Last week, we discussed the "The Canary in the Coal Mine" case:
There's basically three times people get off track with their routines, habit, and how they run their life: when unusual events or extenuating circumstances happen, when things are going badly, or — most counterintuitively — when things are going well.
You’ll note the effect [that after] napping, taking a walk, time spent on enjoyable activities all get shaky (in addition to not much time spent doing routine admin work), and then it starts to turn into a cascading effect of a bunch of things get sloppy.
That’s this week’s takeaway: you can set up your controls in such a way as to give you advance warning of problems happening. For my part, seeing the red lights start to spread rapidly makes me slow down and give a day or two to managing my habits and keeping my affairs in order. I answered a lot of email, paid bills, took walks, handled admin, rested a bit, etc.
Again, if you read it (or checked the link), last week was marvelous. Immensely productive. But a scary alarm started to go off — I started to miss out on key habits, neglecting napping, neglecting taking time for enjoyment, neglecting admin work and letting it pile up, etc.
This week was still quite productive, but I consistently hit the breaks in the afternoon and worked more heavily on just checking off habits. Taking walks, going to see interesting landmarks, buying supplies, taking naps, and otherwise just keeping my health and productivity in check.
All these measures are good for anti-burnout and increase endurance, but perhaps at the expense of not getting some sprinting time in.
You can always run harder or faster at any given moment, but it's not the way to start the marathon. This week, I could perhaps have squeezed out 30% more production at the expense of collapsing at the end of it. Instead, I had a solid productive week, and am recharged, on top of things, and with admin generally in good shape going into next week.
As a bonus, I finally got around to seeing the Hagia Sophia. It was pretty cool.
I know many readers have started making their own Lights Spreadsheets -- please very welcome to post yours with analysis or thoughts in the comments. Questions and feedback also very welcome.
I started tracking with Lift.do 8 days ago now, but transferred to the actual spreadsheet today. I'm starting the week with Sunday, so it's incomplete right now.
However, I'm approaching it differently. I'm approaching it like the time tracking template. It's not perfect, because there's no space for any real comments other than yes/no, but having 18 or even 10 things to start with is a bit too complicated for me to complete. If I get a 70% success rate this week, I'm adding a new goal, and if I don't, I'm taking "Did you do any kind of exercise today?" off.
I'm also going to be exporting data using spreadsheets' graphs rather than this raw data from the table here and putting it up on my site. I'm thinking of going with a line graph, but I'm not precisely sure yet. A bar graph may be easier.
I think that's very wise. I started with many, but I set it as the only thing to do for a while to install it, and gave it a lot of effort. I made a conscious choice to let some opportunities expire and let some problems persist while getting on that habit system. Also, I've got practice with each one of these. Starting with less is smart.
Other thoughts -- I started as binary yes/no, but I eventually added "Half" (yellow) as a marker. I still don't count it when I tally for the week (EX: 2 green "Yes", 3 yellow "Half", 2 red "No" = done twice that week), but it's useful to have a halfway marker on some things.
EX: If I eat one piece of bread that comes with a meal by accident, but then don't make any other errors, I can still hold the line at "Half" instead of a full-on red light for going crazy. Also, if I try to do a fitness thing but get interrupted or distracted and don't finish, I still might mark half. Etc.
I also chose not to do comments -- keeping it simple and not adding too much narrative. I don't want to say, "oh, that was a good week, it's okay that I didn't..." -- it's like, it either happened or not.
I can and do reference with other things to see total production and ideas for the week. But I intentionally went no notes for now.
> I'm also going to be exporting data using spreadsheets' graphs rather than this raw data from the table here and putting it up on my site. I'm thinking of going with a line graph, but I'm not precisely sure yet. A bar graph may be easier.
I'm very interested to see how that comes out.
More and more I'm considering switching over from Lift.io to a lights spreadsheet.
It's a little silly, but the little "High fives" I get and whatnot from lift actually get me excited to keep streaks going.
If I could write a script to make Google Spreadsheets give me a high-five popup after maintaining a streak for X amount of days, I would be sold. Going to look into Google Spreadsheets scripting later today.
Also, little question: Where did the word "lights" come from in "lights spreadsheet"? Is it just referring to the traffic light coloring of habits? I've never heard the term outside your blog.
Yeah, I tested out Lift for a week, and my big issue was with tracking and the ability to actually plot the data. The CSV export didn't come out as I wanted.
However, what I'm a bit scared about is the lack of email reminders. I grew to depend on those. Anyone know how you can send emails to yourself at specific times of the day?
I'm hoping simply leaving the file on my desktop will act as enough of a reminder, but I'm not sure. I'd like to integrate it with a habit and notification system I already have set up--email.
I use Habitrpg for my daily habits, it's pretty good. I have my own variable reward system on top of theirs
> If I could write a script to make Google Spreadsheets give me a high-five popup after maintaining a streak for X amount of days, I would be sold. Going to look into Google Spreadsheets scripting later today.
