Note: This post was originally written on 2/7/2021 and finalized today.
I’m drafting this post later than almost any other post I’ve drafted. I’ve had a long day and I’m really tired and just want to eat, maybe watch a show and then go to bed.
But instead I’m writing for my blog.
And after this I’m going to study spanish.
Why? Not because I want to right now. I’m loathe to do this and really had to drag myself to the chair.
So, I have a long list of post ideas in a spreadsheet (over 700) that I’ve created. When I need a topic, I’ll go there and find one. I went to that this evening and saw “Every day is easier than 5 days”.
Yup. That’s the one I had to do.
Why Doing Something Every Day Is Easier Than Doing Something 3 or 5 Days a Week.
I used to try to do new habits this way: Pick a few days out of the week and do it regularly on those days. Exercise MWF. But it was rare I’d stick to the schedule. And I would really really dread the days I had to do it.
The solution is this: Do it every day. This sounds like it’d be awful. And on days like today, it is. I hate this right now. I want to lay down and I’m hungry. But instead I made some hot tea and a bag of microwave popcorn and am going to just get this done before I go make dinner.
Anyhow. Here’s why:
- No time to think. When you have “off” days and “on” days, you have to ask yourself each day something like “What day of the week is it? Is this an on day or an off day?” It might take only a split second but you still have to think. If you want to form a habit you need to get rid of the thinking. (Doing something without thinking is practically the definition of a habit). If it’s every day then you never have to ask if it is an on or off day. Today is on. Tomorrow is on. The day after that is on. Every day is on, period. (And, never ever make a
planwish like “I’m going to blog three (unspecified) days this week. That’s practically cowardice. )
- “ON” days don’t become dreaded when they’re all ON days. When you have “off” and “on” days, you sometimes start to look forward to the “off” days and dread the “on” days. If today was an “off” day for me, I would have felt a wonderful relief. That’s the sort of poison that reinforces your brain with the lesson: you are rewarded on off days. you are punished on on days. The thing you want to do begins to feel like punishment. If you do it everyday, then there’s no dopamine hit “of yay! off day!”.
- Streaks are more powerful than schedules. A running tally of the days you have been “ON” is incredibly powerful. After you’ve gone 10 days in a row, you have a streak. Steaks are addictive. I have 100+ days of writing for my blog in a row. No way am I breaking that. If my choice is eat cheap microwave popcorn on an empty stomach while blogging OR break the streak – I’m eating popcorn, no question. (Pro tip: Make your streak visible to you every day. Mark it on a calendar you see multiple times a day. Brag to your friends. Let the world know you have a streak.
So that’s it: Set it up so you don’t think, you don’t judge, and you just do because that’s what you do. And what you do is keep the streak going.
When you set up your new habit, plan carefully what it means to do the daily habit. Plan that you will have days when you struggle to do it and make the bar low enough that you know you can get over it on those days. Maybe that means “running at least a mile at any speed” or “writing 100 words, no matter how awful” or even “sitting in the chair and opening the laptop”. You’re not going to feel motivated every day and your work is realy going to suck some days. Just build that in.
Try this for 10 days. Set a time. Set a very low bar. It’s very very important that you do not raise the bar just because you did more than expected a couple of the days.
My draft is now 675 words. I’m going to make a real dinner now.
I’ve written posts or pages for the blog for over 100 days straight now.*
* Bonus tip: This post was written months ago. My streak was far more than this and I dropped a day when I was visiting my parents. But I got back on it the next day. Here’s the bonus tip: Never miss two days. Two days is far far worse than one day. Don’t use one day of missing as an excuse to miss more. Just forgive yourself and get back on it the next day.