A dozen habits that work for me

by mike_hawke1 min read6th Jan 202118 comments


Life ImprovementsPractical

I'm just proud and I want to share. I've read Do Life Hacks Ever Reach Fixation and Other Optimizing, but maybe a couple of these will end up helping someone.

  1. I keep an open bag of baby carrots on my kitchen counter. I snack on them constantly throughout the day without even trying. After a couple of days, it’ll be down to the last 10 or so, and they’re all dried out, so I throw them away. My snacking impulse is strong and I hope to overcome it one day, but in the meantime I’m going through at least half a pound of raw carrots per day. Fiber.
  2. It isn't the Dark Ages anymore so I use a toilet stool and those wet, flushable buttwipes. (I like Cottonelle™ but I'm still trying out different brands.)
  3. I minimize media exposure. The wall of TVs at the gym sure is enticing...all those news headlines and talking heads and flashy advertisements and other attention bait... But it's just so very costly in subtle and pernicious ways. And I regard Twitter the way Odysseus regards the Sirens--willpower is not enough, I have to maintain distance and/or mastbinding. I could say a lot more, but this stuff deserves its own post.
  4. I maintain a list of ways I disagree with the public thinkers I follow. I also write down my most controversial beliefs on paper and then burn the paper. I find that this makes me moderately better at thinking for myself.
  5. I try to buy deserts that have built-in delays of gratification. Mostly this means frozen pastries and cookie dough (I never developed the taste for raw cookie dough). Also, I only bake 2 or 3 at a time. If I really want more than that, I can bake a couple more.
  6. I go out for walks a lot. It's just good.
  7. I try to think verbally about something for a few minutes every day, and for 30+ minutes at least once per week. Sometimes this is journaling, but usually it’s thinking out loud (especially when out for a walk). I’ll do Leverage-style belief reporting, or just a stream of consciousness monologue. Indispensable for relieving mental constipation.
  8. I keep chewing gum on hand and I chew it after eating something sugary.
  9. I set a really low bar for my meditation practice.
  10. If I don't think I'll need my phone for something, I don't bring it with me. This has backfired a couple of times, but so far the freedom feels worthwhile overall (especially when out for a walk).
  11. I was persuaded by The Checklist Manifesto. I consult a checklist every time I do laundry, go to work, leave work, or go to the gym.
  12. I have found that nasal strips and comfortable earplugs increase my sleep quality more than anything else I can easily control.


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Be careful of two things. Those flushable wipes probably shouldn’t be flushed and eating that many carrots will eventually turn your skin orange.



I set a really low bar for my meditation practice.

What got me to actually meditate consistently after years of attempts was to set a goal of 1 minute a day. I told myself "If I'm having fun, I can keep going." Now I do an hour consistently.

Huh. This inspired me. Just created a Beeminder goal for it.

What's "Leverage-style belief reporting"?

A technique developed by Leverage Research to change one's beliefs to be more coherent. 

https://www.dropbox.com/s/v0yy562hg03lrb5/How%20to%20Belief%20Report%20-%200.1%20by%20Leverage%20Research.pdf?dl=0 is a PDF about it. I'm not sure if it gets you the idea fully but you could try learning it from it.

"Mental constipation" is an awesome phrase for a phenomenon I really hate having.

Are nasal strips useful for something other than preventing snoring? I already use earplugs, and I'm always on the lookout for more improvements to sleep quality.

If you're snoring you need to get a sleep study. CPAP has done more for my sleep quality than anything else (mouthguard is second place).

How long did it take you to adapt to the CPAP? I have mild sleep apnea and tried to use a CPAP for a bit, but I absolutely could not sleep with the mask on.

Depending on the cause of sleep apnea, a removable wire in mouth may help. Feel free to ask me if you have any questions; I got sleep apnea from being fat and having a narrow throat, and this helps. I like that it's purely mechanical, no electric power needed.

Almost immediately, but I don't think my example is representative given how much people seem to complain about it. I am very good at ignoring my body and I have a lot of experience dealing with discomfort. CPAP doesn't bother me at all, but neither do a host of things that other people find difficult.

Given how many shitty situations people can adapt to sleeping in this is matter of training rather than a show stopper. If you can't sleep with the mask on that's an easy one to fix: don't sleep. Sooner or later you will sleep, you just need to make sure that every time you're lying down you have the mask on. Discomfort won't kill you (at least not in the time frame required to give adapting to CPAP a fair showing).

That being said, there may be alternatives to CPAP for you, so investigate them. CPAP isn't cheap, so on those grounds alone it is worth seeing if anything else will help.

Yeah, they seem to improve my sleep quality by making it a little easier to breathe.

Interesting; I will give that a try. Any particular type or brand that you recommend?

Nah, I haven't been able to settle on Breathe Right™ vs CVS generics.

Fair enough; thanks for the advice!

Thanks for sharing your habits.

I too was persuaded by The Checklist Manifesto. I made an evening checklist which had a major focus on setting up my environment for leaving for work on the next day. In the last few months I have used it rarely because I work exclusively from home now and I systemized most of the things that I still want to do every day.

What kinds of items do you have on your laundry checklist?

I used to print my evening my evening checklist as a table on physical paper and check items off with a pencil. How do you handle your checklists practically?

You're welcome :] My laundry list is:

  • pajamas
  • sweater
  • bedding
  • robe
  • the clothes on my body right now
  • towel
  • gym bag
  • handkerchief
  • balaclavas
  • gloves

I keep them in my phone or sticky noted to the wall.