Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Momentum of Habits: Consistent Performance

I learned yet another thing about the importance of habits. Not only is actively maintaining habits necessary in order to sustain their self-reinforcing nature, but they're also needed to apply consistent expectations. The consistent expectations acts as a sort of measurement, which helps you determine whether or not your performance is up to where you'd want it to be. Without such expectations, it can be quite easy to justify cheating on your habits or making allowances for sub-par performance since there's no set standard available to let you know what you're doing is wrong.

Take those Mental Calvinball games I've devised. One game I constructed, though haven't been practicing I admit, is timing myself doing various tasks on my job. The most important thing this does is set a standard by which I should expect myself to consistently meet, as I'll know by checking my records whether or not I've maintained my quality. For instance, if my average record for scrubbing the grease traps is 26 minutes, then I'll know something is off if I record a performance of 35 minutes. I'll always know how I should be performing through the fact I have measurements that make the exact nature of my performance knowable. Additionally, I'll always have the motivation to improve my performance since the timing makes the tasks like a racing game.

Overall, what I'm trying to say that if your standards are fuzzy, then your performance in any realm is going to be approximate. If, for instance, you decide to only eat "a little sugar" on any particular day, then how exactly can you go about acting to that "standard" since there is no measurement as to what a "little" sugar is? Worlds better would be to say that you'll limit yourself to only 1 unit of a sugary item that has known measurements, such as a pint of ice cream, an entire banana, a whole chocolate bar, and the likes. Regardless of whether or not you're satisfied when you reach the bottom of that ice cream pint, you'll know then that by your own rules you've had your sugary treat for the day.

My particular problem is that I've been spending far too much time on social networking sites lately. Given my Project I've decided it would be best to delay the serious pursuit of relationships until afterwards, so until then I'll be lonely. To make matters even more frustrating, I've been introspecting lately as to why I value and think fondly of certain people, and now having made the identification makes me value those people much more strongly, thereby making my loneliness more powerful. As such, I've been foolishly seeking attention on social networking sites, and have consequently been spending more time on them than I should. I do have a rule for my Facebook and Twitter habits -- I never allow myself to log on until either 20-30 minutes before I leave for work or until after 5 PM -- and while that rule has been consistently followed I don't think it's enough. After that time period, I have no standards for how long I allow a session to be or how many log-ins I shall do. More precise standards are needed so I can measure my performance.

To remedy my own problem of performing approximately under fuzzy standards, I'll modify my rules: I won't allow myself to log onto my accounts until either 10-20 minutes before work or until after 5 PM, and will only allow twenty minutes for the first session. After that, I won't allow another log-in until I've gotten all my daily goals accomplished, and if I don't get my goals accomplished then I won't log in again until the next day. The exception to the rule would be if I had an emergency or needed to obtain some piece of vital information. Psychologically I may be resistant to adopting these new practices, but once the habit is formed I'll find it hard to imagine it otherwise.

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