Markdown Files and the Seinfeld Method

One of the apps I missed when I switched to Windows Phone (yes, I am one of those benighted souls) was Habit Streak. This is a very simple and slick bit of software that let me track my chains of success for the Seinfeld Method of developing a new habit.

I’ve talked about this technique before here. In essence its very simple. You set yourself a daily goal and track whether you manage it. You can mark off days on a calendar, use an app to track your success or any other method you like. All you need to know is the number of days you’ve been successful. The trick is that you build momentum. The longer you manage to keep the habit going the less likely you are to break it. At least that’s the theory. I have found that, for the most part, it works.

Anyway, after I abandoned Habit Streak I looked around for another method of tracking chains but I never found one I liked on Windows Phone. The thing about phone apps is that they go with you everywhere and they are usually very easy to use. They need to be otherwise only the most dedicated would use them. I don’t number among those people. I need something as simple as an app or I just won’t track things.

I work on multiple machines using several different operating systems. The glue that holds my work together is Dropbox and markdown so I decided to use these.

These days my method of tracking habit chains is so absurdly simple I am almost ashamed to blog about it. I set up numbered lists in a plain text file in Dropbox. It’s called Habit Streaks.txt. Each habit gets its own markdown header (A # sign) with a name.

To set up a numbered list in markdown you simply type the number with a period immediately after it. Any markdown text processor worth its salt (or Microsoft Word for that matter) will begin to automatically generate a numbered list. It will look something like this

# Number of days I have blogged:

  1. 04–01–2016
  2. O5–01–2016

and so on.

As the list is generated I just add the date and any notes I have about the habit I am tracking. Next day I hit enter and repeat the process. As the list updates, it automatically gives me the new number of days. When a streak ends. I just cancel the numbered list and begin a new one.

Now its probably struck you that you don’t need to dally with auto-numbered lists and such fripperies. You can just type the numbers yourself. You’re absolutely right.

I just find that it gives me a small jolt of childish pleasure to watch the number being automagically generated. It’s a bit like the satisfaction I get from putting a line through something on a todo list. That tiny dopamine rush gives me encouragement to continue. Every little bit helps when you’re trying to maintain a record system or change a habit.

The system works for me because it’s easy for me. I am a writer. I live inside word processors. The chances are I will open one every day, and once I do, somewhere on a Windows jump list or a recently opened files list will be habit streak.txt. I just need to click on it. It’s easy and that’s the secret.
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