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When You Go Off the Rails, Only Go a Little

As imperfect humans constantly trying to stick new habits, we're all familiar with the concept of falling off the rails. It happens to everyone, sometimes as a conscious decision, sometimes through neglect, and sometimes through defeat.

You decide to run every day for a month, nail it for a week straight, and then you just stop. Maybe you give up sugar for a month, but then give in to temptation and eat half an apple pie in one sitting. There's this feeling when you know you're about to go off the rails of: oh well-- if I'm going to go off the rails, I may as well go way off. In fact, when I see people go off the rails, I most often see them go way off. It never seems to be a small violation.

Is this the best we can do?

It's important to understand what is happening when you go off the rails. At your best, you decided to make a change. You made a plan for that change and you actually stuck with it for some amount of time. As you begin to veer off the rails, you're taking your past progress and your unrealized future progress, and putting it at risk. You're pushing a stack of chips from the safety of your bankroll to the middle of the table.

The Evolution of My Time/Habit/Life Tracking


"A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system." -John Gall

I built a pretty good daily tracking template, and I evolved it over time. It's serving me pretty well now. I'd like to show you the evolution.

Version 0 - I realized that tracking my time would be a good thing. I started writing down just one or two things per day.

Here's what my first day of tracking looked like:

26 May - Success

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