Keystone habits

Planning for your worst days.

Disclaimer: After testing them out on myself for a couple of months, I can say that they don't work for me.
What do I use now?
I've got back to the idea of Atomic Habits, and that's what I rec
Do I still recommend Keystone habits?
Yes, everyone is different. Give it a try. It might work for you!

What is a Keystone Habit? #

I heard of it first from Cal Newport Deep Questions podcast.

The idea is to have activities you want to do every day to indicate (to yourself) that you take some aspect of your life seriously. It has to be big enough to be effortful but small enough so you can do it even on the busiest days.

Cal Newport recommends a keystone habit for each category of:

  1. Contemplation
  2. Constitution
  3. Craft
  4. Community

But, I've heard of simpler categories like:

  1. Me
  2. Work
  3. Community

And more complex ones like Life Wheel with the roles you play and areas of life like:

  1. Partner
  2. Parent
  3. Friend
  4. Health
  5. Community
  6. Work/Career
  7. Finances
  8. Personal Growth

You don't need to pick a task from each category, but it forces you to make a conscious decision. Mapping your ideas against the categories will help you make sure that you're living your values.

October 2020 #

I've first mentioned it in my monthly summary from October 2020 and picked up two habits at a time.

  1. Exercise every day (missed only one day in the whole month).
  2. Morning Pages/Expressive Writing/Journaling (instead of meditation).

It has worked for me pretty well at first. But, after the next month, I was way too busy. To make it worse, I started adding things to the list. I ended up with almost 20 "habits" to do each day. I wasn't able to do any of them, and without a way of prioritization, there were days when I ignored all of them.
At the same time, I realized that the daily Morning Pages isn't working for me. It helps me clarify my thinking, but it didn't help me respond to feeling overwhelmed with everything on my plate.

Lesson learned: keep the list of keystone habits short. #

I'm not sure how short that should be. I don't think it can be shorter than 3-4 items because life is way too complicated, but it probably shouldn't be longer than 7-9. Less is more.

December 2020 #

My idea for keystone habits for January 2021:

  1. Day highlight (from the book Make Time
  2. Meditation. (headspace)
  3. Time with Family
  4. Read
  5. Physical therapy exercises
  6. At least 3k steps every day
  7. Light strength exercise (inspired by the book Make Time again)
  8. Work clean. (inspired by Mise-En-Place)
  9. Draw something from my day

Update 2021.02 #

January wasn't the average month, and it exposed the fact that I've picked too many things.
Lesson learned: keep the list under 4 elements (that's how many I was able to track)

The other thing I've realized that what I'm after are things that won't be automatic. It reminds me of Stop Confusing Habits for Routines: What You Need To Know.

Keystone Routines #

2021.02 plan #

  1. Meditate
  2. 4k steps (adding 1000)
  3. Read a book
  4. Intermittent fasting

I still like the idea of doing the rest, but I know that's not something I can do every day.

Update 2021.03 #

In April, I've added Solitude to the list inspired by Cal Newport, so I've started the month with:

  1. Meditate
  2. 3k steps (removed 1000 as it was too much on worst days)
  3. Read a book
  4. Intermittent fasting
  5. Solitude

Update 2021.03.17: #

In the middle of the month, I've noticed that I need to do more physical exercise. Not something I have to do every day, but something I want my system to remind me about doing a couple of times a week.

I've created a list of nice to have things:

Plan for 2021.04: #

Shorten the list of Keystone habits to:

  1. Meditate.
  2. Read a book.
  3. Increase sleep quality.

Improving sleep is a little more complicated:

Everything else goes into the nice to have list:

Update 2023.02 #

I've put together a new post regarding habits into Community Habits.
One part of it is some ideas for the Community bucket, but the other one is a new perspective of looking at habits.

What if you start looking at keystone habits, not on a daily but weekly basis? I find it tremendously useful.

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