Week 6/2023: Beginnings

Week of 6 February 2023

The 2023 school year begins

This week Kramstable started his first year of college; the first year of his final phase of school life.

My school experience has changed a lot since Kramstable started kinder in 2011. Primary school was eight very long years, where I got to know his teachers, went to every assembly he performed in, and volunteered for parent help for almost all of his class excursions.

When he went to high school, my involvement dropped back to almost zero. I rarely interacted with his teachers and knew very little about what he did all day. Those four years went very fast. It took a while to adjust to having a more hands-off role but I got there in the end.

And now he’s at his last school, for the next two years, where the students are treated as young adults and are even more responsible for their own learning than they were at high school. It’s exciting to watch, but there are times I miss going to his school and being involved with what he was doing.

I guess this is his life now, not mine, and I’m grateful for the experiences I did have. It was great while it lasted!

I had two days of leave this week for the last two days of school holidays. Besides spending time with Kramstable (if he wanted to!), the main things I wanted to do were the Atomic Habits 30-day challenge, and to edit more photos from the Sydney trip for my photo blog.

Atomic Habits Part 2

I’ve been working through Atomic Habits author James Clear’s 30-day habit challenge to help reinforce the work I’m doing on my shoulder injury.

The cover of the book Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results. An easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones.
Atomic Habits

Creating your identity

In lesson one, which I wrote about last week, I created an identity for myself as the type of person who takes care of my shoulder and supports my injury to heal.

The second part of this is to come up with one small habit that casts a “vote” for becoming that sort of person. James Clear explains that you need a really small habit that takes next to no time to do, to make it as easy as possible. And this doesn’t have to be the habit you’re trying to get into; it needs to be a “gateway habit” for the bigger habit. The gateway habit is very small and very easy so you don’t have to think about doing it.

Going for a run every day is hard. Putting on your running shoes is easy. That’s the gateway habit.

Writing a novel is hard. Opening up your word processing program is easy.

Then you have to “bind” the habit to a time and location, which will make it more likely you’ll do it. This is a time and place you’re likely to do it. For example, trying to add meditation into your morning routine when the kids want breakfast isn’t going to happen.

So, when I sit down at my desk at 9.00 am, I will set a timer to remind me to get up in 30 minutes.

Another way of doing this is to “stack” the new habit onto something you already do. This is covered in chapter five of the book. One example James gives is, if you want to read more, you might decide your gateway habit is to put a book on your pillow in the morning so it’s there when you get into bed at night. Your morning routine might be:

Get up > make my bed > have a shower.

You could insert the new habit in there like this:

Get up > make my bed > put a book on my pillow> have a shower.

Designing your environment

The next three steps are to design your environment so that the cue to do the habit becomes part of your environment.

First, you put the thing where it’s really obvious. If you want to drink more water, put a jug of water and glass on your desk. If your gateway habit is to put your running shoes on, leave them somewhere you can’t miss them.

Every device and computer I have access to has a pomodoro timer on it so no matter where I’m working, I (in theory) should be able to activate this every time I sit down.

For two of my shoulder exercises, I was already doing this. The hand weights are sitting on the bench next to the coffee machine, so when I go to turn the coffee machine on in the morning they’re there ready for me to do those two exercises while I wait for the machine to warm up.

One of the others needs a stretchy tube attached to a door. This is right next to my bedroom door, so every night when I go into that room, I see it there and do that exercise before bed.

In lesson five, James reminds us that our initial focus should be on optimising our environment to make it as easy as possible to stick to the habit, rather than on motivating ourselves to do it. That comes later.

Another way to optimise your environment is by reducing the friction associated with the habit.

For example, it’s easier to go to the gym if the gym is on the route to somewhere you’re already going, like work. If you have to go out of your way to get there, this makes it harder and you’re less likely to go. Or, if you want to eat healthier lunches, on the weekend you might make a big batch of something you can heat up every day so your lunch is ready to go each day instead of having to think about what you’re going to have and then having to get it ready or go out and get it.

I couldn’t think of anything specific that would reduce any friction for my shoulder exercises. There’s nothing that jumps out at me as getting in the way of doing the exercises now that I have the items I need in the place I’m going to do them in, and reminders or triggers set up to do them. So I moved on from that one.

23 for 2023 update

Status to date: 2/23 comfort zone challenges complete.

What do I want to do next week?

Week 7’s tasks are to continue doing my shoulder exercises and working through the 30-day habit challenge.

I’m going to continue editing my Sydney photos (this week I completed the first set and posted some of them on my photoblog).

Week 6 summary

What was the best thing about this week?

Being on leave was most excellent! I did a couple of other cool things too. (More later.)

What did I learn this week?

I learned that lath and plaster is a technique typically used in older buildings, where horizontal series of timber (lath) are nailed to the frame, and then coated in plaster. The plaster may or may not be reinforced with horse or goat hair.

Four strips of wood nailed to a wooden support with plaster broken off in a C shape
This is what it looks like under the plaster

What I’m reading this week

  • Body, Breath and Being by Carolyn Nicholls
  • Atomic Habits by James Clear

Habit tracker

  • Morning ritual (Goal = 7): 7
  • Move (preferably before 3 pm) (Goal = 7): 7
  • Morning writing (Goal = 7): 0
  • The Little Red Writing Book exercises (Goal = 5): 0
  • Listened to writing podcasts (Goal = 2): 0
  • All five physiotherapy exercises (Goal = 7): 7
  • Mental health break outside during my work days in the office (2 days): 2
  • Finish work by 5.30 (Goal = 3): 3
  • Shut my computer down before 9.15 (Goal = 6): 5
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