Saturday, January 31, 2009

Repeating Patterns - Fake It Until You Make It

One of my favorite blogs, The Happiness Project, posted an interview with a guy talking about how relatively few unique things happen to us day-to-day and that most of what we do can be seen as repeating patterns. My takeaway from that read was to make sure my patterns promote my daily happiness and find ways to improve those patterns that don't.

First I went about identifing the basic repeated patterns within my day and wrote them down. Since I use my iPhone and Toodledo to manage my to-do tasks, it made sense to use the same tools to manage my newly identified daily patterns. Defining each of my daily patterns as Contexts in Toodledo, I prefixed each with a number so they sorted in the order in which they occur in my daily routine. Here's the Context patterns I defined:
1 Getting Up
2 Drive to Work
3 At Work
4 At Lunch
5 Drive Home
6 Arrive Home
7.0 At Home
7.1 At School
7.2 At Store
8 Going to Bed
9 On Weekend
Then I went through my pre-existing To Do list and identified into which Context each item belonged (some didn't have a context). Next I started thinking about the patterns I want to change. Mine was an exercise of what I wanted to add. Most of these items are things I SHOULD be doing but don't, like doing my morning stretches and abdominal crunches, using my WaterPik, and starting my weekly studies/homework on Monday night instead of Wednesday night. None of these things will bring me immediate happiness, but long term each will add to my overall well-being.

Stretches and crunches will reduce the back pain I experience from my scoliosis, if done regularly. I complain about the pain a lot. I don't do the stretches or crunches. Same goes with the other items. If I use my WaterPik, I don't have bloody gums when I brush my teeth, which simply grosses me out every morning, but I never take the time to use it. And if I start my studies earlier in the week, I have more free time on the weekends.

So I added these items to my To Do list as recurring items that repost upon completion. When my iPhone alarm goes off in the morning, I open Toodledo, where my contexts are displayed, selecting Getting Up, I see everything I need to do. When I get into my car, as I plug my iPhone into the car stereo, I select Drive to Work in Toodledo and see if there are any errands I need to run that morning, and it reminds me to do keggle exercises during my commute (that's embarrassing to admit!). As I transition to each pattern, I try to remember to check Toodledo.

This feels, at least initially, like the ultimate form of personal micro-management. Yet, I believe in the motto, Fake It Until You Make it, so if I keep doing these new tasks, eventually they will become second nature, just another piece in my daily patterns. The other nice thing is that I love to check things off my list, I mean I LOVE checking things off my list, so I am rewarded for doing each item because I get to check it off my list!

I've been using this new technique for a few weeks now, and it's actually working. The great thing, is that I have been starting small, adding little things, and as I realize some success with this, I am motivated to add more. I started with stretches, and then I added abdominal stretches. Who knows, maybe I'll be running again soon?

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