What I Learned Completing NaNoWriMo in 5 Days - Part II

3) Uncertainty in my editing process prevents me from writing.


NaNoWriMo offers a virtual gift basket of goodies when you’re a confirmed winner. This year’s included a special Master Class session by James Patterson on editing a novel. 

What stuck out was his matter-of-factness on the number of rewrites needed.

“I like to do many drafts…but I do these drafts very quickly - I do not, I don’t get constipated, I don’t get worried, I just keep going, let’s do it again, let’s do it again, let’s do it again…”

Although I’m getting better at outputting a draft, I still get stuck on editing it. Why? For one, it’s a lot harder to quantify. I can quantify rough draft output, and because I have stats I can begin to troubleshoot. How do you judge the quality of an edit? Can you consistently know how much time it will take? Or score it based on its sliding strength quality?


Because I cannot answer these questions clearly, the pressure to do a quality rewrite builds. Patterson doesn’t seem to care - there’s no pressure because he knows that he’ll do a bunch of them. And this prevents him from getting stuck. 

So taking from him, what if I matter-of-factly always had to do 3 rewrites? In my mind, just thinking about that already lessens the pressure I feel, and I think it might function very much like a lowered daily minimum does for starting any habit. Going to the gym for an hour might be a pain, but how does doing two pushups feel?



First, by quantifying my output it not only makes writing drafts manageable, but predictable. In a larger system of other habits, knowing exactly when I’ll get an article done is priceless. Right now, I can’t predict that unless I’m forced into it on a deadline, and I think that might be one of the bars of a true professional writer. This plays into all sorts of things like long term planning and the regimentation of my day.

Word count also helps me gauge my overall skill at writing rather than placing emphasis on one particular article - it shifts me into a process rather than goal driven orientation.


Secondly, the Pomodoro Technique and just starting the timer completely changes the moment where the habit “fold” is created, especially how it should be efficiently created with implementation intention. Rather than “wake up, then start writing” it’s more “get up, then set up blank page and start timer”. It’s an interesting form of a failure to start, because here properly formed habit has nothing to do with the habit itself, it has to do with the starting of the session regardless of content. And this fits into a meta model I have on self change, namely that once we properly get a system of change going, it works regardless of starting state. Self change then becomes more about the system rather than the person. More on that in another post.

Lastly, mastery over writing, something I’ve struggled with, comes in three major parts. Writing a draft, research, and editing. I’m nailing the draft writing, but research still bogs me down, as does editing. But I believe that Patterson’s approach may definitely be the key to helping me with the latter. It may also be a technique for dealing with other habits where clearly quantifying progress is not as possible.

photocred: rewrite by Alonso Mayo, microscope by Kiran Foster, folded paper by Deb Etheredge

Back From Travels (And What I’ve Learned)


Finally got back from a rather long trip with Lydia’s family. It involved a week around Barcelona, then a week in Morocco - from Marrakech, a road trip through the High Atlas to Fez (with a stop to camp in the Sahara - see above pic). Back in Spain we road tripped through parts of Southern France with a stay in Carcassonne, a stay Vielha  (in the Pyrenees), a day trip to Andorra, a coastal road trip through the Basque region, a stay in San Sebastian and Llanes in Asturias, and a beautiful drive through the Picas de Europa National Park. We finished with a stay in Bilbao before catching the early train back to Barcelona.


But enough about travel (except for some additional pics) - what I actually learned with respects to this project were:

1) Vegetarians are crazy good at sticking to their eating identity. Lydia’s sister-in-law has been vegetarian for a long time and has traveled quite a bit. She makes it work. She buys food like yogurt and nuts and stocks it, eating them in case she doesn’t have good food options. She eats around meat on dishes. 

I’m realizing more and more along this project that the auxiliary actions - for me it’s Sunday Meal Prep, for her stocking up on veggie food items, make more of a difference than struggling head on with eating right (and behaviors in general). I need to learn how to do what she and other vegetarians in my life do.


2) Proper preparation is still lacking in my travel protocol. I somehow didn’t carry a notebook and pen with me. I had multiple chances to change this behavior - I could’ve bought one back when we came back to Spain and had a night in Barcelona. 

