Cataloging My Personal Micro-Habits

An idea I had a while back — catalog my micro-habits, my movement patterns and granular choices, the small things that make up my daily routine. I figured it might be interesting to aggregate this information in one place, to make myself more aware of the effects, to optimize the flow and activity of my life, or at least the mundane parts (of course not everything should be optimized).

I thought: this should be a good way to find where seams are stressed, where I can improve, insert more life or more fun in to things. At the very least, it’s a form, a shell, a space for poetry.

Also — I wrote this a while back, too, roughly three — no, four? — years ago. I’m taking a quick edit pass now, in 2018, newly motivated to revisit old blog drafts. Just for fun, current me will annotate with any fresh observations and / or flippant remarks in brackets. Here goes:

I wake up, my alarm ringing most mornings at 8:30. More often than not, I’ll pick up my phone, glance at it, put it back down on the nightstand [still my normal wakeup time; the phone now lives in the other room; I usually pick it up, turn it off, and doze a bit more] and waffle on the wakeup, rest for a few more minutes, not (usually) going back to sleep, but delaying things, hugging the warmth. Area number one to improve: make this a regularity, a punctual start to every day. Weekends included. Militant, even — that could be good for me. And 8:30 is an okay time but really it would be nice if it were earlier. This is contingent on the flip side, bedtime regularity, but I think midnight to 7:30, or 11pm to 7:00 or something around there sounds healthy and reasonable.

After getting up, I drink some water. Sometimes the bottle is near-full, sometime empty, my bladder filled instead. Should make it a habit — a full bottle before bed, and another upon waking. That’s supposed to be good for rejuvenation.

I may glance at email in bed, delete a few that don’t seem important. Don’t want to make this a habit that takes much time, but if I get up earlier, then a precise say 30-minute time limit for e.g. scanning news, Twitter, mail etc. could have its merits. Probably best to not get into that sort of thing though. Maybe reading for 30 minutes from a book would be an equally good start to the day. Probably better. [Yes, duh, definitely better. Also should exercise or something. But morning exercise is the worst.]

I use the bathroom; shower. [NB: deleted some TMI details here…] In the shower, I shampoo my hair, then use the suds from my head to wash my body, then rinse my hair and put conditioner in it, then wash my face, then rinse both face and conditioner from hair, rinse the rest of my body, sometimes bask in the warmth a moment or two longer, and step out of the shower. I follow that with application of deodorant, clean my ears with a Q-tip, and (most of the time) brush my teeth.

Sometimes I eat at home, other times I wait and buy something to eat in DUMBO on the way to work. [We moved; I now work in Industry City…still in Brooklyn, similar commute time!] Another area for greater regularity. Not that  regularity rules all…but I think it’s true that removing mundane decisions can ease cognitive overload and give the mind more time to work on the interesting stuff. Making breakfast is actually pretty efficient, even if I don’t do it all the time. I can actually whip up something in just a few minutes: heat a pan, grab some granola and yogurt, crack a few eggs in the pan with some butter, pour the bowl of granola, put away the containers, flip the eggs, grab a plate, plate the eggs, throw on some seasoning, devour the lot of it. Maybe 10–15 minutes for the whole process. I like the feel of efficiency in the kitchen, the kind that comes from having your mise-en-place on point. On the other hand, just buying a bacon and egg sandwich at the deli is faster still, and relatively cheap. [Not the healthiest though! Currently not doing this so much…] Maybe a little variation is okay, but I’d like to try eating a quick and simple breakfast at home every day. And once I finally get to crafting my homemade protein bars that should become easier still. [I’ve done various snack experiments but no perfect protein bars yet.]

So I’m out of the shower — I dry off, dress (jeans, boxers and socks, a t-shirt and sweater, jacket or coat) then pack for work. First my pockets, phone and wallet and chapstick and keys, then my laptop and headphones and mouse in my backpack. [No backpack anymore, unless I’m ferrying gym clothes to / from the laundry.] Then I grab my book of the week and head out, lock the door, walk to the subway, and wait a few minutes for the F to come. I love this reading time, to and from work on the subway, and sometimes the walk from subway to office as well. It adds up to maybe only 30 minutes a day, but that’s enough to get through a book in a couple weeks, and I supplement that with reading at home, too. But subway reading is usually good, uninterrupted reading, save for the occasional annoying passenger. [Still love subway reading. But my subway time is actually shorter now, and I like to bike when I can, so most reading happens at night.]

