Diet and Exercise Motivation Productivity

Building Habits with Paper Clips – Day 23

I now have a rather impressive string of 23 paper clips hanging next to my office door. It serves as a constant reminder of how far I’ve come–for 23 days days in a row I have walked for at least 45 minutes. Actually, I’ve walked for nearly an hour just about every day and many days have been much more, and some days have been more than two hours. During that time I’ve learned a lot about myself and a lot about the whole process of building positive habits in general.

A couple weeks ago I bought an Olympus WS-300M Digital Voice Recorder. I had been having a lot of great thoughts during my walks, but didn’t have a real good way to capture them. I had my Palm T|X in my pocket, but I couldn’t very well use the notepad while I was walking. I also had my cell phone in my pocket, but the voice recorder on it was just too clunky to use. I own a micro cassette tape recorder, but it is bulkier than I wanted to carry around with me. I knew that I needed to get a small light-weight digital voice recorder. I didn’t really want to spend hours trying to figure out which model was best, so I depended on a friend. Back in January, Matthew Cornell posted his Notes on using a digital voice recorder for taking reading notes. In that post he talked about the research he had done and why he chose the Olympus WS-300M. I didn’t see any reason to do all that work again myself, so I bought the same model. Thanks Matt!

Most professional tend to agree that if we do any activity for 21 days in a row that it will become a habit. I am now 2 days past the habit forming stage. I set a 40-day goal, which will give me an extra 19 days of confirmation to myself that the habit has been firmly established. I chose 40-days because, throughout history, 40 has been a number associated with testing and completion.

I have noticed that over the past few days it has actually been much more difficult for me to walk. Part of that has been due to the intense heat wave in our area, but I think there have been other reasons as well. I also haven’t been eating very healthy in the last few days. I have eaten more high-carbohydrate foods such as french fries and bread, I’ve eaten more sweets and deserts, and I’ve even drank some beverages with both sugar and caffeine in them. I tend to think that my diet has been the primary reason that my body has felt tired and my joints have felt stiff. I’m sure that when I would eat like this in the past that it had a negative effect on my overall feeling as well, but I didn’t notice it because I didn’t have a single point that I could focus on to reveal to me how much of an effect it had.

In this sense, the habit of walking has served much like a compass for me. When I am eating well, the walk is easier and my body feels better. As I eat more poorly, the needle of the compass shifts, revealing how much of an effect those poor diet choices actually have.

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  • Reply
    Matthew Cornell
    8/12/2007 at 8:27 am

    Hey Ricky, I’m proud – stick with it, and let me know if I can help. Before and after emails can be useful.

    Re: diet, I did something similar to the paper clips, but added calories eaten each day – even a rough estimate helped me adjust my habits – but it was *tough*. My wife is in Weight Watchers, and through her I’ve learned some surprises about foods that I didn’t expect. For example, I eat a lot less breads and rice.

    Also, I’d like to hear how the Olympus works out.

  • Reply
    8/12/2007 at 5:49 pm

    Matt – Thanks for the encouragement!

    The Olympus is working well–thanks for the recommendation! I think I would like it a little better if it had a metal case, to give it a little more weight. The battery cover has come off in my pocket a few times too. Other than that, I’m quite pleased with it.

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