Now, the normal old Biju would say - just do it - get a notebook, and continue to fail with this strategy again and again. But I’m not that person - this project looks into the mechanics of why I didn’t get one. And the truth is, I was too busy. I was doubling up on everything about 4 days before our guests arrived so I didn’t have any time or will to do the most important thing in travel prep: implement intentions and get the basic tools necessary for recording my habits.


Because whether it’s my natural growing propensity for self regulation or this newer trick of artificially upping my basic willpower requirements a couple of days before, I’m doing my habits even in the weirdest of conditions. 

I noticed that my Achilles was tightening up while doing a lot of walking every day, so I started doing a few of of Kelley Starrett’s exercises in the back seat of cars (I need to get some more of his tools to do this even better while traveling). I meditated in cars, and even on the back of a camel in the Sahara. What I’m not doing, is recording those instances, which leaves me untethered to a master plan. So it naturally petered out towards the end of the trip.

One option in prep is to have the last day before travel be totally free and dedicated completely to mental contrasting and implementation intention for the trip - sort of like a moment of reflection elite athletes go through before the action, visualization exactly how every part of the race will go. So instead of giving myself time off after the trip, do a brief bit of it before the trip so that I don’t automatically self sabotage. How I’d incorporate artificially advanced minimums into this is something I’ll have to think about. Maybe 4 days of difficult routines, followed by the final day before the trip being completely free? I don’t know, I’ll have to experiment.


3) Lastly, specifically lowering minimums can result in more output. This ties with the last point, but I didn’t even attempt to do any writing on the trip. One of our group journals without fail, and there’s really no reason why I couldn’t, if I gauged how to lower my minimums for writing. And I really haven’t pinned down a specific strategy to do this for all my routines.

On one hand, my ideal is to ratchet forward EVEN WHILE TRAVELING. On the other, there is value in keeping a minimal placeholder for a habit, and often times time requirements prevent the advanced instance of a progressed habit. 

While one day may give me the time to do a long walking session (most travel days are like this) I may not be able to do a full hour of serious writing. It’s more likely to be able to work on my eating than it is to do a 45 minute formal sit for meditation, especially if it’s an utterly full day. And I go back and forth on this - I think that it may well be that having a full habit while traveling is a level of habituation that’s even more advanced than a superhabit, and that skill need to be advanced to this level one at a time.

If that model is correct then the very first skill I need to master is recording, which underscores the biggest mess up I had on this trip.

Experiment on Sandbagging and Travel: Part II

Conclusions (Did it work?):
I’d tentatively say…yes, but it’s hard to say without doing a control. I’ve never gone to the gym while traveling, and I’ve never had that much control over food while traveling. Doing an advanced HIIT was incredibly. Meditating during conferences, writing on the plane and during freetime at a conference…incredible, things I wouldn’t have thought possible for me.

Is it directly because I artificially sandbagged the system beforehand or have I just improved in general? I really can’t say. I did however learn several interesting things.

What I learned:
Patterns: There seemed to be an odd pattern or sense of balance for what I did and didn’t do. If I had excellent control over eating, I didn’t do meditation. If I exercised, I didn’t do writing. I set up a rudimentary scale counting each full completion as a 1 and a partial as a .5 out of 5 elements - eating, writing, exercising, food, and meditation. Here’s how it came out:
Day 1 - 3/5
Day 2 - 3/5
Day 3 - 3/5
Day 4 - 3/5
Day 5 -  0  

Despite the Reproducability Debacle, in my experience, the idea of Willpower as one depleteable resource seems to constantly prove itself true.

Challenge: I also got this odd sensation that this felt so much like a 30 day challenge, and everything that could be applied to them could be applied to this. Like 30 Day challenges, flash diet type exercises seemed to spur on my control. It also strongly felt as though it was its own progression. That is, the art of doing things while traveling is its own skill that progresses.

I can’t point to any data, but that’s how I strongly felt - like a new habit, you kind’ve scrabble around to get a hold of it for a bit at first, and only then do you actually make progress. Which is interesting because now I want to travel again to test it all out and grow more!

