Day 859: Simplifying the Checklist (99)

With 99 days to go, I’m taking another look at my evening checklist and figuring out why I don’t do it — simplifying it down to essentials, making sure I’m removing the obstacles that are making it something I internally groan about “having” to do.

Not a radical overhaul, just dropping a couple of things, and moving the “listen to classical music” to work as a way of enforcing a lunch break — I have a real problem with taking time off once I get in, so having this to do will help me move into a better break space at least once during the day.

Day 118: Checklist Attrition

I’m still lovin’ on the checklist, but it’s starting to get a bit… fuzzy around the edges. Checklist attrition is happening. Strangely, I thought the 10-15 minutes of uke practice would be the first thing to go. But it’s the stretching.

I’ve mentioned that I’m not a big fan of stretching, right?

So yeah — I’m doing it every night, but the last couple of nights I’ve started doing it without the checklist. To the untrained eye this might look like “good, he’s internalizing it.” I, who know better, recognize this as me gettin’ sloppy.

Things I’m solid on:

  • Ukulele practice! Which is weird. I thought it would be the one I’d drift off on the soonest.
  • Planking. Again, I thought I might back off on this, but it’s a kind of easy one to knock off and while it hurts, I’m enjoying the progression.
  • Flossing/brushing. Kind of a no-brainer.

Things I’m okay on:

  • Food logging. I’m doing it, but it’s still out of flow for me to log into LoseIt and actually type it all in. Embarrassing on Bad Snack Days, too.
  • House tours: my wife will say “I’ve turned the lights off, etc.” and I’ll just take her word for it. Which I totally should, but then again, I should also do the tour myself because… checklist.
  • Checking out. It’s being done, but after all the other stuff, I kind of feel “checked out” already.

Things I’m slipping on — hardcore checklist attrition:

  • Stretching. I think because I don’t have a set of stretches, I’m just kind of making up “stretching” every night. I’m going to open a new browser tab and type “five minute stretching routine” and print something off to follow for the next week.

Checklist attrition and morning compliance

The whole point of the checklist is readiness for sleep in a lot of ways. I think that’s all good; I question whether the planking gets my body too revved up just before bedtime, but I think it’s okay.

But the stretching. That’s something I gotta work on.



Day 111: Checklist, day 2

I gotta say I am loving the checklist.

Honestly, I thought I wouldn’t. I thought I’d think it was dumb. I’m not normally a checklist guy. I mean, I can make a good checklist, but filling them out? Nah. I just bristle at that level of stricture in my life.

But I really like it! I think it’s partly because it’s actually helpful. And doesn’t take too much time.

Here are a few of the things that are working for me:

  • It’s interspersed with “gimmes” — flossing, brushing my teeth, turning the lights off. Little easy ones. Keeps me feeling good.
  • And “challenges” — ukulele practice (just 10 minutes), planking. Things that feel “meaty” when I tick them.
  • Finally, checking out as the very last thing. So much better than doing it at some interim point when I’m distracted by the next thing.

A checklist a day keeps the doctor… I don’t know, busy dealing with carpal tunnel syndromes or something

So my natural instinct is of course CHECKLIST ALL THE THINGS. Because that’s how I roll. Find a good idea, hammer it flat.

But I’m resisting. I think I’m going to stick to just a before-bed checklist for now. More might kill the fun, and I’m having a hard time seeing how a checklist that includes “exercise” which can take up to an hour and a quarter, would be fun. Or at least as fun as one with a lot of little hits on it.


Day 110: Check-Out Checklist

So I did it! A check-out checklist. Took less than 10 minutes to do.

It is very “me” that I started at “well, I need to design this, and then I’ll have to look into how to get them printed as a tear-off pad that I can…”

And I was getting into logistics, and printing, and cost, and then jerked back to reality with

“…just print a bunch on regular letter-sized paper, dummy.”

So that’s what I’m doing.

Check-Out Checklist
My nightly checklist! Subject to change over time.

Check-OutChecklist — the PDF, if you want it.

These are the Things What Must Be Done before I get into bed each night. Some are kind of gimmes (brush teeth, turn off lights), some are a bit more ambitious (plank, practice ukulele for 10 minutes). But at least it’s a sequence. And nothing says I have to check every item every night. It’s also about seeing what I’m good at and not so good at over time.

