in Habits

2013: The Habitual Year

I’ve been very successful in my quest to eliminate hardcore competitive video games from my life. By using Stickk, a friend, a monetary incentive, and accountability, I’ve hard-quit League of Legends and repurposed the hours a week that I was spending playing games.

This next year is going to be very exciting for me, but is also going to require a lot out of me as a person. It is going to require me to become a different person if I want to have what I will consider a “successful year.”

There are no financial, travel, or social goals planned for 2013 at all.

Instead, I will call 2013 the Habitual Year. The only true “goal” that I have for the year is that I commit to implementing or quitting one habit per month using the framework that has worked so well for me this past month. The way I see it, if I implement or remove a total of 12 major habits (think nutrition, exercise, meditation, socializing, etc) then 365 days from now there really is no way I can have a bad year.

The Framework

A habit that is 3rd party verifiable

I need to focus on habits that other people can easily see if I have accomplished or not. For LoL, it was easy because there are 3rd party websites that track gameplay, allowing Jon to see if I’d played or not regardless of if I wanted to tell him the truth. This needs to be the case in any future habit challenge.

A “painful” stake

In most cases this is an amount of money per WEEK that, if the habit challenge is failed, is given to my accountability partner or an anti charity of my choice. Two things here: the amount of money needs to really HURT and be tied to a single failure of the habit, and secondly it needs to go to something that I really don’t want to see happen.

One change per month, focusing on likely keystone habits

This is absolutely key. Not adhering to this rule is why I have failed at habits so many times in the past. As long as I am on track for the habit that I am challenging for the month, it’s OK to fail at habits I plan to implement in the future. What is NOT ok is for me to fall back into past habits that I have successfully brought through a habit challenge. There are certain habits that are OK to miss on a “few times a month” basis, and also some that I should NEVER do again in my life (video games).

A systems-driven approach

By turning actions into habits via month long habit challenges, I will be making them automatic actions that require very little of my daily willpower. The next step is to turn them into systems that remove even more willpower from the equation. Documentation will be key, but also considering some kind of outsourcing and automation will also be a major way to drive the habits into systems that self sustain.

Barrier removal

Preparation is going to be a major element. Pre cooking food, pre buying a week’s worth of groceries, laying out toothbrush, or putting Vibram’s and running gear in place are all examples of pre prep. Documentation will also be very key here to know which types of prep are working the best. For example, if putting toothbrush on my desk doesn’t create the brushing habit often enough, I should notice this within a few days because of my tracking system and I should be able to adjust the pre-prep and study what is causing me to stall on the habit.