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Maintaining Streaks

Build streaks. Do the work every single day. Blog daily. Write daily. Ship daily. Show up daily. Find your streak and maintain it.– Seth Godin, The Practice

I made a relatively big deal (by my standards) of blog number 900. Well, this is 914 and I just keep quietly going. I have some exciting plans for blog posts in 2021, which rely on good health and the freedom of mobility that comes with a world getting back on its feet again – dare I say – after the pandemic. But I’ll write either way. I like this particular streak I’m on too much to stop just because I’m not out there seeing the world. And so the streak continues for as long as I’m blessed with another day and the acuity to do something with it.

The concept of streaks is nothing new, but I’ll credit James Clear with writing the right book at the right time (for me) a couple of years ago shining a spotlight on habits and building streaks with them. It hit me in a way that Charles Duhigg’s book on the same topic didn’t. Both informative, but Clear’s book was catalytic. Since reading it I’ve tried to string together consecutive streaks for many things, but the writing is the one that’s lasted the longest. If you search for James Clear in this blog you’ll find plenty of quotes on this topic, but here are three I don’t believe I’ve used before:

“The point is to master the habit of showing up.”

“The identity itself becomes the reinforcer. You do it because it’s who you are and it feels good to be you.”

“Never miss twice.” – James Clear, Atomic Habits

So every morning begins with maintaining the streaks: Writing and reading. Fitness is saved for the middle of the day, and the evening is Duolingo to close out the day. Which may explain why I’ve had to use the streak saver several times with Duolingo (though I’ve never missed twice in a row) and the exercise streak gets broken more than it should. That exercise streak is just as critical for overall health as the writing, reading and language learning are for mental fitness. But it tends to get lost in that middle of the day time slot, so I’m debating moving it to the beginning of the day without breaking what’s working.

As a morning person, the payoff is more obvious in the morning streaks. I publish every day, usually before I eat breakfast unless there’s an early start for a flight or a hike or whatnot. And I chip away at the reading immediately afterwards. I finished John McPhee’s Draft no. 4 (for five books in a week). That reading streak is paying off as much as the writing streak. They go hand-in-hand, of course, but it’s nice to finish things and “check the box”. For the blog checking the box means clicking Publish. For reading checking the box means reviewing the book after I’ve finished it on Goodreads. This also serves as my de facto tracker for how many books I finish in a year.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Reading that McPhee book reminded me of what I don’t know. I spent a fair amount of time looking up the definitions of words he’d drop, or places he’d been to that I wasn’t familiar with. You could look at that in two ways: either you’re hopelessly behind on the learning curve, or you’ve reached another hurdle to clear on your sprint around the track of life. Embrace the humbling process of learning what you didn’t previously know, and look with anticipation towards the next hurdle in line.

So that’s where you’ll find me each morning: maintaining streaks while sprinting around the track of life. We’re moving around it either way, we might as well keep a few streaks alive as we go. Now, about that fitness goal…

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