My Check-Out Checklist Puts Checking Out Last

So “check out” is the last thing on the checklist. Previously, it would have been somewhere up around “brush teeth.” But that’s when I was trying to rock it checklist-free — attach it to another habit (like brushing my teeth).

Now, with the checklist actually happening, it seems to make the most sense to just have it be the last thing I do before going to bed.

STILL not a great food day yesterday. But #1 on the list is “logging,” which is going to be scrupulous and unrelenting. I was appalled at how much I wound up eating yesterday. It was mostly to joining colleagues for “second lunch”, and kind of snacking through the evening due to a lack of attention. But at least logging it lets me be aware and appalled. Hopefully that will trigger better behaviour.


Day 108: Exercise Time

A quick follow-up on checking out — last night was kind of an anomaly, where a thing I was only supposed to stay for an hour at turned into a full evening, so it really was hard to peel away. So check-out was deferred until I got home, but I did sit down and work through the checklist. Good on all counts except I did snack. But I logged the snacks, so that’s a midway success. Today’s thing, though, is exercise time.

Another 12k this morning, which is great, and I’m glad that this seems to be developing into my new standard distance. It takes time, though. I’m not that fast — I’m taking about an hour and a quarter to run 12k (I slow down REMARKABLY in the last 2k), so even if I get out at a good start time of 5:30 AM, I’m not back and out of my shoes, in the shower, etc. until 7. Which means it’s a bit of a race to do this, pack a lunch, get myself together, and get out the door by 8.

So the options are (a) get up earlier, which is not on the menu, (b) exercise less, which I don’t want to do, or… (c) just be rushed on running mornings, I guess?

Exercise time: leisure time or… something?

This runs back into my recurring problem of I don’t know what relaxing is. I guess “going for a run” definitely counts as a leisure time activity. I’m not making money doing it, that’s for sure. But moving until I want to barf doesn’t seem like “leisure” by most standards. Exercise time is not time I enjoy. I don’t get off on the exertion the same way that ‘real’ runners seem to.

So I’m not sure how to slot exercise, mentally. Is this something I should be considering “leisure”? Is it “relaxing,” even though it’s physically the exact opposite? Maybe I should pay more attention to how I feel after a run.


Day 107: Checking Out is Rough

Going all the way back to Day Three — checking out is rough. It’s still a very difficult thing to be mindful about. I’ve got the alarm set, and it goes off at 8:10, but it’s becoming rote.

Rote is the anti-mindful. More often than not, I’ll just turn the alarm off and think, “yes, I need to do that before bed.” I’m not taking the signal seriously. So it’s probably worth reviewing my initial intention for checking out:

Reminders for when checking out is rough:

  • Setting a specific time every night.
  • Tying checking out to a particular regular part of my routine: brushing teeth or getting changed for bed.
  • Having a timer or other way of knowing this is a finite task with a (short) end point.
  • Having a ‘cheat sheet’ of questions I can ask myself and answer while checking out:
    • What was the easiest part of keeping promises to myself today?
    • What was the hardest?
    • Can I foresee anything that will cause problems tomorrow — things like office lunches, after-work meetings, social engagements?
    • Do I have a strategy to manage those potential hazards?
  • Take it easy on myself: it’s not about having a perfect day, but knowing what went well and what went badly.

Thanks, Past Me! Those seem like pretty good ideas for a check-out.

Part of the issue is that when checking out is rough, it’s because checking out has become rote. See above. It also feels like self-policing in a “naggy” way rather than a positive way.

There’s some framing work to do there — to make checking out more of a mindfulness thing, even a celebratory thing. Avoiding the YAGO trap of it being a mental slog through the day.

Maybe I need to take the checklist thing to another level…

_ Didn’t drink
_ Exercised
_ Logged food
_ Didn’t snack
_ Planned tomorrow

…and actually turn it into a real checklist instead of a mental inventory. I’ll pick this up tomorrow.

Day Seventy-One: Evening Reboots, Revisited

A while back, I was thinking about Morning Me and Evening Me. The takeaway was I was thinking about ways to disrupt automatism. Stop Evening Me from just sort of sliding in. Evening reboots are the new thing.

