DRMacIver's Notebook

Habit Overload

Habit Overload

Attention Conservation Notice: Personal debugging. May be of interest if you have similar problems, which you probably do, but I've not made any particular effort to generalise it into a coherent point.

I've been noticing recently that a lot of my recurring habits have been slipping, so I'm attempting to take stock of this and try to figure out what to do about it.

I think the problem has a couple of roots:

  1. I'm trying to do too much. There's plenty of time to do all the habits if I do nothing else, and even if I do a reasonable amount of work on my PhD, but the reality is that I don't do a reasonable amount of work on my PhD because my two modes are "not really doing enough work on it" and "total all consuming obsession", and the latter tends to impinge on the habits and make me feel bad about neglecting them.
  2. Some of the habits probably weren't working that well for me.
  3. Some of the habits have lost cues that were previously helpful for keeping on top of them.
  4. My planning system became lightly aversive because it was trying to keep me on track despite the above fighting against me.

I think this can mostly be solved by taking stock a bit of what's reasonable, and deciding what habits to drop and what to keep, and part of that is looking at what's not working and dropping or modifying it based on where it fits into the above.

For example I've dropped my daily paper reading habit because I decided it wasn't working that well for me - it felt high overhead (because I had to decide to read) and low value (I'd be better served chatting on Weird CS Theory Discord) or reading a book.

Another example is that I had a habit of rereading bits of books I'd previously read every day. I've almost entirely dropped that, not deliberately. I think I'm going to formally drop that - doing book driven posts on here fills the same need.

I've also, for the moment, dropped my planning system (which was coping board based). It's a good system and I want to get back to it but I think I need to leave some time for my life to normalise into a new routine before I bring it back, and right now it has a bit of guilt attached to it, so I've thrown away the cards and will resume when it feels right to do so.

Another thing that's been a problem is that I've been reading much less recently. This is I think a loss of a cue - I previously started reading during my morning coffee, which put me in the right mindset for the rest of the day and I would read more later as and when the mood struck me. Recently I've been doing morning pages during morning coffee, which is great and is a high value habit that I will absolutely retain, but robs me of that cue. I've started finishing morning pages by doing at least five minutes of reading, which I'm hoping will help with that.

This notebook itself is, of course, one of the daily habits. For the moment I don't plan to drop it as such - I get a lot of value out of it, and I think other people do. Recently it's become a bit erratic and lower quality I think, but it's in the nature of a daily writing practice that that will happen. I might however start skipping days where I've otherwise been doing a lot of writing, or otherwise make some minor modifications to it.