Prasanna Natarajan

The five crucial habits

I really like the manual habit tracker method that Sean Wes shared here.

I also tend to agree about what he says, that you can’t track 10 or 20 habits reasonably well, and that picking the 5 crucial habits that you want to develop and sticking to them to make sure they indeed become your habits is enough to get a lot of mileage out of life.

Here’s another thing that he said: If you do a thing continuously for 2 years, you’ll change.

Just a simple but elegant idea.

You are a fit person if you workout daily. You are a good programmer if you code daily for 2 years. You’ll be a writer if you simply write for 2 years.

This means committing to some thing far longer than your motivation wants you to.

But of course, this is how people get themselves out of trenches every single day. This is how a successful career is built, and this is how wealth is made. None of this is a fortnight effort. It takes practice.

Sean’s 5 crucial habits are:

Defining criteria of my own five habits

At a high level, I want all these 5 to contribute directly to my health, mindset and income.

Health because it’s health. And it’s important. And mainly because it’s a great natural mood regulator. This could ward of depression and low confidence.

Mindset because the single most postive feeling that’s necessary to suck the most juice out of life is, I think, Enthusiasm. I want at least one of these 5 to make me feel enthusiastic. It could be about the moment, the day or life in general.

The Five (at least for now)

And here, I’m going to word things the James Clear way - define the habits that you want to develop as part of your identity.

  1. To become a person who works on side-projects. It’s a great feeling to share my idea to somebody. Be it a simple blog post or a codepen demo or just a literal idea. What if, instead, I could share it to many people? What if I could package that blog post into a newsletter or a whatsapp group and deliver it to real people instead of hiding it in the island that’s my blog? What if I could take that codepen demo and package it as an app or a browser extension and tell people about it? What if I could take my book reviews to Goodreads where all the eyeballs are there? People might benefit from them. This is a very new thing for me and so would be a very hard habit to master. But the more projects I accumulate, the better I’d become at building and shipping them. I created the Side Projects page just for that. It’s embarrassing to see just 2 items sitting there for a really long time. I’d love this page to have the most entries than any other categories on my site. Habit-wise, this simply means sticking to a project for a month or two and spending at least an hour on it daily. This is going to be an important metric to track - How many hours per week I’ve spent coding on my side projects? How many projects have I shipped this year? Seth Godin says to see our life milestones as between projects instead of between jobs.

  2. To become a person who doesn’t miss a workout. It’s been more than a few months since I started the Stronglifts workouts. I showed great progress during the initial run. Was able to squat 60kg and deadlift 80kg. But then I’d stop going to gym for 2 weeks altogether or even 3. It’d happen when something breaks my regular schedule, like when I had to go to my hometown for the weekends. It would break my routine completely and I’d find it hard to get back to working out. And so when I do get back, all the gains would’ve been long gone and I’d start as a beginner. This needs to be fixed. I love how James Clear, in his annual reviews shows that he tracks how many workouts he did in each month in each year, and it was clear that his great lifting numbers were directly because of the increased number of workouts. If he’d missed some of them, then he wouldn’t have those numbers.

  3. To become a person that plans. Thought long and hard about this one. Close contender was “to become a person who eats healthy and has good sleep habits”. But somehow I don’t want to have 2 health-related items in this list of 5. But then to be able to plan is a game-changer. I’m well aware that life doesn’t go as per our plans. There are bigger hands at play and there will always be surprises. But the plans that I do put in paper, will act as the rudder. I could plan my day, week, month, year and life. Simplest planning would be, “What are the 3 most important things I can do today or this week or this month etc?”

  4. To become a person who doesn’t compromise on sleep. Is this that important? I didn’t even think of this until I listened to one of Sean Wes’s podcast. One of his guest talks about the 3 most important habits. They are to exercise, to plan each day and to sleep. Sleeping well is hard actually. It means I have to be mindful of a lot of things that go prior to sleeping. I have to eat a lighter dinner. Heavy ones make me roll in the bed for hours till I go to bathroom. I’d have be mindful of my eyes’ screen exposures - at least by 9 I have to say no to my phone, ipad, tv and computer. This means I have to stop work - either personal or official - even before that. This means I can’t fool around during work hours, I had to get things done as fast as possible, otherwise I’d run the risk of stealing time from my night routines. This, then means that I have to properly plan, at least my work hours. I have to decide what I’m going to achieve that day and go ahead and achieve them. THis means a lot of NOs to colleagues. It all ties down into becoming a person who values his time a lot. This is a great habit to cultivate and it has many facets to it. I need to chip 1 item at a time.

  5. To become a lifelong learner. But this time, it’s not going to be just passive learning. I don’t want to simply learn Scala, like how I simply learned Elm and put it to zero use. I want to learn only when there’s a real opportunity to use it somewhere (Scala, I could use it in my current job). I could learn video editing and use it to share my book notes right away. This also means I spend time learning things like language (hindi currently, chinese ambitiously), getting through my reading list.

Here’s a little addendum. I’m going to do 6 habits actually. As much as I like and want these 5 habits, I also want to write a lot and become a good writer. I want my blog to thrive with articles. I’ve found a place to sneak this habit into the 5 habits like so: I’ll only go to gym every other day. That’s the way to do the Stronglifts workouts. So on days I don’t go to gym and workout, I can write! So here’s the 6th habit:

(Can we say these are the 6 habits of highly effective Prasanna?)

Now I need to start out small on these and make sure I do those on a consistent basis.

What are your five crucial habits that you want to focus on this year?