Falling Out of Habits is Easier Than Creating Them, So Plan Accordingly

Well, that was an extended break—longer than I expected.

It’s interesting to see how easy it is to fall out of habits quickly. I’ve read in more than one place that you need to stick with something for at least 30 days to make it a habit, but it sure is easier than that to stop doing the habit. The archetypical example for me will always be timecards. I’ve never met anyone who likes doing timecards. However, in many jobs I’ve had, my time is literally what I’m selling, and thus my timecard is critically important to how I make money. So there’s an element of getting myself (and my team) in the habit of doing timecards daily.

And you know what? It doesn’t work.

It’s the same with many smaller, recurring, tedious tasks. Run a virus scan on that container image on your laptop before you upload it. Run spellcheck on your document before you send it out for peer review. Run pretty against your source code before that one final commit. The reality seems to be that no matter how much you try to make it a habit, it doesn’t work. That’s why you have to do things like…

Automation pipelines. Get spellcheck running constantly in the background, or pretty running as a git-commit hook, or auto-virus-scan your container image repo whenever a new image is uploaded.

Task reminders and calendar blocks. I make heavy use of both of these, task/reminder lists with deadlines (i.e. for timecards, every Friday a task reminder that pops up, or a 10-minute block on my calendar with a popup reminder).

Discipline. In writing this blog post, I amusingly found that I talk about discipline and attention to detail so much that I’ve already written a meta-blog-post about it. But the tl;dr version is, as a professional who wants to perform a task with quality, having the discipline to follow through on all the little details is what delivers the quality.

In hindsight, I was not doing any of these regarding writing my blog posts. I guess the experiment now will be to try some of these tactics and see how long it takes to fall back INTO the habit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s