Chasing flow to build habits 🏃♂️
I've tried most of the productivity systems and hacks under the stars (GTD, Pomodoro, Kanban to name a few), but after each honeymoon, I'd leave unsatisfied.
That recently changed when, 6 months ago, a coworker mentioned a phrase that has since stuck with me: "Chasing the feeling". I don't even fully remember what the context was (I think we were talking about chasing the feeling of compounding as a team), but I had a jimmy neutron moment.
Why? Creatives do best in blocks of unstructured time, with minimal friction. What if exposing yourself to the ideal state of an activity (where you're in flow, losing track of time) as often as possible changes your brain such that when you think about doing said activity, you get excited?
I realized that this is already how I experience certain conventionally challenging activities (coding and running, namely). Why not apply it to more areas of my life?
So I slowly did that for side projects and hobbies that I wanted to spend more time on. I found the ways I get into a flow state most easily for each activity, and repeated them ad naseum until my brain internalized how good it felt doing these things. To provide concrete examples:
- for learning Mandarin, I realized I didn't enjoy forcing myself to read a textbook, but instead watching chinese dramas or youtube videos, or writing chinese characters in my journal. This may not be the optimal way of learning Mandarin, but I'm consistent and having fun with it.
- for lifting, doing simple movements that can be done in 5 min increments throughout the workday felt empowering. Like going super saiyan. Also had the benefit of making it easier to focus after getting back to my desk.
- for writing, allowing myself to wander with my pen, doodling alongside my thoughts.
- for working on side projects (like this website), pushing small but frequent commits to GitHub and seeing these projects come to life.
Now I have a habit stack that I love and enjoy cultivating, with abstract habit triggers so that even when my environment changes (e.g. from travelling) I still do these things. I don't care if I don't do one of those on a particular day. I don't particularly care about streaks either. I do these things because they're gratifying. This isn't about optimizing my day-to-day, it's about figuring out what makes my day feel great and removing friction. And these are the activities that today feel awesome. If any of these habits were to start slipping, it probably means that there are other new activities that make my days feel even better.
In other words, these aren't on a todo list each day. I don't want my life to become one.
Last Updated: Sat Aug 27 2022
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