Toast Note - 11 January 2018

I’m ready to endorse an app. I know. I know!? It’s not something I do lightly. While I personally love to self-experiment taking on tips and tricks from all over the intertubes, I rarely tell folks, “Go use This Thing.” But this time… I’m ready to say, oh hell yeah. Give it a go.

First, this app is about building your self-discipline muscle. Those of you really self-disciplined hard out types (Eddie and dear husband, this is you), just delete this week’s note and move on. Nothing to see here. We’ll pick up our conversation again next week.

For people like me who really need some help in this area, the app is The Fabulous. It’s a stupid name. As a technical writer, the definite article does my head in, though credit goes to the one who sat in the brainstorming session and said, “I know… let’s make all our users call it the fabulous app.” This app doubles and triples down on recent science in behavioural economics and cognitive behavioural therapy. It’s core function is to habituate you first to doing what the app tells you to and then getting you to tell the app what you want it to program you to do. It starts super simple, small and routine and ripples outwards to thorny challenges like regular exercise, sleeping better, and productivity.

I’m not sure it matters ultimately what area in your life you want to hack. I personally find the reminders to “Adjust and Commit to Your Plans” and “Clear Your Inbox” on a daily basis redundant. As a practitioner of GTD and Inbox Zero for two decades, that’s really close to instructional text on how to suck eggs. Where I utterly lack any self-discipline is in consumption of news and information (I’m an addict to the detriment of my sanity), eating habits (I’m a bit stupid in my choices to say the least), and not yelling at my husband and children (though grant at least they often deserve it). I’d like to rewire my brain to make those small decisions easier, frictionless, habitual.

It's been close to three months now with The Fabulous and where I’m seeing the most radical improvement is in moving to regular alcohol free days. For years, I have struggled with this. I was able to successfully go a week free a few times a year, but have never really been able to change my consumption ON AVERAGE to a fraction of it’s baseline. Remember, to experience the health benefits of a diet, exercise, mindfulness or any other change to our physical routine, we must change the average over a long period of time. Bingeing on a sugar free week or a crash diet is actually worse than not intervening at all. But now I’m at the 45 day mark on averaging 5 alcohol free days (AFD) per week. Actually, I literally forgot to drink one of my nights last week and was 6 AFD. While I don’t want to convey to you the dear reader that I was an utter sot, let me still state for the record that for me this milestone is a big “WOWSA”.

Which is why I’m endorsing the app. It let me pick the thing I really wanted to change and provided the triggers, nudges, incentives, commitment devices that are helping me to do it successfully for a sufficiently long enough time that the new behaviour appears increasingly self-perpetuating, embedded… the new norm. It’s not a magic wand. It still hasn’t taught me to be nice to my family when they annoy me, but … you know. I’m beginning to believe that might be possible.

We are what we repeatedly do. Success is not an action but a habit.” ~ Aristotle