Everyday Systems: Podcast : Episode 33

2007 Annual Compliance Review

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2007: My Year in Systems

Hi, this is reinhard from everydaysystems.com. I said I was going to do at least one podcast epidsode a month, and I think I'm just going to make it. Today I'm going to report on how I did in the year 2007 on my various systems. My compliance. Since I've been using the habitcal for two thirds of that time, from may to december, I can even quantify this to a certain degree.

Now I'm sure you're not all that intersted in my personal experience in itself, I'm not THAT vain, but I think it might be interesting for a couple of other reasons: 1, as an example of how to evalutate you own compliance with different everyday systems or habits you're trying to build, and 2, to give a little more hard data on issues like, what is the hardest system, once you get past the initial habit building phase. And how many failures and non weekend s-days can a person who has overall been doing very well get away with. I've often quoted 2 a month as a guideline for this last issue, we'll see if the statistics bear me out.

Now I was hoping to have added a new mode to the habitcal which would let you automatically generate statistics like this, but I haven't quite managed to get around to it yet. This was my main excuse for delaying this podcast episode so long, which should have gone out, you know, around new years. But at this point, with three days left in the month, it's clear I'm not going to get that done first, so here goes.

This actually brings me to my first big picture statistic: monthly resolutions. In 2007, I made monthly resolutions every month, mostly just one a month, occassionally more, and successfully kept my resolutions 11 out of 12 months. My one failure? In december I resolved to get the habitcal version 2 out, with those summary statistics, and I didn't get anywhere close.

What were some of my successful resolutions? Some are kind of personal, but here are a few that I can talk about, just as examples to get you thinking. They tend to fall into two categories: new open ended habits or discreet todos. For new habits, for the purpose of determining success of failure, I stick within the one month time frame: if I do it till the end of the month, that's success. I can stop the next month if I no longer think it's worth pursuing without a sense of failure. The monthly resolution is like a trail run. So, some examples:

In march I resolves to keep a log of every time I drove the car, to encourage me to drive more (I grew up in manhattan and am an embarrassingly bad driver and have a bit of a phobia aobut it). I kept the log for the month, for a few months actually. And now I'm slightly less embarrasingly bad and phobic driver. Still not great, but there's been a real improvement. I also resolved to make a new daily habit of systematic prayer. Something I check off my daily todo card. There's something that seems a little uninspired and maybe even blashpemous about reducing something so spiritual to a mundane task on par with "give the cat his meds", but you know, it's worked. I've got from sporadic crisis based prayer to regular daily prayer, and whether my soul has improved, I'm not in a position to comment on, but I think it's safe to say that I am significantly more relaxed.

In february, july, august and october, in each of these four months I resolved to bang out a draft of the nosdiet book, and go over a round of edits. Four months of resolutions may seem like a lot to devote to one thing, but it was a big thing. And fortunately I was able to break it up into neat monthly chunks.

In May I resolved to create the original version of the habitcal. In June I moved the everyday systems websites to a new server. We also had a baby, which I also thought worthy of a card if only to remind myself that everything else needs to take a distant back seat.

So what have I learned about monthly resolutions from my experience in 2007? I think the biggest thing is that if you're dealing with a really big problem, it's important to break it up into chucks. There's only so much you can humanly accomplish in a month. You problem, as a whole, may not fit. But a discreet piece of it probably can. The other thing is to really try to focus on one problem at a time. If the other problems you're not focusing on are making you anxious, keep a list of potential monthly resolutions, so you feel like you have some kind of a grip on them, like they're queued up for solving even if you can't quite get to them yet. I do exactly this in a box of my big picture sheet, which I described in the last episode. If you absolutely feel you have to cram in more than one resolution a month, do them serially, not in parallel, in other words, if make one resolution to start and if you manage to get that done before the month is out, then maybe consider adding a second one. The feeling of success is very important. So set yourself up for success by keeping your problems small and single. I think you'll be amazed at how many more problems, and really big problems, when you add up all the parts, that you're able to solve this way.

