Tracking Two Complementary Habits

30.08.2022 |

Episode #2 of the course Multihabit: A radical new approach to habit-tracking by John Robin


Welcome back to the course!

Today, we’re going to talk about what comes next once you find you’ve aced the ability to work with a single focus on your one most important habit.

This step is exactly what you might expect: increasing from 1 habit to 2 habits.

However, this won’t be arbitrary. Here’s how to decide what you should pick next.


Discovering Your Second Habit

Once you’ve spent a few weeks tracking your time on just one habit, you might notice there’s always one other thing you feel you could also be tracking.

For example, for myself, I spent a few months tracking one habit before I moved up to two. The reason I added a second habit was because I realized, while it was great to see my month at a glance and see I was logging some great daily times for writing, well, I was missing one of the other most important habits writers swear by: Reading!

So, I decided, heck, if I can train myself to track time by the minute on one habit like writing, why not treat reading the same?

It felt a bit weird at first making this step, because I was always used to just reading whenever I had spare time, taking a book out and squeezing in a few pages.

Setting time aside, where I will have single-pointed focus on this habit, changed how I approached reading. In fact, I ended up reading a LOT MORE than I used to, as a result of this.

Most importantly, I noticed that my writing was enhanced—a lot! Spending disciplined time reading and processing how master wordsmiths put words together has served as a rich resource for me whenever I am at the keyboard coming up with what words I want to string together.

In my case, I found a complementary habit that enhanced my primary habit of writing. The general idea, though, is that as you have success tracking your most important habit, you will start to think of your next most important habit.


Ideas on How to Find Your Second Habit from Our Group

Here’s what Joe, Mary, and Rod came up with:

Joe realized, as he dived deep into his piano practice, that he wasn’t prioritizing something else he knew was critical for pianists: listening to piano recordings. So, for his 2nd habit, he picked, “listening”.

What Joe found helpful about this was, that it gave him permission to focus strictly on piano while he was practicing, while when he was working on “listening” he had permission to be away from the keyboard, listening to and studying the performances of others.

He also started to see it more like a component of his work as a pianist, and even found he would skip “junk” videos and instead try to be more strategic, watching quality pianists, or recordings of repertoire related to what he was learning for his next concert.

Something else interesting happened with Joe: He noticed that, once he got in his “listening” time, if he came across a great piano video later in the day, he would put it in a queue and save it for tomorrow’s “listening” time.

In fact, there is a habit principle we can learn from this.


The Leaky Pipe Phenomenon

Imagine the time you spend on each activity in your day like a tap turned on. When you develop single-pointed focus, this is like turning off every other tap and just having one running.

When you don’t set this kind of boundary, your day is a lot like having several taps turned partway on. Think of this like dripping taps that don’t seem to waste lots of water … until your water bill comes in.

For each habit you learn to approach with single-pointed focus, you aren’t just learning to turn that tap on, with all others off—you’re also learning how to turn that tap off when you’re not using it.

In Joe’s case, the leaky pipe phenomenon occurs when there is no sense of what it means to be singly-focused on either practice or listening. Joe used to get carried away with each of these and often felt he had no time for anything else. But once he started to see exactly how much time he spent on each of these, he was able to set a limit on them and feel less overwhelmed by what it meant to get in his practice or listening time each day.

Some extra wisdom from Mary’s discovery:

Are you still stuck on your 2nd habit? Here’s a bit of a different angle, from Mary’s discovery.

Mary found, as she started showing up to put in her workout regularly, that she also wanted to write a book on tourism she’d put off her whole life. Now that she was seeing the power of putting in time on 1 habit and tracking it, she realized she could do the same with her book goal.

So, Mary’s 2nd habit became “writing” and she finally began the Word document that saw a lifetime dream move closer to reality.

In Mary’s case, she didn’t discover a habit complementary to her exercise, but she did discover a habit that was her next most important habit.

Rod also had an urge to write. He didn’t just get into a start-up publishing business to keep busy when he wasn’t working as an accountant. His true dream was to be a writer.

Notice how, though Mary and Rod picked the same habit, they did so for different reasons.

The key here is to pick your next most important habit that you can approach as we laid out in lesson 1. Recall that in lesson 1 I said the habits we pick must be type-based and grounded in a focus mode you can sustain like a meditation session. Be it reading, writing, or listening, how you define it will help you set an intention that slowly helps you take charge of the leaky pipe phenomenon.

And it only gets better as we continue, so stay tuned for lesson 3, where we’ll see what it looks like to track 3 habits.


Your next spreadsheet

Tracking 2 Habits • 4 Weeks • Group of 4 (See first tab for instructions)


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