72: A minimal viable habit system
Turning a gym habit into a writing habit + beyond
On my computer, I have more than 100 ideas and blog posts - sitting firmly between “more than just an idea” and “a post polished enough that I’m happy to share in the public domain”.
I think if I took the time to develop them into fully-formed thoughts, I could produce a pretty decent body of work.
But I haven’t done so. Why not?
And while these may be true, I realised that there are things that I am being consistent with - despite the above.
I think it comes down to what I’m going to call a “minimal viable habit system”.
One place where I’m consistent is going to the gym. This wasn’t always the case - for a long time I really struggled with consistency. I’d get into a good routine with a friend - but then when we spent time apart, I’d stop. Or my schedule would change, and I’d struggle to fit gym sessions in.
Over time, I kept assessing why I broke my gym pattern and coming up with ways I could improve it. Now, I realise, I have a mental ‘if this then that’ tree which means that even when circumstances change, my routine stays intact. And it works really well.
Now I didn’t write this email just to tell you about how often I go to the gym - so here’s the main point:
A minimal viable habit system is the collection of mental thought patterns and responses which enables you to maintain a habit indefinitely.
I believe that these are things you build over time, and what works best is specific to you.
To illustrate this point, I’m now going to reflect out-loud on how I can apply my gym habits to developing good writing habits. Hopefully, these are applicable to other habits too.
How can I write more?
This is not comprehensive, but some of the mental rules and patterns I have for going to the gym are:
By default, I go every other morning (on the days I’m not waking up my daughter)
If I don’t go in the morning, I’ll write down the specific time slot later on that I’ll go
I’m allowed to take the bus to/from the gym (it’s a 10-15 min walk), to reduce friction
I already know what I’m doing in advance (via the Strong app) - and have a ‘minimal’ workout, and some exercises being optional
If my schedule gets broken (e.g. by being away), the minimal commitment is 1x/week the first week back, then 2x/week, then 3x/week (although I usually come back quicker)
So what could I establish to help me write more?
By default, I publish one post every week at a specific time (let’s say 8pm Thursdays)
If I don’t publish at that time, then I’ll designate a back-up specific time when I will
To lower the friction, I’ll allow myself to write about whatever topic interests me - and not something I ‘should’ write about
To help decide what to write on, I’ll have a ready-made pipeline of post ideas (which incidentally, I already have! 100+ posts, did I mention already?)
If my schedule gets broken… then I’ll just accept it and make sure I write the next week (I don’t really want to go below 1x/week commitment…)
Cool, that seems reasonable. Let’s see how it goes.
👋 Hi, I'm Chris Lovejoy.
I'm a medical doctor 🩺 -> machine learning engineer 👨💻 -> start-up founder 💡
I also throw in my favourite things from the internet, and the occasional joke (humour is work-in-progress).