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Adding new habits through GTD

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  • Adding new habits through GTD

    Hi! GTD is a great way to do all of those one-time (however complex they are) things, but how would you go about adding a habit through GTD?

    Also, some habits are positive and some are negative, i.e. some consist of doing something regularly and some consist of NOT doing something.

    I haven't really found any information about this in any of DA's books or on the internet (since habits have a meta-meaning within GTD), so I'd be very greatful for any advice!

    Some examples: Start drawing, get 8+ hours a sleep/night, articulating more clearly.

  • #2
    I know what you mean and that's something I bumped into while implementing GTD.

    I think the simple answer is that a new habit belongs in the calendar as a repeating event. After all, it's a *must do* otherwise the habit cannot take hold, and that makes it hard landscape.

    If I'm serious about a habit, then I'll make the establishing of that habit a project. The outcome is that the activity has become a habit and needs no further reinforcement.

    So I may put a daily event in my calendar, for a given time, called "Go to sleep!" with an alarm reminder on my computer and phone. Then I might have a waiting for next action and what I'm waiting for is that I feel i don't need the daily reminder anymore, or that it's not working and I need to try something else. I'll pick it up in weekly review and decide what to do.

    I also have a calendar called Reminders which is all about habits. This calendar is marked as invisible, so it doesn't get in the way but contains events that email me periodically. An example is that I receive a monthly email titled "Copy accountant on all government mail". I delete it immediately, but it's enough to make sure I never lose that habit.
    Last edited by pxt; 07-05-2011, 08:20 AM.


    • #3

      A key to changing our habits is reminding ourselves that we want to make that change happen. Reminders are information that you want at a particular time. The particular time may be every morning, every hour, three days from our last workout, at every meal, etc. Because these reminders are for a particular time, I find the Calendar to be the most comfortable location for them.

      It is useful to distinguish reminders from appointments to avoid confusion or re-processing. I write my reminders as questions or FYI's, e.g. "Dropped off the mail yet?", "Eating more vegetables at lunch?", or "Time to lift weights again".



      • #4
        re: Adding new habits through GTD

        I agree with using a calendar program to automate reminders (beep, send you an email, etc.) at whatever interval you think you need for that thought-pattern and behavior-pattern to develop.

        The only other thing I would add is making sure you have it connected to an over-arching project along with successful outcomes - pictures, sayings, descriptions of what new things developing that habit would bring about. Review these regularly as a way to motivate you to develop the habit.


        • #5

          I have developed many checklists because of GTD, that deal with the routine stuff. I have a workday checklist, weekend checklist, evening, morning checklist.
          So new things I would like to start doing, like meditation, exercise, are all included here.


          • #6
            Habits are "process projects"

            If you want to get into the habit of exercising regularly, you have a project called "Set up exercise program". The outcome is achieved when you've got the habits down and you're on cruise control; you just do it because it comes naturally as a habit.

            The path to achieving that outcome radically differs person-to-person. Maybe you need to find a workout partner, join a gym or build a home gym. Or maybe you just need to establish a habit of walking 30 minutes a day for now.


            • #7
              I've always resisted putting appointments with myself into my calendar. I am fine putting reminders (like open the windows) in there on a reminder calendar, but I've not been okay with appointments for things that I 'want' to do.

              Reading this thread has made me realize that it's at least as important to make and keep commitments with myself as with others.

              I had the idea at the beginning of the summer (teacher home for the summer) to make a daily/weekly schedule. I resisted part out of laziness, part out of not wanting to be 'boxed in' because it's 'vacation' and part out of thinking I was breaking rules. Now that summer is more than half over, and there are some things that I haven't been able to move on that I'd like to, I'm definitely going to try to schedule some things.

              And, while I'm a bit behind where I thought I'd be at this point in the day, I have kept my commitments thus far today (walked dogs).



              • #8
                I like the idea of "process projects".

                Originally posted by ellobogrande View Post
                If you want to get into the habit of exercising regularly, you have a project called "Set up exercise program". The outcome is achieved when you've got the habits down and you're on cruise control; you just do it because it comes naturally as a habit.
                I like the idea of "process projects". Thanks.


                • #9
                  Wow - some great ideas here! I like the idea of a "process project". I've been thinking working a lot on habit formation this year. Here are a few things I've learned. This might not be strictly GTD-ish, but here goes:

                  The first two abits you need to establish are reminding yourself about the habit and and reviewing whether or not you have done it.

                  First, I'd suggest not trying to do too many habits at once - a great book on this is the Power of Less by Leo Babuata. Pick a couple an make them front burner issues until they are established. If you are not trying to do a zillion at once, reminding yourself is less of an issue.

                  I'd say the reminder needs to live wherever you know for sure you'll look - if you trust your calendar, then your calendar, if you trust that you'll look at daily check list, then use that. If you need to do it the moment you wake up, then a post-it on your bathroom mirror is probably a good idea.

                  I've established a habit of reviewing my work day before I leave at the end of the day and my day in general just before I go to bed. I do this in a journal and I make a little check mark or rate myself on how well I accomplished the habit I'm working on (for some, I either I did it or not and some are more qualitative - for example, your one on articulation - it will never be perfect, but how well did you feel you did that day? did you stay intentional about it?).

                  I think having it part of your weekly review process is also key - how well did you do? what kept you from doing it? are you resisting/rebelling? why? what does your inner brat have to say about the whole matter? Is it still important?


                  • #10
                    I like the idea of an invisible calendar with reminders. I don't know if I can set this up in Lotus Notes.

                    What I do that is working for me is I have a daily routine checklist of reminders. It's a one pager in MS Excel that I print out. And each item has a score (x) and I score +x if I do it that day, 0 if I don't do it but there's a real, justifiable, reason I couldn't or shouldn't have done it, and -x if I didn't do it. I like the idea of having it on paper as easy reference and so I carry it around in my Levenger notebook and can refer to it at any time.

                    I also try not to build too many habits at a time. I also do occasionally use a calendar reminder if it's something I'm focusing on that month, is time-bound and I want to build behaviour around. Other things like - drink 64oz of water a day go on my checklist and I'll start building habits like making sure there is a bottle of water on my desk in the morning, etc.

                    I did try to use an iPad/iTouch app for habit tracking that does pretty much what the Excel does but found that I just didn't refer to it often enough. Paper works for me!


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by JohnV474 View Post
                      I write my reminders as questions or FYI's, e.g. "Dropped off the mail yet?", "Eating more vegetables at lunch?", or "Time to lift weights again".
                      Thanks for this. I've always had trouble with these sorts of things in OmniFocus because there's no way to set them up to repeat without at some point having to check them off to make them reappear at the next repeat interval. I've wished for a 'postpone' feature or something of the like because it's felt like cheating to check something off as completed when it wasn't.

                      Your idea of question marks is working for me. Checking off a statement with the question mark is signifying that I've reflected on it, not that I completed it. This way if the time of day has passed that I will do it/can do it, I can check it off and it'll be ready for me the next day (or other interval) without me feeling like I have cheated.

                      I'm using this with one of the last tasks of the day being 'record habits?' to reflect on how I've done.

                      I like it.


                      • #12
                        I think writing down the habit as a question is brilliant! Funny how just a small re-framing like that can make a difference.

                        Saw this post on habit formation on Zen Habits and thought I'd pass it along - it is not especially GTD-ish.