Habits

Breaking barriers

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I like creating. More specifically, I like writing. When I first started blogging, I remember how exciting it was to tackle a topic and at the end of it all feel like I really might have taught someone something, but somewhere along the way, I lost that. Writing became tied to what I thought others thought of me. What I said needed to be eloquent, logically consistent, and all the other gold stars people were dishing out. I build up these psychological barriers to something I thoroughly enjoyed because I allowed my identity to be conflated by my writing.

I want to take another stab at this writing thing again. But I have a new issue.

Going into graduate school has exposed me to ways approaches to thinking about, and manipulating, ideas that I would have never have thought was possible. However, what this now means is that I am hyper-aware of just how much I have no clue about anything (from what I see this feeling tends to be the norm in the academic community). The things I want to write about are technical, the type of first principles are so important that I fear I would not do them justice. I find ideas from psychology, statistics, computer science, and the philosophy of science to be the perfect storm; I could think about these things endlessly, and there is endless material to think about. But with that comes anxiety about my abilities to do justice to these topics. I think this steam from my increasing role to be the type of person who is supposed to be teaching people these things. Nonetheless have little direction about what I ought to be doing to develop an intuition for explaining things ‘like an expert’.

This post is my declaration to give it a try.

For those who follow my newsletter, you know I do 30-day challenges every month. This month, I am pushing my writing to the world and going to talk about things I normally would not feel comfortable trying to speak about. I want to start sharing ideas about things I have no business talking about on a technical level so that I can become the type of person who can speak to these topics on that level. Anyone can do it, I know that. So how can I purport to want it if I am not just giving it a go? Each day I will share something about 250 words or so aimed at writing informally about a bite sized idea I find to be extremely fascinating, and potentially, beyond my current circle of competency.

The intent of this exercise is twofold. First, I want to get into the habit of sharing my work publicly, an increasingly relevant skill as I become a more public member of the scientific community. Second, I selfishly desire the opportunity to practice explaining ideas, once again, something I see as particularly important if I want to instruct others.

So see you tomorrow, and prepare for an intuitive discussion about something statistical.  

Fitness

Master Cleanse: Reflecting On 10 Days Without Food

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Master cleanse forces of habit postMaster Cleanse: Reflecting On 10 Days Without Food | Forces of Habit

“Everyone gives what he has. The soldier gives strength, the merchant goods, the teacher instructions, the farmer rice, the fisherman fish.

The merchant asks of Siddhartha: Very well and what can you give? What have you learned that you can give?

I can think, I can wait, I can fast.

Is that all?

I think that is all.

And of what use are they? For example, fasting, what good is that?

It is of great value, sir. If a man has nothing to eat, fasting is the most intelligent thing he can do. If, for instance, Siddhartha had not learned to fast, he would have had to seek some kind of work today, either with you, or elsewhere, for hunger would have driven him. But, as it is, Siddhartha can wait calmly. He is not impatient, he is not in need, he can ward off hunger for a long time and laugh at it. Therefore, fasting is useful, sir.”

 ― Siddhartha

 

With satisfying hunger being one of the great physiological needs, it seems only obvious how attached we as a species are to what we eat. Deliberately depriving ourselves of food is a technique used all throughout history as a method of asceticism, so it is only natural for me to yearly remind myself of its importance by cultivating a space between me and the foods I eat. My aim is to manage my primal yearning for the sensual pleasures that can surround eating, and I have faith that I can accomplish this by not eating for 10 days and instead, commit myself to a stringent diet that provides enough nutrients and calories to functionally sustain myself.

Why do it?

Firstly, I find that anything undergone over a prolonged period of time tends to have extreme merits in not only fortifying resilience, but revealing what can’t hold up in the first place. Just as a long-distance race or a long-term meditation retreat reveal various weak points in my being, the fast has the opportunity to show me who I become under extended intervals of stress.

Additionally, I find food to be a pressure point for tension and anxiety in my life. If I am stressed, I eat. Not only that, I continue to eat until the uncomfortable feeling of fullness forces me to stop. It’s almost like I am trying to create new discomfort to replace the underlying emotional discomfort that was present. With that considered, sparing out the availability of food will bring me closer to those sensations I may be attempting to escape through the food.

A Note on Safety

While the cleanse is not been confirmed to be safe under the standards of modern western medicine, fasting has been found to have large benefits. Considering this as well as having completed the fast last year with positive results I have chosen to respectfully accept the dangers to reap the benefits of the resulting perspective the master cleanse gives me on my craving towards foods and stimulants.

The Process

For 10 days I will only intake a sufficient number of calories and nutrients to sustain a functional body. With a liquid diet only comprised of lemons, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and water I will forgo all other foods.

For more information on the specifics of the Master Cleanse, please see this resource.

Daily Journal

Day 1
We are out of the gates strong. After not preparing much the night before, I agree that I will still start today as planned. Pushing back the process didn’t seem like a sound idea seeing as we really would prepare by eating less today anyway. I head to the store to gather what seems like enough ingredients to get me by for a few days.
Day 2
I caught a cold from yesterday. I think the lack of coffee has also hit me. Oh, and laxatives do not seem to be working as advertised.
Day 3
Dreadfully challenging day, I felt very ill most of the day but was able to get out for a 2-mile run which perked me up substantially. After which the day was mostly bedridden.
Day 4
I work up late and fatigued. Did and workout and headed to work. The sleep last night was restless.
Day 5
Mental fog. I could not accomplish any tasks that required mental strain of the sorts. A lot of sleeping. I did, however, make an excellent iced version of the drink using a blender which was a nice mix-up. Except for after bedtime, I was once again restless and woke up several times in the night to use the bathroom.
Day 6
I woke up feeling better than the last few days but could not move much other than to make my drink. Later, I shifted to the same feelings that the last few days held.
Day 7
Many of the original sick feelings I was have subsided, to be replaced by a new set of different sick feelings. Much more throat irritation than normal. Sleep was substantially better last night as well.
Day 8
I woke up to run and after had two glasses. My confidence for finishing at this point is uncompromisable. My body has adapted to the diet though I have noticed large muscle atrophy. I have lost any excess weight on my body, and my face is substantially thinner.
Day 9
Woke up feeling the best I have thus far. But due to being short on ingredients, I am choosing to ration what I have left in maple syrup to last the final two days. Today also comprised of a lot of travel that had surprisingly large effects on the amount of energy I had left to expel. Sleep is getting better.
Day 10
I woke more excited for the end than ever. While my rations were low, my morale was high. Mentally I was unperturbed the entire day. So much so that I did more work than what I collectively was able to accomplish in the last ten days as It relates to more mentally tasking things I had aimed to accomplish.

Next Time

Better Portion management.

