I’m working on a proper blog entry, but in the meanwhile I thought I’d share some tips about habit formation. Some tools I’ve been using is the app HabitRPG, and a simple excel spreadsheet.
I found out about HabitRPG about a year ago, while lurking on /r/productivity on reddit. This app works the same way an RPG does, in rewarding tasks you’ve made for yourself with XP. You decide how much value each task should have, based on how difficult you find them. Some are dailies you can tick off on your list and not worry about until they are active tasks again, others are habits you can do as much as you want, and still receive rewards each time you repeat them.
This app is free, and is accompanied by the website www.habitrpg.com, where you can join parties, guilds and do challenges. I really recommend it, because it is a fun way to create new habits, and perhaps break old ones. It uses the instant gratification of receiving XP and finding items like pets, armour etc. to feed the “habit loop”. The thing that makes it the easiest to form a new habit is instant gratification. That is why making it a habit to check your social media sites is so much easier than perhaps to do three sets of 15 push-ups every evening. You might not feel like you are getting stronger each time you do the push-ups, but with social media, you get the instant gratification and entertainment you crave, so you keep coming back. After a while, people might say “have you been working out?” but by then you’ve already been pushing yourself every night the past few weeks, without any form of reward. That is where I’ve found HabitRPG to be a great tool. I often feel as if my revising amounts to nothing, and that the study session did not pay off to the degree that I wanted it to. However, if I keep at it for many weeks straight I will see results, perhaps in how much faster I can do a task, or my being able to understand something I previously could not. This reward is far from instant, so getting potions to hatch new pets, or a new sword for my avatar right away is much more gratifying.
The excel spreadsheet is something I’ve been working on this week, with the help of my father. He used it while working on his PhD, to break down bigger tasks into smaller ones that were less daunting than just “finish your PhD!” For me it’s a tool to spread out my workload before my upcoming exams, so that I know how much time I can use on each chapter. I also use it for my workout schedule. The great thing about formatting in excel is that you can use as many tabs as you want, colour coordinate them, mark specific dates, like labs, exams etc. You have to set aside some time to create your own formatting to suit your needs, as well as planning REALISTICALLY how much work you are able to do in one day. If you plan to do too much each day, you will burn out, and not do any of it. You need that instant gratification of marking a task as “done” on your list, because leaving them unfinished will only make you feel disappointed in yourself, which you shouldn’t be, because in my opinion, just doing one of the many tasks you’ve set for yourself is an accomplishment.
By the way, I know I did not stick to my posting schedule over the Easter holiday, and I’m sorry! What I learned over the break is that I do not concentrate well when working with other people, which was last week’s study technique. Since I spent a lot of time goofing off, I did not want to write a huge blog entry about something so subjective. Instead, I’m making it up by finding out techniques to learn whether you are an auditory learner, visual learner, kinesthetic learner or if you learn best just by reading.
Looking forward to the results! I think I can make some interesting findings 🙂