Possible strategies:
1) Flash diet everything. Take a pic of everything that needs to be done.
2) I feel gamification, even a pen and paper one, would work really well here. The competitive spirit really seemed to work mentally to doing stuff. There was this girl whom I’ll talk about more, who worked out every day early in the morning, and after talking about it with her she asked if I was going to show up at 5 am like her. I didn’t, I showed up at 7, but the challenge got to me. That should be harnessed.
3) Record. I failed miserably at this. Jotting down notes at the end of the day or at the beginning needs to happen. This is difficult because there were some days where I had to struggle to crawl into bed to pass out instantly. They had us running around a lot.
4) Wake up early…I managed to do this for two workouts, and that NEVER happens.
5) Eat regularly. Several breaks in willpower occurred after not eating. It’s easier to have control with everything, especially food, if you’re not quite ravenously hungry.
6) Implementation Intention! I did not do this and I knew better. Going in not having a plan makes you default to unproductive behaviors.

I think this was an excellent experiment. And I will be able to do this again. I believe the best thing is to add just one thing. I did the sandbagging, it worked to an extent. If I just add an additional strategy, just one, it might contribute to the overall progress of this skill.

Photocred: lab notebook by Calsidyrose, all other pics by me and my insta account

Formalizing Meal Prep Sunday

A month or so I came across a subreddit called Meal Prep Sunday. It was exactly what you’d imagine - people were making all their meals for the week on Sunday in an effort to automate their eating routines.

I have repeatedly had problems with such automation. One reason involves what I described before in posts like “Syncing with Significant Others” - Lydia and I just have different eating times to our schedules, and if we are off, the likelihood of just cheating increases. The cheating is less about craving and more about convenience. It’s also just plain hard to stick to eating well.

The last three weekends we’ve been trying out meal preparation on Sundays. We bought a bunch of glass jars, we cut up all our vegetables (which is super easy now that we have a good food processor) and I make a stock. We only do lunches right now - either salads or soups - and that alone is working out fantastically.

I see this as a huge step forward in my eating. I can also see this fitting into a larger series of food habits progressing forward. To have a half step like this makes the thought of doing a Whole 30 Challenge almost like an afterthought rather than a true struggling challenge. It’s as though these counterintuitively small habits are foreordaining future successes (as described in “Towards an Identity Model of Habits: Part III”). 

This strategy is, to me, a different one compared to most normal habits, where I’m striving for the next level of mastery and automaticity. In this identity model it feels almost like the reverse - nail the small bits and whatever 30 challenge isn’t about enduring - it’s an afterthought, it’s finishing school, it’s icing on the cake. 

This is really important, especially for eating, which we don’t really think of as a skill that can be fully mastered. Until now I’ve usually thought of it as binary - either I’m not eating right or I am. Now it’s progressive, and I’ve never really seen that - I’ve heard of people talk about it like it should be implemented in small ways, but I’ve never seen the full progression, and that’s really important for people starting out, or people like me who are just horrible at it.

Meal Prep Sunday also marks the first real non-daily habit I’ve gone after. I’m formalizing it here in this post, and am very curious just how slow it will take to crystalize. It’s also a messy habit - it involves a bunch of routines, and I’m really curious if this is the proper way to encode it for maximum long term success.

Implementation Intention:
When I first get up on Sunday, I’ll work with Lydia to make a stock, go to the store to get veggies and proteins, and put the meals together.

Mental Contrasting:
-Positive: As I said before, I think this is a very solid half step towards mastering eating for life. This change in identity foreordains success with energy levels, general long term health, and weight loss.

-Stumbling Blocks:
Doing anything on Sunday can interfere with this habit. If I travel, there’s really no way to do this, though to be fair I’ll probably be eating out anyways. If I want to meet people up or do a day trip that involves weekends or just Sundays meal prep will be thrown into disarray. Compensating would really work well with getting up early. This just underscores that good habits have a tendency to support each other just as bad habits support each other, making it incredibly hard to make global behavioral identity shifts.