Once in DUMBO I walk to the office, unpack my bag, set up my computer and things on my desk, and get to work, whatever the day brings but almost all at my computer. Breaks are usually to refill my water bottle and use the bathroom, both frequent and obviously correlated. Around 2pm or so I’ll head out and get lunch somewhere, a food cart or deli/grocery or occasionally restaurant nearby. A fair number of options, but they all grow old, and not a lot of cheap takeout besides the trucks, which can feel overpriced and gimmicky after a while. Would be nice to have some Soylent on hand, or just oodles more money so I can get whatever the hell and not feel guilty…can’t wait until the Calexico truck returns, I could go for their burrito bowl every day and I don’t think I’d grow tired of it. Extra meat, and it’s basically two lunches. [Ha, lots of food options near work now; most still grow old. Daily schedule is mostly the same. I’m resigned to paying a bit more on average for lunch than I used to.]

I leave around 6:30 or so, having worked from maybe 10:15 on, a regular 8 hours or maybe slightly more. Same subway ride back to Park Slope [now Prospect Heights], though if the weather’s nice I’ll bike both ways, which deprives me of the reading time but is a lovely ride in addition to a moderate bit of exercise, so I try to do it often. I’ll get home at 7pm or so, and either cook something with Jinjin or do takeout or something local like grab a banh mi from across the street. Often we’ll watch an episode of a TV show as we eat. Then I tend to retreat to the bedroom for some Internet browsing — one element of the evening routine I’d like to cut down on. I think I need to be more self-critical with my web reading/browsing habits, and also more decisive with my tabs, either making a note or taking an action or reading immediately or saving for later, but not so much leaving-open-for-weeks-on-end. But just generally being more discerning will go a long way to cutting down on the time I spend online. I typically end the night with my daily writing, or maybe that plus a bit of reading from a book in bed right before sleeping. [Yes, the Internet is still one of my top favorite hobbies. I’ve started tracking my reading time; this is now more regimented than my writing time. Though I’m starting to feel it’s time for the pendulum to swing back…]

Sometimes I’ll also enjoy a cup of tea, hang out and watch Youtube clips or a movie with the roommates [no more roommates, thank goodness!], attend a Meetup or other event after work [mostly nah; good Meetups (or meet-ups) are rare; I’m a total homebody], grab drinks with a friend, or hit the gym. These are things that don’t occur every day, but maybe some of them could. I could see a daily tea ritual being fun, either in the morning or evening or both. And some sort of daily exercise habit would be great. Wouldn’t have to necessarily be the gym, but maybe the gym a couple times a week, running or biking some days, a quick home workout some days…would be a great daily habit to get into. [Major benefit of new office location = good gym; I’ve been going more often lately, maybe twice a week on average.]

I realize I’m not going so much into the level of granularity and precision that I’d sort of envisioned for this exercise; much of what I’ve written above is kind of journalistic or diaristic in tone but not particularly interesting. Perhaps it would be best to record these things as they happen, reflect on them in the moment, try in that way to capture some of the situational logic or strange physical poetry and personality contained in them. [Yeah, more poetry and personality is always good! Bbut hey, I’m finding this meta-annotation thing kind of fun.]

I think that way I’d be more likely to notice and include and sketch in detail the smallest details, like the way I fold my shirts [probably not that unique TBH], or how I’ll use my foot to sweep dirt down the bed and off the sheet, or how I’ll eat a few squares of dark chocolate every night at my desk [just did that! chocolate is the best], and how I organize that desk and why, and my philosophy on doing dishes [damn I could probably write another thousand words just on this topic, thrilling I’m sure] — that sort of thing.

I’ll have to keep all that in mind, and return to this, and maintain it as an ongoing project, not a high priority but an interesting form of cataloging my daily experience and attitude toward the things around me and the processes and necessary activity that attends everything I do. [Hmm, not sure how interesting this would really be…but perhaps revisiting someway, many more years from now, when more has changed…]