Tag Archives: habit modification


Yesterday I failed to publish an essay.

Today I read: Your First Thought Is Rarely Your Best Thought: Lessons on Thinking.

Then I unsuccessfully tried to dictate an essay on Failure. That, and Jordan Peterson’s new book, 12 Rules for Life, has rendered me figuratively speechless.

Peterson talks about a period of his life where he attempted to objectively observe all of his behaviors. This objective observation showed him that almost everything he said was untrue. He is in the process of arguing that we should attempt a similar exercise and literally gain perspective.

I have been intentionally practicing self-observation for a few years now and the effect has been roughly the same as what Peterson would suggest: Intense self loathing.

Human Beings are Not Perfect.

The limitation is of being is practically strangling each and every one of us. Speaking truth to it is like massaging the soul. We are fallen from Grace and only The Word can bring us home.

Sometimes Peterson gets emotional when talking about Being. And how could he not?

Emotion is part of the process. It’s almost central to it in some important way. Even science is fundamentally meted out by a confluence of emotional decisions by individuals. We are, in some important way like Jonathan Haidt points out, elephants and riders.

Yesterday I painted for the first time in a very long time. I’m looking at the painting now. It isn’t very good. It is my first painting.

Tomorrow if I woke up and painted, that painting might be a little better.

If I painted tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, forever. Then maybe one day I would be as good as Picasso.

Then my first painting wouldn’t seem so bad anymore.

Then my first painting at a slightly saucy work event would be quite good indeed. Many people would like very much to have my first painting.

The painting hasn’t changed. But I have. The painting has become, not a failure, but an Artifact. How fascinating.

Perhaps, my writing must improve, in order for me to be read. If the writing was truly good, many people would read it. What is it now? It is failure. It is practice.

I’ve challenged myself to publish something every day. I was already writing every day so now it’s just the matter of pressing a button. I ought to succeed at this. Today I told my friend Sarah that 22 publications in March would be a success.

I barely edit.

I barely proofread.

I’m just pushing a button.

How hard could this be?

How to Be a Zen Master while Spending the Holidays with Your Dysfunctional Family

When you leave home for the first time, you discover yourself. Or, as in my case, you can engineer yourself with the help of some brilliant professionals. This is a simple matter of applying principles of behavior change to your environment to make desired behaviors effortless.

When you cannot control the environment, ideal behavior becomes a taller order.

Periodic visits are mandatory in most families and every homecoming reminds me of the strength of old habits and interpersonal dynamics. Every tendency I have eliminated through careful environmental controls rears it’s ugly head once I’ve returned to the family farm. I only win these battles with a combination of preparation, vigilance, and reflection.

I want to share with you my strategies for dealing with the uncontrollable home environment we all encounter when we return to our parents and siblings for the holiday season. You don’t have to become a child just because you’re in your childhood environment.

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Bad Habits: How to Quit Cowboy Coding using Pre-commitment

One of the core principles of habit modification is pre-commitment: Success is more likely if you plan for it.

Remember elementary school? My mother would pack my bag the night before school, when there was no hurry. This allowed me to walk out the door in the morning without forgetting anything in a hurried bustle.

Today,  pack my bag before I go to bed. This serves two functions:

  1. I go to work prepared, consistently.
  2. It’s a fixed moment in time after which I cannot attend to work concerns.

Today, I’m learning to apply these principles to Pavlok’s development sprints.

I have had a bad habit of cowboy coding features in the interest of saving time. I’ve been working on this habit more than a year now and I think I’ve hit the tipping point.

Here’s what worked:

A Recovering Cowboy Coding Addict

I spend some time on Sundays planning out my week. I know I will spend Monday prepping for the week’s sprint.

This means putting our stories into trello cards and writing SAFE tests.

The user stories are quick-n-dirty Trello cards that become more detailed as more information becomes available. Pavlok is a lean start up, so we have to ship features every week.

I spend mornings heads down. This morning (Monday), I’ve moved three cards into the “Current” column on Trello. We have five columns: Icebox, Backlog, Current, Doing, Done.

These are pretty self-explanatory. Right now I have about a dozen trello boards with those five columns. In this newest board. I have 0 cards ice boxed, 4 cards backlogged, 2 cards in my current sprint, and one card that I’m working on now.

This morning I am writing SAFE tests for all of the cards in my current an doing columns.

SAFE tests are integration tests that cover the ideal user experience, what some people call the happy path. This idea is adapted from a talk I saw at BostonRB by Justin Searls.

Today if I have time, I will flesh those tests out to include some exceptions and edge cases. I will write as many as I can, then go into feature development tomorrow no matter what.

This plan depends on limiting the amount of time I dedicate tests, but STILL DEDICATING TIME.

At Pavlok we alternate weekly design and development sprints. Like I said, we’re lean. So realistically this dedicates two days a month to writing tests. That’s 10% of my time coding.

Our design sprint process is borrowed/adapted from Google Ventures.

In order to achieve a desired result, you need to build the output mechanism into your existing institutional routines.

How else do we use pre-commitment and planning to undermine our bad habits?

Coming Next Week:

How I convinced my boss to buy the whole team bells and whistles.