Holy Productivity, Batman! Alternate Title: My First Successful Habit-Developing Tool

Dayscore GraphFriends, I do not have an easy time developing habits. Something in my ADD bouncing-off-the-walls multi-tasking brain doesn’t take well to the idea that chores and work do, in fact, have to be done on a regular basis.

And while I love my family dearly, we’re all that way. Chaos! I didn’t learn how to properly do laundry until college. Sometimes I still forget to brush my teeth. (Gross, I know.) Mornings before school were… well, we never quite got the hang of them. 2 kids and 14 years of school (close to 20 for them; they’re teachers!), and my parents are just now becoming morning people.

I don’t have trouble with big things. I’ll latch on to a cleaning spree or a sewing project and pursue it obsessively until it’s done (or I get sufficiently distracted), even if it takes days of bursty work. But somehow sustained, consistent activity just doesn’t jive with me. I needed some way to develop habits that I can do without even thinking about them.

But it takes time and consistency to develop good habits. And I read somewhere (in a book by a behavior doctor, but I haven’t a clue as to the title) that it takes more than three times as long for an adult with moderate to severe AD/HD to make a habit stick than other adults.

Phew. No wonder my life lacked any sort of routine! I needed something that would give me structure on a daily basis. I tried every technique and tool I’ve run across over the years, but found myself unable to stick with anything long enough for it to matter. After 5 or 6 tries, I’d always give up. I did have some success with making daily to-do lists, but to be useful the list had to be so specific that it was a huge pain. (Wake up, eat breakfast, brush teeth, etc. Really specific.)

Enter dayscore.net. I’ve been using it since October after seeing it on LifeHacker. The premise is simple: You enter a number of tasks that you want to do every day. Then, you just click on the task when you complete it. You get a day score (the number of tasks you completed) and the data is graphed. There’s no registration, no username and password, nothing; just bookmark the page you’re given. Creator Peter Ellis Jones talks about his frustration with registration forms on his blog, and I agree with his thought process. The only downside is that if you have a false start or two (I did) it’s really tempting to just start over. Not really a downside for the user unless you find it too easy to cheat that way, but there might be a lot of hardly-used pages floating around. (Is that even a bad thing? Male Compatriot is a computer guy, but I don’t really understand the mechanics. I’m getting off track anyway.)

The graph aspect is the most appealing thing to me. Otherwise, the site is just a basic to-do list; you could just write down everything you need to do and check them off each day. But there’s something really nice about seeing each day’s tasks graphed on a daily, 7-day and 30-day line.

How I use it:

It’s nice that I never have to re-type or re-write my daily tasks. I started off with just a few. Five, I think. Wake up on time, exercise, do one chore (with a list of options), and go to bed on time. Then, when I consistently had a score of 4-5 for two weeks, I added a task. I’m up to 11 now, with varying degrees of specificness.

After 3 months, I realized that while I wasn’t cheating, I was always using the dishes as my “one chore” for the day. It was at the point where I was unloading the dishes and wiping down the counters every morning and evening, and never doing the other chores. At first I was a little annoyed with myself, but I soon realized that I had stumbled upon a huge success. Doing the dishes is now a habit! It’s practically automatic! What madness is this?

I decided to make unloading the dishes its own task, rather than just removing it from the list of available chores, because I still like seeing improvement graphed on the chart. Over time, I know this will lead to semi-artificial improvement, as I will have many more tasks to choose from and therefore am much more likely to get a higher score. But I’m fine with that;  it means I am doing more things, even if it screws with the graph data a little bit.

My task list; Today I…

Woke up on time/within 30 minutes of on time (before noon on weekends)

Ate  breakfast before noon

Exercised

Did at least one chore other than the dishes

Tidied for 10+ minutes

Did a load of dishes

Meditated/napped for 10+ minutes

Made substantial progress on a cloth project

Wrote for 30 minutes

Did all my work (grocery shopping/errands on weekends)

Went to bed on time (10:15, no later than 11)

Flossed

As you can see, some are  very specific and others are open ended. I’m always tweaking and sometimes adding things. It’s worked for me like nothing else has so far, and things are always improving.

Why I think it works:

People really like lines and numbers going up. Feels like continuous progress, and it’s part of what makes some activities so addictive. (World of Warcraft, anyone?) The interface is really simple, and the color scheme is nice, providing a sense of reward as your score changes from red to green. I also really like the multiple views graphed into the same image. It can be discouraging if your daily graphs fluctuate wildly, and it’s nice to have the 7-day and 30-day overviews to keep things in perspective.

Cons:

You do have to remember to use it. If you have multiple devices you might be able to have the same page bookmarked on each and can update from your phone as you complete a task, but I haven’t tried that. That’s the only downside I can really think of. It’s a neat idea and a simple, elegant presentation.

Have you used  dayscore? How has it worked for you?

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4 comments

  1. annaabbott88

    Following you link to the site now. Perhaps you should add a habit category for inspiring others to not be so anti-habitual too. If I can simply accomplish making it a habit of doing my dishes everyday, then well, I see that as a success. So Congrats for that!

    • diaryofamadmama

      I see a lot of similarities in my own life and my own habits. I feel like I might have some adult a.d.d. tendencies (although I’ve never been officially diagnosed). I often find myself going from one unfinished task to another to another and then realizing I never finished the first or second or third thing that I was doing before moving on to the next. So all that said, I really enjoyed your post and am excited to try this tool. Thanks so much for sharing!
      ~Jen 🙂

      • Jessie

        Let me know if it works out for you! It can be really frustrating to feel so scatterbrained, even though there’s a lot of creativity and awesome energy in what people like us do. Finding balance is the name of the game, I guess.

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