Checking – an exercise in self-sabotage

A habit that I’ve made half-hearted attempts to change in the past two years is picking up the phone first thing in the morning and opening up/checking my (personal) email.

I describe my efforts as half-hearted because I wasn’t committed to it. I’d occasionally think about changing it. Then, I’d slip into familiar patterns the next morning and feel particularly good about getting out of bed with my inbox cleared.

Half-hearted commitments are exercises in self-sabotage because you don’t do much to change your environment to make change happen. So, you slip back to old ways and then make (reasonable sounding) excuses for yourself. Ergo self-sabotage.

Such exercises don’t seem to do much damage in the short run – seem being the operative word.

Every time we make a half-hearted commitment where we don’t follow through, we reduce our belief in our ability to commit. Our integrity gets compromised – one daily excuse at a time.

So, I spent some time thinking about this habit over the past 3 weeks. After wrestling with it for a bit, I’ve come to realize that what annoys me isn’t just the checking email first thing in the morning. It is the stunning lack of depth that the act of checking inspires.

And, after years of pruning sources of shallow engagement in my day, this might just be the final frontier (as is the case with bottlenecks, I’ll find out after I prune this).

So, I’ve finally made the commitment to changing my habit. This means getting to work fixing my environment. This is a mix of guidelines (move any checking/browsing onto a bigger screen) as well as changes – e.g., ensuring there are books everywhere I usually slip into checking/browsing on the phone, changing up my morning routine.

I expect it to be two steps forward and one step back for a while as I iterate.

Looking forward to seeing how it goes.