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've got two weeks in China. The first was spent between Shanghai and Beijing with Leo, mostly drinking prodigious amounts of good tea in tucked away teahouses. The second week I figured I'd catch up on work.
With nothing much besides work on the agenda, I picked a cheap hotel in a good location. The hotel is nestled in one of the hutongs, or alleys, in Guloudajie. The bed is just like the one I have in my RV, meaning that it's nothing more than a futon on a hard mat, which suits me fine. Just a few minutes walk from the front door is a long alley full of food stalls and restaurants, including a healthy Korean one I've had lunch at three times now.
My first day alone in Beijing, I was eager to start working through my todo list. I sat at the desk in my room, opened up my computer, and then spent ten minutes trying to get comfortable. The desk seemed to be more for show than utility, as it's carved out of wood and paired with a matching wooden stool.
I gave up on the desk and got into bed, sitting up against some propped up pillows. That was comfortable enough, but it left me in a bad position for typing, so I was constantly deterred from actually doing any programming. Instead I clicked around, reading emails and checking reports. I tried sitting cross legged, hunched over the laptop. I tried lying on my stomach with the laptop in front of me.