BLP Ep #11: Habits Deep Dive — Focus on Screen Time

October 5, 2020

Not surprisingly, my latest BLP episode reflects my current Operation 100 goals, and specifically the ways I have used planning/tracking to support my efforts.

Some visuals:

Daily log of digital check ins:

Daily habit tracking graphic:

M = headspace (meditation)

O = going outside at least 20 min or so

R = spending some time reading

Music note = intentionally playing some music (usually an All Songs Considered podcast or via Spotify)

D = Duolingo (fairly recent addition!)

Aqua number = steps taken (loose goal of 10K which I definitely do not always meet)

Blue number = screen time minutes

Light green checkbox = workout

Elements of effective habit change

(for me – an Upholder; other personality types may need to employ different strategies)

1- Making a clear statement of about goals with parameters

2- Tracking daily

3- Recording daily (to raise awareness)

4- Longer-term examination of trends (ie, looking at average of minutes over time)

5- (I don’t know if I mentioned this but) — Emphasize progress over perfection! That is why I went with a goal of under 100 minutes on average rather than some perfect streak. I know I may have a bad day in there somewhere. I’m hoping not to, but if I do I can feel confident that it’s the big picture that matters (which is true) and resume my newfound habits the next day.

Products mentioned:

Amplify quarterly planners

Wonderland 222 featuring Tomoe River paper


  • Reply Marjorie October 5, 2020 at 11:15 am

    I really appreciate your sharing snapshots of your daily layouts! I’ve struggled over the past year — ever since I got my first Hobonichi 18 months ago — to maintain a log of the habits I want to develop (writing daily, regular exercise, etc.). I’m sort of a lapsed Upholder trying to get back to that, as I’ve found that it’s the only way I can stay on top of things and maintain a level of equanimity in my life and mood!

    I’m especially curious about how often you check your email, as that’s a habit I’ve been wanting to prioritize. I don’t get as much email because of the nature of my work (mostly internal) so in my world, email = Slack, and I definitely need to work on minimizing the time I spend on it. A lot of folks like yourself and Tim Ferriss talk about minimizing email check-ins to 1-2/day at the most (I think Tim goes so far as to check it just once or twice a week? But then he does have an assistant who triages that stuff for him, so that helps!), and that sounds like a fantastic solution. I just need to actually implement it!

    Can’t wait to hear this podcast!

  • Reply Jess October 5, 2020 at 12:57 pm

    Thought it would be fun to comment since you seem to enjoy the 4 tendencies. I’m a questioner and the “tracking” method SO does not work for me! The tracking itself seems pointless to me, so I give up quickly.

    Additionally something that seems like a questioner behavior, I am very picky about what things I do every day. I like to journal at least one sentence every day, and in pandemic times I know it’s helpful to try to talk to someone outside of my household (just my boyfriend and me) every day, but I don’t even track that, it’s more like if I have a patch of free time I know I should choose to call someone. There’s not much else outside of basic hygiene, eating, and sleeping that I do every day!

    Recently I’m trying to start working out every weekday except Friday. I used to get all my exercise from sports, and with pandemic plus a recent sports injury, I really haven’t gotten enough exercise. I’m trying to make the rule as reasonable as I can so that I stick with it – I go to the exercise room downstairs in my apartment building and at least do SOMETHING, no matter how small. We’ll see how it goes! As a questioner I also don’t tend to adhere to strict time blocking (why is this time any better than some other time if I’m free both times??) so I’ve just decided to go do it whenever I need a break from what I’m doing (I know, I’m lucky I can do this since I don’t have kids).

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger October 5, 2020 at 4:49 pm

      Hahahah you do sound like such a classic questioner! I love your time block

    • Reply xykademiqz October 5, 2020 at 10:27 pm

      Hi Jess, I am another person for whom tracking absolutely doesn’t work (just did the Rubin test and it came back as “rebel,” which makes me sound way cooler than I am! LOL) I have no problem starting new activities, and if I am really into an activity or it serves an important purpose I cannot deny, then I will stick with it through ebbs and flows.
      Otherwise, I will simply drop it. I used to beat myself over it when I was younger, but not anymore — life’s too short!

      I generally keep my time as unconstrained as humanly possible, try to do what I feel like doing when I feel like doing it. This means not having any meeting that can be avoided, dispensing with artificial deadlines, etc. I wish I’d done this when I was younger, because coming to peace with how I am and how I work best has brought me happiness and productivity. I generally have a lot of interests and a lot of energy, so it’s not like I am in danger of not doing anything, I am just happiest and most productive when I do what I want when I want (I call it “cake before dinner” approach). It’s been extremely liberating.

      Good luck!

