Habit changing is hard. It’s harder when the cues in one’s surroundings are so distracting that the only thing they think they can do is just go with the flow and not do much to change things. A few months ago, a friend of mine kept raving about a book called Atomic Habits. While recovering from a severe lower back pain episode, I decided to give this book a shot because I thought to myself, “What’s the worst that could come out of reading a productivity porn book? Maybe a blog post dissing that very notion!”
This isn’t about the book itself because it’s productivity porn along with a generous side of insistence on losing weight, dieting etc. This is about some of the things I did end up adopting to my own daily routine just so that I could finish reading a book that I had picked up a few times and couldn’t go past the first few pages because it felt overwhelming.
The book in question here is called Ponniyin Selvan, it’s a Tamil historical fiction about the Chola Empire. It was overwhelming not only because it was a couple of thousand pages (I read the Stormlight Archive, so surely I can’t be daunted by huge books?!), but because it was in Tamil which I only knew to read posters and ads at a very slow pace. Not only was it in Tamil, it was in very pure Tamil and with the dialogue style being quite archaic to reflect the period the novel is set in.
The first thing I did was starting habit tracking. I needed this anyway to make sure I was doing my strengthening exercises every day per the recommendation of the doctor to avoid similar episodes of back issues. There are several habit tracking apps that you can find. I used one from the f-droid which is simply called Habits. Seeing a streak on a calendar is a great way to make me stay on track and even if that is broken, it is a reminderto stay disciplined and not lose heart about it.
I also started reading the book as part of my coffee drinking sessions. I brew and drink coffee in the morning, which is at least 15 minutes in length. I would pick up the Kindle when I set the water to boil and would read while waiting on the water to reach the desired temperature. Clubbing these two activities made it easy for me to keep at it. I replaced mindless phone scrolling with reading during this time of the day.
I also ensured that I was reading only two chapters a day for the first few weeks, because I didn’t want to get burned out by reading too much,losing track of the plot and with that, the interest in reading the book. I didn’t give into the craving to know more of what’s to come in the next few chapters right away. The slowburn was quite the trick that worked. Later on, when the habit had stuck, I would read while eating lunch or waiting at the hospital for a family member’s appointment.
Probably the most important thing I did among all of these things was to make my Kindle very easily accessible. I had it on my table at all times and fully charged. One of the things that has always worked against me while trying to create a habit is that the object that I need for it would get hidden from sight while arranging my set up and the effort involved to pick up that object would prevent me from pursuing the activity.
I hope to continue with this habit and use the techniques to have more hobbies that I wish to pursue to bring that joy to life that seems to be amiss because of the distractions that come my way in several shapes and form. Tiny joys like these should add up some day to produce that compounding effect, right?