Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Byeol System - Part One

I am quite a big fan of habits. I believe that habits are what make us, not only in the philosophical sense of "who a person is" being defined by what they do regularly, but also in the sense that habits "make us" the people we are trying to be. For example, I try not to "study Korean", so much as I want to become a "Korean studying person". This idea about habits is not only a core component to my character, but also the reason I'm writing about this lame topic today, as I want to write on this blog once a day, but I'm too tired and brain dead to come up with anything substantial.

Those that know me pretty well know that I keep a fucking insane calendar on my desk filled with rainbow lines and star stickers. This calendar system has been with me for almost three full years now, and undergone a lot of changes in how it works, but I can honestly say that it has had the biggest impact on my life than anything else since 2011. So today, I wanted to explain a bit about it.

First, this is a point-based system, and each point is represented on the calendar by a star sticker. I originally devised this for studying Korean, so the whole thing is named after the Korean word for star, which is "Byeol". Now, I am a 29-year-old adult, but dammit, I believe in the power of star stickers. I originally started this out by giving myself money to spend freely instead of just stickers, but if you attach meaning to something, even something as dumb and childish as a star sticker, it can motivate you. So, I got rid of the money system pretty quickly and just stayed with stickers.

The way to get stickers has changed a few times (and I'll detail this changes later) but it essentially is about two things: making a habit and getting the most out of my time every day (and week, and month). The first method to getting points involves doing something consistently. Forming the habit is less about studying for 5 hours in one sitting and more about spreading those five hours out over a week. So the way to get points here is to do something for five days in a row. For example, if I write in my journal from Monday to Friday, that's a star. The reason behind five days is to make sure I take a break from said activity for at least a day, if not the weekend. But this is also "five days in a row" and not "Monday through Friday" for a reason. I can sometimes get started on something on Sunday and finish on Thursday, which makes my Fridays lighter with more time for friends.

The second method to getting points involves having a completely full day, and not wasting any time. This is harder to quantify, and so while the "Five-Day Rule" has remained totally consistent over three years, the "Full Day Rule" has changed several times every year. Usually, the way I determine this is by starting with a list of all activities I count as "useful"; This master list is somewhere around 16 or 17 items deep most of the time. From there, I determine which of those activities I could do every day -- Things like studying Korean vocab, writing in my journal, or eating healthy. This is usually around 6 or 7 for me. After that, I'll have a list of things that I can't do every day -- like studying with my Korean tutor or working out. I figure out how much time I need for all the daily things, and then add on a few of the "weekly" activities, and this number is my "Full Day" number. This has ranged anywhere from 6 to 13 over the years, depending on what's going on in my life at the time.
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