Repositories are awesome, and we should have more of them.

I recently completed BJ Fogg's Tiny Habits, and it's a pretty lightweight way to install new habits (recommended). However, I realized I could use a better repository of useful habits.

So, please use this thread to suggest habits that you've found useful. Bonus points for evidence/anecdata of usefulness.

Obviously, 1 habit per comment makes upvotes a clearer signal of collective approval.

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Always have a hand physically in contact with your key whenever you close the door to your house/apartment from the outside. I have never been locked out since I started doing this.

I've trained the habit of quickly tapping my front and back pockets whenever I go through an entrance/exit to a building or apartment. I always have the exact same things in my pockets, so I immediately notice if I'm missing something. Phone in front left, keys in right front, earbuds in back left, wallet in back right. Works very well for me.

Seconded. I have the same habit and it's been very valuable.
On a related note: My car locks all of the doors when I lock the driver's side door using the key. I make a habit of doing this every time I exit the car, since I have owned it (~3 years). I have only been locked out once; the one time I was locked out was because I didn't lock the car on the driver's side! (I left through the passenger side to avoid 5 seconds of rain. Bad tradeoff.) Another car thing I do mostly for habitual reasons is turn on my lights anytime I'm in the car, even during the day; this makes me less likely to forget at night, and has the bonus of being very helpful in certain daylight lighting conditions.
I bought an electronic keypad for this. As a bonus, when I ride my bike to work I don't have to carry keys.
Also make sure your lock is not self-locking.
I have a door handle.
My keys are attached to my wallet; I can't forget one without forgetting both. I am terrifically absent-minded but haven't left without them since I started doing this.

If you want to cut down on an activity without eliminating it completely, consider delegating the decision to a random mechanism.

As a concrete example, I've tried for the last year or so to cut down on the amount of sugared snacks I eat, which used to happen essentially daily. I tried only doing it on set days of the week, but on other days it felt unfair that Monday!Lachlan got to eat a custard tart and Tuesday!Lachlan had to miss out. I tried giving myself a budget for the week, but I tended to blow through it early, feel guilty, and then usually break it later in the week anyway. I switched recently to using a dice app on my smartphone. If I have the urge to eat a sugared snack, I roll a 4 sided die. If it comes up 4, I can eat it. This has been working successfully for me for 3 weeks now, with no sign of it breaking.

It makes me feel not guilty when I do come up 4, since it was the dice that let me eat something, and I know over the long term it will average out to the amount of eating I want. If I miss out, I don't have myself to blame or get annoyed at, because it's just the vagaries of an RNG.

This is how I would train a pigeon to compulsively throw dice like crazy - Burrus F Skinner. I don't think this will be good to you in the long run.
I forgot to mention in the post itself. I only allow myself one roll a day, so I have to decide if I want to take the chance on something for a snack in the morning, or with lunch, or later on in the evening. I can't train myself to throw dice like crazy because only the first one for a day counts.

Here's something that my friend suggested, and which I've been finding useful:

One thing that helped me, when I was learning to keep the place clean, was the following suggestion: learn to take stuff to its place whenever you are moving around the apartment. For example, if you get off the couch to go to the toilet and kitchen is on the way, pick up a few dishes and drop then in the kitchen sink/washing machine.

Or if the bookshelf is on your path, pick up a book you are not actively reading and put it on the shelf.

It takes a few weeks to learn this, but once it starts flowing, it really reduces the amount of work you need to do to keep the place tidy.

