things that are easy to do, but also easy to let slip through the cracks (like water, vitamins, full serving of vegetables, daily chores),
things that are important to do but easy to fall behind on (like getting consistently good sleep, staying on top of podcast scheduling and sales),
things that take some time but have an oversized impact on quality of life (like exercising the dog, doing something thoughtful for or fun with my wife, and getting a major dose of exercise each day).
The first set of things represent easy wins. I can rack up lots of points quickly by doing these easy, little tasks (most of which involve consuming something). So after a 10 second dose of vitamins, I get a point. I feel productive, and I just made sure that it wasn’t going to slip through the cracks that day. The more you check off, the better you feel, which makes you more motivated to tackle the harder-to-accomplish tasks.
Maybe for you, vitamins aren’t where you want to focus. But maybe it’s flossing, or something else like that you consistently fail at. Doesn’t matter – just make sure you have a sprinkling of easy wins on your list, and you’ll be off to a great start.
How to Make the Most Out of Your Journal
Now, I will say that if you use this approach seriously, you’re probably going to end up making some structural changes or acquiring some tools that enhance your ability to get things done. In my case, I decided that I finally wanted to bite the bullet and get a FitBit to help track my sleep quality and exercise. I also decided that I needed to get some books heading my way if I wanted to read more, which meant a trip to Amazon and browsing the DC library’s online offerings.
So since starting this daily accountability practice, I’ve been supplementing my circadian and physical health metrics with data from the FitBit, and also tending a growing list of books that I want to read. These things were not in my life before the list, so they’re minor structural changes, but changes nonetheless.
A couple last things that I want to mention here:
First, one of the most valuable things about this list is that if you get a week or two worth of sheets and go through them, you can really quickly identify those things you consistently crush, and also the list items that you tend to avoid. So for example, if, six months down the road, I realize that I haven’t missed a single day of taking vitamins, maybe that means it’s officially burned into my brain that I need to do that, but I’ve done a comparably awful job at prioritizing stretching or meditation. Well, maybe in this case delete the vitamins, and incentivize the meditation by making it worth more points. If you assign it a higher value, then you’re more likely to give it your attention.
This leads me to one other important piece of advice: make sure you give your list some time for refinement. When I first started doing this list, I was drinking a gallon of water each day, twice as much as I drink currently. And honestly, it wasn’t worth it. I spent my entire day running to the bathroom to the point where I was being less productive as a result. I wasn’t feeling any health benefits from my gallon of water, so I ended up dialing it back. I’m much happier with 64 oz, which is your standard 8 glasses a day. Also, as my wife and I started doing more hikes with our dog, I was able to make the connection that – a 5 mile hike with lots of elevation change was giving me just as much exercise as a 3 mile run, so I made that item more flexible. And the great thing about doing one of these hikes is that it counts for 2 points worth of exercise, as well as a point for exercising the dog and a point for doing something fun with my wife. So by simply giving myself options like the run OR the hike, I can decide which is going to be the best option on a given day. I’m not saying you should make all your tasks stackable like this one, but it’s kinda fun when you can make progress on multiple items at once. A more trivial example of this might be taking vitamins while eating salad for lunch and drinking water while reading a book. I can do all four of those things pretty much simultaneously and not at the expense of one another.
How I Benefitted From This Process
Since picking up this daily accountability practice, I’ve definitely been more mindful in my day-to-day activities. I’ve made really great progress on the sleep front, which was something I used to be good at before starting a small business, so it feels nice to start correcting a part of my life that has definitely been neglected in recent years. And for me, having this list is an almost fool-proof antidote for boredom because if the question is: “what should I do now?” Chances are, the accountability journal probably still has a few boxes that need to be checked.
I want to reiterate that I chose this approach precisely because I have an immoderate personality and I wanted to work a sense of routine and moderation into my life. In French, the phrase for “I am happy” is “je suis content,” “I am content,” and contentedness, I think, is a difficult thing to achieve in general, let alone during a stressful pandemic. This contentedness is exactly what Sober October, Dry January, and the orgastic holiday period in between stand in opposition to. You’re always vacillating between extremes rather than locating and sinking into the rhythms that make every day happy and productive. So to sum up the mission of the daily accountability journal, it is to build healthy practices into your life so that eventually they become part of who you are and to design your day around things that will make you happy and help you achieve your goals.
For me, the goal was cutting back on drinking, but I’m sure you could use this approach to affect lots of different types of change in your life.
I’m Modern Bar Cart CEO, Eric Kozlik. I hope this was at least a little bit helpful in thinking about booze fasts and other ways to drink smarter and healthier. Thanks for listening, and I’ll catch you again soon.