Prasanna Natarajan

What didn't work in changing habits

Before trying the 30 day challenge method, I tried several other methods, most of which didn’t work.

I’m writing them down here to save time for you in case you too are using those methods and don’t yet see results.

Beeminder

I was a premium subscriber for more than a year at least I think. I remember calculating once after I quit, that I had spent about Rs 4000 just in subscription fees.

Beeminder allows you to develop habits by setting the frequency. Eg: I want to run 5 times a day, for 1 year. So that 2 days/week leeway is maintained by their graph for you. It gives you a visual. Your daily entry points should stay within a “yellow brick road” in the graph. If it strays off, you’ll be charged money, besides the monthly charge. This charge is supposed to “sting” you, and the next time you’ll be disciplined enough to do the habit correctly to avoid the sting. It worked some time for me, until it stopped working when I started lying to the app to avoid the sting. Well it got to the point where I was demotivated and wouldn’t do some habit for a day and in comes this thing wanting to charge me money. I became defensive, gave it a finger and started entering fake points.

Once you start entering the fake points, Beeminder loses all its power over you. They say their users don’t lie. But I was a user and I started lying and it took me quite a while to realise that it wasn’t working for me and then I decided to quit it.

Here are the reasons I think it didn’t work work me and how the 30 Day Trial method fares well as an alternative.

So ya, Beeminder, with all its Akrasia science, didn’t work for me.

Power of Habit

This was such a joke. The author wrote an entire fluffy book based on a tiny concept. A habit works in 3 segments. A cue that triggers a habit (not focused on current work triggers mindless browsing), a routine (the mindless browsing), and a reward (whatever article you end up getting sucked into). His “science-based” argument was that you should you precisely this method to replace any bad habits with good ones or cultivate new ones.

Well, the fact is that our brains are irrational. In fact, they take the trouble to see through the rationality and intentionally behave irrationally. It didn’t work. I read the whole book, but don’t remember developing habits using this method. Did I even try?

BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits

This one. Similar to the above. Didn’t work for me.

Blocking sites

I used tools like SelfControl app, leechblock etc to block access to distracting sites. But I always ended up figuring ways to bypass the restriction, and if I couldn’t, I’d simply uninstall the app and start using the site.

With a 30DT, I didn’t need any app, but I have stopped using sites that I were previously addicted to (reddit, hacker news, youtube).

However there’s one other method that works too. It’s laughably silly. Just put all your distracting sites in the /etc/hosts file. And change your system password to something that’s at least 10 to 15 chars long. Now every time you want to browse reddit, you’ll see that it’s blocked in the browser. Your brain will do a quick analysis of how long it will take to edit the hosts file with its sudo permission restriction, and then decide quickly that it’s not worth it. Works 90% of the time for me.

Deleting chess.com accounts

But I ended up creating new accounts and still played. Removing the app from the ipad didn’t work too. Within about 2 minutes, I can re-install and sign-in and start playing. After doing two 30DT of no chess, I’m no longer am addicted to chess. The app is still there in my ipad, but I’m not at all tempted. This was a huge surprise for me.

Reading books

Ya. I was just reading. Not doing anything.

Outro

So having tried all of this, I came back to this silly method and what a surprise it works! Please try this for yourself.