87 - Habit-building 15: Cashing out > Cashing in



I’ve been facing a challenge that you may be familiar with. The question of whether or not to stop mid-flow.

When to stop is a choice writers have to make every day. Should you continue on the gravy train because good ideas are coming easy and you aren’t sure if you’ll find yourself in that situation again? Or should you call it a day because you’ve clocked the hours and get back to it tomorrow?

Writer Ernest Hemingway has something useful to offer: ‘The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next’.

Repetitions matter for any habit. When you go all in, once you realize you’re having a good day, you’re likely to regress to the mean the next day. Your legs will be mush having done too many deadlifts and so you’re unlikely to resume your workouts anytime soon. Or you’ll be toast having pulled an all-nighter and likely to not open a book for the rest of the week.

When it comes to any cognitive habit, especially if it involves generative or creative thinking, sure you could try leaving something midway when you’ve got gas left in the tank. But there are two other tricks that you must practise afterward that few tell you about.

  1. Do not think about it until your next crack at it. Anyone who’s put in a big shift knows the feeling of hitting the bed so wired that you cannot get a wink in for hours. That kills your morning after. It’s like a bad work hangover.
  2. Put your ideas/thoughts down just before you wind up. That’ll be insurance for a memory lapse and help you power down.

Cash in when the going’s good is common advice. But if you’re looking to sustain a habit, try cashing out when you’re doing well. And unplug yourself until you go at it again. That way you’ll resume well-rested the next day.

I would not worry about finding my rhythm. I would be worried about losing my habit.

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