Habit Tracking And Habit Stacking

Over the past few weeks I have been observing my productivity levels over the course of a day. I would usually measure the success of my day based on whether I hit my daily goals. I then decided to journal those days on my notebook to see what I really get into. A lot of the time I am on autopilot so it’s interesting to see how I get through my day.

I chose two days in particular to analyse and publish here. One of those days I was feeling particularly down and unmotivated. The other day was an unstructured day where my goal was to just get my targets for the day done. Have a look. Please be aware that whilst I tried to be truthful, it wasn’t 100% accurate to the time. Also, you can never be sure of how many hours sleep you get, too.

Unmotivated

05:55am: went to sleep.
11:25am: woke up and browsed social media.
11:50am: played the Playstation 4.
12:45pm: Made breakfast and ate.
13:00pm: brushed teeth.
13:21pm: played Playstation 4.
14:20:pm: went on the laptop browsed the internet.
18:18pm: played Playstation 4.
21:35pm: toilet break and social media browsing.
21:50pm: ate dinner.
21:55pm: played guitar.
22:10pm: browsed through laptop.
00:53am: listened to an audiobook as I went to sleep.

Motivated

08:03am: Woke up and tidied room.
08:20am: Toilet break.
08:34am: Continued to tidy room.
08:40am: Brushed my teeth and showered.
09:05am: Reorganised my book shelf.
09:31am: Laptop and on my notion to write my goals for the day.
10:00am: Helped with the shopping delivered.
10:20am: Studying on laptop and occasional phone check on social media.
11:37am: Took a break and lied down listening to an audiobook.
12:25pm: Made some lunch and a tea. On the laptop note taking. More studying.
14:14pm: Netflix.
15:11pm: Played a podcast and lied down. Had a nap.
17:40pm: Woke up and went to spend time with family.
18:00pm: Guitar practice.
18:45pm: Went to make dinner and eat.
19:55pm: More studying and note taking.
20:10pm: Toilet break–browse socials.
20:34pm: Reading.
21:02pm: Browsing online on laptop.
21:48pm: On the iPad watching Netflix till midnight.
00:00am: Showered, brushed teeth and went bed.

So, there are some observations I made from this data. Whilst this is quite loosely how I spent my day, it’s not my regular daily pattern. It’s just one of many I have. I did this to understand what I do on random occasions or through boredom. A bit of context too: these days are recorded on days where I’m not working or have uni or freelance work to do. It’s my spare time.

The way you spend your day can have an overall impact on your lifestyle and goals. Days where I’m unmotivated you can see how it affects hygiene and a constant crave for dopamine. I try to get this from easy things like video games and social media. Times in which I try to make an effort to be productive have little, to, no effect as the damage is already done prior in the day.

This is in contrast to days in which I am motivated. Whilst I don’t have the structure in place, by starting with a clean and tidy environment, I can instantly begin with some kind of progress through a sense of order. It’s not everything, but it’s a good means to an end.

Quite recently I have been able to sort it out and here is what my schedule looks like right now: I wake up in the morning between 7 and 8am. I freshen up, make a coffee to go with my sandwich and immediately begin my main priority: coding/programming. I understand my limitations so I set a time limit of up to 3 hours. I realised if I try to go any further than this then I will begin to burn out and my motivation will go away quickly.

The hardest thing about doing anything is getting up to do it. Keep this in mind. Don’t stress yourself out by saying you’ll do it for an hour or two. Just give yourself a limit. I’m learning how to play the guitar right now but I commit myself to playing no more than 5 minutes a day. Because it’s such an easy thing to do, I am able to do it. The reality is that I actually spend a lot more time than 5 minutes a day. By setting it so low, I am not worrying myself too much on whether I have time or will be able to do it.

My main priority like I said is coding and it’s a non-negotiable commitment I make daily as I am in the process of changing careers. There are however some other things I am working on as well alongside coding and guitar, like working on my clothing brand, my memoir I’m writing and updating my blog. I find that following one habit after another is the best way to get used to them and if I don’t set expectations it’s easier to alleviate the pressure of spending so much time on them.

This isn’t anything new though. This technique is known as ‘habit stacking’ and something mentioned by James Clear in his book ‘Atomic Habits’. Everything we do is a habit whether good or bad. How we follow things up is a good indication of what we’re used to doing. For the most part, we operate on autopilot daily. Few times in the day do we consciously think of what we’re doing and how we’re responding to things in the moment. Ever had a cigarette during your break or when you feel stressed or had room for a snack despite being full? These things are like drugs in that we associate the feeling of alleviating stress with these acts all the time, and while they may make us feel better, they can begin to interfere with our wellbeing in the long run.

My main focus now is consistency. If I am able to follow through with the minimum everyday then it is a success. The beginning is always the hardest, so make it easy for yourself until it’s too easy and then challenge yourself by setting that bar a bit higher. When things are easy they are fun. Fun things are enjoyable, but don’t cling too much to this naive way of thinking. The idea here is to make the habits stick. The habits stabilise the routine and add to the productive value your days will have.

Lastly, a good night’s rest is important. A coffee might make you operate better but a good 8 hours sleep can do wonders for your cognitive abilities. Sometimes, I am not able to get this but I actively try my best to achieve it. I am able to see the differences and know enough not to chalk it up to a placebo. Studies by Matthew Walker and other leading sleep scientists have suggested that it can help us save new memories better–perfect for learning new skills and habits.

As with all things, I’m still a work in progress and there are other areas I can improve on. Taking a step further and improving on them is the goal moving forward.

TLDR:

  • Over the past few weeks I tracked every moment of my day on two different occasions: when I was depressed or trying to be productive on a day off.
  • I used this data to build up my own daily routine
  • I talk about the power of habit stacking and not putting pressure on myself too much
  • I also mention how my focus is on consistency and also the use of a good night’s sleep

Author Comments: I may do a follow up post somewhere down the line to see what my updated routine is. Something like this is really circumstantial and a lot easier during a lockdown. I also used affiliate links in this entry.

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