I constantly underfed myself. Instead of drinking a minimum of 6 drinks a day, I found myself barely scraping together 4. Part of the reason was poor resource management. Given the amount of the ingredients I had, I could only make so much without risking using up too much of what I had. In the future, it would behoove me to double the number of ingredients I acquire or else risk starving myself again.

Better Pre-preparation

I could have been better at intermittent fasting prior to starting the fast. As well as limiting caffeine and alcohol a few weeks before I began. Both of which made for harder days early on in the fast. With a bunch of disturbances attempting to find equilibrium within my body, it doesn’t make sense to add additional stress to the system in ways that could have been meditated or mitigated early on. The emergence of mental fog and bedriddenness may have been a result of the combination of contributing mispreparation efforts made on my behalf.

Overall Thoughts

I lost too much weight.

Starting Weight: 128 pounds
Ending Weight: 117 pounds

I lost of total of 11 pounds. For me, this was far too much weight to have lost and could have been supplemented by gathering a sufficient amount of supplies for a larger daily intake of glucose. Rather than burning my muscles and remaining body fat, a larger caloric intake would have substituted eating away at the energy available and stored in my body. I also could really tell what I had metabolically available to me. I understood that it was more finite than ever and I ought to take advantage of the highs and lows as I was able to sense them.

I was extremely sick.

Towards the beginning of the fast I grew very sick. But I was able to watch day by day as my body healed. I noticed how much better I felt and how much I didn’t need to rely on medicines to distract me from my healing. Don’t get me wrong. Modern medicine is a magical and practical tool for everyone including myself. However, when it comes to the use of things used to blind, blunt, or eliminate a sensation so I can tolerate a state, I much rather drudge through that state, observe it, and come out on the other side as I know and respect changes inevitability.

While placing a fair amount of stress on my body the fast has reminded me of the merits of deprivation. As I spoke on in my post on voluntary discomfort, intentionally taking things from myself prepares me for when those things are no longer available. So, if and when food in my life becomes spares for whatever reason, it is nothing I have not already done to myself.
In all I found the experience to be just as fruitful as the last year, and I look forward to continuing the ritual for the foreseeable future.

See my post on Voluntary Discomfort

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Habits

Being Bald: Voluntary Discomfort In Action

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Being Bald: Voluntary Discomfort In Action

Being Bald: Voluntary Discomfort In Action | Forces of Habit

I recently razor shaved my head bald.

Now as this was another means to an intentional living end, I think it is important to de-brief my line of thought on the matter, as well as what I hope to gain from the experience. Like many choices in our lives, I think that this decision to shave my head is a reflection of my choice to overcome some of the developmental mechanism built without my conscious consent during my early life programming. So first some history.

Originally, I shaving my head had been something I had a great distaste for.

I had never appreciated the haircut when I was a kid. I was averse to the cut due to it in part being the forced haircut of choice by my grandparents. In the larger scheme of things, I never felt like something as meaningless as a choice of kid haircut should be controlled by anyone but me. Now while that may be my child-like rebellion speaking, but it holds a lot of explanatory power as to why I may have chosen to grow my hair out to a ponytail length in high school, and additionally felt the aversion I did to the low cut.

All that being considered my hair made me feel attractive, accepted, and most crucially comfortable. Which is great and all, until it isn’t.

Momentary feelings like good cannot last forever and aren’t functionally designed to do so—if we are considering natural selection as a designer of some sort. What about all of the moments in between? It is the absence of a sensation that drives us towards relishing in the now blatant deprivation. What can we do about the inevitable absence? Must we be surprised? Can we defend ourselves?

Aesop's Foresight

A Wild Boar was sharpening his tusks busily against the stump of a tree, when a Fox happened by. Now the Fox was always looking for a chance to make fun of his neighbors. So he made a great show of looking anxiously about, as if in fear of some hidden enemy. But the Boar kept right on with his work.

"Why are you doing that?" asked the Fox at last with a grin. "There isn't any danger that I can see."

"True enough," replied the Boar, "but when danger does come there will not be time for such work as this. My weapons will have to be ready for use then, or I shall suffer for it."

We must prepare for our battles now, because during we will have little time to cultivate what is required to act.

Just as the Boar who chooses to prepare, it is in our best interest to pinpoint our attachments and practice depriving ourselves of these lively luxuries in the off chance that we are stripped of them.

Change is inevitable. So rather than passively allow change to place me in situations that blindside me, I can facilitate placing myself in uncomfortable positions to broaden my experience of resilience across a variety of circumstances.

As is clear from the fable above, getting uncomfortable now to be comfortable later isn’t a new idea. Found throughout many historical maxims, it is one of the founding philosophical principles within the Greek philosophy known as Stoicism particularly used to fortify oneself against adversity.

Voluntary Discomfort

“Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I feared?” It is precisely in times of immunity from care that the soul should toughen itself beforehand for occasions of greater stress, and it is while Fortune is kind that it should fortify itself against her violence. In days of peace the soldier performs maneuvers, throws up earthworks with no enemy in sight, and wearies himself by gratuitous toil, in order that he may be equal to unavoidable toil. If you would not have a man flinch when the crisis comes, train him before it comes.” – Seneca

As the stoic practitioners before me, I have found merit in the reappraisal of adverse circumstances as opportunities to cultivate comfort under irregular happenstance. Using my recent head-shaving venture as an example, we can identify the various merits behind the choice.

Training

Personally, I found the idea of baldness uncomfortable. But in theory, what if I had to be bald in the future? Better deal with the sensations while I’m young and more plastic to change then be crippled by the stigmas of a bald head later.

Cato the younger, the famed stoic practitioner would harp at any opportunity to practice discomfort. From openly dressing in fools’ clothes to be laughed at, to living off the rations of a poor man Cato cut no corners to expose himself; his training and experience paid off. He ended up known for being able to hold equanimity across a variety of presumably difficult circumstances.

Deliberate exposure to potential unforeseen circumstances prepares the mind and body for a wider variety of experiences. In a way, Cato was undergoing a sort of drilling aimed at exposing himself the variety what is possible during the human experience. Because if and when these uncertain events would occur, none of which would be anything that he had not yet prepared for. What could throw Cato off course if all things man feared, whether it be starvation, poverty, or humiliation could not shake him?

Gratitude & Awareness

To be aware is the direct attention towards a sensory experience with varying levels of appraisal present in the momentary experience. Awareness is an ever-present phenomenon that varies not dualistically like a light switch, but more in a gradient like a color spectrum.

Shaving my head brought awareness to a new sensory experience focused on and around my head. The heat and cold, the smoothness, and recognition of new life as new hair continues to grow. All of which revitalize that banal experience of the prior haircut.

