Our brain runs on default settings much of the time.
I’m reading The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.
A Rough And Dirty Summary Of The Book
(This is a horrific bastardization of Duhigg’s book. Please read the book.) According to Duhigg, the brain uses habits to conserve energy and spare us the life-numbing problem of having to make a decision on everything. We do things without thinking. Something cues us, we enter a “habit loop” of action, and we receive a reward. We can have good habits and bad habits. We can’t eradicate bad habits, but we can change them by learning to recognize the cue, change the habit loop, and receive the same kind of reward.
There are also things called “keystone” habits which, when changed, have a domino effect on other habits in our life that we wouldn’t have thought were connected. Duhigg also talks about willpower, and how we have a daily limited bank of it, and why your job might be decimating your supply before you get home from work.
The keystone habit concept is what interests me.
Is Sunday a Keystone Habit?
God said we should rest on Sunday. Believe as you will, but it makes sense to rest one day a week.
Rest your body. Rest your mind. Get your stress level down. Kill the worry for at least one day. Get the focus back. Rest means not killing yourself with recreational activities, exhausting yourself having fun. It doesn’t mean doing projects around the house. Rest is rest. Bringing it down a notch. Collecting yourself away from the activity and noise of the previous week.
I thought that I did rest on Sunday, that I was doing it right.
I didn’t officially go to work. I didn’t do much that was strenuous. However…I did work on my computer.
Which led to social networks. Which led to email. My calendar. Scheduling. To do lists. Panic. Chat. Random Googling1. I relaxed and napped to the point of over-sleep when I took a break. Ate junk. Then I rushed back onto my computer to work on freelance projects. Cleaning out my email led me in all directions. Hopped onto Basecamp to see what was coming up this week at work. The TV is on. My friend is in the other room on his computer.
All of this led to Sunday nights being a most hated night of the week because nothing seemed to get done. My mind was splintered in many directions, a new week was coming, and I wasn’t ready.
Multi-tasking is a myth, and I have developed the habit of Sunday being a catch-all. Computers and the Internet conspire to steal all the time in existence. (Click to Tweet)
As I read Duhigg’s book, I wondered about Sunday. Was it a keystone habit for me? At the very least, it was full of bad habits. Surely a change there would make some difference in the rest of the week.
No Computer Sundays
I decided to commit to a no-computer Sunday. No tablet, either. Just reading, writing, or drawing. No to-do lists for the coming week.
These ridiculous Venn diagrams that you see here illustrate what I identified as three areas of life I’d like to improve, three areas where I think things have become negative or growing less controllable, and an attempt to find where they intersect, if they do.
Three To Increase:
- Plan: These are the goals and plans for me, my website, my art, my brand, and so forth.
- Tangibles: These include making art, writing, reading and practicing musical instruments.
- Relationships: Spending time with friends, writing meaningful letters to mail, staying connected with family, and, most importantly, God.
Three To Decrease:
- Computer: Emailing, spending time making To Do lists, updating, backing up, maintaining, and turning the tangibles from above into a digital product.
- Internet: Spending too much time reading dumb news sites, and especially on social networks whose content as of late has been a steady diet negativity.
- Freelance Work: Normally a good thing, but I have a glut of projects I know I need to extract myself from and feel bound because of fear ($$) and friendships, all the while knowing quitting them and taking a leap of my own is probably the best thing to do.
Computers, the Internet, and social media are all value-neutral, and also have helped me get to do what I love doing. It feels like they’ve taken over, though. I spend my life staring at a screen. I didn’t use to.
So I thought about these six things, and how they are connected. I wondered how I might possibly make a dent in the right direction, if there was a “keystone” habit that might exist that was feeding this. I decided to try Sunday. Sunday was all askew.
Is It Going To Work?
It can’t possibly hurt. It has already made me kick my own butt in gear on Friday and Saturday as far as freelance and computer work. I have to plan ahead, because Sunday can’t fix it anymore. I found I enjoyed a day without the computer on. I could get used to that.
There may be another habit that needs to be changed. The way the rest of the week stacks up isn’t quite as off as Sunday, but it’s completely backwards.
Read Duhigg’s book. He talks about everything from lab monkeys, Alcoholics Anonymous, Target, and Rick Warren’s Saddleback megachurch. Habit plays into it all, and it’s a bit terrifying as well as hope-giving, depending upon how you look at it. And then try changing things up a little bit yourself. Duhigg even has a chart to help you. See where it leads.
1 According to St. Augustine, sin proceeds from three sources: pride, lust, and curiosity. Nothing like Google to suck you into four hours of curiosity and link-driven nothingness.