Having Nine+ Habits and Beyond: Sleep and the Final Frontiers
Episode #9 of the course Multihabit: A radical new approach to habit-tracking by John Robin
Welcome back to the course!
So far, we’ve worked on how to manage 8+ habits, and this has now left us wondering: where do we draw the line?
With our “self-improvement” and “leisure” categories, you are all set to track every domain of your day, if you wish.
However, there are a few obstacles you might be up against and it’s worth talking about them, since our group made some interesting discoveries.
To Track Sleep, or Not to Track Sleep
It seems silly almost to track sleep as a habit, but as I neared the end of the line and saw how I was tracking over 50% of my minutes, I got curious:
Just how much further can I go?
I was also solving another problem.
I have a years-long up-and-down relationship to sleep. I have never quite found the balance. So, I wondered if I should try tracking sleep as a habit.
It fit all the criteria for how we are defining habits in our system:
When it’s time to go to sleep, I hit a timer and, in a sense, have a “single focus” on sleeping. I’m not distracted doing anything else.
Approaching sleep this way, I found, helped a lot with sleep hygiene. I left my phone in another room and went straight to bed, with no distractions. Sometimes if my mind was racing, I was reminded this was a sort of meditation, where my object of awareness was, “the process of sleeping”.
What was most helpful though was logging my time and seeing how it added up over several weeks of tracking “sleep” as a habit.
It turned out, I tended to average about 36% of my time sleeping.
This helped me specifically because it told me how much of my time was devoted to sleep, and wasn’t free for other activities.
I felt liberated from artificial stress over sleep. Instead of forcing myself to be up after just 7 hours because I “had to get things done”, I started to accept the realities of how much sleep I needed to get things done effectively.
A big piece of my habit pie came together when I took this leap.
One thing this also revealed:
There was now only one thing I was interested in “improving” on:
• Time not spent with a timer on
After I started tracking sleep, I felt more curious to track the total percentage of my time. “What was left?” I wondered.
For my own curiosity, I wondered if I could label most of how I spent my day with other single-focused habits like the others.
I made two particular discoveries in this process.
First of all, I noticed that usually, for things like eating meals or car errands, I tried to have a podcast playing. I have a great podcast playlist that lets me cover daily CBC and BBC world news, as well as great educational podcasts like BBC’s In Our Time and other history shows like Rex Factor.
So, as I thought of other small parts of my day that I wasn’t timing, I wondered about creating a “podcast” habit.
This was super helpful. My “podcast” habit tracked about 6% of my time not covered by existing habits, and I found it a fun challenge, when doing anything that didn’t require total focus, to try and put my podcast on and learn.
In fact, contrary to my previous tendencies, I found I was more likely to take a break and have a meal, rather than skip my lunch to “keep working”. My “podcast” habit went in my “self-improvement” category and truly was a great balance. I love this habit!
Beyond this, I noticed that otherwise, I did have times where I had no idea what my habit could be. These seemed just idle moments where I had no focus at all.
Coincidentally, at this time, I was also trying to decide where I draw the line between work and downtime.
I realized this was like the need for vacation. Being self-employed, there is often a fine line between work and life. Work can invade all quarters if you have not set boundaries, especially with the kind of work I do. So, I created a “vacation” habit, and it took me to a whole new level.
Once I created a “vacation” habit, I began to track nearly 100% of my time. At this point, I just got in the habit of always having a timer on. I had mapped out my habit categories so well I could almost always tell when I was in one of my particular habit modes. When there simply was “no focus” this was my prompt to put on my “vacation” timer.
The “vacation” habit didn’t just become a silly obsession with tracking time. It also got me thinking about really taking a vacation. I realized my lifestyle was missing just time away for the weekend or a short holiday—time away from my usual habits. So, I started to actually plan this time.
What’s most important about this illustration of how I filled my remaining habits is, I arrived at this from following natural curiosity. I truly enjoy tracking my time. It’s become more than a hobby—it’s a passion, and there’s a good reason I’m making an app out of it!
This was my arrival point in this system, and I recognize that not everyone is going to have this goal. So, let’s contrast this with those in our group to get a sense of other possible arrival points.
100% Is Not the Goal
Mary, Rod, Joe, and Susan didn’t copy me at all. They each decided for themselves where they wanted to “arrive” as a destination.
Mary in particular didn’t care at all about the overall percent. She really liked the Pareto 20% and that was good enough for her. Tracking other activities helped her see how much of her time was being used up elsewhere, but she wasn’t concerned with tracking it every day and managing her whole life to this extent.
That’s probably the most important conclusion we can reach in our course:
The timer will give you lots of control in your life. But it comes at the cost of potentially feeling enslaved to it.
You want to find the balance. If you get excited like me to track your time, then go for it! But if this idea scares you, then just remember that, beyond the 20% Pareto threshold, everything is bonus.
Finding Your Way to “the End”
You don’t have to come up with a habit to define every minute of your day. Instead, think about what you do in a day and how, possibly, some of it could be part of a habit you haven’t considered yet.
Alternatively, are there ways you could reorganize your day or routine to define another single-focused habit?
Stay tuned for our final lesson, where we’ll explore what this system looks like after a year has passed. What does it look like for those habits to evolve as we evolve and change?
Your next spreadsheet
Tracking 9+ Habits • 2 Weeks • Group of 5 (See first tab for instructions)
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