Monday, May 03, 2010

WWW: Habit-forming

There are a couple of things you need to know about me. First, I have a memory like a sieve. And second, I can form a habit faster than most people can form a sentence. Why do you need to know these things about me? Because they're the entire premise for this blog post, and you kind of need to know where it all started.

A couple of years ago, I realized I just couldn't remember things as well as I used to when I was younger. Whether it's advancing age or an expanding daily agenda, I couldn't say. Maybe a combination of both. But whatever's behind it, I have learned that I need to write important things down if I want to remember them. At first, I got a pocket calendar to keep my schedule, but I bought it in the middle of 2009 and it was a 2010 calendar. Of course, well before 2010 rolled around, I'd lost the pocket calendar and couldn't find it. Not that it would have made that much difference. I've never been good at keeping calendars.

Then my niece got a Palm Centro phone. Touch screen, comes with all kinds of fun little apps, including a detailed daily calendar. Wow! I was hooked. I rarely use my own cell phone, so my primary requirements until that point were compact size and a cheap minute plan. But when Paula met the Centro, it was love at first sight. So the first chance I had to change phone plans, I got myself a Centro, and the two of us have never looked back.

So, I know you're waiting for the habit-forming part of this little tale. See, I'm a habit former. I settle quickly into routines, usually bad ones. Eating too much, staying up too late, getting addicted to free online games, watching the same TV shows, sitting on the same end of the same couch at the same time every day--you get the picture. But it occurred to me that the same habit-forming nature just might be used for good as well. I could form a habit of keeping a calendar and using it to keep my busy life from spinning out of control.

So I made a concerted effort to get in the habit of keeping a calendar. And once I was in that habit, I found myself wanting to use the calendar more than I was already. More, more, more, that's my motto! Since I had a blog book tour coming up in conjunction with the publication of my January and February books, I started keeping my blog schedule on my phone. Then my monthly RWA chapter meetings. And finally, I started logging my daily pages on my calendar app, to remind me to write every day.

So, we come to my point. We're creatures of habit. We find comfort in the familiar, as long as it's also easy. But the same patterns of behavior that make us eat pizza every Friday night or get hooked on Chuck every Monday night can also help us get into the habit of writing two or three pages every day, or blogging every week. It's a little harder to form, perhaps, but the beauty of a good habit is, it's just as compelling as a bad one, once you've formed it. And it tends to feed into other good habits. Blogging once a week becomes addictive, and you find yourself challenged to blog twice a week. Checking off that three pages a day, day in and day out, makes you wonder how much more you could do if you wrote four pages a day instead. You get your head into a more organized place where your daily schedule is concerned, suddenly, you're becoming more organized in other ways as well.

So how about you? Are you a habit-former? Are there any bad habits you'd like to get rid of or good habits you'd like to pick up? Have you formed a good habit that you'd like to brag about? Tell us all about them!


Kea said...

Hmm, I can think of lots of bad-for-me habits I have, but good ones are harder to think of! :-D

I remember that in grade 11 (new city, new school) I always would sit outside the classroom on the floor, in the same spot. My history teacher would walk by and repeatedly tell me that humans are creatures of habit. The three marks he gave me for our major exams? 88, 88, 88. Final grade 88. It was some time afterward that I clued in he was subtly (or not) making fun of my own habit.

Paula said...

Ah, man, this post wasn't supposed to go up until Wednesday. I suck at the tech stuff.

LOL on the history teacher story.

I have a bad habit of chewing my nails when I'm stressed, especially if one of them chips or breaks. I seem to have a pathological need to have all of them the same length, even if it's "down to the nub."

I have formed a good habit of checking my blood pressure every day. I have high blood pressure, but I'm on medication and it's completely under control. Still, I need to keep on top of it in case there are changes and fluctuations. I also check my blood sugar weekly, using my mom's monitor, just to stay ahead of that, too. I have great blood sugar at the moment, but my mom has diabetes, and so did my dad. (He ended up on insulin shots before it was all over). I just want to stay on top of it.

The good thing is, my habit has inspired my mom and my sister to do the same. It's helped my mom bring her blood pressure and sugar down, and my sister learned she needs to see her doctor to get both levels under control. So, I'd call that a good habit.