Shut up, you

Been using the app Streaks for close to a year. I know this because I borrowed the idea for a “Don’t Die” habit from @hotdogsladies, and that one is closing in on 365.

Habit tracking is about building habits, right? Obviously. You want to read more, so you make “Read for 5 Minutes” a habit, and if you get used to doing that, reading for five minutes or more a day becomes habitual, to where you eventually don’t need the reminder. Except that’s not really why I use it. It’s not the main benefit for me, anyway.

The main reason I track little “good things to do every day” habits is so I can tell the ugly little voice in my head SHUT UP, YOU. If I’m putting too much pressure on myself, or was just unable to pull off any uniquely productive work in a day for whatever reason — I didn’t write anything worthwhile, didn’t take any good pictures, maybe didn’t even leave the house — I can still look at Streaks and say “Today wasn’t so bad. You read. You texted with a friend. You did DuoLingo. You flossed. You ate a vegetable.” And so on. Or, if I didn’t do any of those things, I can still say “No big, man. We’ll get a jump on it tomorrow.”

I mean, I’d rather not be someone who has to regularly remind himself that he’s not a worthless piece of shit. But I am that someone, so I do. Have to remind myself, that is. And habit tracking helps.

A small breath

From a 2014 journal entry:

One thing that worked well today, at work especially, was taking a simple breath before every decision. Every one. Even deleting an email. “Pause. Breath. Think. What’s happening here? What’s important? Let’s let it happen slowly.”

This is a habit that’s stuck with me. I don’t do it all the time but if I notice that I’ve lost my focus and have been elsewhere, mentally, I’ll stop and take a few deep breaths, ask myself what I need to next, and continue the breathe/action/breathe/action cycle until I get back into it.

Remembering what I need to do in a given day is easy enough from looking at my calendar or task list, but remembering what I was doing 30 seconds ago can be difficult if I’m not breathing, noticing, and talking myself through it.