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Developing daily habits

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  • Developing daily habits


    I am having trouble integrating habits into my GTD system. By this, I mean projects to develop daily habits - such as getting daily exercise, or meditating each day for 15 minutes, or setting 30 minutes aside to read.

    I find I have a lot of actions in my GTD system, and seem to forget habits I am trying to develop. The actions for the habits are straightforward and essentially the same every day. I could enter the next action every single day... but that seems like a waste of time.

    What do other people do for habits they're trying to develop? Where does this fit into GTD?


  • #2
    To help build habits, which often take a long time (for me), I have a daily checklist. This consists of a simple table with seven date columns, that is printed out weekly. I'll also add occasional daily to-do's such as giving the dog antibiotics for 10 days. Another source to help in habit building is

    Instead of creating NAs for each habit you would just need to NA your daily checklist.


    • #3
      I have found this post about establishing new habits helpful.


      • #4
        I post a separate list of daily habits on my wall. I actually printed out several copies and posted them all around.

        I don't think there's anything wrong with treating habits as Next Actions, though.


        • #5
          What worked (to some extent) for me was using the reminder function of my windows mobile smart phone. I set a recurring task with a reminder in Outlook and then synced it to my phone.

          A big part of this is to set the reminder at an appropriate time to actually complete the task (habit.) Don't set a reminder to floss, during a time when you are not near floss or before dinner. A better time for flossing would be during an evening tv show, so you can floss during a commercial.

          Another important part is to schedule time to complete the habit (this would be good for an exercise habit) as well as having all tools needed for the task/habit right there where/when you need them.

          Other things that helped me reinforce a habit are a treat or carrot to incentivize me toward the habit. For me it is a favorite podcast that I only listen to during the habit. Decide for yourself what would be a good reward.


          • #6
            Thanks for the feedback! I like the idea of posting my habits (with clear actions to develop them...) up on a wall, and then setting a daily action to verify all of them.

            Thanks for the zenhabits link too!


            • #7
              Process Projects

              My first exposure to Getting Things Done was through a recording of a life seminar that David Allen gave at my employer's corporate headquarters. During the audience participation part of the program where members of the audience offer up "stuff" to process, one of the participants said she wanted to exercise regularly. She didn't have any specific fitness goals at the time other than she just needed to exercise.

              David suggested that she set up a "process project" called "Set up exercise program". She could consider the project "done" when she had her exercise program on "cruise control". The first action that she identified was to block out time on her calendar to work out. After that, there's no real next action other than to honor the commitments she's made to herself. During her weekly review of her Projects list she would evaluate the current state of her habits and whether or not she had her program on cruise control and could mark it "done".

              I would treat any new habits that I would want to develop as a "process project". These are a little different in that it may be difficult for you to define next actions that you can place on your @context lists, but each time you review your Projects list you have the opportunity to evaluate the progress you've made in forming the habit and can decide whether or not you're done.

              Consequently, I have this very project on my lists. I'm not working out to the degree that I would like, so I keep this loop open until I'm doing so. This week I've committed to one more workout than last week.


              • #8
                Break it down to the smallest part

                When I'm trying to start a new healthy habit I find that I start off with too broad a task. "Start running in the morning" - too big. I need to break it down into its smallest part and then break it down again.

                I find that when I'm not getting something done, it's because I'm looking at the end goal through a series of smaller steps that I haven't really tackled yet.

                For weeks I tried the "just get out of bed" routine for running. I then broke it down into: @commute: determine route for run, @home: 8pm - set out running gear, put shoes by door (needed a time to do it), set alarm clock...things like that.

                I hope that helps.


                • #9
                  I tickle a list with habits / maintenance activities I am committed to. Each habit has an review-date attached to it. On that date I can decide to let go the commitment.

                  I came up with this because sometimes when trying to get a new habit going I knew it was the right thing to do , but something in me was somehow still against it and I ended up sabotaging myself. With the review-date I managed to bribe that inner resistance.

                  The time-spans between reviews are very long, 2-5 months. If I held up to my commitment until the review-date I reached a goal and it is considered officially awesome. Like finishing a project successfully.


                  • #10
                    I'd like to second using for habit building - it's so easy to set up and use, and it sends you an email if you fall off the wagon (something I also find easy unfortunately). You can print off your progress for you weekly review too.


                    • #11
                      There's also Habitizer, a nice simple online app that suits me. Like Joe's goals, it also sends an email if you've missed a couple of checkins, which helps remember the habit (rather than having it drop completely off the radar because another 100 things have dropped on me).


                      • #12
                        Attached is the sheet I currently use for daily habits. I check off the boxes for these I completed yesterday every morning.

                        I got this idea from the book, "Thinking Body, Dancing Mind".
                        Attached Files


                        • #13
                          The only way it works for me is to actually put the new habit in my calendar for a certain block of time. It needs to be part of a structured routine.