      • Reply Jess October 6, 2020 at 12:12 am

        It’s fun how well people seem to fit into her framework. Keeping your time as unconstrained as humanly possible? Definitely sounds like a rebel!
        Very much agreed that we should take advantage of our personalities as they are and not try to force it! 🙂

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger October 6, 2020 at 5:44 am

        It does not surprise me whatsoever that you tested as rebel 🙂 You’re a great example of a successful rebel. I wonder if there are more rebels in academia? I do feel like it would suit many who really want to (and are excellent at) making the most of their time without too much superimposed structure.

        I personally found research frustrating b/c I felt I NEEDED more structure and guaranteed ‘outcome’ for my efforts. I probably would have benefited from a mentor others would have found micromanaging, but never had one. Plus I was too impatient 🙂

        • Reply Eva October 6, 2020 at 11:03 am

          Academic rebel here too. I cannot work under a “boss”.

        • Reply xykademiqz October 6, 2020 at 2:11 pm

          I wonder if there are more rebels in academia?

          In the fields where there’s good earning potential in the fabled “real world” (e.g., business/biomed and pharma/law/comp science/engineering), I think academia does tend to collect rebels, who are willing to sacrifice high pay for not having a boss!

          Research, by its nature, is quite amorphous, so it’s well suited for those who are comfortable muddling through, with no clear end goal in sight. It helps to have confidence in one’s inner logic and probably some misplaced bravado! LOL But there are meticulous organized types as well as disheveled crazy-scientist types being successful as researchers, often when they work together.

          I have a graduate student right now who seems to be a textbook upholder (super organized and her color-coded notes would make you swoon); she struggles with research somewhat, and I think for a long time she thought I didn’t give her enough guidance because I didn’t want to or had something against her. We had to have a chat and I said I understood what she craved, a clear goal with a clear path toward it, with clear milestones, but that it’s simply not how research works. I don’t know what the end goal is; I have an idea and can propose general directions and strategies, then trouble-shoot with her as issues arise, but the only way to get long-term detailed procedural steps she craves would be for me to first do it all myself, because nobody has actually done this before, so the steps don’t exist. Besides, often the best results arise when you follow side roads that only show up once you’re in the thick of it and are impossible to predict in advance.

          I have had students like that (who I’m guessing are upholders) in the past, and I’ve tried to adapt how I work with them (and with my current student from above) to a way that makes them feel more in control, to the extent to which I think it’s possible in the context of research: a) schedule one-on-one meetings at the same time every week (rather than what my MO was as a grad student, which was when I had something to talk about, I sought out grad advisor and we scheduled to meet that day or the next); b) write down a few clear steps and milestones (once it becomes clear to me what the next steps are), and few tentative ones, and a projected time for completion, and revise these often — having stuff in written form seems to relax upholders; c) pair student up with another group member on related project so they don’t feel like they’re alone and adrift in the nebula of day-to-day research; d) once a student is done with grad coursework, I have them be a teaching assistant for a course, because that introduces structure to their otherwise completely structureless workweek (and gets them out of the lab and meeting chirpy undergrads, which is always fun and good for mental health).

          My upholder students tend to be content and very successful once they graduate and go work in the corporate sector, where their projects are less open-ended.

          • Sarah Hart-Unger October 7, 2020 at 5:35 am

            so interesting! you sound like an amazing mentor to be able to adapt your leadership/mentorship style. your students are lucky to have you. also, color coded notes are my love language.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns October 5, 2020 at 1:51 pm

    Your 100 min/day goal is so impressive. My screen time is higher, but I don’t have a tablet or iPad or any other device,and gmail, facebook, IG, you name it, is blocked on my work computer. So everything I do outside of work happens on my phone. I am limiting myself to 30 min between IG and FB, though, as I don’t want to spend any more than that amount of time on it. I think I should also block myself from those aps on the weekend, too. Otherwise I am tempted to mindlessly scroll. I looked at my screen time for the weekend and it was not awesome but I also read a lot of news on my phone so that ate up a good chunk of time. Usually I wouldn’t read the news but I was more drawn to it with Trump’s hospitalization.

    I don’t do any daily tracking but that might be something I add to my bujo in 2021… But maybe after maternity leave? I want to kind of give myself a pass during those 20 weeks!

  • Reply Eva October 5, 2020 at 9:56 pm

    I’m intrigued by the habit of intentionally listening to music – if you come up with some gold nuggets, I’d love to read about them!

  • Reply Hope Halperin October 8, 2020 at 8:56 am

    I loved this weeks podcast. Looking forward to seeing how you use your new Amplify Quarterly planner. I just watched their video and I like the idea of the fact that it has so much space in it.

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