Like a fresh start, the haircut is a reminder that change is on the horizon, and I ought to cultivate the open-mindedness needed to facilitate such a change. Acceptance became a duty as I woke up every day with a blatant acknowledgment that This Will Change.

Not only that, but each day moving forward I could directly observe the subtle change. My hair was growing, and I could bear witness to that. It made me grateful for the faculties I had. As a living breathing creature of this world, I could grow! How could I not smile in awe at every centimeter of growth?

Shaving my head brought a totally new awareness for the growth always present, as well as gratitude for what I am able to accomplish in body and mind when made uncomfortable.

Practicing Voluntary Discomfort

Now clearly everyone does not have to go out and shave their head to harness the benefits of voluntary discomfort. As Cato before us, the practice of voluntary discomfort is individual specific.

Start by asking yourself: What do I fear? What makes me anxious? What do I appreciate the most?

Then using the answers to those questions, create exercises that make those, or similar fears and anxieties, come to life. The goal is to experience those events as though they have happened.

Here are a few other ways that anyone could begin:

IF You really enjoy your bed
THEN Sleep on the floor

IF You deeply enjoy a specific type of food
THEN Skip out on that food for a measurable amount of time

IF You feel hot water is a requirement for a shower
THEN Take a cold shower

IF You value how you express yourself through clothes
THEN Dress in something that makes you embarrassed

IF You wash clothes with a laundry machine
THEN Wash your clothes by hand

IF You are constantly checking your phone
THEN Ditch your phone for 24 hours

This is in no way an exhaustive list of what we can do to prepare for the inevitable change in each of our lives. Yet the idea behind each of these exercises is to take what you find to be the most comforting or devastating and deliberately deprive or experience similarly instances.

I see myself learning a lot from this haircut. Being bald will train me for the unforeseen, cultivate gratitude for change, and broaden my awareness of the subtle differences all around me.

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Habits

Minimalism: Everything I Own in One Bag and Here’s Why

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forces of habit minimalism

Minimalism: Everything I Own in One Bag and Why

The Seeds Disposal

Around the back end of 2016, I began my journey as a Minimalist.

My initial reason was merely based on space. I dreaded packing up all of my college belongings after a semester, just to carry it all home for a few months. In fact, I recall struggling to load up my friend’s car with all my stuff to the degree that we considered strapping things to the roof!

I had enough. That up and coming fall I cut my wardrobe in half, and when I took account of what was left, I realized that what remained was all my favorite clothes. Finally, I could say I loved all my clothes. The process opened me up to loving what I own rather than tolerating possessions, so much so that I extended the process the other miscellaneous things I considered mine.  

I became addicted. The more I threw away, the more comfort I accumulated. It was like I had been hiding little bits of joy in all of my belonging and with each discard, I withdrew some value from the material bank and reinvested my dividends in what I still considered mine.

Though after rounds of discarding, I came to standstill. I really appreciated everything I owned.

But what was appreciation anyway? Did the stuff bring me joy in and of itself? Why did I need to crave after MY stockpile above someone else’s? Surely others wouldn’t appreciate my items as I did. I began to question if I was allocating the idea of appreciation appropriately in the first place.

The Fishbowl

I came up with an analogy. When I thought about it, appreciation was a fishbowl full of all the love, time, and attention I put towards the selection of items I own. Floating around the bowl was all my items. But the thing about a bowl is that its content has a finite limit. Would I risk spilling my precious appreciation juice? No! To me, that meant discarding items to create the optimal appreciation to item ratio.

I was drawn to this line of thinking from a similar approach I was using in my mental life at the time to discard useless ideas—pragmatism.

The Maxim of Pragmatism

“Consider the practical effects of the objects of your conception. Then, your conception of those effects is the whole of your conception of the object.” -Charles Sanders Peirce, the father of pragmatism

In other words, if you have a distinct meaning that endows a fruitful type of value onto something, it’s that meaning, that retains significance in the idea, object, etc. In pragmatism, beliefs, theories, and even material belongings are held up to a specific standard—value first.

A personal consideration of pragmatic value become the answer. In my bowl analogy, the ratio of appreciation to items could be thought about as a function of the initial value I held for each of the two categories. Meaning how much the bowl could hold before filling or how heavy the items were changed depending on the initial pragmatic value. And based on how I had felt getting rid of things, it was clearly appreciation that I valued more, not the items—loved that appreciation juice!

The model worked so well that I applied it to other realms of being. My conception of Items expanded to include items of thought such as ideas, mantras, or theories. I discovered that personally, a value was beyond that of materials and that material were in fact, a distraction. A distraction in that the items took my finite appreciation and distributed in ways that caused me to attend less to my new, more expansive model of items.

The Progression

Stated above are the guiding ideas that have promoted me own less. Since applying the models I have cultivated a lot of value and thrown away a lot of stuff. At this point, I can claim to be sufficiently not limited to any location as a majority—if not all—items that I own fit inside my backpack. Though such freedom has counter-intuitively made me care less about the items themselves, and more about respectful owning in a manner that respects the finite nature of appreciation.

I’ve told you about the journey this far so I’d like to share a comprehensive list of everything I own. As of February 4th, 2019.

Red Osprey Farpoint 40 Backpack

Black Sweater

Black T-shirt

Hemp short sleeve t-shirt

Nautica puffer jacket

Hershey 10k shirt long sleeve

Old Navy fleece vest

White button-down shirt

Grey Suit

Levi Jeans

Black ExOfficio underwear

Grey ExOfficio underwear

Pair of Darn Tough Socks

Pair of Grey Hiking socks

Pair of Dark Blue Dress Socks

Blue and Yellow High School XC shorts

Pikes Peak 14,110 FT CO Hat

TOMS Black Heritage Canvas Alpargatas

Asics Running Shoes

Black and brown transposable Belt

Under Armour Tights

Blue Nike compression shorts

Black Speedo Thong Flip Flops

Columbia Silver Ridge Pants

Brown Dress shoes

Cold Weather Face Mask

Green Shorts

Alpha Keeper Money Belt

Rubik’s Cube

PackTowl Personal Microfiber Towel

Joy Walker Waterproof Backpack Rain Cover

Zomake Ultra Lightweight Packable Backpack

Petzl Headlamp

OontZ Angle Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

iPhone 5 and Phone Charger

Vumos Sleeping Bag Liner

Axe toiletry bag

Glasses

Tigers eye bracelet

Ear Plugs

Travel Tooth Brush

Passport and other required documentation

Ralph Lauren Cologne

College Class Ring

Pocket Watch

Hacky sack

Watch

USB Flash Drive

Surface Tablet with wireless mouse and charger

Earphones

Eye Mask

Hair Brush

Folder with legal documents

Master Lock TSA Accepted Luggage Blue Lock

Blanket

Universal Wall Plug Travel Adaptor

Teavana Perfectea Maker

Journals

Pens

Markers

Disposables: Thing that I own that I use and refill include: razors, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, chapstick, essential oils, caffeine pills, l-theanine, matcha, and tea.

