New name, same format: every month, I publish a list of my daily habits; things like “Do a set of pull ups” or “Write 300 words for a blog post.” I do this, because there is no doubt in my mind that habit forming is the single most important tool to make progress with your goals – slow and steady wins the race, not some kind of heroic effort. And publishing these reports is my way of holding myself accountable for my habits.
So how does it work?
I write out my list of habits, identify the accompanying goal (what do I want to accomplish with this habit in the long run?) and then self-assess my current progress. Simple enough.
Let’s dive right into it!
Self-Assessment: I have been sticking with this habit religiously, and have been getting great results from it. I generally sleep better and gain about 1-2 hours of productive extra time each day. This is possibly the habit with the biggest ROI for me right now. Just gotta keep doing it!
Self-Assessment: I do this every day, without exception. I’m not sure if the supps make that much of a difference, but at the same time, this habit costs me almost nothing, neither in time nor in money. So I’ll keep doing it.
Self-Assessment: This habit was not working well last month, but has gotten much better in the meantime. I’m back to checking my emails only once a day and that’s more than enough, even though I work online. I sometimes check my WhatsApp messages a few times too often, usually on days when I’m tired or pissed off. But since I’ve been sleeping much better recently (s. above), the WhatsApp problem has gotten much better too. Hopefully I can keep this trend going.
Self-Assessment: I exclusively eat at home right now, unless someone wants to have dinner with me, which happens about once a month (aren’t I the social butterfly…). But even then I make sure we go to a place with paleo / primal options (usually a steak house). Cooking at home all the time saves me a TON of money too, as I used to eat out all the time. So this habit is working perfectly right now.
Self-Assessment: 100% compliance with this habit and ever since I started counting calories, my diet has cleaned up even further; I eat exactly what I should be eating right now. Well, there is always room for improvement… I could eat some more different kinds of fish, and start eating offal, but other than that, my diet is pretty spot on. Again, just have to stick with it, the pieces are already in place.
Self-Assessment: I recently added the counting calories part to this habit, and at first, it was a pain… Most of the calorie counting apps out there are just plain stupid. Eventually, I decided on just using an Excel table and since I eat the same meals all the time anyways, the process has now gotten very quick and simple. Have lost several kilos already! Good stuff, just have to stick with it.
Self-Assessment: Last month I mentioned I was not sure if my flossing technique was right. So in true nerd fashion, I watched several instructionals on flossing, took notes and have been paying more attention to the quality of my flossing. Good improvement!
Self-Assessment: No improvement over last month: I still average about 35,000 to 45,000 steps per week, so about half of what I should be walking. It’s not as much laziness though (I LOVE walking) as it is a time issue. Let’s see if I can come up with a solution for this problem by next month.
Self-Assessment: The good news is I added a new mobility exercise to the mix (the couch stretch), as I promised myself last month. The bad news is I still haven’t video recorded myself to check on my form. Nothing to do about it but to do it!
Self-Assessment: Still doing this, as Kelly Starrett, the creator of MobilityWOD, has about one billion videos out… So it is quite the project to get the theoretical overview I want. Reading his book in conjunction with the videos helps but I suspect I will probably have to watch another 100 videos before I really start to get a hang of his system. Just gotta stick it out!
Self-Assessment: I’m pretty strict about this habit and it helps a lot with calming down and getting ready for bed. So good job for sticking with it.
Self-Assessment: I mentioned last month that this habit was not going well, as I rarely manage to turn off my electronic devices even one hour before I go to bed. The reason is still the same: I’m hard pressed for time these days. But the last few days have been somewhat promising, I got off the computer a little bit earlier than usual. Maybe I can develop this into a trend.
Self-Assessment: Finished “Fight Club“, then “American Psycho“, and just now “Walden.” So I’m getting quite a bit of new literature under my belt, which is amazing. But I suspect I’ll have to use this habit to listen to some work-related biographies in the future (assuming I get the book contract I’m working on right now). The biographies are interesting stuff though, so I don’t mind it too much, however, listening to literature would be better. Hopefully, I can return to that soon.
Self-Assessment: 100% compliance for this habit and it works like a charm. Just keep doing it.
Self-Assessment: Still doing this habit, and for the most part, it does the trick: by working on my thesis first thing in the morning, I always make sure I get around to it. Intensity is another issue though… Oftentimes I only touch on my thesis before moving on to something else. To combat this, I recently introduced a new habit (s. below), which requires me to check on a certain number of key authors per study session. Let’s see if that leads to me spending more time on my thesis.
Self-Assessment: I do this every single day and it gives me a good idea of how much time I spend studying (hint: not anywhere close to enough).
Self-Assessment: I only started this new habit about 5 days ago, so I can’t really say anything about its long-term effectiveness yet. But so far, it looks promising, as my study time has significantly gone up.
Self-Assessment: I dutifully tick off my list of habits in my Excel table every day, making sure I’ve got all my bases covered. Works well!
Self-Assessment: This was an optional habit until recently, but ever since I made it a required one, my productivity has gone through the roof. Getting up at the same time every day and prioritizing important tasks over seemingly urgent tasks is really where it’s at. Just taking care of these two things will already make a massive difference in meaningful work output. Fantastic habit!
Self-Assessment: Also turned this one from an optional into a required habit recently, with very good results. It gives me the reassuring feeling that I’m not missing anything, as I have to check my GTD list of most urgent items every day, pick one and then get to work. Great habit.
Self-Assessment: Just as the last two habits, this is a relatively new one, and just like them, this habit is already paying massive dividends. Even though I don’t spend a lot of time on this habit, just by touching on these dusty tasks on your action-pending list every day, they will eventually get done – and it feels rather effortless! So this is a no-brainer, just keep doing it.
