Sticking to routines, habits, and longer-term projects when life gets in the way is something I've been struggling with my whole life. Recently, I've coined two terms for this pattern: "Complacency Creep" or "Awareness (Habit) Slippage".
This is what the pattern looks like:
- First, I embark on a new project. It can be anything: a new habit, a hobby, a work project – anything, really. At this point, I'm pretty excited about it.
- A few days, weeks, or months go by, and life starts getting in the way. The novelty wears off, I get distracted by something, or I'm simply too busy with other priorities popping up. Alternatively, the thing I'm doing is going so well that I let my guard down and lose focus.
- Then I slip. Perhaps I decide to skip the gym one day, or I skip my morning routine and jump straight to work, or I spend a weekend with friends and don't have time to properly plan my next week.
At this point, this can go one of two ways:
- If I'm aware enough to catch myself slipping, I refocus, recover, get back into the right mindset, and continue as usual.
- If I don't catch it – e.g. because I'm too busy, stressed out, low on energy, or unable to refocus for any other reason – it's easy to fall out of awareness altogether and go into what I call autopilot mode, a state where I'm following my impulses and working on short-term tasks, rather than long-term plans.
In the best-case scenario, I become aware of the autopilot mode during one of my regular check-ins (e.g. daily journaling sessions or weekly planning and organization sessions) and make a conscious effort to disengage it.
In the worst-case scenario, I can keep going on autopilot for weeks and months at a time without realizing it. It's scarily easy to lose track of time and the big picture when you're busy, stressed out, burnt out, or simply distracted by life.
I find it interesting that complacency creep can happen for both negative and positive reasons. So you're prone to it not only when you're busy and stressed out, but also when things are seemingly going your way. No rest for the wicked!
While I don't think you can escape it altogether because that's just how our brains work, I've found that adding more check-ins and autopilot interrupts to my life helps me stay more aware and better recover from awareness slippage:
- Every morning, I review my plan for the day and write a short journal entry
- Every evening, I write a longer journal entry, wrap up my day, and prepare for tomorrow.
- Every Sunday, I do a weekly review that consists of a longer journaling session, reviewing weekly highlights, thoughts, ideas, and planning for the week ahead.
A while ago, I created a group chat with a couple friends where I check in three times a day and share my progress, energy levels, and plans for the immediate future. It may sound like a lot, but it only takes a minute and gives me a few extra opportunities to recover awareness and save the day before the evening session.
Let me know if complacency creep is something you also experience.
Have a conscious week,
A few thoughts
Extreme extraversion. I'm more extravert than introvert, but my ratio is like 70/30. I have friends who are closer to 100/0 and I'm simultaneously jealous and terrified of the idea of living with such an extreme extra- to intro- ratio.
Waking up early. It's another concept I'm feeling ambivalent about. The feeling of having so much accomplished by noon is the best, but not having enough sleep is literally the worst. Once again jealous of those of you mutant DEC2 gene carriers.
No whining allowed. A long time ago I discovered the destructive and toxic potential of negativity and complaining and I've been trying to curb my urges to complain ever since. If something annoys you, then either change it or move on. Just don't whine about it – neither to yourself nor to those around you.
Willingness to look stupid "The benefit from asking a stupid sounding question is small in most particular instances, but the compounding benefit over time is quite large and I've observed that people who are willing to ask dumb questions and think "stupid thoughts" end up understanding things much more deeply over time."
Big Goals "The problem with a reasonable goal though is that if you feel confident you can hit it, then it likely won't cause you to grow very much."
The fun part
I've finally gotten myself a white linen blazer that I can pair with my red and blue trackpants and runners. This is the ideal outfit. You may not like it, but this is what peak style looks like.