A Note on Books

I have chosen not to list all of the books that I own. The list is vast and growing, and as of now, books do not apply to the same rigorous elimination process I have been undergoing. That’s because the value of a book extends beyond my ownership, and the presence of a book cultivates an environment focused on lifelong learning. As a signal of what can be potentially known as I continue to grow, books offer an opportunity to expand my own consciousness, as well as the people that surround me.

Owning Less

If I am to attend to others and myself in a manner that cultivates progress, the clutter of an environment in no way provides any significantly use. To produce significant results, you need to treat your time as the finite resource that it truly is. When you limit what you spend your time on, growth becomes possible in the remainder.

Having less in your life means you have more time, attention, and focus towards the things that matter.

In a mess of sensory stimuli, your attention is stolenWhen the mind wanders it uses whatever is available to it to perpetuate the train of thought. Distraction after distraction, the person is unconsciously agreeing—saying yes—to more, which ultimately lead to less.

By removing the things that stole my time and attention, I am now able to cultivate only my priorities. This is why I chose to own less.

It’s easy to believe that doing more will lead to better results. But go ahead and try doing less—you’ll be happily surprised.

 

 

 

 

 

Habits

Entropy: A Practical Model for Intentional Living

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Entropy Forces of Habit

Entropy: A Practical Model for Intentional Living

Murphy’s law
Anything that can go wrong will go wrong

The heuristic has been popularized through movies like Interstellar. Yet what are we actually implying when we state that what is wrong is bound to occur? The hard sciences have discovered a useful way of measuring randomness that is particularly pertinent to intentionally living as a mental model for considering how disorder naturally arises.

It is the force that leads to many of the problems in our universe and governs a majority of your daily choices; this is Entropy.

What is Entropy?

Entropy is a commonly used in science as a measurement of disorder. In physics, entropy is thought of as a degree of disorder within a given system. The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of an isolated system never decreases, so when we consider what that means for living organisms in a finite resource environment like ourselves, reality as we understand it is always treading towards complexity.

A Day at the Beach

More Simply, we can think about entropy using the following analogy:

Imagine you are at the beach and you decide to make a sand castle. By organizing millions of grains of sand into an ordered structure. Your sandcastle ends up being this wonderful kingdom that you virtually spend the whole day building—you are very proud of your creation. Now picture that a windstorm arises and blows your magnificent creation down like it’s the holy war; you have now experienced entropy in its analogous form.

We originally have something that is orderly and fixed (Sand kingdom) and forces come along (wind) and turn the thing into a disorganized mess.

Here is a neat video that gave me the idea to explain entropy this way:

So What?

With the model of entropy, we can organize our lives with the disorder in mind. In other words, we intentionally create systems that are easily maintainable given the inevitable nature of things constantly treading towards a disordered state.

It is our expansion of energy or effort that combats entropy. So the model can act as a reminder that effort is mandatory if we are to withstand the pull towards disorganization.

For example, consider relationships.

Moving in together, dealing with parents, sharing money, conflicting ideologies, you get my point. Many areas of conflict are bound to arise just simply from attempting to create an organized state (a partnership) in a world skwed to promt chaos.

If we are not diligent in applying structure in our relationships, then entropy will take its course.

Entropic Intentions

We need to be effortful when living intentionally for if we set up ways of living with zero effort for maintenance, then in due time systems will cease to exist. And soon, we are wasting our most valuable resources (time and attention) on starting again from not having vigilantly observed the model of entropy.

So yes lives may be bound to wrong, though it is not anyone's fault, it is merely the reality as it is. Accept this, and you are one step closer towards living intentionally. 

Remember we will all decay and that’s okay, but how will you use today?


My Motto: Today is the best day of my life

I treat every day as the best day of my life because no matter the praise, disappointment, obstacles, or success I know that I am doing everything that is in my control to live to the standards of my greatest self.

How? It all starts with my 5 habits. Find out more here.

Habits

Stop Being Busy: Three Distinctions Between The Busy And Productive

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forces of habit article

Stop Being Busy: Three Distinctions Between The Busy And Productive

“Busy is a decision.”

– Debbie Millman

James is a college student who prides himself on his busy schedule. From the moment he wakes up in the morning, to the moment his head hits the pillow, James is constantly working. Lecture, clubs, his job, or homework, James is in a constant state of doing.

Jessica—also a college student—sleeps in on the weekends and yet, strangely enough, attends lecture, clubs, her job, and does her homework all the while enjoying her hobbies like yoga and painting.

But listen to how they describe themselves:

James: I am stressed the fuck out, I never have time to myself, but everyone expects me to perform so how could I not be busy?

Jessica: Sure I have things to do, but I am pretty relaxed on most days. I do what I need to do.

Here we have two decisions living very similar lives yet if you take a look at the mindset, the level of life satisfaction greatly differs. Why?

What is productive and what is busy?

An important distinction needs to be made between when we are busy and when we are productive. Nowadays especially, the two terms seem to be experienced and used the same, but couldn’t be any more different. Here are two common definitions of the terms

Busy “having a great deal to do.”

Productive “achieving or producing a significant amount or result.”

The issue is that far too many people are confusing the two, and it’s causing them to live their lives constantly doing stuff while not accomplishing anything. Today I’ll go through three chief distinctions that will help you identify whether you’re busy or productive.

Productive people seek out the big wins | Busy people set too many goals at a time

Aim starts where goals begin.

Being busy lacks a key characteristic that those whom are productive have; aim.

Productivity is goal driven. Without an aim you may find yourself doing a lot, but a whole lot of nothing. You need an aim to be productive, without it, you’re only producing a significant amount of nothing. You can do 100 things today, but if none of them actually led to real results, what’s the point? When you hone in on what is most important—your aim—you can make substantial progress.

For example, when I first started reading for growth, I was so excited about reading that I would read a little of one book, and little of another, and another. Sooner or later I was reading a little of over 5 books.

I don’t remember much from those books.

But when I chose a single book and prioritized reading it, I started to remember the lessons I learned and even started to read more books.

If you would like to start being more productive, the first step is to find out what would be considered the highest priority task—your personal big win.

We can have big wins of the day, week, and year. Your big win is the single task that if accomplished gives you the immediate satisfaction of having completed it.

Productive people prioritize this big win before everything. Each day they remind themselves what the big win is and they do not become distracted by all the other tasks.

Productive People Calculate Before Saying Yes | Busy People Say Yes To Everything

Overbooked and overwhelmed, the busy person is constantly working because they just don’t say no.

