With 99 days to go, I’m taking another look at my evening checklist and figuring out why I don’t do it — simplifying it down to essentials, making sure I’m removing the obstacles that are making it something I internally groan about “having” to do.
Not a radical overhaul, just dropping a couple of things, and moving the “listen to classical music” to work as a way of enforcing a lunch break — I have a real problem with taking time off once I get in, so having this to do will help me move into a better break space at least once during the day.
I genuinely tried the Virtual Rottweiler method last night before bed, and golly, it worked — I hadn’t done my checklist, didn’t feel like doing my checklist, and then visualized a slavering dog bred for murder. If I had to do the checklist or fight that dog, what would I do?
First of all, I’d never fight a dog! Dogs are great.
Second, I realized that the checklist was entirely accomplishable and even though I lowballed the planking and had a pretty short instrument practice segment, but I checklisted, by golly.
I’m still ruminating on the “simplify” thing, and had a delightful lunch with a friend last Friday where he extolled the virtues of being a magpie and made a pretty great case for it. Hm.
I still didn’t do my checklist last night! I was tired, and just wanted to read in bed, and even the 15 minutes of checklist stuff seemed insurmountable. This doesn’t affect the logging streak (Day Three), but it does bum me out a little.
I coulda done it! I coulda just powered through.
And it’s not a big deal as a one-off, but when I’m trying to come back from a break, and I know that routines are what works for me, it’s hard to justify breaking from the perfectly functional routine.
An interesting mental challenge is “what if I had no choice?”. I ran 6+ km this morning; at the 2k mark I wanted to turn around, but I forced myself to do the extra km out, which then made me run the extra 1k back. 6k!
It’s a weird thought, but maybe I need a mental Lee Ermey or Freddy Krueger to remove choice from the equation. If there were a person with a gun, or a rottweiler, or something saying DO THE CHECKLIST last night, I certainly could have done it. I chose not to do it, but I was 100% capable.
I know the routine works, and I know I’m physically capable of doing it. How do I force myself to… do it?
Still on the path, but man, the cats are NOT making it easy. 3 a.m. wake-up, because they are bonkers. I was discombobulated at the regular get-up time, so I sort of staggered into my day and forgot to bring clothes down, drink water, etc.
Not drinking water did let me do a small experiment, though — weighted and did the fat-measure thing after exercise, then drank about 400 mL of water, then did it again. I gained half a pound — makes sense — but also had my body fat percentage go up by 0.3%. Which is weird. Reinforcement that these scales are dicey, but also that it’s important to be consistent with water intake first thing in the morning to measure accurately.
A late night tonight out of the house, so I’m going to knock some of tonight’s checklist off before work this morning — instrument practice, classical track of the day, maybe even planking.
I keep tryin’ them, but nothing seems to stick. Right now I’m giving Momentum a shot, and it’s… fine, I guess? It tracks habits!
What works for me? A physical checklist. Paper and pen, baby! I shared this a week or so ago, but I’ve got a full nightly thing printed out, and I even made a pretty box for it:
The ritual of it is what kind of makes it work, at least in part. Sitting down, opening the box, going through the exercise of self-reflection and physically putting checkmarks in boxes (especially that “No Snacking” box. That feels good.).
Not to say I won’t find an app that works for me! My wife is digging HabitBull right now. I’ve gotten good mileage over Don’t Break The Chain!, possibly the simplest one I’ve ever tried, in the past.
The checklist is my jam, though. It just works well for me.
I made a little box for my nightly checklists; I don’t have Checklist v2.0 to share on this computer, but it’s pretty much the same as Checklist 1.2 but with space for a one-sentence journal entry, a “gratitude/meditation” space, and a dedicated space to doodle something.
Is it useful? Is it helpful? Well, not super much so, but it’s substantial, and I think the physical act of taking a blank piece of paper out of it, writing on it, and putting it back on the “done” side is a ritual that feels good. It feels like I’m doing something.
“Productive” is out of the phone app race immediately — if you don’t set up 100% of your desired habits when you set up the first time, the “add a new habit” feature just drops the “buy now!” screen in front of you and if you clear it, it goes back to the main menu. My wife is trying HabitBull, and I’m taking a look at Momentum (Apple only, sorry).
To be honest, though, I’m not sure these things are for me. The checklist at night feels like plenty, and the “Flow to the Door” system seems like the optimal way for me to get my days started.
Oh — and I’m already altering the “flow to the door” thing. The cats have to get fed when I get up or it’s just not tenable. So now it’s not a perfect flow — up, clothes, then all the way down to feed cats / pack lunch, then back upstairs for exercise and flow resumes. The perfect is the enemy of the good!
After yesterday’s podcast, I jumped on the scales following a nearly month-long break and… yeesh. It was pretty dire. Like “maybe I should pull a Tom Hanks in Castaway and see if somebody can strand me on an island for a month” kinds of results.
So we’re back to that old core truth: I need to log food. I need to track things daily. And dancing around it just doesn’t work.
It’s… hm. It’s been eighteen months; more, really, since I started this. I seem to circle around the same issue.
I am a smart guy. This is indisputable. I am really goddamn intelligent. I can make websites and podcasts. I’ve written a few books (although never had the guts to try to publish them). I have a prestigious job at a top university.
But I cannot do this consistently. It’s maddening!
I know that intelligence doesn’t equal motivation. There are probably genetic triggers and what-have-you going on.
But really. I’m a smart guy. I can lick this thing. I just haven’t found the key that will keep me from sliding off doing this when I slide off doing it.
As discussed before, Sundays are normally “break days,” and I’ve been wondering if they’re part of the problem with lapsing. My folks have been visiting, and we’ve been out of town and back in town, so there hasn’t been checklists for the last couple of days (still doing well with daily weight, though). So I think the trick today will be to make sure I stay on the food log and checklist despite it being a “break” day, and get back on track for Monday…
I’m still lovin’ on the checklist, but it’s starting to get a bit… fuzzy around the edges. Checklist attrition is happening. Strangely, I thought the 10-15 minutes of uke practice would be the first thing to go. But it’s the stretching.
I’ve mentioned that I’m not a big fan of stretching, right?
So yeah — I’m doing it every night, but the last couple of nights I’ve started doing it without the checklist. To the untrained eye this might look like “good, he’s internalizing it.” I, who know better, recognize this as me gettin’ sloppy.
Things I’m solid on:
Ukulele practice! Which is weird. I thought it would be the one I’d drift off on the soonest.
Planking. Again, I thought I might back off on this, but it’s a kind of easy one to knock off and while it hurts, I’m enjoying the progression.
Flossing/brushing. Kind of a no-brainer.
Things I’m okay on:
Food logging. I’m doing it, but it’s still out of flow for me to log into LoseIt and actually type it all in. Embarrassing on Bad Snack Days, too.
House tours: my wife will say “I’ve turned the lights off, etc.” and I’ll just take her word for it. Which I totally should, but then again, I should also do the tour myself because… checklist.
Checking out. It’s being done, but after all the other stuff, I kind of feel “checked out” already.
Things I’m slipping on — hardcore checklist attrition:
Stretching. I think because I don’t have a set of stretches, I’m just kind of making up “stretching” every night. I’m going to open a new browser tab and type “five minute stretching routine” and print something off to follow for the next week.
Checklist attrition and morning compliance
The whole point of the checklist is readiness for sleep in a lot of ways. I think that’s all good; I question whether the planking gets my body too revved up just before bedtime, but I think it’s okay.
But the stretching. That’s something I gotta work on.