"This Year" Begins With "Every Day"

December 31, 2010

Some of us are surging into 2011, while others of us are crawling in, barely ready to think about a new year. But for most, a new year brings us into some kind of reflection and resolve, thinking about what we hope will come about for us “this year”.

While I’m not usually one to make resolutions, I am one who is always trying to learn more about rhythms. Resolutions, methinks, won’t be fulfilled without rhythms. Our hopes for what we want to become down the road are defined by what we do today.

And tomorrow.

Our intentions for what we want to become in “this year” ahead, are defined by the actions we take “every day”.

This morning, I stumbled on this article by Jack Cheng which linked back to this post on Lifehacker from 2007 about Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret. And it’s the same secret you hear again and again from people who are excelling in all lines of creative work. You have to do the work “every day”. Seinfeld’s advice was to buy a calendar where you can see an entire year at a time. Every day you do your work — whether it be writing, drawing, or whatever it may be — you place a giant X on the day. Let a building string of X’s be your motivation to not break the chain.

Rhythms to Live With

So if there is any resolve I have for next year, it’s to keep trying to do what I’ve already been trying to do. Build healthy rhythms so that today, I’m another day closer, maybe even another day better, to making the kinds of things I want to make. Daily habits aren’t only about creative work, but about general growth and improvement as well. Here are a few daily rhythms for you to consider, all of which I’m trying to craft myself:

  • Writing: Writing every day is a good practice whether you want to be a writer or just be more self-aware. That’s why I launched 501 words this past year, and it’s why I keep finding my way back to it even after colossal failures to keep up with it.
  • Reading: My soul starts to shrivel when I don’t read — I need the ideas and views of others to stretch my own. And this study might explain why: less empathy comes as the result of less reading.
  • Exercise: I spend most of my day sitting staring at a screen, and turning 40 this year has me more aware of the effects of this on my body.
  • No Games: It’s not that I don’t even want to play games. Play is important. It’s that it’s easy for me to add a game or two to my iPad and realize later that it’s consumed time I could have been doing other stuff. Playing games with others doesn’t count, but I’m tracking days I don’t play a game by myself and patting myself on the back when I do. Stupid Angry Birds.

Some Tools to Help

streaks.jpgThe idea of doing the work that needs to be done every day is common enough that app developers have latched on to it. There are quite a few apps aimed toward shaping your personal rhythms and habits. Here’s a look at a few of them for you to consider adding to your home screen in 2011:

  • Streaks (iTunes): Cheng linked to this app in the end of his article as a pocket version of what Seinfeld described. You are given a monthly calendar to drop an X on day by day. You can create a unique calendar for each habit, and it looks nice. This one is now residing on my homescreen.
  • Calendar Tracker Lite (iTunes): Similar to Streaks, but it doesn’t look as nice. This link is to the free lite version. Free is good! (Maybe I need to add a calendar where I add an X to any day I don’t buy something from the app store.)
  • Daily Deeds (iTunes): I wrote about Daily Deeds last March. It’s the same idea, but allows you to see more habits on the screen, but limited you to seeing only a few days.
  • Daily Tracker Lite (iTunes) and Habit Factor Lite (iTunes): Two more freebies I found to try out representing more featured paid versions. Both of these add more functionality than I wanted, complicating things beyond a simple daily habit tracker. But maybe they’re the right choice for you…

All of these apps are iPhone apps, and I’m disappointed to see the lack of options for iPad. A few of them are universal, but don’t do anything other than scale up their existing screens. I’d like to see a habit tracker of some kind that makes full use of an iPad screen. And, of course, I haven’t mentioned any Android apps…if anyone has recommendations, leave them in the comments.

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