They forget it’s not about how much you do, it’s about how valuable what you do is.

To produce significant results, you need to treat your time like the finite resource that it truly is. Before saying yes, ask yourself, is this worth my time? When you limit what you spend your time on, growth becomes possible in the remainder.

Having less in your life means you have more time, attention, and focus towards the things that matter. Take your work space for example.

Where you work makes a huge change in how you work.

Leveraging your environment to work for you.

In the busy notice the mess of sensor stimuli available that steal your attention. When the mind wanders it uses whatever is available to it to perpetuate the train of thought. Distraction after distraction the busy person is unconsciously agreeing—saying yes—to more, which ultimately lead to less.

Personally, this has changed my life. As a minimalist, I chose to ditch a majority of my material belongings leaving space to own only what I love.

Once I realized I could do the same with my time, I started to leverage my energy towards only the things I love. By removing the things that stole my time and attention, I am now able to cultivate only my priorities.

It’s easy to believe that doing more will lead to better results. But go ahead and try doing less—you’ll be happily surprised.

Productive People Set Unrealistic Deadlines | Busy People Approach Deadlines As They Come

Busy people do not leave space for uncertainty.

But how about if the unrealistic—deadlines set ahead of time—deadlines productive people set allow for more to get done in shorter periods of time.

"Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion"

This idea is Parkinson's Law. It explains why unrealistic deadlines make for more significant results. When we aim to get things done on the deadlines of others, we wait until the last minute and rush our work. Yet when we set unrealistic goals for ourselves, we now work under the stress of our own deadlines—now we have entered the realm of the productive.

Productive people create time constraints for themselves to take advantage of our innate tendency to use all the time we leave to complete a task(s).

Georgetown Professor Cal Newport, discusses this in his book Deep Work. He recommends we leverage our time by using a Fixed-Schedule Productivity technique. It’s essentially Parkinson law put into effect.

Dr. Newport uses a fixed-schedule productivity in his own life. While working towards becoming a tenured professor, Cal never works past 5 during the weekdays. Because of this, he needed to prioritize what he would be doing each day.

Cal didn’t have time to do 50 things, but he could certainly get 2 or 3 things done. By only completing 2 or 3 things each day for weeks and weeks, the end results are a substantial amount of progress.

Not only does fixed-schedule productivity get more done, you get so much free time! So I recommend you try it out. I like to use a calendar template—any day to day calendar will do—and build my week every Sunday. That makes it so I am flexible yet not flimsy with my time.

Stop being busy. Start being productive

Remove the word busy from your vocabulary.

If you have to use the word busy you are not focused.

When a moment arises where you think you are too busy for something, ask yourself if what you’re doing is in alignment with the big win of the day or part of your priorities.

Saying no does not have to mean you are too busy, saying no can mean you have priorities.

Be proud of your drive to stay focused; show it off. Rather than sticking to the busy card; it’s a cop out answer and only makes you look and perform poorly to others and yourself.

I hope that after reading this you see the difference between busy and productive, and start to remove all the busy from your life to make space for all the amazing things you are capable of doing.


For more content on developing your life to your maximum potential, look no further than Forces of Habit. Here I talk more about becoming more intentional with your time—and eventually your life.

Habits

Respecting the Plan: Develop Planning Parsimony

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Respecting the Plan: Develop Planning Parsimony

The last few day have been a challenge.

I have been traveling to Delhi, India for over 24 hours—from Philadelphia Pennsylvania to New York, to Kiev Ukriane to New Delhi. It has certainly been a journey. I am excited to have arrived in India and have spent my first day in the city of New Delhi from wandering street corners to experiencing my first tuk tuk with someone I only met today.

We walked along the allies of Delhi, navigating a labyrinth of culture and entrepreneur spirit—I have never been asked to buy something so many times.

But that was never the plan.

When I arrived, I had planned to sleep and write a full Forces of Habit blog post on my initial thoughts upon arriving. Yet from the moment I entered the hostel, adventure has grabbed my attention, making my plan to write crumble.

I was upset.

I thought that not writing would be the end of the whole site. No one would read someone who posts infrequently, It was over.

But none of those thoughts where really helpful in making time to write, nor were they useful in driving me to sit down and get started in my exhsued state—so why do they arise anyway?

 "if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" -Maslow

I was disrespecting the plan.

Part of intentionally living means understanding that not every mental tool we have at our disposal for thinking about a given problem is always applicable. I really wanted to rely on planning, so much so that my thoughts attached on to my expected outcome—the planned one—as the only one. But leaving space for only one future is ignorant and risky—I set myself up to be upset if I attach to only one possible future.

I know what you’re thinking, ‘alright, no more planning then right?’; not exactly.

Planning is such a valuable tool! We could never just throw the whole idea of forward think out of the window. But as the quote above accurately examines, the tool—the hammer—is not one size fits all. WE mustn’t make planning the only way we engage with life— life isn’t just another box full of nails.

So it isn’t planning per se, it’s our relationships with the ideas we create; that is where we start to disrespect the plan.

"I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."-Dwight Eisenhower

To start respecting the plan we need to stop obsessively applying the tool to every morsel of our days. Plans aren’t meant to always go according to themselves; that’s just not in the design of how a plan is to function. Instead of constantly relying on the plan as a metric for daily achievement, respect the beauty of what the plan has to offer by using it sparingly and simple—practice Planning Parsimony.

Planning Parsimony is our greatest tool for respecting the plan.

Here’s an example. A fellow traveler and I had just arrived to the city and where near obsessed about having access to cellular data to navigate the city of New Delhi—our intentions were deeply rooted in planning.

However, my intentions for data would have been to follow the map eyes glued, leaving no room for error or spontaneity—consider the plan disrespected. I can imagine feeling devastated as the maps didn’t help, feeling helpless because the only thing I knew and would accept was a future that matched my plan.

My friend however saw the device as comfort for the uncertainty that may arise as she and I attempted to wander New Delhi with little to no directions. In those moments she helped create this idea of planning parsimoniously, only for the sake of some general guideline that may help excite adventure.

Failure

Becoming the Third Bricklayer: Lessons in Cognitive Appraisal

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forces of habit lessons in cognitive appraisal

Becoming the Third Bricklayer: Lessons in Cognitive Appraisal

 

Three bricklayers are asked: “What are you doing?”

The first says, “I am laying bricks.”

The second says, “I am building a church.”

The third says, “I am building the house of God.”

The first bricklayer has a job. The second has a career. The third has a calling

 

What about the three bricklayers is so different?

How can each of them have such varying perspectives on what is happening?

Why can’t we all be the third bricklayer?

It’s all a matter of intention.

The Bricklayer parable highlights how even the most mundane tasks can mean the most profound of things. Modern psychoanalysis has discovered that how we think about changing our lives is fluid—no one has to live a meaningless life, we can use the lessons from cognitive appraisal to become the third bricklayer.