Also, if you're going to put something somewhere that's not in its place, put it in a place that you'll HAVE to clean soon. I had a lot of success putting all my school-related stuff on my bed throughout the day in high school because I was guaranteed to pack it all up into my backpack because I had to use the bed to sleep.
Similarly, to remind myself to do stuff with an object, I put that object where I will find it when I prepare to go out. If my hamper is full, but am going to bed or leaving for work, I just put the hamper in front of my door so I will remember to do it immediately when I get home. I also put stuff I need to take with me next time I leave the house on top of my wallet (or my shoes, or hanging from my doorknob, depending on size).
Heh. My mother was telling me this since I am lucid. Maybe this time I will listen. This is also a good advice against not being entirely absent-minded but also being a bit conscious about the here-and-now. If Buddhists meditation teachers are to be believed, this is somehow a good thing. However, I disregarded that advice because I liked being absent-minded and oblivious of circumstances. Things going in on in my head are far more interesting than dishes or other "common everyday" things. Yet, the Zen folks are saying it is precisely being 100% aware of non-glamorous common things is what leads to a certain kind of enlightenment. Like sweeping the floor with 200% attention. Not 100% sure why...
  • write it down. "I'll remember it" is the devil talking
  • speed up all informative video/audio. You will get used to it (I even speed up fiction audio a bit now - it feels too slow). Free life extension.
  • plow through boring aversive tasks with self-rewards - I watch tv while paying bills
How do you go about this? On Youtube I signed up for the htlm5 trial and that allows only some videos to be played back at different speeds, and I have no idea how they decide which videos.
Coursera is excellent for it - any Coursera courses have playback speed options. I usually go x1.5 for sciences and x2 for humanities(since humanities tend to have lower information density), but you can vary that a little depending on the prof's talking speed and the content of the lecture you're watching. I know Coursera isn't the only source of informational video, but it's a good starting point.
There is a plugin, at least for mac to speed up all of them. You can also download the vids and use vlc or something locally.
Update: I learned that if you want to watch youtube videos sped up and don't want to download it and play it back, Vlan supports copying the url and ctrl v on to the main screen.
My "solution": ragequit when an interesting looking link ends up being a video. Rationalization: if nobody bothered to write a transcript, it cannot be that interesting.
Yes. Or rather, a yet-unknown mixture of a weak-to-mid-strong evidence and posterior rationalization.
Not sure how you do your sampling, but most videos I watch end up pretty high-value and luck subtitles in most cases.

Lots of people seem to have a hard time getting started with meditation due to not knowing what to do and not having specific goals. One useful thing is to start with the tinyest habit possible, and not worry about optimality for the habit forming period. There will be plenty of time to optimize once the habit is formed. So just pick a time, set an alarm, and do 2 minutes of guided meditation. Type 2 minute meditation into youtube and try whatever seems good. In 2-4 weeks you can get more ambitious.

This advice goes for any habit: Start small. Doing anything is usually better than doing nothing. And when you have tasted blood, maybe it will increase your appetite by itself.

There is a name for this strategy: success spirals. It is discussed in Piers Steel's book, The Procrastination Equation, as well as in Luke's article How to Beat Procrastination and in Nick Winter's ebook, The Motivation Hacker (both of which are heavily based on Steel's research). In my opinion, it is one of the most powerful productivity techniques out there.

Yup. The Tiny Habits program I linked in the post is built around this approach. 2 seconds rather than 2 minutes, but same idea.

I see people rummaging through their purse/bag/backpack in search of keys/money/id/lipstick/phone all the time. I have long ago switched to using pants with enough pockets to keep at least the basics on me: keys, wallet, cell phone, a dedicated pocket for each, so I know where every item is and can feel the weight change/imbalance if something is missing. I have learned to always put each item back in its own pocket after use. This is harder for ladies but not impossible: a couple of keys, a cell phone and a tiny wallet with just enough room for an id, a credit/debit card and a few bills can fit, for example, in almost any jeans' pockets without visible bulging. The rest can go in the purse or backpack. Does not work for formal wear, of course, but there are usually plenty of suitable casual choices.

A common complaint is that women's clothing is very bad for pockets. Over the past couple of months I've attended two parties in drag, and this is by far the strongest sympathy I've developed from the experience.

Amen. Oh, thank goodness, this garment has a handy pocket --- gotcha! it's a fake, decorative pocket, sewn shut!

Sometimes pockets are sewn shut for display, with loose stitches that are meant to be removed after purchase. This is worth checking before giving up. "Decorative" pockets are normally either nonexistent (just some trim that looks like the opening of a pocket) or very shallow.

