This isn’t working

A good investment portfolio takes several years to mature. The biggest mistake investors make is to prematurely intervene and disrupt the process.

A good habit takes several weeks to set in. Until then, it is tempting to abort our efforts midway because we don’t see results.

Vitamin supplements take several weeks to a month for their effects to kick in. So do anti-depressants. Sadly, patients are prone to discontinue them before they start working.

Past a point, advancement in a skill takes place at an atomic level on a day-to-day basis, where you sense no improvement. That is why every discipline has plenty of intermediate practitioners, but only a few masters.

Long term improvement takes time, continual effort and faith. Before you give up, ask yourself if you have given it a fair shot.

Streak freeze

If you have practiced the guitar for 50 days in a row, it is very likely that you will practice on the 51st day as well.

Maintaining a streak is a great way to sustain a habit. Much like an automobile’s flywheel, a streak ensures that the wheels keep rolling. However, streaks are difficult to build, and all too easy to lose. Even if you miss a single day, a streak of 50 days is broken, and you need to start from scratch. At this point, several people lose motivation and give up.

A ‘streak freeze’ solves this problem. A streak freeze is feature on the language app Duolingo. Duolingo offers 2 streak freezes that sustain your learning streak. A streak freeze protects your streak from disappearing when a tough day keeps you from showing up to practice. Freees are also limited and take time to recharge, thereby ensuring that people don’t abuse them.

A streak freeze is a clever feature designed around a central fact. Habits don’t die if we miss a single day – it is the second, the third and the fourth miss that kill them off.

Habit stacking

It is hard to put a baby to sleep at night. This can be made easier by giving the baby a warm bath just before bedtime every evening.

It is hard to meditate regularly. This can be made easier by meditating as soon as you wake up each morning.

It is hard to read regularly. This can be made easier by combining reading with a daily commute.

Bulding new habits is hard. This can be made easier by stacking them on habits that already exist.

Inpsiration: Atomic Habits

Measures for making and breaking habits

‘How long does it take to form a new habit?’

People often ask this question, but it isn’t useful. Habit formation depends less on duration and more on frequency. In one week, a person who does 10 push-ups everyday will get much farther than somebody who only pushes-up 10 times during the weekends.

When it comes to making new habits, a more useful question is ‘how often does it take’.

Yet, the question of ‘how long does it take’ is still useful, when we speak about breaking habits.

When it comes to breaking habits, duration makes sense. If you want to break a habit of snacking on potato chips, each day you go without snacking on chips is a small step towards breaking the habit.

Think of forming habits in terms of reps. Think of breaking habits in terms of duration.

The key to overnight success

For the first five years, a bamboo plant looks small and unassuming, as it builds extensive root systems underground. And then, the plant explodes ninety feet into the air in six weeks.

As a programmer, on most days, it seems like you’re making no progress as you inch along from error message to error message. And then, on one inspired evening, you accomplish several days worth of work in a few hours, leaving the keyboard smouldering.

Success is a product of tiny, incremental improvements. On a day-to-day basis, it will seem like you aren’t making progress. But one day, these increments compound to produce powerful results.

When people see this, they will call you an overnight success. But the key to overnight success is days, months and years worth of improvement in tiny increments.

Inspiration: Atomic Habits

Why is Wordle so popular?

In the beginning of 2022, nobody had heard of Wordle. By the end of Feb 2022, everybody has heard of it. What makes Wordle so wildly popular?

Wordle isn’t a new game – I played a version of it on the back-benches in my university classes. It isn’t hard to code into a website – an amateur developer could do that in a day. It doesn’t use technology that is native to 2022. It isn’t particularly more fun than most online games out there.

Yet, in one respect, Wordle stands apart. Its creators only publish 1 puzzle a day. Once you solve that puzzle, you have to wait an entire day for a new word. You can play it in a couple of minutes, and come back the next day for another 2 minute hit of pleasure. The game always keeps you on the hook.

The popularity of Wordle serves as a metaphor for two principles

  • To make something a habit, design it so that you do a little bit everyday
  • Scarcity is key to keep people coming back for more