Coming into this year I decided my resolution was going to be to develop a few really good life long habits. I had three keystone habits I wanted to do daily: write, run, and read.
Part of my desire was I had these big visions of success within my life. I had written a personal “obituary” of when I was old and dead and what I did with my days on earth.
One of my life’s accomplishments in my obit project was that I wrote several books throughout my entrepreneurial journey. I really enjoyed writing, and on occasion I would hammer out ten or twenty pages towards some big “book” idea. But books are like hundreds of pages. There was no way I was going to conquer a project like that from a weekend here and there of being inspired.
And I can’t take off work to write full time.
So I needed to develop a habit that allowed me to chip away at it.
Last year I also made a personal declaration to become A Marathon Warrior as part of my TBOLITNFL statement. I ran one marathon when I was in college while in ROTC. While I’m not in bad shape, I wasn’t running consistently enough to make this a reality.
Like writing a book, running a marathon requires a daily practice. You can’t train up in a weekend, week, or even a month. You need several months of building up distance.
If I was going to conquer many marathons, I needed to build up strength and endurance through a keystone habit.
My last habit of reading daily came from my desire to be a successful entrepreneur. A close friend and adviser of mine, Alex Tiller, recently told me about how much he read and how it helped him grow his company.
Sometimes it is easy to become isolated as an entrepreneur. If I could read and learn from others daily than I knew it would help me break through walls.
To kickstart my 2013 habit project, I read The Power of Habit to understand how to tackle this task with a little more organization than “just do it.”
At first I planned to wake up at 5am, go running for an hour and then write for an hour. I would then read prior to going to bed. I’m an early riser, but 5am in the winter in Colorado just wasn’t happening. The first couple weeks of January were a complete failure.
Since then, I have developed semi-successful systems for hitting these daily. Here is an update on each.
I wake up at 6am and write until 7am. Learning from my reading I realized I needed to create a specific reward for each of my habits in order to make them successful. There is a long term reward of writing, but I needed something that I could program my brain to respond to.
I had recently cut way back on my caffeine consumption. I decided that I would allow myself to drink caffenieted tea only if I woke up and wrote. This quickly became a ritual:
Alarm goes off -> go to kitchen -> put on tea -> power up laptop -> get my notes, mindmaps, and doc ready -> get tea -> begin to write.
So far I am over 60 pages into my first big writing project: How to Make Money with Web Design (working title). This is a project I had started several times. Now, just over two months into this year, I have made more progress on this project than I did in well over a year since I had the idea.
I get about 1 to 2 pages stamped out per day. Some days I am not on my game and I get a few paragraphs and allow myself to get distracted. But that’s ok because I’m keeping the habit.
I have been successful at running in the mornings before, but it just wasn’t happening this year. I decided I would move my time to run to after work but before I officially “got home” to my wife.
It gets dark pretty early right now, so I changed my daily work schedule to take zero breaks, eat lunch at my desk while working, and leave at 4:30pm.
This allowed me enough time while it was light out to do a lap around City Park and the golf course.
While not quite as diligent about this habit as I am with writing every morning, I have hit between 2 and 6 days per week.
My reward that I have built in for running is the feeling of euphoria I get at some point on my run while listening to a carefully crafted playlist. I think most runners can related to this “high,” and it is powerful. Each time those endorphins dump in, I really focus in on them and remind myself it is why I do the habit.
A couple of months in and I now get jealous when I see people running as I drive to and from work. This association of mental pleasure has kept me at the habit so far. I have also shaved a few pounds and can tell my strength and endurance are building.
This past weekend I registered for the 10 mile Cherry Creek Sneak in anticipation of building up to a full marathon this summer. I have not yet chosen which marathon I want to do in Colorado yet, but there are a ton to choose from.
So far this habit has been my weakest of the year. I decided I would read daily prior to going to bed. It turns out, my willpower tank is pretty well depleted when its time to dig in. I have also not created a structured reward for myself around this habit which is probably the leading reason its not working out.
I think I’m hitting this goal of reading daily about 25% of my nights.
Perhaps I need to associate some kind of dessert treat with reading … but I don’t want to gain weight just to win this one. I am going to hit the drawing board to brainstorm how I can recover my habit of daily reading and make this a keystone habit in my life.
I am open to suggestions.