Self-Assessment: A very important habit, as it forms the basis for the aforementioned habits: without keeping your GTD system up to date, you can’t really assess which your most important or urgent tasks are. I have to admit though, on some days, when it gets really hectic, I do a pretty short, superficial version of this update process. I know I can usually get away with it for one day, so it is a compromise I sometimes make to go to bed at a somewhat decent time. But to be fair, most days I do the whole update process and it feels good – it gives you more overview and you easily stay on top of things. What I haven’t implemented yet: last month, I said I would introduce a new clean up habit, to also keep the rest of my GTD system better organized (all other lists besides my inbox, tickler and action pending items). Well, I just now added the cleanup habit to my Excel table for the upcoming month. Will report on it then.
Self-Assessment: Still slow going but still making progress. This is definitely a long-term project (like most of my habits…).
Self-Assessment: I have made some progress with “Becoming a Supple Leopard” by Kelly Starrett, “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World” by Harry Browne is also somewhat coming along but rereading “The Slight Edge” by Jeff Olson has been very slow. Ironically, the last one is the book I enjoy the most, but the real bottleneck is time. I read my books in the order I listed them, from driest to most entertaining, and my train rides are only so long – I live pretty close to the city center. Hence, I rarely get around to book No. 3. I still think this is the right approach though, so I won’t change anything for now.
Self-Assessment: This is clearly the letdown of the month. Even though I diligently stuck to this habit every day, I only managed to publish two new articles since last month; one of them being my monthly habits report, so not exactly a piece of fine writing either. What is the reason for that slump? The answer: As so often over the last 1.5 years of blogging, I started to question the general direction of my articles, which led to a lot of overanalyzing. The result of that analysis: my blog is too much navel-gazing, too much personal journey, and not enough actionable problem-solving for the reader. At the same time, I’m aware that you have to be careful either way. There are many blogs out there that JUST focus on the reader and his problems, but fail to speak with an authentic voice – which is just as bad. So the last weeks have been a lot about researching good writing, i.e. writing that hits that sweet middle ground between helping the reader while telling a good story in the process. As a byproduct, I also polished up on my SEO knowledge, and I feel like the pieces are very slowly starting to come together. But you can be the judge yourself. The next article I will publish should already incorporate some of these new considerations.
Self-Assessment: This is a new habit, but it’s looking promising. I got my best friend to proofread for me, and I’m absolutely convinced that his English is top-notch; he is a very smart, well-spoken native academic from Texas (I know this sounds like a contradiction, but they do exist). He is also very thorough, so step by step, this blog should become completely mistake-free. Also, I hope to improve my grammar by studying his corrections and identifying my common mistakes.
Self-Assessment: I recently finished a copywriting job for a German affiliate marketer, and noticed that they use a lot more graphical elements than I do, like accordions, boxes, tables, etc. It really got me thinking about the readability of my articles and as result, I’m now slowly starting to integrate more design elements into my posts (both new and old posts). I also want to keep more of an eye out for general design improvements to my blog. From what I recently read, design DOES make a difference in terms of traffic and is not just something nice to have.
Self-Assessment: For a long-time, I was only concerned with writing and publishing articles, but didn’t do much to get my articles in front of people. This new habit is an attempt to change that. But again, I’m currently stuck in theory zone. I’m still studying a republishing guide by the SumoMe guys but will hopefully taking action once I have worked through that. Very slow going.
Self-Assessment: This is another relatively new habit, which has been slow going. I took me a long time to identify a few bloggers in my niche that I actually respect and like to read. I did not imagine this would take so long… I went through this looong list of “top” personal development blogs and most of them are just shit. I’m not the best writer in the world, but the level of stupid self-delusion that is going on at most personal development blogs is something to behold… My current list of positive exceptions is made up of: Disrupting the Rabblement, Start Gaining Momentum, Expanding Beyond Yourself, Spartan Traveler. Those are all good, for one reason or another, so check them out! Anyways, I work on this every day for a little bit, but it will definitely be some time before these people start to recognize me.
Self-Assessment: Because of a fuck up (mostly on Amazon’s part…), I currently have to exchange all the Amazon Associate links I ever put in my articles. It’s a boring, tedious task, so I just spent the minimum amount of time on it every day, but it should be enough to get the job done.
Self-Assessment: A recommendation by my dentist, I recently included this one as a new weekly habit. I have been consistent with it so far.
Self-Assessment: Some nice improvements here: I usually end up eating fish twice a week now, and not just my favorite, tuna, but also some super healthy salmon. Still not fantasizing about fish in my dreams, but the taste is starting to become more and more bearable. Hah, I partially take that back! I recently had my first plate of sashimi at an amazing sushi place in Prague – now THAT is something I could dream about! Can’t wait to go back and have some more.
Okay, to sum it up: how did I improve over last month and what I should be doing next month?
Targeted new habits from last month:
- Spend less time checking emails or my phone → success
- Start counting calories → success
- Watch video on flossing → success
- Walk more → stalling
- Record one of my workouts → failure
- Introduce more mobility exercises to the mix → success
- Turn off my computer and my cell phone earlier at night → stalling
- Introduce new thesis habit, to increase time spent working on thesis → success, but only recently
- Introduce a cleanup habit for my GTD system → success, but only very recently
Targeted improvements and new habits for next month:
- Walk more steps per day
- Record my form while working out
- Turn off my computer & cell phone earlier at night
- Write a little bit for my thesis every day (no excerpts, but actual content)
- Create more blog posts on nielsbohrmann.com
- Write daily mementos on ***
- Start ***
Talk to you next month!