New Years Resolutions: August Edition

Follow up to “New Years Resolutions: July Edition

I’m still going strong.

About half a year ago, I outlined some New Years Resolutions, and then did what I thought impossible – used the power of blogging, precommitment, and betting to actually stick to my plans. Following up my last report in July, I present my August update, where I see how I’m doing against my goals, and… more importantly… update my goals based on how things are going so far.

How Did July Go?

Overall, July was a great month for sticking to my habits, whether I have been trying to form them all year or just staring them for July.

Points: I’m using a point system to track habits, where each thing I want to do scores a certain amount of positive points for the day and each thing I want to not do scores a certain amount of negative points for the day, and I have a goal of reaching a certain point total at the end of the month. This system offered the ability to fail in one area and make up for it by overworking another area, or fail on one day and make up for it by overworking another day, which has it’s share of pros and cons, but overall is working better for me. In July, I needed to score 13840 points and I succeeded, scoring 15445. I had a high of 660 and a low of 340 for daily points acquired.

Exercise: I spent an average of 30 minutes a day exercising, exercising on 21 out of the 31 days. My running has hit a new high of 3.8mi and my strength has ostensibly improved through progress on Convict Conditioning. I look forward to getting back to Denison’s gym.

Diet: My diet goals for this month were intentionally more lax. All I had to do was drink at least 5 cups of water and 5 cups a milk a day, and consume a daily protein bar. This worked well until I moved to England and couldn’t find any protein bars. Overall, I stayed on the water habit about 80% of the time and the milk habit about 55% of the time.

Weight: At the end of July, I weighed 180lbs. This is an insignificant 1lbs drop in weight from the beginning of June. I suppose it’s good I was able to maintain my weight despite having a less planned diet.

Productivity: I’ve now been spending a little over ten hours a day working on things, whether it be a job, writing, researching, or other stuff like that. Time spent with friends and family dropped from 7 hours a day to a little under 5 hours a day, which is still quite a lot.

Hygiene: Again, I’m sure you don’t want the actual details. Things are even better than they were in June, though.

Annual Goals: I had three goals to be completed by the end of the year: (1) write 200 blog essays, (2) add four games to the arcade, and (3) get my driver’s license. I’ve now written 117/200 essays (59% of the essays in 59% of the time), have resumed work on the games, and am significantly closer to getting my license (but still haven’t gotten it yet).

What’s New for August?

Virtues! I’m told that, at the age of 20, Benjamin Franklin created a system to develop his character, where he tracked his behavior along thirteen virtues. I don’t think virtues are the basis for morality, but I do believe that thinking in terms of virtues can be a good way to aim for better behavior. Since I like the theming, I’ve decided to categorize the habits I’m aiming to cultivate by various virtues, though for their instrumental value, not because I believe in virtue.

This month, I aim for 19840 points that will come from the following:

Industry

“It’s amazing how much you can get done if you’re always doing.” – Thomas Jefferson

The virtue of industry is not about staying busy for the sake of busy, but about making sure important things get accomplished.

To this end, I’ll still be tracking time spent on task. However, I now will in addition be tracking the number of times per day I make use of the Pomodoro Technique, which is a technique of using a timer to alternate between doing good, focused work for 25 minutes and taking a break for 5 minutes. “Breaking” a Pomodoro, or taking a break when it isn’t break time (interruptions from others don’t count) will be counted as negative points.

Secondly, I’m placing negative points on the curse of oversleeping. This past month there have been many times when I’ve woken up a bit tired and decided to go back to sleep. But no matter how long I go back to sleep for, I’ll still wake up a little bit tired (generally because snooze sleep isn’t very good quality). If, instead, I just got out of bed immediately, I’d wake up in just a few minutes after drinking some water.

Lastly, another thing I’m going to do is introduce a little bit of urgency in my to-do list. If I feel like a task is of particular urgency and must be done today, I will tag it with “kill order”, which is a note to myself not to let the task survive the night. If the sun rises on a task that I’m supposed to have killed, I lose 30 points.

Summary Pomodoros = 5 points per Pomodoro completed. Time spent on task (meetings, work, commute, etc.) = 15 points per half hour. Wasting time (has a “I know it when I see it” standard) = -10 points per half hour. Breaking a Pomodoro = -5 points each. Defying a kill order = -30 points each. Oversleeping = -20 points.

Fraternity

“The company of others is what makes life great.”

While it’s important that I spend time doing work, it’s also very important that I spend time with people I like. The only new thing here is that I’ll now be tracking time spent with my family, friends, and my girlfriend all individually, to make sure that none of them go neglected.

Summary Spend time with friends / family / girlfriend = 10 points per half hour. Spend no time with one of those three = -30 points per group neglected.

Fitness

“You can’t have a healthy life without a healthy lifestyle.”

I’m doing two new things here. To make my diet a bit healthier, I want to aim to eat a half cup of broccoli every day. I also want to start cutting out fried foods and white grains as a part of a transition to eating more whole foods.

Summary Exercise (biking, running, strength training) = 30 points for every 30 minutes. Walking = 10 points for every 30 minutes. Drink 5 cups of water = 20 points. Drink 5 cups of milk = 20 points. Eat a protein bar = 20 points. Eat half a cup of broccoli = 20 points. Eat a fried food = -20 points. Eat a white grain = -20 points. Eat a sweet = -20 points.

Cleanliness

“Cleanliness is next to godliness.”

Nothing remarkably new here.

Summary Shower = 30 points. Deoderant = 10 points. Floss = 10 points. Brush teeth = 10 points. Mouthwash = 10 points. Shave = 10 points.

Order

“A cluttered room is a cluttered mind.”

In order to make sure things are in order, I need to make sure I keep up on my logs and inboxes every day, and make sure my bed and room are clean. For logs, I’ll be aiming to keep track of my time, exercise, sleep, reading, and television. I no longer will be keeping my gratitude journal though, since I found that I’m already happy enough, and updating it was just beginning to be annoying.

Summary Update logs = 30 points. Unprocessed inbox at end of day = -20 points. Going to bed with a messy room -20 points. Being out of the room for longer than 30 minutes with the bed unmade = -20 points.

Silence

“There are certain things which are best not said. What are those things? I shouldn’t say.”

Following Scott Alexander’s essay on “The Virtue of Silence”, I am going to avoid not saying the things that should not be said. -20 points for each time I do.

Humility

“The first test of a truly great man is his humility. By humility I don’t mean doubt of his powers or hesitation in speaking his opinion, but merely an understanding of the relationship of what he can say and what he can do.” – John Ruskin

I think the Art of Manliness’s guide to humility is a good starting point here, making sure that we give credit where credit is due, don’t name/experience drop, and stop one-upping people. (Though the guide says we should do charity anonymously, which I think is problematic.)

Additionally, I want to practice more humility in making claims about things, trying my hardest not to overstate what the evidence allows me to state, avoiding both underconfidence and overconfidence.

-10 points for each time I break this.

Frugality

“A penny saved is a penny earned.” – Benjamin Franklin

My spending is still difficult to fully articulate because, as a college student, there are still things my parents pay for and things I pay for. Of the things I pay for (like fraternity dues, food, gifts, entertainment, books, essentials, entertainment, and travel), I want to keep to $4500 for this year.

Conclusions

Again, I’m not practicing virtues for the sake of virtues, but for their instrumental value in living a better life. I’m still guided by utilitarianism first and foremost, as much as possible, not virtue ethics. The list of virtues you see here aren’t even a list of all virtues I think are important, but rather just useful ways to categorize the habits that I am tracking.

Followed up in “New Years Resolutions: Octember Edition”