Monthly update: New Year's Habits and the best TV show ever

Dec 31, 2020 1:21 pm

Hi !

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Here's what had my attention in December...

What I've been up to

βœ… We all know that New Year's Resolutions are typically broken by late January, contribute to self-loathing through February and March, and are forgotten by April.

Mine were never any different. But in 2020 I set out to create New Year's Habits instead: small actions to take consistently every day, rather than "resolving" to make some dramatic wholesale change to my life.

The habits were:

  • Write 500 words every day (which I link to an article about below)
  • Take a photo every day (which I wrote about here)
  • Stretch for 5 minutes every day

I've racked up over 300 ticks in my habit tracking app for each, without it feeling like much effort. The result? 150,000 words written, a year of my life documented (unfortunately a stunningly boring one), and far better flexibility. All without "resolving" to write a book or get in better shape.

A key to success – which I just did naturally, then found out yesterday is actually a thing with a catchy name – is to "never miss twice". There were days when I missed a habit due to being busy or lazy or uninspired, but never two days in a row. Habits get broken when (obviously) you stop doing them for multiple days, so this prevents failure by definition.

I'll be setting more New Year's Habits for 2021, and I highly recommend the approach.

πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈ One of the more perplexing things about people is their willingness to broadcast absolute certainty on subjects they know virtually nothing about.

I was taken aback in March to discover that everyone in my life had spent years doing an Open University degree in epidemiology on the quiet...until I realised that actually they'd just seen something on the BBC and were now repeating it loudly and vigorously.

Are lockdowns a good idea? Do masks help? Should we be more like Sweden or South Korea? I don't bloody know – how could I? I can form an opinion by looking at arguments from each side, but I don't have the background knowledge or experience to assess which has the highest probability of being right. Do you?

Trouble is, once you've locked onto an opinion and stated it with confidence in public, it's exceptionally difficult to change your mind. So the faster everyone rushes to proclaim what we should all be doing, the more we split into rival camps that will never be reconciled. And if 2020 has taught us anything, it's that no amount of data will change anyone's mind – there's always an interpretation that supports your existing view.

That's why I'm all for "rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty", as Douglas Adams put it. If I could have a Christmas wish, it'd be to start hearing "I don't know" a lot more often.

🐰🎩 For the second half of this year I've been working on two big projects. In next month's update I'll be able to tell you about one of them...possibly both. Excited? Probably not, but I am!

What I've published

– You’re an egomaniac, I’m an egomaniac. Deep down I'm writing this article in an attempt to impress you, and any benefit you get from it is purely incidental.

– The year you want to have. What will 2021 be like? Hopefully better than 2020 for all concerned – but you have more control over your next year than you might think...

– My year of writing (almost) every day. In 2020 I challenged myself to write for 20 minutes every day. What were the results, and was it a habit worth building?

What I've enjoyed

🏒 Is working from home part of "the new normal" (urgh) or will we all be back in the office by this time next year? My initial reaction was that the impact of working from home had been exaggerated, and the world would go pretty much back to how it was. But this thoughtful article has got me considering the effects more deeply, and I'm excited by the possibility of ending up with a hybrid that gives us the best of both worlds.

πŸ‘¨β€πŸ‘§β€πŸ‘¦ You've probably seen it already, but on the off-chance you haven't – Succession is my new favourite show of all time (overtaking Billions). The writing and acting are unbelievably good, and it has the additional benefit of making sure you never again wish you'd been born into obscene wealth.

As a side-note, I mentioned the usefulness of Reddit a couple of months back, and it's also great for reading more about shows you're really into. For popular shows, if you search "[Show name] [Season/Episode number] recap Reddit" you'll normally find a detailed thread with insights and observations you'd missed.

πŸ“Ή Given that we're going to be racking up many more hours of Zoom/Teams/Hangouts/Skype next year, it's worth putting a bit of effort into getting better at them. This article with seven magic phrases that make you instantly likeable on video calls is full of good ideas.

πŸ‘‹That’s it for December! It'd be great to hear from you if you've got news or recommendations to share.



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