Sunday, January 10, 2016

Habits vs. Goals

So it's that time of year again.  People set goals.  People chase goals.  Many ultimately fail.  I recently read an article on habits vs. goals over here, and it got me thinking about goals, habits, and balance in general.

I have big goals, and I want to achieve them all at once.   I tend to spread myself a bit too thin.  For example, in 2014 I set the following goals:
  • Study for and pass CCNP route, switch, and t-shoot
  • Run a marathon
  • Help plan my own wedding (I wasn't tremendously helpful), and get married
  • Go on my honeymoon, and while on my honeymoon, study for the CCNP and train for the marathon.
  • Work enough after-hours to cover the flex time for the wedding/honeymoon
  • Achieve a laundry list of professional goals for a major promotion

Generally just a CCNP, marathon, wedding, or major promotion would be a pretty intimidating goal.  Attempting to achieve all of these in one year was definitely quite the challenge.  I ultimately succeeded, but the road to get there was unstructured.  It was a very hectic year. Last year (2015) was more of the same.

Right now I'm working toward even more time consuming goals:
  • Earn CCIE R&S
  • Finish B.S. Information Technology-Security degree at WGU
  • Learn Python and become proficient using it to manage network devices and manipulate configs
  • Develop greater understanding of TCP/IP and packet analysis
  • Train for another marathon, and begin cycling in preparation for an Ironman
  • Start weight training (again)
  • Blog consistently
  • Achieve a laundry list of other professional goals and certifications

As my goals get larger and larger, holding myself accountable and managing my time becomes even more important.  This is where building solid habits comes into play.  I've seen great results using fitness tracking apps such as Garmin Connect, MyFitnessPal, and Withings.  The datafication and gamification these apps provide helps me stay on track.  Tracking progress over time helps me hold myself accountable.

This year I've decided to take a similar approach and track all of the other goals I'm working toward.  There is no shortage of apps for tracking and forming habits.  I found a useful list here.

I ultimately chose coach.me because it is cross-platform and easy to use.  It appears to be full featured, and has a nice pretty UI.  As with all of these apps, you get out what you put in.  However, I'm definitely looking forward to focusing on habits rather than goals.  If you develop the habits, the goals will fall into place.

UPDATE 1/29/16:  While I like the coach.me premise and basic functionality, the app leaves a lot to be desired.  There is currently no reporting functionality or any way to view historical data.  It seems like a wasted opportunity to collect data on a daily basis and do absolutely nothing with it.  My ideal app would provide a visual representation of habit consistency, trends, and how habits/goals change over time.

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