Placeholder Habits


The last two weeks were fairly annoying for me. I had to wake up early for some nasty morning papers, cram a whole bunch of information in my head, and reproduce them as sensible arguments – in as legible a handwriting as I could muster.

Despite that, it was a very fun experience. I got to push the limits of my knowledge retention skills and deal, on the spot, with a few unanticipated questions. Admittedly, I had more fun than I ought.

What was truly difficult though, was sustaining my blogging habit during those two endless, draggy weeks. It probably wasn’t impossible, it just wasn’t at the top of my priority list, and so I shaved it off. And that was definitely an important choice to make; we can’t have it all at once, can we!

That being said, I wasn’t quite prepared to go into yet another season of non-blogging. I’m sure many of you encounter the same deal every now and then: a habit you’d like to keep up, but trying circumstances mean you might have to go through a period of abstinence for a while.

What to do? Thankfuly, I had a few placeholder habits in store. While I might not have been actively working on posts to the point where they were blog-ready, I was still taking out my writing cap once in awhile, shaking off the dust and putting it on. I wrote partial posts, worked on other story projects, and tended to a few small dinglings on the side.

All these lesser, but no less important attempts to keep in touch with the digital-writer side of me helped stave off my perennial lazybones. Now that I’m free from academic obligations, the temptation to collapse into a pile of non-activity is great. Still the desire to fulfill that creative drive – which was admittedly way stronger when I was occupied with exams (because hey, procrastination monkey) – is greater. To be honest, it’s a close fight. But maintaining placeholder habits helped tip the scale.

So yes, it’s true that we can’t always keep up the habits that are important to us. The vagaries of life will be sure to present some kind of speed bump that slows us down every now and then. But even so, we can still keep moving by implementing a lesser version of our habits – a placeholder of sorts that reminds us of the original that we want to be committed to. Before long, we’ll be up and running again!


Do the Other Thing


Before I continue with part three of Exercise Routines!, which should ideally include some tasty ideas for planning your exercise, I’ll take a break and, like this post’s namesake, do the Other Thing!

The past few weeks have been quite a hectic rush for me, with deadlines piling skyhigh in my daily and weekly planner. To get everything done, I have employed a simple planning list that orders and captures all the activities that I intend to do for the day. The good thing about this list is that it makes sure I don’t miss out a single thing, or get my activity-order messed up. The bad thing though, is that it gets a bit dry and tiring after awhile. Can I really cram to-do’s into each and every free slot in my day?


Of course not. In fact, my list lacks the usual time schedule; meaning that the corresponding column that includes what time is required for what activity – that chunky thing is completely out of the picture. While I have a general projection of how much time is needed, and that affects the order and scheduling of tasks, the freely-floating tasklist lets me organize my time organically. If an activity captivates me, great! I can just focus on it for awhile longer (until the hard schedule kicks in, like appointments, or non-negotiable time limits). If it took a shorter time than anticipated, then I can just move on to other things. Without a suffocating schedule to nail my task list to, I can avoid the usual dictatorship of blanketing everything as a must-do when the activity is more of a good-to-do or even just a fun-to-do.

Speaking of which, there comes a point of time in every organized person’s life where the drudgery of listed tasks, whether scheduled or not, bogs you down and you feel like just escaping it all. Well, what do you do? Even the fun things – being in the list – are not quite as fun anymore.

This is when the Other Thing comes in handy. The Other Thing is that which exists outside of the norms of planning and routine, and it refreshes you exactly because it is novel, unexpected, and spontaneous. It could be as simple as taking the Other route to work, or as scary as talking to the Other person you don’t usually talk to. It could be a bit more time consuming, like trying that new method of working that you heard about from your colleagues the other day. It might take more energy too, like running up a flight of stairs when you’d usually just walk. Whatever it is, it should be something you want to do, but aren’t doing because of routine and habit!

You may ask me, can an organized person with a tight schedule ever get to indulge in the Other Thing? And my answer is: unpack your schedule! Because otherwise, it is usually an uncompromisingly dull No. Either you stick to the plan, or you diverge and feel bad about it. The solution is to have a more flexible plan like what was outlined above. Having no hard timings on the schedule (except those that are truly necessary) will give you a fluid, organic experience that enables you to fill up the little pockets of free time with energizing, refreshing, and enriching Other Things.