Totally doable. If you put it on Quora or a programming site as a challenge, I bet you'd get an answer really fast.
> Also, little question: Where did the word "lights" come from in "lights spreadsheet"? Is it just referring to the traffic light coloring of habits? I've never heard the term outside your blog.
A lot of my friends and clients took up the "Daily Spreadsheet for Habit Tracking" (first name) right away, and we started naturally calling them "lights" -- I think I was the first person to say. "I gotta get my green light for the day" -- "I don't want to take a red light..." -- it came into common usage quickly, and we all call it a Lights Sheet or Lights Spreadsheet now.
Lights Spreadsheet, Week 5
So, I keep this Lights Spreadsheet to keep track of the actions I most want to be doing each day.
It works as a control — it gets me to do more of these actions.
It also works as a warning sign — if I see I’ve had mediocre sleep or no exercise for 4 days in a row, it prompts me to fix that before things start getting out of hand.
I'd like to introduce a secondary project I'm working on, which is a health one. I've been living a relatively sedentary lifestyle as of late. I haven't been shoveling down ice cream and hiding in my apartment, but I have been spending much more time sitting than I used to. The weather is very cold here in Zhengzhou, so my old habit of going on periodic walks has fallen off. Also, going out to get groceries or food has been hard to summon energy for as that requires bundling up and braving the cold. This has had the positive effect of keeping me from eating out all of the time (which my wallet thanks me for), but in search of convenience I replaced that food with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Only PB&J, with a banana or apple here and there, is hardly a balanced or healthy diet. My one saving grace up to this point has been my teaching job, which keeps me up and active and supplies me with more variety in my diet at breakfast. Nonetheless, the time has come for me to make some changes to eat better and get more active. Here is my plan to become healthier over the next six weeks. I figure action is better than conversation so I actually started this little up two weeks ago. I'm currently in week 3, but I thought I'd share my plan in its entirety.
Week 1: Start cooking for myself Quite a while back I had a friend who was a body-builder. "90% of your workout takes place before you ever go to the gym," was his mantra. Your exercise and health are built on what you consume, so this first week focused on getting my diet back into shape. The primary rule for this period was no PB&J. This has helped me seek variety in my diet and break me out of my existing rut. Also at the beginning of this week I set a goal to cook for myself at least once and shoot for at least one hand made meal every week. This target was incredibly easily me, which was the point of setting the target so low. I've picked up two extremely simple recipes that have become new staples and replaced PB&J entirely. I couldn't be happier with how this side of things has been going. Multiple times over the last week and this one I have had either an egg and tomato dish, which I picked up from local cuisine, or a cauliflower lower mash pulled from the 4-hour chef. So, right out the gate I'm getting more, complete protein and veggies not to mention healthier carbs. My only issue here in week 3 is that I'm craving even more variety and so need to figure out another simple staple dish. Quite the good problem to have since I'm looking for variety in my diet ;)
Week 2: Shaking the dust off Week 2 was all based off of the Zenhabits approach to exercise. Zenhabits is all about starting small, fitness is a part of life that is helped by this more than anything. The blog's writer Leo Babauta suggests doing a simple set of an exercise at random intervals through the day. The idea is to do them whenever they pop into your head. Been sitting for a while? Do ten squats. Just get up? Do ten pushups, etc. Following suit, this week has been dedicated to seeing little opportunities to get my blood pumping and doing so. As I've found myself in a marathon session in front of my computer, I've jumped up and done ten squats or ten pushups. Just yesterday I did twenty squats and forty pushups, all scattered throughout the day in bite-sized portions. Judging by how my arms felt this morning I'm doing a little more than breaking even when weighed against all of the hours of sitting in my off-time.
Week 3-6 The blitz The first two weeks were designed to laying the ground work for the main event of this project, which is a physical blitz. This will take the form of one of those get-fit-quick video series in the vein of the Insanity program. I have always wondered if these things really work, and if my run-through this morning is any indicator, they make for quite the workout. I have always had more interest in functional fitness (such as that which builds stamina) over aesthetic fitness (that which makes you cut), but I am very curious to see how the program makes me feel by the time I reach the end. The exercises only take around half hour a day for 4 weeks, so the exercise won't dominate all of my time. I'll simply follow a workout schedule and enjoy the ride through a workout regimen I don't have to think about too hard. After starting today I'm excited to see where this monkey-see, mokey-do method of exercise gets me.
After the blitz After this little blitz of mine I'll attempt to take my running habit back up. The weather here in sunny Zhengzhou is at its lowest here in January, so by next month it should be more bearable to workout outside. I'm very interested to see how the video series effects my stamina as well as my muscle tone, so trying to go for a long jog after a day's break will do a great job of that. With taking my endurance training back up I'll set some targets, goals, time frames, etc. but for now it's time to blitz my way back into running shape!