Archives for January 2016

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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New Year Resolutions

Happy New Year!

Last year was not a good one for my blogging. I managed a total of only eight posts. There were a number of reasons, some good, some bad,none of which I particularly want to go into.

This year I will hopefully have more free time on my hands and a bit of that will be dedicated to the blog. I’ve been reading Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work and I liked some of the ideas in it a lot.

Kleon recommends sharing something about your work every day, even if what you have to say is very short. I am not sure I have something to say about my work every day, but I like the discipline of trying to post every working day and I thought I would make it one of my New Year’s Resolutions. My posts will probably be a bit shorter than my usual 1000 to 2000 word monsters just to make life a bit easier. I’m thinking of limiting myself to what I can comfortably write in one pomodoro.

I strongly suspect that this will go the way of most of my other resolutions but I will give it a try. At very least, I would like to manage more posts this month than I did last year.

What other resolutions did I make?

Nothing wildly exciting. I will continue to do 10000 steps per day. I’ve been doing this for the last couple of years and I don’t think I’ll have too much trouble keeping it. That has the sound of famous last words, doesn’t it? Watch me break a leg in the next week.

I’m also going to keep an eye on what I eat very closely. I am a type 2 diabetic so I need to do this, and I manage it less often than I would like. This resolution might not sound like much, but I have found that paying attention to what I eat is the best way to control it.

For work, my original idea was to write 1000 words a day, every day. I did this a few years back and had one of my most productive years ever. I backed away from it in the end because I would like to keep my weekends free. Eventually I settled on doing 3 hours of actual writing per working day. This is harder than it sounds, even if you are a supposedly full time writer like me. I’ll probably write a blog post explaining why.

And that’s more or less it. Any of you got any interesting resolutions?

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