Habits suck. More specifically, they suck the joy out of life and the colour out of the sky. I never feel as dead as when I try, once again, to make some habit stick.
That’s a problem, because if you try to become more productive, less depressed, or more proficient at something, nearly all advice starts¹ with habit building. GTD, Atomic Habits, The Power of Habit, Mindset, The Art of Good Habits, Willpower, High Performance Habits, and many other renowned books will tell you in great detail why and how to build habits. Add in uncountable habit trackers (like Beeminder or Habitica), and you’ll start to wonder which habit you ought to build next.
And I know that habits work well for many people. Some of my best friends have habits! The regularity and reliability of building reflexive actions is attractive in theory, and if that’s an approach that works well for you, this post isn’t for you.
My brain abhors habits. Regularity seems like a tight leash, an unbearable imposition, to which I have a nearly physical reaction. I’ve been writing against hyperbolic language, so please believe me that this is not hyperbole. I spent the last decade-and-then-some trying to overcome, circumvent, outsmart, or brutally suppress my aversion towards habits. I generally subscribe to the belief that I’m not special (nor are you, sorry), so if many clever people have worked out that a principle is solid, I’ll believe that there’s something to it.
Ten years should serve as proof enough that this approach won’t work in its current form. Instead, I’m currently trying to embrace my desire for change and adventure and not feeling like a dead husk. To this end, I’ve written a tiny tool called antihabits (online at antihabits.rixx.de). It’s a website² that will take a list of tasks, either recurring ones or ones only valid for the current day, and shuffle them.
That’s it. Take a list, shuffle it, save the result. You can also mark things as done for the day, adding up to a whopping two features. I’ve been testing it during the past week, and it’s been pretty good. It reduces decision fatigue, and allows me to have some change instead of routine. My brain seems to appreciate it.
¹ Some advice ends there, too, to my bafflement.