expect me to add little addenda to my regular posts, mentioning my point totals for the day. (Or possibly tweets.) I use Weight Watchers (the online service – which I’ve been paying for and not really using for over a year). *shakes head*
2. Practice. As I said, every day in May. For June, I think I’ll … well… let’s keep that for June.
3. Tracking. This shouldn’t be a problem as “tracking myself” is actually the point of the whole project.
4. Rewards. I’m a little hazy on what I’m going to do for this, but I *think* what I am going to say is “no computer or TV after work until you log your points.”
5. Focus. I will worry about getting back to a regular exercise schedule until June, though I have some small hope that the points tracking will also remind me when I need to do a little something extra.

And that’s it. Is this an interesting post for you? I can’t say – in this case, it’s really all about me; taking that first step of commitment and aiming the giant whupping stick of PUBLIC FAILURE at my ass.

If nothing else, watching me slog through this process should carry a faint whiff of schadenfreude. Enjoy!