Skill Pushes and a Looming Problem

There’s a problem looming on the horizon.

Until now most of my habits have been quite simple: a solid meditation habit, a steady exercise habit, nano-habits for identity clusters like drinking a glass of water or recording food or sleep.

But I’ll soon be at a point where most habits will need to be pushed - and I have no idea how to juggle that.

I’m not without some knowledge. I’ve pushed meditation time wise to 30 minutes. I recently completed an 8 week HIIT progression in rowing, I’ve taken classes in writing. But since there were so few of these I’ve had quite a bit of space to maneuver. I think when I have a wall of behaviors where the only thing to do is to push - mobilization, eating, writing, meditation, exercising, getting up early, etc.  - it’s not going to give me a lot of wiggle room.

I could do the same thing as I am doing now. Keep everything in a cast or reduce daily minimums to conserve willpower while I shift one skill into a different gear. But certain habits are crying out now (or will be soon) for a push. For example, in meditation, it feels as though 30 minutes just isn’t enough, and many books talk about “getting the dosage high enough” to progress. Which means that though my 30 minutes gives me good basic practice, I’m not really reaping more rewards like I would with flossing. One could argue that all exercise is like this - our bodies just adjust and you have to adjust with it or face diminishing returns.

I think one thing I can do is analyze the differences between types of skill growth. Is drinking two glasses of water really going to cause me as much system wide stress as adding more writing? I’m guessing not. What about moving my bedtime curfew from 1:20 AM to 1:00 AM? Should I do this now, even if it’s not fully a superhabit?

I’m also curious to test the limits of all of this. I have a sense sometimes that I’m giving myself too MUCH wiggle room, and tightening and compressing the whole system will give me more forward acceleration. My fear is that everything will collapse, which is a legitimate concern. But I have a series of behaviors that are already in place to prevent complete system wide failure (habit recording comes to mind - I’m always going to recover even if it takes a few weeks). I also have some ideas on how to mitigate such a collapse - like sandbagging, which could actually help the skills that aren’t dropped.

This is all so vague, and I don’t really know anyone at all who is discussing the pushing of skills in multiple behaviors. In the next post I’d like to try to clarify some of the terrain from just my basic intuitions.

photocred: storm by Augie Ray, gears by Gillie Rhodes, speed limit by jatin_kumar

Widgets and an Expanded Plan of Habit Formation Towards Mastery

Habits are a pain, Mastery of a skill is even more of a pain. But doing this for several habits? That’s a war on multiple fronts.

I’ve had a year’s worth of habit formation under my belt - it’s not even a problem to form one anymore. When I think about pushing this project for the future, I think about a smooth graph of habits working in harmony with one another. What’s this look like?

Imagine an entire plan for a year comprised of superhabit formation, growth cycles smoothly kicking in, ratcheting up, switching of to other skills, a year that’s a symphony of perfectly progressed advancement in all skills. Harmony is achieved by pressing just enough, but not too much to interfere with the continual upkeep of other skills.

What I feel hasn’t been discussed are small protocols that kick in at those breaking points - I’ll call them WIDGETS for now, after the small third party programs on websites or computers that kick in when you need them.

And that’s exactly what I want them to do - a small kick when the system needs it that then go away once their mission is complete.

What are some examples?

-Timothy Ferriss’ DiSSS protocol to push skill mastery
-Protocols for absorption and flow states for progression
-Flow and ritual protocols for regimentation, specifically to avoid worrying and thus leaching willpower when I’m not working
-Having absorptive habits or hobbies to help in not obsessing about pushing skills when not working
-A litany of past successes in order to push past HABIT MANIA - the feeling of needing to do everything at once because everything needed to be in place yesterday
-Other protocols for specifically getting past the emotional aspects of breaking points - like Vipassana to push past depression or that drowning feeling
-Taking weekends off in order to preserve sanity

I think this might be different from a previous idea I had - nested habits . Nested habits are protocols within an already established habit, while widgets would be auxiliary protocols to make sure the whole program (across all habits) is moving as smoothly as possible. So that may or may not include skill mastery pushes.