Secondly, there are a lot of behaviors here. The implementation intention isn’t really precise. What is the “if”? I’d say either when I get up, or after my weekend morning routine - so after I do my pantry check, water & bacon, and note down my sleep times, I do this. Ok, fine.

But what is the “then”? Do I go to the store, do I start chopping? Do I just get all my jars out?

Quantified Food Recording

Implementation Intention: Before I go to bed I will make tea and record what I ate for the day on MyNetDiary. So far I like this app better than the widely touted MyFitnessPal, though we’ll see how it goes.

Mental Contrasting: Positives include having a solid metric and gauge on what’s going into my body. As with pantry checking, food has been a thorn in my side for greater progression in this project and I’ve had to scrap it several times. This is a potential manner in which to nail it down and get on to more interesting things and get the body I want that’s capable of those interesting things.
Obstacles include not having my phone charge in order to record my food since it is at the end of the day. Does MyNetDiary have a web correlate? Another is meeting friends late, and coming back and wanting to crash. Travel is always a problem, but oddly enough it’s not the time - usually I get home early. It’s whether or not my phone is charged.

Step ups: Deciding on wether to go the caloric route or the clean route or both and decreasing calories or cleaning up my eating. Also a flash diet for specific difficult to control food items. Another potential is a timed carb cycle or other advanced food control practice.

I like this particular formulation in that it seems to both incorporate multiple buttresses for support and it lays the groundwork to support other behaviors.

For example, it incorporates the ritual of making tea. It’s at night before bed, so it starts a control for when to go to sleep, laying the groundwork for the back end of a bookend and a future early wakeup habit. It also curtails overindulging in late night drinks because I have to go home and do something.

Brittleness and Elasticity in Habits

I had to get up early for an appointment today. The person didn’t come on time, so I sat around waiting for him - he was about, oh 2 or 2.5 hours late.

It completely threw me off my my game. I was on the computer, on Reddit, plunking around, waiting, so my initial START of my habit chain didn’t happen. And after I met the guy…I just didn’t do anything until the end of the day.

I’ve talked about what I’ve loosely termed Habit Elasticity in a relatively recent post (”Day 617 & NaNoWriMo”) and an older post (”Day 169, On the Cusp of Habit #3 and Habit ‘Elasticity’”)

I defined it in the latter post as the “snapping back in place” ability for established routines

I’m hoping that there is an elasticity to habits - that once a habit has “set” it is easier to get back into the rhythm. Which is great for 750 words. But I don’t know if my exercise habit has fully set. If it hasn’t, I’ll rely on the SRHI to know when to move on to flossing…But once the stressful period is over, my habits snap back.

I referred to this elasticity in the context of turbulent swaths of time, but it could just as easily apply to instances where the implementation routine doesn’t go well in the frame of a day.

Why did automaticity fail to execute today? The “if” of my if-then protocols didn’t occur, namely “when I wake up, I get on the rower” - instead I did other stuff. Because the first part didn’t discharge, the rest of my behaviors didn’t go off either.

In a daily manner my habits as they are constructed are quite brittle - any deviation and they shatter. But it’s interesting that this does not occur with my golden standard of habit formation - brushing my teeth. 

I’m good at toothbrushing - If things don’t go according to plan I just pick it up after the interruption no problem.

I think there are some reasons for this. Either:

1) Brushing my teeth isn’t a chronological implementation intention - it’s tied to the feeling of dirtiness/cleanness of my teeth. Therefore I’m being reminded of the need to brush my teeth constantly, during the interruption and afterwards. Chronological implementation intentions don’t have this benefit. (One a side note, it may be informative to come up with a catalog of different types of implementation intentions.)

2) Brushing is far more of a habit and is much more highly tied to my sense of self during a day. I’ve talked to athletes who have this - there’s just a nagging sense of something missing if they don’t work out. It’s more than just “having to do it”  - the activity is part of their daily identity and is lacking when the activity isn’t discharged.

3) A combination of these two things.

Clearly it’s something I need to evaluate in my habits.