But how? Can a situation really be anything but what I see? And if it were really possible to change how would I?

Below you’ll find the answers to those questions and much more. Creating an intentional life isn’t easy. My hopes are that below you’ll find what you need to start becoming more aware of the various ways our interpretation can be altered, and in turn use that information to modify how you present your life to yourself—together we can become the third bricklayer. Let’s get started.

What is Cognitive Appraisal?

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. –Viktor Frankl

Cognitive appraisal is the personal interpretation of a situation; it is how an individual views a situation. Appraisals refer to direct, immediate, and intuitive evaluations made on the environment in reference to personal well-being.”

Our mechanisms for appraisal are powerful tools that provide a window into how each of us subjectively experiences life situations. They are strongly correlated with our emotional states, and are seemingly automatic—we will work on that soon enough.

To use the parable as an example, each bricklayer has made an evaluation of the situation given what he or she knows. Yet through the changeable perceptions of the circumstance, each yields distinct outlooks—they have different cognitive appraisals.

So it seems that though nothing externally has really changed, it is as Psychotherapist Viktor Frankl said, our attitudes that shape what we perceive. But perhaps the parable isn’t a good enough example.

Real World Examples of Appraisal

Let me give you a personal example,

I work at a warehouse full time for 12-hour shifts on the weekends. Under some circumstances, standing for 11 hours a day, doing the same task can be considered mundane, mind-numbing, or perhaps even slave work.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Now consider the following appraisal to my situation as I perceive it:

Where I work we pack food that helps people lose weight.

I took this simple detail and transformed my job into a profoundly meaningful duty.

I’m not the guy who just packs boxes all day. I am the guy who with each box is potentially combating the obesity epidemic in our country. Each and every box of food we ship out has the potential to make the difference in changing someone’s habits. Some people have not learned how to control their eating habits which have led to years of poor choices. I have been given another opportunity to live by my life creed; this packing job is part of fulling my greatest self.

I’m part of changing someone’s habits for the better—I have a calling.

Notice how quite different my warehouse job now seems, Each day I am excited to go and work because I know how much this means to someone else, and I have made it mean something to me by reappraising a normal job to fit my personal model of living.

If you think that what you’re experiencing is somehow worse, and therefore it’s not possible to change your situation. Let me give you a more extreme case.

Psychotherapist Dr. Viktor Frankel was captured and imprisoned in an Auschwitz concentration camp during some of the most brutal periods of mass genocide during the Second World War. Professor Frankel endured a time when you were more blatantly likely to die at any given moment for no specific reason you could ever rationalize—consciously aware of his mortality with little ways to guard it. Many inmates found it hard to see existence as anything but meaningless, hopeless, and disparaging.

Yet Frankl found purpose. Frankl wanted to rewrite his manuscript that he believed to be a solution to mental health issues of his time. He immersed himself in his calling. Any situation he encountered became another mechanism to share his insights about how we could all live through anything just as long as we own had a why.

He recounts, “When in a camp in Bavaria I fell ill with typhus fever, I jotted down on little scraps of paper many notes intended to enable me to rewrite the manuscript, should I live to the day of liberation. I am sure that this reconstruction of my lost manuscript in the dark barracks of a Bavarian concentration camp assisted me in overcoming the danger of cardiovascular collapse.”

Appraisal Matters.

Given the examples you how much our appraisal really changes what we are experiencing. The situation is only a small matter in comparison to our appraisal. But how can you start recognizing these opportunities for reappraisal in your own life?

For a more in-depth look at Vitor Frankl's experience, go check out A Man's Search For Meaning.

Questions for Guiding Cognitive Appraisals

These questions cover the various degrees that a situation could be interpreted. Each question gauges the common determinants for how humans tend to appraise their lives. By asking yourself these questions, you can start reappraising situations in your life towards your calling.

Is it this situation pleasant?

When a situation presents something we desire, we automatically evaluate it in view of that. Before we can even cognitively deliberate what is happening, our prior happenstances have already created an evaluation model. We have to start asking ourselves what that appraisal is to access its usefulness. Pleasant or unpleasant, what matters is that we have noted what our immediate reaction was as a reference for what it can become.

How much attention does the situation call for?

An easy way to interpret a situation is to weight its impact on your attention. Is it something that requires your undivided attention? Are you able to ignore it? Or perhaps it is something that you can avoid having any attention on whatsoever. We need to understand the toll of attention a situation takes on our lives to access whether this is a matter even worth redirecting.

How certain am I about what is happening?

When we feel certain, we feel at ease. Part of changing our interpretation is finding a level of certainty amongst the waves of uncertainty. Questioning the unpredictability of what is happening provides insight as to why we may be focusing the level of attention we are on the situation. Part of the reason something may feel as though it is ruling your life—taking up all your attention—is because of how certain you feel about the situation.

Are there obstacles in this situation? How much effort is involved?

Knowing the obstacles offer a measure for reinterpretation. If you’re like me, knowing situations have obstacles makes it very enticing because anything that presumably offers a challenge is a method of strengthening my being. Any complications in a situation that arise can become a means of reaching our personal calling. When we ask ourselves about how much effort this particular situation takes, we become aware of the level of attention we are giving an event. If a situation requires a lot of effort, it becomes more important to ensure our appraisal is oriented towards our calling.

What control do I have over the situation? Is this situation my responsibility? Do I deserve this situation?

The extent that you believe you have control over a situation in your life matters. When you are experiencing a situation that is controlled by external factors it seems as though nothing can be done. We need to know the basis for which a given situation is under our control. Once we start addressing only those things in our control, we can become more comfortable with what isn’t. Such awareness legitimizes the situation. It’s no longer just a situation you’re a part of, it is an event you are observing. Like an outsider looking in from a distance, asking these question putting you in a position to pinpointing exactly what’s responsible for what.

Be The Third Bricklayer

No matter the actual substance of the experience, you take only what is of pragmatic value. It’s important that you develop enough awareness of what actually is happening to remove yourself from what you think is happening. What you experience is fluid, and in no way have to be what you’re making out to be.

Our defining moments are exactly that; ours.

Part of intentional living is asking all the right questions, it’s my hope that I was able to provide you with some questions to change how you are presenting your life to yourself. It's only through asking these questions that I believe we each can orient our lives to always to focus on a calling—to become the third bricklayer.


My Motto: Today is the best day of my life

I treat every day as the best day of my life because no matter the praise, disappointment, obstacles, or success I know that I am doing everything that is in my control to live to the standards of my greatest self.

How? It all starts with my 5 habits. Find out more here.