On the first occasion I was dressed (horrifically) as the Queen, and had the fairly decent drink-blagging gag that we didn't carry around money. For future drag efforts I may try a money clip on a garter. This is probably not a credible option for most women.
This is why a shoulder bag is a fabulously useful item when being fabulous.
A friend recently started wearing men's jackets. They were extremely delighted by the discovery of chest height pockets inside the jacket, which really are supremely good ideas. Perfect for phone, wallet, passport, etc. In general, well-designed men's clothing is fantastic for pockets - my formal pants have buttons for back pockets (safer for my wallet!) and smaller pockets nested inside both front pockets (one for keys, one for coins, now I don't have keys sitting next to my phone, my keys are more accessible, it's great). It might be worth looking through men's jackets and pants for something that fits you and looks good, regardless of what "gender" of clothing you usually wear.
All women (three) I know who've tried men's briefs have considered them ridiculously superior to women's underwear and wear them by preference except when their dress-up for an occasion includes fancy underwear. Women's clothes are just terrible in some regards.
Then perhaps there is some money to be gained by designing superior women's clothes. (At least this is how it should be. Except for humans not being automatically strategic, and million other things.)
One would think there would be a substantial market for superior women's clothes, especially for sale in stores (rather than online) but somehow it hasn't happened. I wonder how much capital it would take.
What exactly are superior women's clothes?
.. Clothes made by people with any sense of pride in craft? I sew for a hobby, and for the purpose of making gifts. - for example I just finished a nice summer jacket for my brothers birthday, english wool, silk lining. Cost to me: <70 euro. (and time, but eh.) I learned to what to do largely by reading on the internet and taking old clothes apart to see how they were built. The clothes sold to women is depressing as all hell in that regard. Materials, build, functionality - Lowest bidder doesn't begin to describe it. "I don't think you even tried at all" about covers it. I think this happens because womens clothing stores sell a ridiculously tiny fraction of the stock they purchase. The price tag on a shirt or skirt has to pay not only for that piece of clothes, but also for the 5 to nine other items on that rack nobody buys before they go hopelessly out of style. In order for that to work out to a net profit, the items on selection need to be nearly worthless. And they are. Men's Jeans are the perfect opposite clothing item - a store can buy those home in bulk, and be assured that every single item in that consignment will eventually be sold because they are a commodity, so the gap between price and worth is much smaller. So, in order to make better womens clothes, you need to design something which is as guaranteed a sale as a pair of mens jeans. And to not hate women. Eh.. This really does look like something I could do...
One sewing machine. Okay, since we live in the 21st century, I'll try again: One sewing machine, and a Kickstarter with viral marketing. I am kinda serious here. If you know how to make clothes, you should just make one example piece for yourself, and if anyone compliments on them, give them your business card. Make the first few pieces custom tailored (yes, it is okay, if the first few pieces are expensive; those customers also pay extra for being unique), and if the demand grows, start doing it full-time, and later employing other people to do it for you. Just remember from the beginning that you are trying to create a brand: have a website, business cards, etc. Costs: one sewing machine, one elegant website (without anything interactive, only "send me a message"), hundred business cards, and a few pieces of clothes for you and your friends. That's what; under $1000? If you don't know how to make the clothes, make a sketch, and pay someone else to do this for you. That could be more expensive. On the other hand, if your plan succeeds, you already have a supply line, and time to focus on marketing and management.
Women's clothes are generally terrible in most regards except, and it is less and less common, to look good. They are designed to look good on very thin women, and maintain a thin line. Most high fashion is just ridiculous, and when it gets passed down it seems most designers have an "idea" of a woman which is far removed from reality. Pockets rarely feature except in jeans, and I have had more than one item of clothing which looked to have pockets, but they were actually fake and rather pointless on all counts. Men's clothing is far, far better (often even in appearance), in my opinion.
Well, women also get to carry around large bags / purses without feeling self-conscious. I often wish I could get away with carrying around a purse for my things. It'd be nice to have them all in one place and not scattered among a half dozen pockets and liable to fall out when I reach for something else. The manly alternative of a backpack or satchel / messenger bag is typically overkill and not appropriate to all situations.
If you want a manly equivalent of a purse (and unwilling to be seen wearing a fanny pack / waist pack), look into photo bags. They come in all kinds of sizes including very small.
Be aware, though, that putting heavy things regularly in men's jacket pockets - especially the inside chest pockets - will tend, over time, to spoil the 'line' of the jacket and make it look much less smart. (Some people may not care about that, but it's worth considering - see e.g this response to this post.)
Huh. My wallet has never fallen out of my front pocket (except those of a very few sports trousers with very shallow pockets), while it fell out of my back pocket a couple times back when I used to keep it there, and I have witnessed a couple more people's wallets fall out of their back pockets too. (Also, I don't like what sitting onto my wallet feels like.)
Buttons make me a less desirable pickpocket target and give me one more chance to notice. Also I mind sitting on my wallet a lot less since I got a thinner wallet and carried fewer things around in it.
I am a man and my mother always told me not to stuff my pants pockets full becasue it makes me look fatter: wider hips. Her recommended solution was, somewhat ironically, a cowboyish man-purse. That may be the reason: women may care more about not looking fatter than men.