Oddly enough I almost feel that sense of inevitability in daily habit elasticity with recording, especially nowadays. It is the longest habit I’ve kept up in this project, and I feel like I got practice doing the habit irrespective of a particular implementation intention in the last several months. Perhaps cross training habits like this - implementing them strictly, then loosing those strictures - helps with this.

Syncing with Significant Others

Lydia and I had a bit of a clash yesterday, at least from a habit/regimentation perspective.

She wanted me to take care of something, but it was, unfortunately, right when I do my writing. Since it’s a time based habit now that I’m pushing it, any interruption becomes problematic. I don’t do as well as I could, and if it messes up it also has a tendency to unbalance any other habits that are linked to it in the bookend.

Delays in the if-then protocol of the link then also prevent the next habit from forming efficiently. For example, if I have to take care of something after my writing habit, then my meditation habit suffers if I’ve implemented it as taking place “right after my writing is done.”

This started to get me angry and frustrated, but I got over it and realized that this problem has been bubbling up for a long time. Often times Lydia wants to eat before I do because she gets up earlier. Being out of sync pushes me subtly to hurry up my habits even when she’s not pressuring me.

She’s pretty good about not pressuring me, and we have tried to eat separately, but I feel the push nonetheless. A subtle push like this prevents me from doing quality work when I’m in my habit, which won’t at all help when I’m transitioning more and more to the quality of the work rather than it’s regularity. 

So how can I tackle the problem? Here are a few ideas:

1) Wake up earlier. I describe the benefits of this in my post “Early to Rise - The Habit of Getting Up Early” but an added benefit is that helps sync you with your significant other or roommate. It affords you greater control because you can shove more uninterrupted, un-rushed time to work. I’m reminded of one of my favorite children’s authors, Lloyd Alexander, who developed a habit of getting up at 3 am to write.

2) Have multiple chains. Rather than having an unending series of constantly expanding chains starting from wakeup, make space in those chains. For example, right now my chain is like this:
wake up ->rowing->drink a glass of water->writing->shower->meditate->record->eat

There are options here. I could do random stuff after rowing because writing is tied to drinking that glass of water. I could do the same thing before my shower because meditation is tied to the shower. There is flexibility here.

I could also start making a chain right before going to bed.

3) Complete autonomy. Address the issue and come to a mature understanding that I’m out of the picture until after I record. It’s very easy to NOT do this because it’s not like I don’t have absolute flexibility. But that way of thinking leads to an erosion of habits.

4) Focus even more on the implementation if-then link. The link - the joining of trigger and action - is the most important aspect of habit creation. So if I have to take care of something halfway into my meditation, that’s ok. As long as I continue and record right after finishing in order to protect that “joint”. 

It is, however, wrecking havoc on my eating habit because usually that’s the thing that becomes unchained, preventing me from anchoring it at any one trigger.

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to this. I’ve been informally coaching a few other people and it’s amazing how the subtle pressures of those you live with can impact this habit formation system

Properly (Re)Implementing and Eating Habit

“What do you wanna eat?”
“Idunno, what do you wanna eat?”

And so the conversation goes. I number of studies have shown that decision making of any kind tends to drain willpower. It’s called Decision Fatigue and John Tierney (who co-wrote THE book on Willpower with Roy Baumeister, “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength”  has an excellent article on it in the New York Times:

“Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?”

Personally I have lately found this to be incredibly true. It just exhausted me because it would continue on and on, and it was a daily occurrence. So my current attempt at re-implementation an eating plan isn’t so much about getting eating down - it was about preventing this fatigue.

When I first started recording my “good eating” habit it was almost 2 years ago when I was in Brazil. I had, almost by happenstance, started eating really well. Why not record it? 

A couple of reasons. I never actually did any of the techniques that encourage automaticity. No TinyHabit, no mental contrasting or implementation intention. And although it lasted for quite a while, it inevitably imploded. Automaticity just wasn’t occurring.

This really came to my attention with my rowing habit which continues to have amazing automaticity. I believe this is because of a very precise if-then protocol. When looking at the two habits side by side it makes complete sense that eating wasn’t happening. The initial formation of my eating habit had failure built into it.

