• Brooklyn, NY
Well, precisely two months ago I wrote about Worlds Fair Nano, and since then, I’ve somehow managed not to publish a single word. So, it’s time to break the silence again.
Over the past few weekends I’ve been consuming an unusually large amount of tea, whether it be the unexpectedly prevalent turmeric chais or today’s Hōjicha. This is because I switched over my habit of running off into the City for the day (and accomplishing very little) to spending my brunchtime at local coffeeshops to work.
This is all in the larger name of designing habits, inspired in part by Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit1. Through many case studies, it offers an interesting perspective into the habits of individuals, organizations, and societies. In turn, it’s made me think about how I can be designing my habits to make them more effective.
Essentially, a habit consists of a stimulus (what causes the habit), the routine (the habit itself), and the reward (that which reinforces the habit). I like to break them down into two categories: spontaneous and regular.
Spontaneous habits occur in response to a spontaneous stimulus. For example, I grab my keys when I decide to leave my apartment.2 On the other hand, regular habits occur in response to some regularly occurring stimulus. For example, every weekday morning I wake up and somehow make it to work through a chain of habits strengthened over time.
Both types of habits are important because they affect how you respond to the world. But because regular habits occur consistently, creating regular habits in particular will ensure that you’ll do things on a regular basis and at a consistent pace, whether they be good or bad. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to cultivate good regular habits and get rid of bad or ineffective ones.
One way I want to use this type of habit is to roughly set aside times to accomplish what I need to. For example, if I make a point to write and publish a blog post every week, I’ll accomplish more than if I only wrote when I felt like it or published a post when it were perfect.^4^ As soon as I stop following the habit, it becomes brittle and falls apart, whether due to a mere lack of motivation or an actual inability to do so.
I’m using the same strategy to finish up the French–Italian Duolingo course, which I had woven into my New Year’s Resolutions by promising myself I would finish it by the end of the year. Since I have about 40 units left, I am making the intentional habit to complete one unit every day.
That’s all I have for now—I need to get out of this place anyways because the looping jazzy music is getting a bit repetitive.
But if the context changes, I may forget to do so! Suppose I am staying elsewhere and need my keys to get back into my apartment. I may forget (and have forgotten) to do so because the stimulus is different. ↩︎
James Clear echoes this in his article The Difference Between Professionals and Amateurs. ↩︎