I like this scheme, which in my mind is an instance of a meta-rule that's something like "have a definite, small place for things you will need to retrieve quickly".

You can implement this useful system even if you only have a large container (e.g. large purse/bag/backpack) by putting things in subcontainers. Obvious if the large bag is subdivided, but you can subdivide it yourself by using smaller bags.

I recommend using pencil cases (the flexible plastic ones with zips on the top) in larger purses/bags/backpacks. This can make it much faster to find things in your bag.

So, for instance, in my work rucksack I have the following pencil cases:

  • clear one with commonly used electronic bits (conference calling earbuds, listening earbuds, USB thumbdrives, laptop-to-projector adapter, phone-to-laptop adapter)
  • clear one with less commonly used electronic bits (connectors, laptop remote control, earplugs)
  • clear one with videocamera and tripod
  • pink skull and crossbones (=medicine): painkillers, plasters, clean hanky, spare contact lenses

Before I adopted this system, getting something out of my bag was a nightmare of jumbled wires and fishing around. Now it's speedy and convenient.... (read more)

One advantage of pants/suit over a backpack is that for a permanent arrangement of a small number of items I instantly feel when something is out of place. Not sure if this is common or peculiar to me.
Well, we can say N >= 2 with confidence. I carry items in assigned pockets of my trousers/pants and jacket too, and it's such a habit that my clothes don't feel 'right' on me if I'm missing something. My backpack carries way more than it's reasonable to carry in clothing, even if you're wearing clothes specially-designed to carry stuff. And I thought it'd be useful as a tip for people who don't like to wear men's clothing or who want to keep less stuff in pockets for style reasons. You can't fit as much as I carry in my pockets in high-fashion jeans.
I really like this. I have a handbag and do something akin to this with ziplock bags, but having things colour-coded seems to be an additionally good idea.
For people who prefer purses (I like them more stylistically, and also for the increased carrying capacity), I have found that using a smaller, more structured one with lots of pockets/compartments works well for solving this problem. Things I use often (like keys, cards, phone) are in specific easy to reach pockets, and I can easily find them and replace them by feel.
Nested bags work well too. I have one of those huge waterproof messenger bags & it is like a bottomless pit if you don't organize it somehow.
I am always amazed that everyone doesn't assign a pocket to things. It's something I'd honed as far back as middleschool after repeatedly loosing my camera due to a messenger bag without a zipper and a tendency to set things down less than carefully.
Pocketbooks* and backpacks are likely to have pockets. I use clothing pockets myself, but making better use of pockets in pocketbooks and backpacks might also be a useful habit. *Wikipedia has it that pocketbook is an American (regional?) term for handbag, and it's certainly the word I would use if I were talking. I take purse to refer to a small wallet which is just a single compartment with a clasp on top. I would distinguish between a hand bag and a shoulder bag. I don't think I've seen pocketbook in print-- to the point where it looks like it could be confused with a paperback book.
Thank you for the clarification - I'm from Australia, and if I'd guessed I would have assumed a pocketbook was just a fancy notebook (like a moleskine or something).

Always put headphones on when focussing on some work (in a team environment). Even if you don't play any music to block out distractions, having them on signals that you're busy and makes people less likely to interrupt you. You'll find those interruptions that remain are a higher quality of interruption where your help is actually needed instead of just slightly easier than figuring it out for themself.

Eh. My issue is not people interruping me personally, but yelling to each other through me / over me. I am afraid headphones would only encourage it.

