Fri, 08 Aug 2014

Doing something every day: what got me onto this idea and why I'm writing about it

A blog post I read recently -- before I travelled for a few weeks, then got back into my daily life here -- inspired me to action. So, after I did get back into my daily routine, I thought it was time to make a public commitment and go for it. The idea of doing a little bit every day towards your goals is certainly not new to me -- we've discussed it on this blog several times, in fact. But this blog post was so relatable to me, and the results which the author reported achieving when he applied this daily discipline looked so successful, that this really motivated me. So go over and read John Resig's account of coding every day.

The mechanism which he describes of building up a week's worth of expecations that can't possibly be fulfilled in a day of work really resonated. In fact, I gave the post to my wife to read as a well-worded explanation for my sometimes weekly cycle of exhaustion which I recently realized was coming from this mechanism. Now the strategy which he applied to overcome this, of doing a little each day instead of trying to do a lot once a week, is well-known. But the evidence which he presented for its positive effect in his life was riveting to me. Both the quantitative evidence (the Github activity chart) and the qualitative (his list of changing experiences). For me this functions as a strong motivator; I guess because it's such a concretely told story of the impact of this behavioural change.

If doing a little every day is one keystone strategy to learning, habit change, and effective work, perhaps the other most important one I've read about is public commitment. If you want to change a habit, you need to engineer your environment to make it harder to keep doing the old habit than the new. And one of the most powerful forces you have at your disposal is your web of social relationships. So I've been told. And I suspect it works similarily not only for habit change but for any kind of 'getting stuff done'. The strongest motivator is the social relationships in which your daily activities are embedded. If you want to do some hard work, you'll be much more likely to stick with it if you have people waiting for you; either to work on it together or at least to be interested in your progress.

So that's why I want to make the change of doing a little bit every day, and why I'm making myself blog about it. I will continue with further definition of what it is I want to work on in upcoming posts. Also, published simultaneously with this is a report of what I did yesterday and the day before (the first two days of my new pattern).

If you didn't click through above, here's the link again to John Resig's post. Also, if you have the extra time, click to through Jennifer DeWalt's project which he links. Really cool!