I have been searching for a productivity app to manage habit stacks for quite a while, ever since I read S. J. Scott’s habit books and learned about the notion of a “habit stack” to be precise. A habit stack is essentially a sequence of actions you do in one go, in 10 to 30 mins on average (yeah, it is highly compatible with the Pomodoro technique, but the Pomodoro approach is rather more about mono-tasking, but life cannot be stripped of a gazillion 2 to 7-minute important chores, such as watering potted plants or taking the rubbish out, or reading that weekly digest on a topic of interest that arrives every Friday evening and acting on it by saving your takeaways as a private blog post with tags and all to aid speedy retrieval at a later date). Habit stacking helps you do more per day because it makes it possible to do small chores and tasks that you never have time for because of low priority, but cannot dump or delegate because of their nature. They have to be done.
One big problem with habit stacking is that you have to create your habit aka task stacks first and decide when and how often you do which second. And only after that things sort of get going. I’ve tried Todoist. Using the app takes more time than doing some of the tasks. I’ve also tried Do-It-Tomorrow. This one is good for ticking things off, and it automatically reschedules incomplete chores for tomorrow. It works when you do not have very much to do. However, once the list of tasks to be done exceeds a few dozen, your mind goes on strike. I have survived a few cycles already. It appears that individual tasks have to be oragnized into series or sequences to be perceived as manageable.
Yesterday I tried my luck one more time on the App Store. The app I found – Streaks – definitely needs improvement here and there from the nit-picker’s perspective, but, on the whole, it serves its purpose extremely well, so, in my view, it’s a five-star app. It has a very attractive intuitive minimalistic visual interface, and i’s very easy to learn and set up.
After a couple of hours “my life” got sorted into 12 categories of tasks (habits, chores – whatever), and I was also able to divide the 12 categories into 2 sets of 6, one dealing with my everyday life, hobbies and work, and the other covering my formal studies. The rings that appear “broken” indicate the number of times per day or week, or another preset period of time I have to repeat the sequence. Every time I complete a sequence, I tap on the corresponding category icon, and this shows how much has been done, and how much more there’s to go.
The app resets at the 00:00 hour each day. You can set the reset time for a different clock time if you wish. So, if you skip a day, nothing bad will happen, except that you will break the current streak. This explains the name of the app. A streak is a sequence of days. Each day (on the category or habit, or habit stack level) – once you have completed everything – is like a bead. And you need lots of “beads” to form a beautiful “necklace” or a streak as the app developer puts it. If you skip a day, you start all over. With the “beads” I mean. The app tracks your performance, and you can look at the stats any time to see which category has developed into the longest streak.
It will surely take some time to fine-tune the categories, but I am very happy to see that I have managed to categorize most of what I have to do and what I want to do (self-care and enjoyable activities are as important as obligatory ones). By and large, I think I’ve finally found what I’ve been looking for.
A FUN THOUGHT – I spent a while yesterday, my entire walk home from the shops, contemplating what category “make your bed” belongs to and eventually went for “self-care”. If it makes me feel good, and it is not about literally cleaning things up, it is not a household chore. There were a few other naughty thoughts, but – overall – the main idea I came up with is that “if you enjoy it” or “if you enjoy seeing the result(s) of what you have done”, it is “self-care”, and “if you feel you have to do it”, it is “a chore”. I am afraid that if I continue applying this reasoning, I will eventually have no housework to do.