Failure

How Habits Fail: Common Mistakes in Habit Formation

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forces of habit How Habits Fail: Common Mistakes in Habit Formation

How Habits Fail: Common Mistakes in Habit Formation

I fail a lot.

  • I fast intermittently between 8 pm and noon; I’ve but I ate an entire tub of ice cream at midnight.
  • Forces of Habit was a supposed to launch at the beginning of 2017
  • I was fired from my first ‘real’ job

When it comes to habit formation. I have a laundry list of failures.

But I’m grateful.

Because without those failures, I would never have been able to build a method for living the best day every day. Intentional living begins with failure in mind, and common mistakes in habit formation are a dime a dozen on our journey to becoming our greatest selves.

Look at the numbers. By this point in the year, over 50% of New Year resolutions enter the ether. Take gym memberships for example.

Gym membership rates are down. People say it's “too hard to get back on-track” or “its hard to find time”.

Try as we may, why don’t good habits work out? How can we make change easier to change our lives for the better?

If you build good habits properly, results will come.

Let me tell you what I’ve learned from deliberating reforming my ability. Piece by piece I harbored mistake after mistake. I’ve learned from the best and built great habits. It’s my turn to share the common mistakes you’ll encounter on your journey toward habit formation.

Building too many habits at once.

Changing behavior is by far one the most challenging things a person can do, so why do it in several domains of your life at a time? Habits take a substantial amount of time and energy to change, so when we take on multiple habits at a time we lose out on giving our all to making a change.

When I first started building habits I was only running. Every day I would run a bit and feel like a champion; that was it. I didn’t need to read, eat healthy, or meditate. Those things came once I felt deeply rooted in my first habit.

You seek the outcome rather than relishing the process

Goals are great but, getting wrapped up in the idea of hitting your goals will level your drive when change doesn’t come—there will be times you won’t see any change.

New goals do not yield results just because you put in some work.

You need to put work into building your habits every day and leave the expectation of an outcome at the door. As we improve, the effects of our actions become blurred and fear of stagnation sets in; have faith. If you have a system, stick to it, long-term growth is inevitable as long as consistency is present.

All of our efforts are not linearly related to the outcomes. Nonlinearity resulting from a linear force exerted on an object isn’t uncommon. Said another way the efforts we put in may not result in the same improvements we saw right when we started.

So when you find yourself thinking too much about the goal or outcome, step back, ask yourself what is the habit that gets you to the outcome, and do the thing.

Further Reading: Fooled by Randomness

Your Habits are Private

Part of making an obligation to yourself is making sure you’re not the only one aware.

Last month I edited three photos every day and I kept myself motivated by sharing a public google doc that I shared on social media and the newsletter.

 

I did it.

Missing a day would not only let me down but my readers. I made it hard to quit and easy to stay motivated.

Completing a task that everyone knows you are aiming for can be invigorating—the change becomes you. Social proof backed habits put your reputation on the line, something so precious that humans are evolutionarily predisposed to be ruffled by the idea of being socially ostracized; take advantage of this.

Use social proof. When you hide your habits from people it is easy to quit.

Who can think poorly of you if no one even knew what your plans are? But the flip side, who can encourage you if no one knew what your plans are?

 

Find the link to the google doc in this month’s newsletter.

Not signed up? Here is the link to all 90 pictures

Further Reading: Influence

You’re Attempting Unreasonable Habits

“I wanna start reading; I’ll read for 8 hours a day”

“I think I will start exercising; I’ll do 100 pushups and 10k every day”

“Maybe it’s time to start a diet; oh, I’ll just start a 20-day water fast”

When you set too large of a commitment from the start, you set yourself up to fail. It isn’t about the quantity of the change initially, that will come as you gradually raise your standards.

At first, think small.

Instead of 100 push-ups, how about 1? Your mindset may be motivated now, but your brain needs time to strengthen the synaptic connections. Letting out brains grow accustomed to the routine keeps the habit going when you aren’t so motivated; the habit is already ingrained in you. You no longer need to be pumped to do the thing because there is less inhibiting you from considering anything that isn’t the habit in the first place.

Pick a habit and start small. Focus on the repetition, and once you have then down, up the intensity.

Further Reading: Read More, Small Actions and Meditation: The One Minute Sit

Not tracking the change.

“What gets measured gets managed" -Peter Drucker

A common mistake in habit formation is forgetting to track. An easy way to demotivate yourself is to lose track of the metrics you’re using to access the progress of a habit. Knowing how long it’s been is great reference information for when you are tweaking the habit for better results.

When it comes to tracking I am a maniac.Forces of habit Journal

I track all of my habits in my personal development journal as a method to encourage myself and others. It really is a physical representation of all the hard work I put into becoming my greatest self.

Try to remember every time you hit an achievements mark. How far have you come? What patterns do you notice? Where did you write down that game plan?

Building a habit is a lot easier when you formally record your progress, and the best method to breed your success is keeping it all in a single place, like a notebook or journal.

Writing something down has a memorizing feeling to it. Putting something to paper in a meaningful place it makes it real. It’s much harder to back out of a commitment you make with yourself especially if it is solidified in writing.

Further Reading: Journaling for growth

Attempting to Reinvent the Wheel

If you want to know what an experience is going to be like, find someone similarly situated and ask for their experience. A very good way to avoid failure is to learn on someone else’s dime. Let them make the mistakes and then learn from those mistakes. I much prefer learning from other people’s mistakes than from my own.

-Daniel Pink

Another common mistake in habit formation is starting from scratch. Billions of lives have been lived, so why fall for the same pitfalls that cause someone else to fail? The lesson has already been learned, so instead of making the same mistakes try taking using what they learned and build upon it to create a new and improved habit.

Someone’s gotta fail, but no one said it only has to be you. Your next choice can be backed by the lessons of the entire human race.

Keep failing

If I can offer one parting piece of advice it would be to keep failing. All of the common mistakes in habit formation listed above only exist because people like me and you took a chance and failed—it’s just part of life.

Habit change won’t be getting any easier anytime soon. But by avoiding these common mistakes in habit formation, I know you can start to live more intentionally.  


 

Habits

Journaling for Growth Series: 4 Tips on How to Start a Journal

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In the Journaling for Growth series, we tackle the benefits of journaling, how I have used journaling to change my life, and how you can get started journaling.

You create the best book you’ll ever read.

Imagine a book that held a collection of the greatest achievements, inspirations, and lessons tailored exactly for you; enter your journal.

You write the best book you’ll ever read. There is no other tool that I know of that could ever match the power of something written by you, for you. The 4 tips I discuss will help you start a journal that is focused, personal, and most importantly, consistent.

Let’s get right into how to start journaling today.

Check out part one and two of the Journaling for Growth series here.

1. S.M.A.R.T Journaling: Choosing a topic

There are hundreds of methods for journaling. What’s most important is that you find one that fits your needs today.