I tried setting a phone alarm for 6 p.m. marked “reset for evening.” It didn’t work. I forgot about it. It’s been busy.

Time to revisit that idea.

Because I think the problem isn’t actually a distinct evening personality. It’s mindfulness. As I get tired and distracted, mindfulness slips. Short-term gratification starts trumping medium-term goals. Since I’m non mindful, I fail.

Evening reboots could really help.

When I sit down for dinner, I should just take 10 seconds (like I do here). I should re-check-in for the evening: what are my plans? An evening reboot doesn’t have to be about work, work, work. If I’m planning to play video games, or read, I should plan that.

I’m talking about three points in the day now. Morning check-in, which is this. Evening check-in, between work and dinner. And before-bed check-out, where I think about how the whole day went.

There’s a bit of scope creep in all of this. I’ve gone from a short morning check-in to about a minute a day of various processes.  A minute still isn’t bad, but I don’t want to get trapped in a lifestyle that’s only about my lifestyle.

I’m going to try this today, though… sitting down for dinner should be my trigger. A quick look at my evening. Figure out in half-hour chunks what I intend to do. Then do it. If I’m mindful about what I’m about to eat, and what I’m going to do, that should cut down on the automatic grazing.

We’ll see what happens! Again, I don’t want my life to become an endless series of check-ins and check-outs. But I need to beat automatic activity. Experiment ho!

Day Four: Structure, Checking Out, Motivation and Accountability

So yesterday, I was planning to keep trying to enforce daily “check-outs” — the big sister to the essential morning check-in. Yesterday evening, I came up with a few ideas to structure my check-out and try to make it easier for me to incorporate it into a daily routine:

Continue reading “Day Four: Structure, Checking Out, Motivation and Accountability”

Day Three: Checking Out: Morning Motivation is Easy, Evening Accountability is Hard

Yesterday was about checking in; today’s about checking out.

Why’s it so hard for me? Like all good habits, I suppose it’s something that you have to build up and then enforce, but while a check-in is easy for me (even when I’m not doing this kind of thing), forcing myself to just sit down for two minutes in the evening and checking out is hella difficult. Which is weird to me. You’d think the morning would be the time when I’d find it most tricky to carve out some time, and the evening wind-down would be easiest for this sort of thing.

But it’s the opposite. I get in a kind of turn-the-lights-off, turn-the-heat-down, brush-teeth-and-bed channel and it’s very hard to divert myself into anything even slightly reflective like checking out. “I’ll do it when I’m lying down!” the stupid inner voice says, but we all know that inner voice is a complete idiot.


But I did it! And by golly I’m going to do it again tonight. Checking out! Part of my daily routine. Well, it will be.

Thoughts on succeeding at checking out:

  • Setting a specific time every night.
  • Tying checking out to a particular regular part of my routine: brushing teeth or getting changed for bed.
  • Having a timer or other way of knowing this is a finite task with a (short) end point.
  • Having a ‘cheat sheet’ of questions I can ask myself and answer while checking out:
    • What was the easiest part of keeping promises to myself today?
    • What was the hardest?
    • Can I foresee anything that will cause problems tomorrow — things like office lunches, after-work meetings, social engagements?
    • Do I have a strategy to manage those potential hazards?
  • Take it easy on myself: it’s not about having a perfect day, but knowing what went well and what went badly.


Day Two: Checking In (and Out)

Checking in’s been easy for me in the past, and I find check-ins (like the daily check-in at Stop Drinking on Reddit) to be a really powerful tool for me. Doing this podcast will — hopefully — be a daily necessity that forces a check-in, and really drives me to make it an anchor to my day.

It is, in essence, a lot harder to screw up once you’ve made some sort of promise to yourself and others that you won’t. Even if it’s a quiet, personal promise.

But checking out? Whole different thing. And I’m wondering if part of my adherence problem in the past has been that I haven’t taken checking out very seriously. Part of it is I’m just flat-out tired by the time I’m wrapping up for the day… distracted, trying to do a bunch of stuff before I hit the sack, and trying to get to bed at a reasonable hour as well.

But I’m going to try checking out this week; in fact, checking in and out might be kind of the theme of this week. We’ll see how it goes.