My success with my daily index cards is a little harder to quantify because I don't really feel like going through all 365 index cards. I've saved them all in a box, and marked says on which I've succeeded in doing all my tasks with a start, but I'm still too lazy to plow through them all right now. In 2008, I'm going to keep track of daily task success as I go on the habitcal, so that'll make it easier to give a big picture statistical report at the end of the year.

Now for the heart of the 2007 stats: What about the habits I did keep track of using the habitcal?

There were 4: nosdiet, shovelglove, glass ceiling, and weekend luddite.

The easiest one statistically speaking, seems to be glass ceiling. From may 1 to dec 31, an 8 month period, I had only two failures, and no exempt days. So solid green with two little splotches of red. What's more, though the habitcal doesn't capture this, these failures were very minor. Just one drink over the limit. Good thing, because glass ceiling failures, however rare, have the potential to be disasterous in a way that none of the other systems do.

The hardest one, and this may seem a little suprising, was weekend luddite. Most days are exempt of course, so, I have far fewer opportunities for failure, and yet I wracked up more weekend luddite failures in 2007 than I did on any other system. 7 failures in all, almost one a month. Percentage wise, it's comparatively even worse: since there were only 73 weekend days in this period, 7 failures means a failure rate of almost 10%. 90% success is not bad, I guess. But consider that glass ceiling, with 2 failures of about 240 days, was over 99% successful. Still, 90% is not terrible. And I've profited a lot from using this system, even imperfectly. And I had some pretty good excuses for violating weekend luddite this year, like writing a book.

On the nosdiet I had even fewer failures than I did on glass ceiling: just one. But nos has exempt S-days, so the rate of successes to non-successes (failures and exemptions) isn't quite as impressive. I should add that I am pretty strict in my application of the nos rules. If anything, I've gotten more strict over the years. So those green days are really green. But there are a fair number of yellow exempt days, and that's an interesting thing to look at as well. I advise people to try to limit failures plus non weekend s days to no more than 2 a month. So what do I actually do myself? 21 non weekend s days (or NWS days) in 8 months. Plus that one failure makes 22 days. If I'd been following my own advice, I should have had just 16 days. It's not a huge overage, but it's some. To defend myself and rationalize a bit, I'll point out that I'm missing the four months of the year in which one expect to take the fewest NWS days. In other words, I've both Christmastime and summer vacation in the period I'm counting, so the missing months should bring down the average a bit. Still, 12 months times 2 is 24. I'd probably still wind up being over. We'll have take another look in 2008. In the meantime, to avoid charges of hypocrisy, I'll modify my advice to take less than three failrues + NWS days per month, which come to think of it, might actualy be how I expressed it to begin with, and in any case, I did manage to pull of myself in 2007, 2 point something.

To take a step back from quibbling about decimal points: let me just say that what this picture of mostly green, some yellow, and hardly any red boils down to is that no s has gotten really, really easy. I am never tempted, by mere appetite, to violate the rules or take a dubious S day. The only problems I ever has in people insisting I take an S-day when I might not have otherwise. And frankly, it's not much of a problem since these instances are rare, and the proof, besides this attractive habitcal, is that my weight has been stable since I dropped 40 pounds in 2002, 6 calendar years ago.

Last up is shovelglove. 4 failures in 8 months, and even more NWS days than no-s: 24. So, slightly more. No surprise, shovelglove is a bit harder to keep up than no s, for a very obvious reason: it takes some time, it takes physical effort, if you are feeling sick or something there's generally no reason to not do no-s, but taking a break from shovelglove is actually a good idea. That said, I'm pretty happy with my level of compliance. For this 8 month perdiod, it nudges against my limit of "less than 3" failures + nws days per month,but only just, and I think considering a full 12 months would likely bring me safely under. I love doing it, I mostly do do it, and I'm strong as a beast.

That's it for my somewhat casual statistical assesment of my personal 2007 in everyday systems. I hope this was maybe an interesting example for how you might conductyour own annual performance review, and I promise, some time before 2009, I will make good on my one failed monthly resolution in 2007 and get a stats view page on the habitcal to make this kind of assesment easier. Thanks for listening.

By Reinhard Engels

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