Weekends Off?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the off time regarding this project. A lot of sources highly encourage things like taking weekends off to prevent to boost productivity for the week. Other sources also highly recommend increasing the value of time off with things like hobbies - Warren Buffet plays the ukelele, Bush oil paints, etc.

These are, perhaps, two separate issues but they’re only getting more distinct as I mull it over in my head. For weekends off, on one hand, it seems antithetic to my project. A habit is something you do automatically with regularity. Ideally that means every day because the more regular a task is the more (presumably) benefits you’ll reap. Automatic tasks don’t sap will, so why take weekends off?

There are some counters to this. Certain tasks are a pain to do and do take energy no matter if they are habits or not. The act of sitting down to write is automatic, but actually working through editing a text is hard. And presumably that’s because I’m not just executing a habit, I’m also working on a difficult skill, which does sap resources. 

It becomes more and more clear that all of this isn’t just 2 dimensional graph, it’s at least three dimensions with various phases. And rejuvenation may not just be needed for habituation, but it may well be needed for increasing in skill towards mastery.

So perhaps habits not yet in 70′s or 80′s can be dropped on the weekends. After all, the more I do a task, the more it gets to be a superhabit. But once it’s a superhabit, I’m on the skill/mastery track. Perhaps weekend habits can be maintained by doing something fun and easy - a fun bit of writing, a walk for working out, a pinterest safari for marketing, etc.

But another argument for weekends even while forming a habit comes from the SRHI. It’s pretty hard to gauge whether it feels weird NOT doing a habit if you’ve never not done it. A weekend away from habits can, at some point, be a proving ground for that feeling, gauging its strength.

The worry with all this is getting so exhausted that all of it collapses. I’ve been taking more weekends off in year 2, and I’m still wondering if it should be a part of my schedule. Definitely hobbies and regimentation and not worrying after work will help. But I have to wonder if this is another hole in the system I need to plug in.

A Practical Discussion on How to Reach Harmonic Consonance with Multiple Habits

Right now I have several superhabits. My eating is about to achieve superhabit status, I’ve dropped my work habit, and my dynamic meditation is already at the habit stage.

So why am I having days where my willpower/endurance is utterly drained?

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There are probably several reasons that involve sleep and eating - I’ll brainstorm other variables later. But one main reason is that I’m pushing a lot of my habits and trying to break out of plateaus in superhabits. Here’s a rundown:

Bodyweight exercises - I’m trying to push the number of reps and I’m including other exercises like squats and reintroducing tabatas.
Fixed meditation - I’m switching from basic meditation to first bringing up negative emotion and then quelling it
Eating - I’m at the verge of a superhabit here. I theorized that right before gaining superhabit status there’s another danger zone. And danger zones are where endurance takes a hit.
Writing - I’m trying to write things that are really difficult for me, specifically research-based writing.
Dynamic meditation - I’m extending my sessions from 20 minutes to an hour. This has largely happened naturally, but I might have pushed it a little too fast.

Those are at least 4 drains of my willpower/endurance. Of COURSE I’m barely getting through the day. But how do I solve this?

Ideally what I imagine in graphic form is a series of constantly shifting willpower/endurance drains, where some habits are reined back and one is put into overdrive.

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(apologies for the bad sketch)
So in the top left is stage 1 where the second habit will require more willpower for one reason or another. And in the top right in stage 2 willpower requirements are shifted to the first habit. The bottom two are the same habits with regards to work or improvement. Ideally willpower gets you past a hump and when willpower normalizes, you can use that excess on busting past plateaus or whatnot in other habits - BUT output remains the same as when you were expending more willpower.

So right now I want to improve writing. I want to form a nested habit of research-oriented writing. But really it’s not a full habit - writing isn’t a big deal, it’s getting over the automaticity of starting research-oriented writing. If I were to record this, I wouldn’t do the full SRHI - I’d probably just include automaticity questions, and I’d think of implementing a Greasing the Groove strategy to get it done faster.

