Better Than Before — Habit Management for A Peaceful Life


During the pandemic in 2020, I got the chance to read more often. One of the books that I read is really inspired me to organise myself better in order to be productive and motivated in doing my daily tedious activities. It is “Better Than Before” by Gretchen Rubin that had taught me how to manage my habits and maintain my peace of mind.

How it was started?

Indeed, it wasn’t started at the moment I firstly finished several pages of the book. But, there is a sentence from the book that really satirises me

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Nothing is more exhausting than the task that’s never started, and strangely, starting is often far harder than continuing” — Gretchen Rubin

Dang! The moment I read First Steps strategy chapter, I realise that I already wasted lots of hours in procrastination. It feels like tomorrow is the right time to start everything. Until tomorrow comes and I think that there are lots of things need to be done, I’ll think to delay it again to another tomorrow.

Well, tomorrow is a faraway place. Isn’t it?

Once I acknowledged this behaviour of mine — read: procrastination heavily — I tried these following things to make myself less guilty.

Make peace with myself

I do hate myself whenever I postpone doing something that has been scheduled in my mind. The exhausting feeling of not fulfilling things I’ve planned can linger for weeks and even for some uncertain amount of time until I finally decide to do it. I’m really aware of this feeling yet it is always another chapter of webtoon that is more tempting to be read, another minutes to take a nap, and another things that seems to be more pleasing to be done first.

Hence, instead of blaming myself for the procrastination, which will lead to unhappy me, I forgive myself.

Yes. I’m a sloth and that’s totally fine. — me

Get to know yourself

After accepting myself as a pro procrastinator, I pondered,

“After all these years, as being a procrastinator, a coach potato, how could I manage to survive and graduate from college?”

Taking few minutes looking for the answers, I came with the following conclusions:

  • I’m an obliger. I need someone or something that frequently asking me my progress on doing a task.
  • I’m a questioner. I tend to enjoy doing task that has clear purposes.

What is the strategy?

By knowing who I am or how I tend to behave against some tasks, I utilise some strategies given by Gretchen Rubin.

Exercise, sleep, eat healthy food, and unclutter

Before managing the habit that I was going to incorporate in my daily routine, I firstly organised my time and energy. Surprisingly, these four things — exercise, sleep, eat healthily, and unclutter — are the key to manage my time and energy.

We all know that get enough sleep and eat well will definitely strengthen our mental and body. Honestly, from these four things, I was doubting about exercising

“Wouldn’t it be too exhausted for me to do any other tasks once I finished exercising?”

However, I still gave it a try by taking the least exercise that I could do. Yeap, you might guess it already. Taking a walk. I was trying to take a walk every weekend in the morning. I was hoping that I’d be too tired to do the weekend chores. Counteractively, I wasn’t. It felt like taking walk in the morning was a way for my body to warm up to do the following task.

Talking about unclutter, it wasn’t a hard thing to do for me. However, I believe that each person has his own determination of messiness. Well, as for me, I manage myself to tidy up my surrounding whenever I feel that the floor is dusted enough.

Incorporate one habit at a time

As what Gretchen has stated, it will be easier to incorporate habit one at a time and make the new habit dependent to the existing one. Since I already managed my time and energy, I had several habits that unconsciously formed. One habit that was incorporated afterwards was doing the chores on weekend. Actually this task can be considered as uncluttering. However, since I started to walk every weekend in the morning, I started to get up earlier including on weekday. Once I woke up on Monday morning, I didn’t feel it was the right time to take a walk, hence I did my chores instead.

Once doing chore everyday became a habit, it was easier for me to start another new habit. I started my reading habit after finishing the chore. At first, I was doing it for fun, and took some rest by reading book for a 15–30 minutes after doing the chore. Until one day, I decided to take it as my habit since I felt like it was scheduled.

Make myself obligated

Whenever I feel obligated of doing something, I don’t need to decide whether I have to do it or not. The answer will be always “yes”. As I mentioned earlier that I found myself an obliger, it’s easier for me when I don’t need to decide anything. It feels like my body is designed to automatically do the task.

As with my morning routine chore, I always tell myself

“If I didn’t do the chore in the morning, no one will. If I delay to do the chore in the morning, I’ll be too exhausted to do it after work.”

Try to absent completely or indulge myself periodically

As I tried to start some habits, I also tried to eliminate some bad habits. Spending too much time on watching netflix series. Eating too many snacks. Spending my time working on a bed instead of desk. And any other bad habits.

The first strategy of not doing my bad habit is eliminate the bad habit completely. But, to me, this strategy is really hard that I always found myself get back doing the bad habit again and again. For instance, I tried not to watch netflix series since I know that I couldn’t stay being cliff hanged by any episodes in the series. I tried the absent strategy and successfully not watching any series for 4 months until I saw Queen Gambit on my netflix browser and succumbed to finish the series within two days on the weekend :)

Knowing this bad habit of mine is really important. Even if naturally I can’t resist the temptation of clicking next episode to get the series finished, I know that I am only allowed to indulge myself in watching netflix series in holiday — because I know the series story will haunt me during my working hours :’

Since during the pandemic I couldn’t travel or gather with my friends often to relieve the stress of working at home, I found that watching netlix series was pretty amusing. Because of this, I finally changed my strategy to indulge myself periodically. So, whenever I spotted long weekend on the calendar and I had nowhere to go or no particular thing that had been planned, after finished the chores, my reading, and my self-improvement by watching course in coursera, I started browsing the new netflix series that I’d like to watch :)

Someone told me that adulthood is about managing ourselves to comply with the habits that we arrange to achieve our goals. Well, I’m pretty agree with it. It takes years to be a good leader for ourselves. By learning what are the strategies of organising ourselves, it would be easier to finally successful in having full self control of our mind and body.

Well, apart from all the strategies that I’ve explained above. There’s one most important take away that I really want you to always remember

Whatever good habits that you’re struggling to incorporate or bad habits that you really want to eliminate in your daily routine, let’s start doing it now! :)

That’s all. Thanks for reading folks!

Software Engineer | Traveler | Lifelong Learner

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