Here’s what my plan looks like so far:
1. I have an eating schedule. I know exactly what I’m going to eat on which day so I don’t have to make any decisions. 
2. The first meal of the day is bookended and based on a habit chain. I have my morning chain of habits. As soon as I’m done with my meditation, I eat no matter if I’m hungry or not. That’s my implementation intention.
3. My first meal is what I consider “clean” - that’s my TinyHabit.
4. All meals are a combination of cooking and take out. Another element of my TinyHabit
5. The greatest pitfall of eating clean is, for me, having stuff to cook. I also have grocery trips scheduled. This is a part of my mental contrasting.
6. Mastering the automaticity of that first meal is my first shelf. Trying to figure out a set if-then protocol for my second meal is a challenge - it appears to be a floating habit - sometime after my chain of habits, yet far before sleep…I’m currently at a loss on how to anchor an implementation intention, but that would be my second step. My third would be to make that second eating time utterly clean. My third would be to schedule clean refeeds. All of this is my plan to push for mastery. It also sets up what actions are defined as success.

I’ve only been doing this for a few days and haven’t started recording it. I think of it as a test run. I have several other questions I need to hammer out - how does this react to travel? I haven’t yet gotten into a routine of going to the grocery store automatically - should this be separately recorded? What about eating for the sheer pleasure - is this too strict? I definitely want to include exceptions for special meals - a connoisseurship card.

However, I already feel this immense sense of relief not having to go through the rigamarole of deciding. 

Recharging Habits

Since finishing NaNoWriMo my writing habit has been lax - automaticity has been difficult to achieve. A part of that has to do with improper transitional planning - I knew exactly what I had to do during my 30 day challenge, and after it ended I was left swinging in the wind. 

Another aspect is a lack of a proper implementation intention. It had been eroded by my recent travels, and for NaNoWriMo it had changed. My unstated implementation was “write A LOT” - which I did. But shifting gears to a normal schedule my if-then protocol was gone. And this is very noticeable when compared to my very new rowing habit, which has a crisp if-then (as soon as I get up, I row), a fact that’s reflected in rapidly soaring SRHI scores.

I switched up my routine yesterday and today, immediately writing after rowing. It just feels more automatic. It appears that the closer I have a task to waking up, the more charged the habit gets. Why? I think it has to proper implementation - the further a long in the day the more willpower stores are depleted. Also more tasks come up later in the day. I need to eat, I need to go to the bathroom, I need to cook. All of those tasks are not precisely pinned down - they change, making the implementation sloppier.

That usually doesn’t matter so much - but after various forms of degradation (travel, a 30 day challenge, getting sick), it starts to make a big difference in automaticity. 

A while back I talked about the potential that all long-term habits may need a “re-charge” once and a while. Scott Young, in his post “Why is it So Hard to Create Permanent Habits?” describes this train of thought.

In the post Young talks about how many habits have to be restarted. We want to think they will be permanent, but they often aren’t - habits for him are a medium-term strategy. They are, in his terminology - “metastable” - they lower thresholds of action in some ways, but not all ways. And because of this, they often have to be restarted depending on the changing action you are doing in the habit. 

This idea of metastability conforms to my experience as the reason why I’ve found few habits have had permanent lifespans. Inevitably, the habit breaks down because of a temporary lifestyle change: a vacation, an illness, needing to move or work overtime. These create shocks which are often enough to break the behavior, increase the decision cost, making it no longer automatic when you return to the habit. 


His full post is really interesting, and I’d like to analyze it fully in a separate post. I agree that shocks will destabilize habits. But I think proper mid-range planning can compensate allowing you to “shelf” some habits at lower daily minimums (which he mentions) or, in this case, “recharge” them by rotating them in a daily regiment. 

I also think that tempering a habit comes with these periods of unstableness - there’s my quarter mark theory, there’s a dip in the graph before a superhabit is formed - without a metric to determine habit strength or a habit of tracking habits it’s hard to see whether a habit is lost, or if it’s still there and going through a weak patch.

How To Form an Eating Habit Revisited

A find it interesting that though there are many articles on how to form a habit, there seems to be few articles on how to take the scientific approach of willpower and habit formation and apply it to eating.

