I’ve been reading about habits lately and will soon share my thoughts on a couple fantastic books. First, Rich Habits by Thomas C. Corley is a quick, easy read and can be knocked out in an afternoon. The second, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is a more in-depth study of habits. I read it two years ago and felt a need to re-read it again due to my experience with Building-Income.
Focusing on habits was spurred by reading many blogs that continually hit on the subject. Some may not realize they are even talking about habits when they discuss a chosen topic. It’s one of the over-arching issues with personal finance and investing.
Last week, I slid into a depression and stopped writing in the morning. My work on the blog faltered and I had a hard time keeping up with my social media responsibilities. I also stopped working on my fiction projects. Luckily, I still hammered out my work responsibilities, but when I returned home I dropped on the couch, grabbed the remote and started Netflix.
It was more than a full week before creativity returned and I wanted to get in front of the keyboard.
So, with all my previous focus on habits, specifically my habits, how did I so easily fall apart last week?
Once Again, I’m the King of My Castle!
Earlier in the year, I wrote The King of My Castle, a story about my girlfriend and kids going on a trip without me. My previous financial bad habits returned when I pulled out a credit card and ran amok. Now, it wasn’t the end of the world and I could pay for the things I purchased in full when the bill arrived.
The lesson I learned from that experience is that when my girlfriend goes away for an extended trip, I need to avoid making crazy purchases.
Unfortunately, the following were additional things I should have kept in mind.
- I missed my girlfriend.
- I also missed the boy.
- Beyond that, I missed our routine.
- Without them involved in my daily life, my habits fell apart.
My Normal Life
Every morning, I wake up between 5:00 and 5:30 A.M. I’m lucky that I wake up naturally at this time without an alarm clock. I haven’t used an alarm clock in years, except on those days when I need to catch an airplane.
After starting the coffee, I proceed to the computer, where I can write in quiet until 6:45ish when the rest of the house starts to come alive. That time is so incredibly valuable to me. I do my best writing then.
I don’t mess around with Twitter, YouTube or any other internet distraction. It’s me and Word and we are one. That is a be bit dramatic, but it’s the best creative time for me.
I then head to the office and focus on the various tasks at hand. After the workday is done, evening writing will be hit and miss.
If I’m lucky, the boy will want to go outside and throw either the football or baseball. I say ‘lucky’ because he’s at that age when friends are often over at our house or he’s at theirs. It’s summer and life is wonderful to a kid. All you need is a bike, friends and the occasional video game.
He’s my built-in buddy so when he’s around I’m going to play with him. My time with him is limited. Not only due to his friends, the shared time with his biological dad, but his age. Soon, he won’t want to play with me any longer. It just won’t be cool.
I may get some additional writing in when mom and the boy sit down for their nightly reading. When they share a book, she’ll read some and he’ll read some. I think it’s a wonderful thing they do. I’ve done it a few times with the boy, but it’s clear that he enjoys that time more with mom. That’s okay. I’ll take running routes in the back yard with him.
The nightly writing is less productive than my morning work, though. There are interruptions, social media responses, analytics to check and more. I’m not as focused at night, but I realize that. Creative writing is a morning activity. I do mostly editing at night along with blog responsibilities.
Everyday I’m limited to a solid hour and a half of writing. I’m more fortunate than others, of which I’m aware. I’m extremely blessed.
Too Much Time on My Hands
Work expands to fill the time available for its completion – Parkinson’s law
When my girlfriend left for California recently, I was left alone in the house. I was determined not to repeat the credit card debacle of a year prior. This time around, I was going to be smart. I had a blog to report to and didn’t want to make the same mistake.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t prepared for something else.
I’ve always liked being alone. In fact, I’ve reveled in it. However, I didn’t realize this new reality creeping up on me. My assistant did, though. She told me recently that she knew whenever my girlfriend went out of town.
“How?” I asked.
“You get mopey.”
I stared at her. “Mopey?”
“Yeah. Normally, you’re happy. Then suddenly you’ll be mopey a few days. Then you’re happy again. We all know when she’s away.”
It’s surprising when others can see something you can’t perceive in yourself.
So, yes, I was mopey when she left and, this time, I realized it.
When I woke up in the morning, I knew I had plenty of time to write. At first, I thought it would be heaven to get extra creative time. It wasn’t. I felt lost. I circled around ideas for a bit and then went to Twitter to play. When that got old, I went to YouTube to watch videos.
At night when I came home from the office, I immediately dropped in front of the TV. I figured I would have plenty of time to write later. That never occurred. Recently, I’ve limited myself to watching only one hour of television a night. While she was gone, however, I completely feel off the wagon and watched several hours a night. The weekend was an embarrassment. The only highlights I can give are I mowed the lawn and I showered both days. The rest of the time was spent in the company of Netflix.
I couldn’t focus on writing. There was too much time to do whatever I wanted so I didn’t do anything. No new writing was done.
At the end of the week, I was trying to just edit the writing that I’d done in advance. Even that seemed mentally challenging.
I began to question myself on the blog and my writing in general. I went back to the negative self-talk which is a bad habit I’ve carried for my entire life.
My writing, blogging and self-confidence was a mess.
At first, I thought it was because my girlfriend wasn’t around and attributed to be lonely. However, after reviewing the week with her, I realized it was the routines in my life that were thrown out of whack.
It was all about habits.
Routine by Feel
My routines are based on feel. They aren’t based on a real schedule.
For example, when I feel it’s time to get up, I do. I don’t have an alarm clock to signal it’s time to start my day.
Therefore, I don’t have a pre-determined time to start and stop writing, I just do it before the family wakes up.
The same occurs at night. I cram in a few minutes of writing until I feel tired and go to bed.
If I had a well-established routine, I might have avoided this down time. If I had a scheduled period of writing every morning, from 5:30 A.M. until 7 A.M., it wouldn’t matter if my girlfriend was home or not. That would be my writing time.
The reverse would be true for the evening.
Instead, when I’ve scheduled my entire writing life, both blogging and fiction, around how I feel, there was bound to be a moment like this.
I’m not sure if I need to change how I’m writing. Until this past week it was going well and I was running at full steam. Unfortunately, I lost a lot of momentum and am working to ramp it back up. I never realized how my writing habits were formed or triggered. This was a big leap for me.
However, it’s humbling to admit that I can be tripped up by something as simple my family visiting grandma for a week.
My work day is based heavily on a schedule. The calendar and the clock are my friends. I think that’s why I'm rarely thrown off. It’s also why whenever anything wonky has occurred in my life, I like going to the office. It’s a place of comfort. The routine, the habits, are reassuring.
When my girlfriend came back from her trip, I was at a conference which continued to throw my schedule off kilter. Finally, with both of us back home, everything returned to normal. The first morning, I was able to sit down at the keyboard and create the first draft of this post.
Habits are critically important to our success.
It’s surprising how easily they can be affected.
How are your habits developing?
By feel or by purposeful scheduling?