Activating New Habits Through Focused Energy

It is amazing how much you can stretch your talents when you focus in on something specific for a long enough period of time. My reading list has been getting rather long of late and I have been finding myself struggling to get enough time in my books to make any meaningful progress, and as George R.R. Martin famously wrote in A Dance With Dragons:

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” — George R.R. Martin

Having just recently penned a piece on the value of human perspective, I knew that I needed to figure out a way to increase my reading rate if I was going to be able to incorporate any of this wisdom into my work going forward.

So it was a pleasant surprise that when I set myself a goal, this past week, to read 3 books while on vacation, my total perspective towards reading changed. Suddenly, by making it my main focus for the week, I was finding time to read in the morning before jumping into other pursuits of the day, I was relaxing for longer periods of time to read significant sections in the afternoon, and I was retiring early to bed with my books in order to get a few chapters in before falling asleep. What had previously been a chore to try to remember to make time for at least once day, suddenly became the only thing my brain searched for whenever I had a minute to spare in my day and I was happy to dedicate longer stretches to it because I knew what my goal was and I was poignantly aware throughout the week of how close I was to the necessary pace and how much I still needed to read to catch up.

James Clear calls this “The activation energy of new habits,” similar to the activation energy required to start a chemical reaction such as lighting a match. In setting a single goal front and center for a week, I have found myself repeatedly able to wring out extra time and energy from my days that I have otherwise not been able to capture in any meaningful way, and suddenly I feel the neural pathways associated with deep focus in these activities lighting up with glee at the prospect of being exercised regularly again.

It is so easy in our modern digital world to get lost in the shallow consumption of cheap media in any minute of boredom, and in this endless sea of infotainment, our awareness of the deeper forms of mental exercise that carried us through our learning years easily gets lost. And that is why we must continually strive to develop habits to keep stretching those parts of our brains that carry us deepest into understanding the world around us and the varied perspectives of all the beautiful people in it.

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” — Albert Einstein

My reading goal for the week is over, but I will carry these new habits with me into future weeks and try to continue to integrate them into a healthy reading schedule of at least one book a week. If I find myself falling behind in my reading schedule once again, I will revisit this challenge as necessary to solidify these habits in my brain.

But a new week calls for a new challenge, and its high time I turned my focus from enrichment challenges to one of production. I’ve been working on my writing lately, especially with a solid habit of journaling every day, but I have yet to develop a consistent workflow for completing finished works on a regular basis. In order to really flex my writing muscles, I’m going to focus on writing one article a day for the next week to see if I can’t stretch my capabilities and work out the sticky parts in the gears that are slowing me down.

New Objective

Increase writing flow and develop habits for producing more completed works.

Key Results

  1. Publish 1 article a day for the next week.
  2. Develop system for producing finished articles on a daily basis in less than an hour each day.
  3. Identify styles of writing to improve the access-ability of my work.