In my NaNoWriMo book on this project, I took some time and theorized on how I’d be able to do this if I were advising someone starting from scratch.

To do this there are a few protocols I’d apply:
1) Implementation Intention
2) Sequenced habit chains, or “bookending”
3) Start small - “TinyHabits”

Based on this, my advice would be to  start small - and one small start is focusing on one clean meal a day. I’d also advice to make this automatic by having a clear cut implementation intention that’s in a chain of habits. I start out my days rowing, then I take a shower, then I meditate. I’d tack this on to the end of that chain.

The problem with my habit as it stands is that it’s fuzzy. My habit is essentially “eat clean.” That doesn’t really promote automaticity. Automaticity grows from having a clear time or sequence - an “if-then” parameter in the  mind. By not having it clear cut it promotes confusion - an unclarity in the forming habit.

It’s also all or nothing - if a Tiny Habit is ludicrously easy so that you feel like you’re more likely to do it, then having an all or nothing approach doesn’t really promote clean eating. It can’t be Tiny.

Nor does it incorporate how I prep for eating.  A nested habit would be beneficial for this- something like - on Saturday I go shopping for the week, and then I eat. 

My advice would be to fully master this as a habit, then move on to the next step.

The extension would be really difficult because there’s not really a bookmarking point for, say, eating at 6 pm. It would have to be an if-then based on time of day.

If I were talking to someone else, I’d of course start with smaller steps - removing soda, for example. But that’s not really something I have a problem with anymore - I generally drink almost nothing but water. 

I was talking to Lydia about this and she presented a counter argument. Articles have come out that suggest that things like gluten and sugar act almost like heroin in the brain, causing us to want to eat more. Her question was - would you apply this strategy to a heroin addict, or would your first step be to have them replace the drug fully? In methadone clinics heroin is replaced, then cut down.

So the analogy would presumably result in replacing wheat/sugar with substitutes, and then lowering the substitutes. Of course this is only from the Primal point of view.

I really don’t have a solution to this, except by looking at the past, seeing what I’ve done, and seeing how I’ve failed. I’ve gone the all or nothing approach, and it has clearly failed. My tendency now is to do something different, which seems to be to try to the piecemeal approach.

I do know that automaticity for my clean eating has been all over the place, and at least a portion of it has to be because I haven’t used the tools for habit formation at all in this particular habit. And it hasn’t just resulted in “fuzziness” in eating - it actually has a tendency to mess up other habits.

When I’m not pro-active about eating (pro-active being striking at a prearranged time versus “whenever I’m hungry) eating becomes an interruption in the habit chain of my morning. I believe that striking first allows me to incorporate it into the fold. And if I do this, I have yet another solid portion of the chain to implement another habit - writing or recording, both of which have been adversely affected.

I definitely think that other techniques I’ve used have really helped - especially the Flash Diet, which supercharged my eating during my 30 No Bread Challenge. I feel this can be incorporated into my progression.

Dynamic Meditation Revisited Part III- Implementation Intention & Mental Contrasting

The first step is Implementation Intention. This is kind’ve weird because it’s not a discrete task - rather it’s one that needs to be performed in life. But hey, why not apply it to something I’m really nervous with? Is that good or bad? I don’t know, but let’s try it

Implementation Intention:
I will perform 20 minutes of dynamic meditation at the beginning of the day when I do my first real task - my work habit on weekdays, and my writing on weekdays. I will start by putting up a word file to record things on the side of my computer screen to list out when the emotions arise and what I do to counter them. I will record this on my blog as well.

Mental Contrasting:
1. What positive changes can occur in my life if the habit is fully a part of my daily routine?

If dynamic meditation is a part of my daily routine I will be able to not be ripping myself up to accomplish my goals like I have been recently, and do so constantly in my life. So much energy gets wasted on just trying to maintain, and doing so has me barely able to do anything during a day. To be able to recover that would be amazing.

I want to be someone like Ari from Entourage, who is never ever really broken, like Vince, where every day, positive or negative is all good. I want to be like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who always looked forward despite overwhelming odds. For him, being weird was a positive - not being at the cool kids table wasn’t something to feel beaten up over - it meant he got to create his own damn table.