While I’m leaking willpower/endurance for this, I should dial back all other habits to maintenance mode. So bodyweight exercises are just at pushups and bridges. Meditation, I’m just doing basic meditation, for dynamic meditation I’d do 20 minutes.

Once I’ve successfully overcome the fear of research-oriented writing and I can do the task fluidly, I can bring it back as one slot in a greater writing habit and cycle it along with pitching, writing improvement, narrative first drafts, etc.

I think I once called this process “crutching” because it reminds me of leaning on something in order to maintain forward motion.

I think this process is very interesting because it’s this intersection of regimentation, habituation, and mastery of a skill that things all get really dicey. Either you lose a habit, or your skating along, or everything collapses.

Restructuring Habits

Although my super habits are down cold, my two non-habits - eating and work are pretty much in shambles. I’m not worried about either though - once I get into the zone in eating it gets consistent fast. And with work it’s understandable - I haven’t worked the last week for the holidays and that absence is affecting my SRHI score.

More worthy of discussion is the plateau I find myself in superhabits.

Writing is about to change. I want to alternate between writing and editing, and I’ve started doing this to good affect. I’m also considering adding another day of pitching and one day of blogging on the weekends.

I need to memorize the SRHI to continue on with record keeping, but it’s not that serious of an issue.

Lastly, I’ve plateaued in bodyweight exercises. I’ve started doing the one arm pushup progression against the wall, but it’s not that difficult and I’m not sure if I’m doing it correctly. Other exercises are stalling - my dragon lifts are pretty much the same right now and my bridges aren’t necessarily improving. 

I realize with this that though it feels like I’m flailing, it really hasn’t been that long. It just sort’ve feels like a long time because it’s the holidays and I’ve been traveling and relaxing because of it - the holiday effect. But I would like to throw more stuff into the mix - maybe start lower body exercises or whatnot. 

I’d like to start implementing my fixed meditation plan as I outlined in my book. It basically consists of practicing multiple arenas of meditation classifications. I’ve started doing a it a little bit but I want to make it cyclical - changing it up every day. 

This cycling idea started with bodyweight training and has seemed to just leak over to all my superhabits. I’m curious how it works. I’m wondering if it’s a good way to bust past a plateau. But I also think it’s completely like cheating. Up until the superhabit formed I’m normally doing one task - usually in Tiny Habit form. But once the “slot” coalesces not only does the actual amount of one task grow, but I can get several tasks for the price of one.

I’m ideally not just writing, I’m using the slot of writing to write, pitch, blog, and edit. I’ll see how it goes, but if it goes well things are about to get really interesting, and either way I’m going to welcome the changes.

Day 290 & Writing Habit Update - Am I Ready to Declare Superhabit Status?

Day 290 Record Keeping
Day 259 Fixed Meditation 
Day 205 Bodyweight Exercise  (3 bridges, 3 dragon lifts)
Day 132 Writing = 80 (editing meditation book)
Day 305 Eating = 67
Day 62 Work = 65
Great sleep, great wakeup. 
Trying to work more on the dragon lift - the last part of the dragon flag. Though I can get up onto my shoulders it’s still difficult to maintain enough ab contraction to stay level  - I feel working on the dragon lift will help with that.

Writing Habit Update - Am I ready to Declare Superhabit Status?

Writing appears to have reached superhabit status.

I am concerned about making it official. I had a week of continual superhabit status writing (two weeks ago)- but that was because of NaNoWriMo. Now I’m doing mostly editing.

One side of me says it might be best to wait until I can take the SRHI for a week of regular writing.

The other side of me says - that’s just negative thinking! I kicked ass on NaNoWriMo - that’s not a walk in the park, that’s taking the habit to it’s limits! And editing involves a lot of writing as well - that’s a special project, but it’s also taking it further. And I’ve been 80 and above for almost a week on that as well.

I’m going to think about it.

Also - a great idea is to do alternating cycles - just like my bodyweight workouts. One day writing, the other day polishing and editing. That would be amazing. And if I can include pitching in the cycle I’d pretty much have my freelance work life taken care of.

Feeling pretty good about that writing habit!