2019 Habits in Review: Building Consistency as a Habit

2019 has certainly been a Year of Adventure and Self-Discovery. From meeting Dexter in February, I have travelled to 18 countries & 39 cities, relocated to Singapore for 6 months for work and then worked remotely for the remaining 6 months of the year. 

Travelling has educated me in ways I wouldn’t be able to experience in other ways. From seeing the way locals are fighting for biodiversity and sustainable living in the Galapagos and Amazon, social injustices being fought in Colombia & other areas of South America, beautiful and respectful traditions being upheld in Mexico during the Day of the Dead, understanding the full scales of history and tragedy in Auschwitz, I have been constantly humbled and grown in ways of empathy and understanding whilst re-examining previous beliefs.

It’s also no doubt that long-term travel offers constant change. We move country to country, from a few days to a month at a time. There’s always new places to eat, new adventures to embark on, new people to meet. 

So it’s really quite funny and ironic that the 1 thing I wanted to focus for 2019 was to build the habit of consistency. I mean, what better way to stress-test your consistency and habits than by regularly changing environments?

Every year in the past, I would start a project and give up half way. Whether it be the goal of reading books consistently through the year, flossing my teeth, exercising, I would start with grand goals and within a few days or a few weeks, after the initial motivation had run out, I would abandon it for something new and sparkly that captures my attention.

After reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits, I wanted to start building small, tiny habits which would have exponential results in the long run. I also wanted to build habits so that it would reduce the amount of willpower needed to fulfil my goals. 

Why are these habits important? 

Every decision we make will have first-order and second-order consequences. I wanted to make it easier during decision-making to put weight towards my second-order consequences, which directly fulfil my goals.

In Ray Dalio’s Principles he talks about the contradictory nature of first-order and second-order consequences. People who usually only give into their first-order consequences are probably never successful in their goals.

 How so?

For example, you want to work on your projects but you just feel like lazing in bed scrolling on Instagram (true story). The first-order consequence for this decision is that inertia is comfortable and you get a dose of dopamine from seeing the likes, comments and watching people’s Insta stories in the short term. The second-order consequence is after the initial comfort of not moving and a few hours wasted, you feel like a total shit (at least I do). At the end of the year, you end up telling yourself you just didn’t have the time to work on those projects.

If I had a way to shift the inertia to make it feel like I’m not using willpower, then I can spend that time willingly on working on my projects or areas I know are good for me which would then give me much greater satisfaction in the long run.

Below are a couple of areas I wanted to build habits towards fulfilling some of my core areas in my life:

For these habits, I used a habit tracker called DONE where I designed each habit to only take max 1 minute. This acted as a gate-way habit where I could feel like I accomplished something even by doing something tiny. The aim is that it should feel easy enough to get through that first resistance of inertia so that when you start, you feel like you can keep going.

1. Reading:

Reading expands my mindset and I wanted to continuously challenge my worldview and understand things from different perspectives. I wanted to build a habit of reading everyday.

Habit: Read one page on my kindle daily.

Even when I didn’t feel like reading, I would literally just read 1 page and tick it off my habit tracker and be done for the day. However, most times I would end up reading for a good half hour or an hour before I started doing something else.

Results: 34 books. My goal for this year was 40 books but I’m pretty happy with the amount I read since some books took me a long time to go through (like Sapiens, Homo Deus, Principles). This was also a 300%+ increase from 2018.

Here’s a complete list of books I read in 2019 here for the Good Reads Challenge.

2. Drawing:

Until this year, I hadn’t drawn consistently for a long time (since 2014) and I wanted to fulfil my creative needs by picking up my pen again. I used to always blame it on lack of time. I started my drawing project in Europe in July where I drew each location I went to. My project is on Instagram called @thetravellingsketchbook.

Habit: Draw one line once a week.

Results: 17 drawings! This is 17x more drawings than I’ve done in 5 years and each drawing takes at least a few hours. You can see the project here.

3. Learning Spanish:

We enrolled in a total 5 weeks of Spanish classes in Mexico and Colombia starting from no previous knowledge, so this helped improve our Spanish a lot when travelling in Latin America.

However, what I found with my Korean when I was in Seoul in January was that the moment I stopped taking classes, I basically forgot everything. An area that severely needed daily practice was vocabulary drills. I wanted to use my Anki app to improve my Spanish vocabulary even when we weren’t taking classes. 

Habit: Open my Anki app every day.

Results: 42 days in a row. 

Challenge: I recently started doing a 30 day Spanish Challenge (which took me 2 months and I still have 6 days to go). I never would have made it past Day 5 in the past!! Here’s the difference between 2 weeks of learning Spanish and my most recent video.

22 October 2019

27 December 2019

You can watch all the videos on my Instagram here.

The unexpected benefit of doing such basics habits consistently is that it gave me the confidence to take on something like a 30 day challenge and make myself commit to something until the very end.

4. Eating consciously: 

I wanted to be conscious on what I was putting in my body instead of blindly putting stuff in my body. This way, I could identify whether something was making me feel bad or good. 

Habit: Record each meal on Lose It! App before eating.

Results: 172 days of consistent recording! I have recorded every single day for 6 months and it gives me insight on consciously knowing what I’m putting in my body. In my opinion, being mindful is the first step of a journey towards healthy eating. Even though I’ve gone over the suggested daily calorie count basically every 2nd day, the goal is to just honestly record everything and observe my intake.

Goal for 2020: Since I’ve built a solid habit for tracking and observing my food intake, my next step is to focus on eating a more balanced diet (I eat too many carbs) and replacing unhealthy options with healthier choices

5. Doing Yoga:

Exercising on the road is a tough thing as our schedules change constantly and we never really stayed long anywhere to get a gym membership. I wanted to build up to the habit to doing yoga daily because when I previously did it, yoga helped with mindfulness, build strength and flexibility.

Habit: Open the Daily Yoga app (with average 20 minutes session).

This was previously ‘Open up a yoga youtube video’ where I bookmarked Yoga With Adriene’s Youtube Channel for the last 2.5 months.

Results: 72 days of yoga.

I recently downloaded this yoga app called Daily Yoga a few days ago. I’ve only used this for 4 days but I really like it so far because it has all the elements for habit building. It shows you total # of hours of yoga you’ve done, # of days you’ve done yoga on the app and your current and longest streaks. These definitely help a lot with building consistency and continuous motivation, so we’ll see how this goes!

Goals for 2020: Once I’ve built enough consistency in making Yoga my daily practice, I want to track strength, balance and inversions progress once I can get a daily habit going.

6. Others habits:

  • Daily Journaling: 710 days in a row (2 years) 🎉
  • Drinking water (5 glasses): 60 days in a row
  • Flossing: 115 days in a row 
  • Making the bed: 115 days in a row

What are my goals for 2020?

I’ve still yet to design my 2020 goals and action items but I want:
1. Build upon this existing habits to either progress to a different stage (like strength building & healthy-eating)
2. Continue working on some existing projects (language learning, reading even more and drawing)
3. Also work on additional areas like personal finance, blogging, skill-sharing, volunteering

All in all, whilst I’m usually a very carefree and not a very structured person, building these habits this year have helped me develop myself in a way that fulfils my values like curiosity and creativity in the most effortless way.

I want to hear from you! Which app are you most likely to use and since it’s 2020, which goals do you want to smash in the new decade?

P.S This post is not sponsored. I just discovered these from personal searches as well as friend recommendations!

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