At the end of the day, go through the things you did. What did you do and why? How did you feel while you did it? Doing it in writing can be helpful (this is what journaling is). Or even get scientific and quantify things so you can analyze your data later!

cough this software I write for that last thing cough

This is all reminding me of a long article (that I can't find) about children left in cars-- a potentially deadly situation. The article concluded that the major risk wasn't so much neglectful parents as overwhelmed parents-- they were using all their mental resources for normal life, and if their schedules were changed or their stress level was increased, the risk of forgetting a child in a car was increased.

I saw some suggestions for improving the odds of not making that mistake. One was to have a habit of clipping a string from the child to the parent when the child is put into the car seat. Another was before the child was born making a habit of circling the car and looking into it immediately after getting out.

This one?
I'm not sure, but it at least covers a lot of the same ground. Thanks for finding it.
My child has a specific car toy that always stays in the car. Whenever I leave the car for any reason and regardless of what I remember about who is where, I must check to make sure that toy is in the car seat. This started after my wife read me an article about babies being left in cars and scared the shit out of us that it wasn't crackeads to whom it happened but parents who thought they were sane and responsible just like us.
Perhaps this one: Fatal Distraction by Gene Weingarten in the Washington Post.
This sounds horrifying. How can people be that stressed? I would say, it is a clear sign to down-size: cut expenses in half, get an easier and lower paying job... I find that for a lot of folks esp. in the first world downsizing sounds super hard. It isn't actually. The basic trick is sharing a roof, like teaming up with a grandparent who lives in a paid and empty house alone. The next step is more social kinds of free entertainment, playing cards (using beans, not money) instead of cinema, and turning alcohol and similar habits into exercise obsessions. Also, learning to cook turkey well, in Central Europe at least a turkey high has about half the price of chicken or pork, not sure why.

Meta-habit: When trying to begin a new habit, ask yourself if it can be meaningfully beeminded. If you only want to do it on certain days of the week, ensure beeminder's reminders for the goal are set to notify you on that day or those days only. Never delete or read a beeminder reminder email until you have dealt with the habit for the day (eg, done the 20 minutes work on the website, perused the 30 anki flashcards, made the phone call to your loved ones, written a gratitude note), then immediately clear it out. Now you don't have to worry about remembering to establish the habit. If you have a beeminder email, you still have something you need to do for the day.

Meta habit: Every time you want to install a new habit, make an Anki flashcard for it.

In the beginning phase, while you install the habit, the card will be asked frequently. Later on, when you are less likely to forget the habit, it will be asked for less frequently. If you recently failed to follow the habit you can click "again" when the flash card is asked.

Load up tasks that can't be interrupted, or must be finished, as early in the day as reasonable. By the end of the day you want to only have things left to do that you can easily stop and leave when you should be heading to bed, to ensure you go to bed on time. Also try to avoid starting anything that will be exciting or stimulating too late in the day. For example, reading the latest HPMoR can be stopped at any time, but if you know you'll get into it and not want to stop reading, then don't start it until you have a sufficient block of time earlier in the day free.

This can also be looked at as a willpower issue too. I want to do X, but I didn't do it in the morning or the afternoon, now it is the evening & I've still got to cook myself dinner & then clean the dishes & I'm already exhausted & I was working hard all day & I really just want to relax...
Really? I've had the opposite experience!
Thanks! I liked your article a great deal.

Adopt simple diet prohibitions & daily minimum "must-eat" commitments.


For 365 days...

  • I will consume no candy or fast food. Ever. (*Fast food defined as X, Y, Z restaurants...)

  • Daily, I must eat 2 raw vegetables and drink 1 liter of water. No matter what. Even If I have to stand over the sink at 2am eating a carrot & a green pepper and washing it down with my daily liter of water...

I used this strategy (with similar, expanded prohibitions/must-eats) for a year (2012).

