In the last two weeks or so, building my daily routine has received a shot in the arm. No, it’s not from reading self-help books or listening to insightful podcasts. What is my secret? Playing with my phone.
I know this sounds completely counterintuitive, but it’s true. You’d think that as a digital minimalist with no Facebook profile or a single social media application installed on my phone that I would be preaching against the dopamine hijacking of mobile applications. If this were any other article, that would be true. In this case, messing with apps is really helping me remain consistent. Let’s go back to how this silliness started.
In May, after reading Meditation For Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris, I was sold on the benefits of daily meditation. To help me start my meditation routine, I looked around for free meditation phone apps. Though I found one that offered free guided meditations, I began to prefer breath-focused mindfulness meditation over guided meditation. Despite this, the same app offered a meditation timer that utilized a soothing gong sound instead of a startling alarm. Snooping around a bit more, I also found that the application tracked the duration and frequency of my meditation sessions.
Looking at the dots on the calendar reminded me of hearing about one of Jerry Seinfeld’s secrets to success: his comedy calendar. The premise was pretty simple — he’d get a huge wall calendar that showed every day of the year on one page and a big red marker. For every day that he wrote a new joke, he would write a giant red “X” on that day.
“After a few days, you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
Like Jerry’s calendar, my meditation app became my wall calendar to help me build my meditation routine. After every 10-minute meditation session, I would check my stats to look at another gorgeous dot butted up against yesterday’s gorgeous dot. The days I wouldn’t get around to meditating made my beautiful smile of a calendar start to look like a mouth missing teeth.
Over the course a few weeks, meditating came more natural — not just because I enjoyed meditating and the life-altering this attention span weight training, but also because I wanted to preserve my precious calendar. I hated breaking the chain. Any missed day was like punching a tooth out of the mouth of my calendar. One day in particular, I knew there was no chance of meditating once I got home from work. I couldn’t bear to imagine a hole in my routine calendar. To get in my daily meditation session, I meditated in the waiting room before a doctor’s appointment. I hope the sight of a guy with a long beard sitting with his eyes closed only to be “awoken” by a gong tone on his phone didn’t freak anyone out. Then again, that’s probably the least weird thing to happen in a doctor’s waiting room.
As I aimed to craft a solid daily routine, I decided to look for ways to track habit streaks for the other positive daily habits I wanted to develop. After a short search in the Google App store, I found an application called Roubit. Roubit is essentially a self-refreshing daily habit to-do list attached to a calendar. Users can enter daily habits they want to achieve, which days of the week they want to accomplish them, and the application does the rest. Your daily habit to-do list refreshes every day, and you can check the activities off as you go. Depending on the percentage of daily habits you accomplish, a different type of emoji-like face shows up on the calendar for that day. The goal is to complete each habit and have a streak of smiling faces on your calendar. There are tons of applications like Roubit, but I can only speak for Roubit.
There are days where I really don’t want to jump rope or do my 7-minute high-intensity workout. Still, as silly as it sounds, I have gotten out of bed and worked myself into a winded, sweaty mess just to be able to tick a box on an app. It’s really more than fiddling with a phone app. It’s the feeling of accomplishment that I know will wash over me when I can look back at a solid week, month, and hopefully year of ticked boxes, smiling faces, and unbroken chains.
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