I want this so that I can accomplish all my wildest dreams without feeling ripped a part in thinking that I’m not accomplishing anything at all. I want this so I can accomplish all my goals, this project, and beyond. I want to be a force to be reckoned with, unshakeable, to uproot all this negativity from out of myself. I live a life that is fantastic, that people would kill for, and there’s no point in living it without enjoying it fully.

2. What could go wrong in forming this habit?

I could not do other habits - writing or work - that could cause me to therefore not do my 20 minutes of dynamic meditation. I could feel lazy and not want to get started on it. I could get bogged down on what the correct perfect formation of this habit is instead of just STARTING. I could forget to not write down my list of arising emotion in that 20 minutes - I got lazy about it last time around and it resulted in fewer and fewer results. I could not have access to my computer and not have a pen and pad to jot all this down - or just be too busy and forget to bring it with me, like when I’m traveling. I could abandon the habit in my breaking points or in the quarter mark period, where sustaining the habit becomes difficult to endure.

The Next Habit: Writing

Today 3 of my 4 habits reached “Superhabit” status at 80 and above on the SRHI. They feel pretty effortless, especially after getting used to my new unrecorded habit in the last two weeks of starting new duties at work. Two weeks ago I felt endurance depleted, but now I feel very solid, and it has been reflected in my scores.

I think it’s time to attempt a new habit. I thought about a simple habit like flossing, or going back to dynamic meditation. In the book Do the Work Steven Pressfield talks about fear and procrastination pointing to what you should do next. For me, that’s writing - I tend to avoid it like the plague.

My first attempt with this habit was with 750words.com over a year ago! According to my records, it was my longest running recorded habit at 175 days - though I had severe problems with consistency. I officially scrapped it at the end of Feb 2014.

In this new iteration I need to combine all the things I’ve learned so far. I need a solid implementation intention - an if-then of a trigger and the action. This will merge with the idea of “bookending” - doing something as a chain when I get up in the morning. And I need to include BJ Fogg’s notion of a TinyHabit. It also has to be scaleable - I should be able to naturally evolve and add to it.

My bodyweight training is, to date, the most efficient habit I’ve formed - a quick, steady rise to habituation with no real “danger zones." 

So, with all that in mind, my habit will be to write potentially publishable material every day. 750 words isn’t "tiny” so I’ll be writing 200 words a day. And these bits of writing cannot be diaries or meandering thoughts - they have to be something I could actually form into full pieces.

I currently wake up and meditate, then do bodyweight exercises, then record, then start work. I will put writing 200 words right after I record my habits and before starting my real work. This means I will have to off-set the recording of this habit for the next day.

I also need this to be scaleable. So I will first start with 200 words. Once I get good at that, I will extend it slowly by word count, then until I can proof a full basic article of 800 words and have one article ready to publish per day.

In my original 750 words project I would end each session by brainstorming what I would write for the next day. This is also a great practice.

This is going to be really difficult. It’s hard to do this psychologically because I fear it. Also I’m moving to a different country in one week. However, I want habits and habit formation to work irrespective of location changes, so I’d like to start now. I’m also curious if 200 words is tiny ENOUGH. The idea is that it has to be utterly easy - almost ludicrously so. We’ll see how it goes.

I’m nervous, scared, and a little excited - let’s see how this works out!


A picture from my walking route this morning. I’m rather spoiled with this, especially since it’s only a block or two away.

It’s only been Day 4 in this new habit, and I’ve already realized how badly I’ve prepped for it. On Day 2 it rained horribly all day long. Obviously I should have all my contingency plans lined up. 

The idea is to walk for an hour in total, and if it’s raining, do some kettlebell swings in my house instead.

As a part of the habit, I enjoy listening to music on my phone - so proper planning involves charging that….and I always normally forget to charge it.

All of this is going to get very difficult when I travel around for the World Cup in a month from now. It’ll be 3 weeks of travel, sometimes very early - having my contingencies and implementation intentions in line will be key through getting through it.