FREE! Plan Your Ideal Week: Bonus Workshop + Planner  →  Get the Workshop

Finding the Right Habits

We’ve been talking a lot about habits in the past few months.

Habits help us build the future we want for ourselves and accomplish our goals.

“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures”
— F.M. Alexander

In the name of habits, we decided to pull an interview from our Simple Habits course (it’s half off right now btw). We love this article with Justin DiRose because he shares about how habits are helpful when real life happens and the importance of startup/shutdown routines.

Your name and a short bio / info about you

My name is Justin DiRose, founder of Effective Remote Work host of two podcasts — Process and Remotely Working — and a technical advocate for the fully remote company Discourse.

Do you use a habit tracking app or have a way of tracking your habits? If so, what?

I started off using some pretty trendy habit tracking apps like Streaks. That worked for me for a while, but I was finding that the naggy reminder made me do the task without actually reinforcing the why behind doing it. I would do a habit for months then would wear out doing it with the app because I felt like I had to do it.

Now I track my habits lightly on paper by writing a note in my Bullet Journal when I complete a habit. I simply write what I did. Or if I need some extra help, I list out my main habits and check them off one by one.

What are some of your specific habits and routines?

Daily Writing — I’ve recently set myself to write at least 100 words per workday. I want to refine my thinking on subjects and the best way to do this is writing. The byproduct of this is content for my business’ various channels and clearer thoughts for my work.

Reading – I spend time daily reading the Bible and praying. This keeps me centered spiritually on what’s important to me. My wife and I also read the Bible together each night, which helps us connect and unwind after a crazy day chasing our 3 kids around.

Pilates – I’ve dealt with back pain from working on a computer and the only thing that’s consistently helped is pilates exercises focused on my back. When I do these consistently (and they take 5 minutes to do), I don’t deal with back, neck, shoulder, and arm pain from computer use.

Startup Routine – This is a simple routine checklist I go through when I start my work day to get me into “work mode”. The basics include: writing out my priorities for the day, catching up on work communications, and getting started working.

Shutdown Routine – The converse of the startup routine, these items help me get out of work mode. This includes cleaning up my task list for the day, taking some time to breathe and think away from the computer, and closing down tech stuff for the day.

Get the Simple Habits Course for 50% off Now »

What challenges do you face when it comes to maintaining your habits?

Finding a helpful, consistent way to keep them top of mind. If I automate them, I’m reliant only on notifications which feel too naggy for me and then I get resistant to it. If I have to manually write them, I may or may not do that depending on the day. I have yet to find a good balance that consistently works for me.

When building a new habit, what are some things you’ve done that help?

The core is having a vision for why you’re doing the thing. For example, I’ve tried daily writing habits in the past because someone else said it was a good idea. That didn’t translate to a good idea for me, however. This time around, I caught a vision for improving my thinking via writing and revising, and thus far the habit has stuck.

I’m also learning not to be too hard on myself. If I miss a few days, it’s not a worry unless I completely stop the habit. Life happens and sometimes breaking the chain needs to be okay. When the voices around us seem to say we have to do things otherwise we’re not going to be successful, it can be hard to make peace with missing habits. For me, the habit is mostly formed not when I do it consistently, but when I stop doing it for a short period and then consciously choose to pick it back up again.

Get the Simple Habits Course for 50% off Now »

Do you have any habits or routines that seem to have a disproportionately positive impact on your life?

If I’m able to get some time reading in before my kids wake up, it always puts me in a positive mindset toward the day and allows me to start from a place of working slowly instead of rushing into the day. Of course this isn’t always the case with kids under 4 in the house, but you do your best and never expect perfection of yourself in that scenario.