For the new year, I’m thinking about what habits I want to try, develop and drop. I’ve hugely benefited from the suggestions and support of others in picking up and sticking with good habits in the past. So I wanted to share some habits I’ve found useful in case others do too. Here are some I’ve particularly appreciated this year. I’d love to hear others people recommend!
1. Photographing things that are hard to let go of
We’ve accumulated a lot of stuff due to having a baby, and so I’ve been trying to declutter our house of other things. I used to be a bit of a hoarder, so I find it hard to let go of things - whether books I’ve read or cards I particularly appreciated receiving. For things like the latter, I’ve started taking photos of them, so that I can still look at them whenever I want, but they don’t take up physical space (H/t Tara Mac Aulay). I’ve also found it motivating to listen to the Slow Home Podcast while doing this tidying. (H/t Nicole Ross)
2. Coworking in pomodoros
I prefer working with other people, which has made the pandemic challenging. I’ve found it decidedly easier to stay on track with difficult tasks by working with a video call open with other people. We tend to check in every half hour, which is motivation to do what you set out to and is cheerfully social. I have a few weekly coworking slots with a partner booked for each week, and that’s often when I get some particularly aversive task done. I’m also on a Whatsapp group with some friends, where we can post if we fancy coworking. Another option is using FocusMate, which is great for its flexibility - you just sign up for a slot whenever you want and will get matched with someone to co-work with for an hour. There’s an EA group on there, and you can see which other EAs have booked when and sign up to join them.
3. Going for a walk during daylight every day
This seems so basic it probably shouldn’t count, but I’ve been grateful that Rob has hassled me enough about getting light and exercise every day that it feels non-negotiable rather than a luxury. I think that made maternity leave and lock down decidedly easier.
4. Caffeine tablets for waking up
I hate mornings. But I find it much easier to wake and get up if I set my alarm for 40min before I need to get up, take a caffeine tablet and then go back to sleep. (H/t Roman Duda) (I still have an alarm for when I actually need to get up!) I also wear a sleep mask which I take off at that point. When it won’t disturb others, I use a light alarm clock. The combination of these things makes me way more cheerful to get out of bed.
I’m really glad I have Anki for remembering things - whether people’s names, what acronyms stand for, or difficult concepts. I found this article useful for getting the most out of it. I have yet to find a time to go through my cards that makes me fully consistent with it though.
6. Recurring social calls
During the pandemic I’ve particularly appreciated having recurring video calls set up with friends - weekly, fortnightly or monthly. Somehow when I need to schedule calls it’s easy not to get around to it for ages, and have insufficient social time plus miss out on knowing what people are up to. Some are purely social, some are part work.
7. Buying spares
I used to be in the habit of avoiding buying a second of things, in order to save money. But that periodically resulted in things like me leaving my computer charger at home when going to work. Now I keep one charger at work and one at home. For something like a charger, it’s worth having a spare anyway in case you break it. If something is cheap and I’ll likely use two up, it’s even more of a no-brainer: so I have vitamins on my desk and at home, so I can take them whenever I remember to.
8. 'Trying things once' mindset
I tend to put off doing new things if I intend to keep doing them, because it feels intimidating. For example, I put off walking to work rather than taking the bus for ages because I aimed to do that ongoingly from whenever I started. Whereas when I decided to do it once to try it out, it felt much more appealing, and so I actually got into the habit of walking in on a regular basis.
9. Choosing which feelings to inhabit
I really like the distinction between ‘having’ a feeling and ‘inhabiting’ it. The difference is something like: being fully wrapped up in a feeling versus the ‘light-touch noticing that you feel a certain way’ which meditation encourages. Keeping this difference in mind can be useful for avoiding being too affected by a strong emotion - you might realise that now is a bad time to inhabit a feeling and therefore try to avoid doing so. (Of course, this is often hard to pull off!) Or it can allow you to get a better understanding of some feeling you’re having. By setting time aside to fully inhabit a feeling you can understand it better and do some focusing to determine what would make you feel better.
10. Listening rather than reading
I find it far easier to get around to listening to things rather than physically reading, and I like how I can listen while going for a walk or doing household tasks. Loads of books are on Audible now, and quite a bit of written content gets turned into podcasts (eg I’m currently enjoying Nate Soares Replacing Guilt series). Articles which aren’t recorded can be saved to Pocket, which will read them to you. Pocket doesn’t do googledocs and various other formats, but for those you can export them to .txt and then use an app like Voice Dream Reader. (H/t Rob Wiblin for both these suggestions).