I found it to be useful and effective because (1) the si... (read more)

0Peter Wildeford10y
This is interesting. I tried a very similar strategy and I was able to maintain it for two months, and then I found that I would collapse unless I made general exceptions (such as "I can do it once a week" or "it's okay if I'm at a restaurant"). A similar idea is The No S Diet.
In my experience, I think it is key to only be strict in regard to your prohibitions (& must-eats). For instance, if my prohibition is specifically against fast food restaurants, a bacon cheeseburger at a fast food place is 100% forbidden, but a bacon cheeseburger at a casual dining ("sit down") restaurant is okay. In this way, while the caloric intake might be the same in either case for that particular meal, over time I cultivated a habit of not eating based on convenience and impulse and I was able to generally better plan my meals and gain dietary discipline. Anyway, to your point, I agree that some exceptions are generally a good rule for dieting -- my strategy was to make everything an exception, apart from 3 or 4, 100% compliance* rules. (*Disclosure: I did drink one soda that year. It was a business meeting where my job success [sort of] literally depended on me accepting a rather insistent potential client's beverage offer to keep the meeting headed in a positive I did. And I still didn't get the deal. Dammit.)
Ever sounds like having a painful cognitive load. Forbidden Fruit Effect. I would roll a hypothetical 180-sided dice every evening to check if I can eat candy, yielding a yes result on the average twice a year. The dice would be an android app - I don't know if there is one, but it would be easy to make.

Exercise consistently and regularly.

Anti-habit: for quitting something, I've found that telling myself "wait 5 more minutes" each time I think about it can help reduce and break the habit. If your habit is linked to something else (for example, you always have a cigarette when you have a cup of coffee), this is extra useful. This helps me with not eating junk foods and overcoming a craving - often I forget about it.

If you have a new habit that's not time-specific and doesn't take too long, try to do it first thing in the morning. It will not only get done (and be harder to forget), but the feeling of accomplishment can help your state of mind in achieving other tasks throughout the day. For me, lifting weights for the day takes 5 minutes to do a simple workout, but once it's done I feel like I've gotten something significant achieved and that makes me more motivated during the day.
Before I started a family, I went through a period of minimalism, and I had a "magic" wallet (card-sized, flips money across on the inside using elasticised bands, doesn't fit coins), and only carried that, my phone and keys. I couldn't collect receipts, lots of store cards, coins, tags or whatever else in it, and it had what I needed (back then). (separate comments for separate habits, as per the original post)

Paper (especially ink-jet printed paper) doesn't like water, so always make sure your desk isn't wet before putting paper on it, always make sure your water bottle is properly closed before putting it back into your handbag, always make sure the pockets are empty when throwing clothes into the laundry bag, etc.

Always carry a pen, a USB memory stick, a pocket umbrella, a bottle opener, a condom (some of these examples may not apply to you) etc., as you may find yourself needing one without knowing beforehand.

Carry a micro-USB cable - then you can charge your phone from any computer, and use your phone as storage. A penknife will include a bottle opener, a corkscrew and other useful stuff - I'm glad mine has scissors. Carry more than one condom - having only one creates pressure to perform. Pen and paper are useful. I also carry tissues and painkillers.

Assuming this is for one-night stands... Carry only one and if your prospective partner(s) cannot match your contribution, forego the activity: they are probably not as careful about safe sex as you want them to be.
I really wish this were good advice, but IME the correlation is not very strong.
There are gendered (and for gay men, role-related) social norms about condoms that might complicate things, depending on where you live and what circles you move within. As well as practical reasons you might not want to keep condoms on you every hour of the day: they're heat- and light-sensitive enough that any carried on-hand need to be switched out regularly.
0Paul Crowley10y
I can't work out whether you mean this as serious advice or as a joke. Are you a devotee of one-night-stands yourself?
I do not regularly carry any of the items on this list and have not felt the need to begin carrying them. My default set of things to carry with me consists of three items: a wallet, a phone, and a set of keys.
Swiss Army Knife including a bottle opener and other things Not that I ever used it, but it feels good to be a 0.1% Batman.

Keep a checklist of maintenance items to do before work/school, including things you should bring with you. Print this out and tape to a wall, using font large enough that you can read it from some distance away.

A friend has a piece of paper with "Ensure pants are on" taped to the inside of his door. I don't think he has ever left the house without having pants on.

I'm not sure if this is the correct channel, but I've found to be a helpful channel in getting myself to follow through with my habits or goals (or even getting myself to write goals/habits to begin with). Basically, it's an upgraded alarm clock: you tell somebody what you want to accomplish, and then have them call to remind you to do it. There's something about the added social pressure that makes a tremendous difference, even if it seems silly and self-manufactured.

Take vitamin D and melatonin before you go to bed.

Vitamin D at night might not be such a good idea. But taking Vitamin D in the morning, and melatonin at night works well for me.

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