You have to choose what you want to use the journal for. It may be a topic, some sections, or maybe even questions. But you have to choose.

Choosing a topic will help pinpoint what you’re trying to work on. And the best way to outline what you should address is to write down some S.M.A.R.T Goals.

The SMART acronym stands for a type of goal setting technique that focuses on creating practical goals. You can use SMART goals to hone in on the purpose of any given journal topic chosen.

Specific

Deciding exactly what you would like to achieve leaves no room for misunderstanding your intentions. If you want to start reading books, you wouldn’t write ‘read books’ as your goal. It would be more like ‘read 20 pages of Winnie and the Pooh on Sunday at noon’.

Measurable

When writing SMART goals they need to have a measurement that is clear. To continue with the book example, I would not want to make it a goal to just read, how will I ever know if I am reading enough to be considered hitting my goal? But reading 20 pages? It’s clear, it’s concise, and I know for certain what is considered ‘successful’ when I put the work towards reading.

Achievable

Get real with yourself for a second. Can you really read 1000 books this year if you have not read a book in three years? Consider how achievable your goal is. Are you trying to do something the world has never seen? Perhaps start a bit smaller; by editing your goals to an achievable size. Our goal here is to create a system that proliferates a behavior, not saddens us because of how challenging or farfetched it looks on the outset.

Relevant

Often when people set goals they choose them based on what they have seen other people do. Stop accepting the status quo. Do what is intrinsically connected to you and your developing skillset. You need to take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself questions like:

  • What am I good at?
  • How can I leverage my skills to my advantage?
  • Why does this goal matter to me?

Setting SMART goals involves a meta-analysis of where you currently are. So make them realistic or else they will never be able to lead you towards an intentionally built future.

For more information on setting SMART goals, I’d recommend you check out Charles Duhigg book, Smarter Faster, Better.

Timely

In the bestselling book Predictably Irrational, author Dan Ariely notes research he conducted at Duke University that demonstrated the power of good deadlines. He assigned three major papers and told students they had to create deadlines for each of them by the end of the first week of class. Dan found that the students who set all the deadlines for the last possible day of submission tended to do worse than students who broke up the assignments and committed to earlier deadlines.

“When resolving to reach a goal—whether it is tackling a big project at work or saving for a vacation, it might help to first commit to a hard and clear deadline, and then inform our colleagues, friends, or spouse about it with the hope that this clear and public commitment will help keep us on track and ultimately fulfill our resolutions.”

Dan Ariely

Have a timeline in mind. Deadlines awaken our inner ‘Get shit done’. Constraints of time on tasks establish a workable frame of reference for how much effort ought to be put into a task relative to the time left allotted. So when you’re choosing journaling goals think about the timeline for the journal. Is this a yearly thing? Or do you have journaling tasks you are trying to address for this month specifically? No matter the goal, without some time-based constraint you will find yourself prioritizing other things instead of the journal goal because there’s always ‘plenty of time’.

With these steps in mind, building a SMART journaling tactic is within your reach. No matter the topic, be intentional about your reason for journaling and that includes what you use to journal.

2. Pick Your Gear

Now that you have a system all worked out, gather the appropriate gear to customize a physical note-taking method. Nothing really compares to putting the good old pen to paper. So I recommend you do not use online mediums to gain the maximum amount of control over where and what you write.

This is your special place. Being proud to carry, and excited to write in your journal are two ways to promote the habit, and diminish the barriers to developing your journaling habits.

There are plenty of ways to make your journal your own. Here’s what I use.

Sketchbook

To me, my journal design symbolizes that I take what I record seriously. My journal represents my ability to create freely. With no lines on the page, I am free to write, connect points, and draw an illustration in whichever way I please.

Here is a link to the type of journal I use.

Find Nice Pens

I’m a Pen snob.

Never could I consider writing in anything that was anything but a Pilot. The brand creates quality products in every color you can think of and have a professional style that I have found no other pen to replicate. It is the brand I use for all my book summaries, and will continue to use until my dying day; man I love these pens.

Here is a link to the pens I use.

3. Select a Time & Place

You have to be intentional about when and where you’re journaling. This is especially important if you have never done a self-reflection task before because habits are built, not born.

Becoming deliberate about the time and place that you’re going to write will help you to start journaling consistently. Choose a location that you can access easily and be sure remove any interruptions that may steal your attention from journaling. I’d recommend the quiet place in a library or a special corner in your house dedicated to journaling.

When selecting the best time, think about what the task entails.

Depending on your goals, the optimal time to work will vary. I find that first thing in the morning or last thing at night are optimal times for people reflecting on the day at hand. While with more task-based writing, you only need to schedule a block of time that comes after a specific cue that you outlined when setting up your journal. For example, I have a notes section that I use for writing about a moment that brought intense pleasure or pain. I use this section only after the appropriate emotional cue arises (intense pain or pleasure) and then block out 20 minutes or so to address sensations. This is more task-based writing because it revolves around a set of circumstance before it is initially blocked.

Once you choose a time and a place it is best if you time yourself. I don’t say this as a way to rush the writing process. In fact, this is to ensure that you are getting started. Set a timer for at least 25 minutes and commit your focus to working through your journaling task and only the journaling task. You will find that after 25 minutes of focus you can begin to concentrate solely on journaling for a bit longer. Choosing to stop after the initial period is fine. But if you comfortable, keep going! Take advantage of the focused state.

4. Trust your journal

This is a warning.

You will not see the results if write to your journal like you write to your friends. DON’T HOLD BACK. The best book you’ll ever read leaves no space for the fluff that usually comes with writing. Understand that your own truth is not your enemy.

Surrender to the process you outline, be genuine with yourself, and the process will yield results. Writing naturally ensures you do not hold yourself up when the bias kick from overthinking. Spelling, grammar, and structure can all go out the window; write for your advancement, not for an audience.

Bonus: Be sure to stay consistent by never skipping more than two days of scheduled journaling.

This is the trick that will make the difference between a lukewarm and spicy journaling practice.

Good habits are established not by doing them once a year, or a week, but every day. Repetition is the path to excellence, so when you’re just starting to journal, work with it as much as you can. In a way, you have to prove to your brain how important the task is to you before it eases up on the amount of stamina it takes to start the habit.

Think of journaling as the best book you’ll ever read & Journaling will change your life.

Check out some of the other things I do every day to make today the best day of my life.

Are you ready to start Journaling? Send me a picture of your journal to have it featured on the Forces of Habit Facebook page.

Note: This page contains affiliate links. This means that if you decide to buy a product through them, I will receive a small commission. This has no additional cost to you. If you would like to support Forces of Habit, please use these links. If you do use them, thank you for the support.