In February, I started a challege with myself to try and establish a new habit: going to bed at 9 PM. My plan hit a speed bump after a trip to San Francisco when it took about a week to get back into the routine. A few weeks later I went to MidCamp, which I still haven’t recovered from.

Why have I stopped? Isn’t this important?

Establishing my habit is important, but I haven’t kept at it. Why? At MidCamp I gave a talk titled “Nurturing a Productive Lifestyle”. In this session, I give some of the reasons why we don’t do the things that we believe are important:

  1. Wrong priorities
    • “I don’t have time to do X.”
    • “I’m too tired to do X.”
    • “I’d rather be doing Y than X.”
  2. Shame/fear
    • “What will other people think if I do X?”
    • “X is going to hurt physically or emotionally.”
  3. Forgetfulness
    • “Why is X actually important?”
    • “I forgot to do X when I was supposed to.”
  4. Lack of discipline
    • “I don’t feel like doing X.”

I can think of reasons from each of these categories, but #3 resonates the most.

I need to set aside time and ask myself why this habit is important to me. I need to look at the data I’ve collected and see if my productivity and overall happiness has improved. When my alarm reminds me that it’s time to start getting ready for bed, I need to clearly remember why it’s important.

Contingency plan

No productivity plan lasts forever. In my session, I say that it’s important to have a contingency plan so that you don’t fall on your face when it stops. The truth is, I’m bad at doing this myself, but it’s time for me take my own medicine.

When I travel, my plan fails. I still don’t know what I need to tweak, but I need to have a formal plan. When it stops working, I need a paper I can pull out of my notebook and follow the steps.

Next steps

Here are the deliverables for my next post (or couple of posts):

  1. A list of reasons why this habit is important to me; OR a list of reasons why I’m establishing a different habit.
  2. My contingency plan for dealing with travel.

Want to help? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Categories: productivity

David Needham

David Needham is the Team Lead of the Technical Curriculum Development team at Datadog. When he's not blogging about productivity and faith at or speaking at conferences, you can find him streaming on Twitch or playing fun board games with his wife and kids in Champaign, IL.

1 Comment

mathuaerknedam · April 8, 2018 at 7:50 pm

One of my problems when it comes to doing things when I should (going to bed, leaving work, starting a task) is trying to do one more thing, make just a little more progress, or whatever. Sometimes it’s procrastination, but often it’s a feeling that it’s too early, so I need to use the interim time on something else. I then either lose track of time (a known problem) or eventually decide to let the time slide “just a minute” (#2 above). I have the most success when I just stop trying to maximize my time (or procrastinating) and start early. In the end, going to bed on time is more important, and more effective, than trying to get more done.

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