Building a system of habits to achieve your goals.

Building a system of habits to achieve your goals.

Since this is the beginning of the New Year, this would be a good time to talk about new years resolutions or goals and how they tie back into IT and software development.

If you chose to be in a learning profession such as IT or Software Development, your habits will help you either get ahead and achieve your goals or just sink you. You learn a new technology stack new people skills or business skills. It would help if it were something you do without much thought, just out of habit.

What does this have to do with Programing, Management, DevOps, etc.?

The principle of “self-improvement” applies to developing a system of incremental improvement over time. If you can apply this principle to yourself, you can apply these in other areas of your life, including your work.

If you are like me you probably have given up on new year resolutions
Because they don’t work… At least not for long… Motivation just sputters out.
Even after you manage to reach your goal… You go back to doing the same stuff you resolve not to do. Instead of working on disjointed tasks, adopt a game plan for developing lasting habits that support ALL of your goals.

A game plan for developing lasting habits.

Small daily habits
1% cumulative improvements
Habit tracking

Small daily habits

Think of the habits necessary to reach your goal.
For instance to be healthy that is your goal, your strategy. Your tactics may be: eating healthy, exercise regularly.

To do those tactics, you need to create new habits such as:

Go to the gym
Learn to cook a healthy meal.

Where I would get in trouble is creating a gigantic LIST of TASKS.
Instead, start small and simple and stay small.

I will go to the gym and do one pushup once a day.
I will make rice with a rice cooker once every other day.
I will read five pages a day.

I found when I start with doing just one pushup, I end up doing more.

I start with making rice, I also end up steaming some vegetables in addition.

On reading five pages a day, after six months, I have read 900 pages or about 3 novels.

Otherwise, with a large number of “tasks” for your “habit” you end up with analysis paralysis… in other words you do nothing.

Inspiration or motivating yourself, those tricks for me don’t work well it’s too much “hit and miss.” However creating a small task habit with minimal willpower, I can make work everyday. The best stuff I’ve done has been when I didn’t even feel like doing it. I just do it out of habit.

The book Mini Habits describes how this can be done.

1% continuous improvement…

“It is not important to be better than someone else, but to be better than yesterday.”

Jigoro Kano
founder of Judo

Instead of working towards “instant discipline” or “instant insane amounts of work” or a long list of tasks that you are unable to sustain, look for small improvements instead. When you start doing things like pushups without inspiration, rather out of habit, add another habit like sit-ups or an additional routine to your workout. Find small ways to improve your habits everyday.

In management, the Kaizen approach  (otherwise known as Lean Management) is based on the belief that continuous, incremental improvement adds up to substantial change over time. This can be done in your daily habits and routine.

Find a better way to organize your workspace
Find a shortcut to work
Try a healthier food option

Little improvements in your routine will improve your life. Do this daily and compound your improvements and you have big changes in a short period of time.

Track your progress

You can use a piece of graph paper and place a check mark for each time you successfully completed your habit for the day. This acts as a way to reinforce the habit you are building.

A habit or goal tracking app also will work. There are several of them out there. I use Goal Tracker & Habit Calendar on Android.


Instead of focusing on a goal, focus on habits to reach your goals.
Focus on small daily habits that are not big.
Do 1% habits that reinforce each other and work on them every day.

Track your habit progress using a habit tracking app on your smart phone.

It will take anywhere from 20 days to 365 days. Track this until this is automatic.

Books helpful for habits

Mini Habits
Atomic Habits

I like to hear any comments or suggestions you have.
Until then, have a great year.

Recommended Reading for DevOps – It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy

So what would a book on management on a Navy ship have to do with DevOps?

Well it’s really a book on how Captain Michael Abrashoff created a collaborating organization on his ship while in the US Navy. As a result, he brought his ship from the bottom 3rd in the Pacific fleet to the best ship in the Navy. He increased his crew re-enlistment rate from 8% to close to 100% during his time on the USS Benfold.

The Military is know for it’s highly rigid command structure and for that matter its traditionally restrictive culture that discourages contribution and change. On top of that, you don’t get to choose your crew or your boss. Does that sound like a place you might be working for?

He created a collaborative culture by doing the following:

1 – See the ship through the eyes of the crew
2 – Communicating often
3 – Create discipline by focusing on purpose
4 – Listen aggressively

He also outlined how he did this in a restrictive military culture.
He would find ways to:

1 -Use dumb rules to his organizations advantage.
2 – Shelter his crew from the higher ups bad policies.
3 – Make his superiors look good and get latitude to run his ship.

Although this book has been out for a while (2002), these ideas presented in this book can give you some ideas on what you can do to implement the collaborative culture of DevOps in your organization.

Soft skills like communications and management are often overlooked by people in Software Development and Technical Operations. Take the time to improve these skills as it will not only enrich your workplace, but enrich your life.

If you have any suggestions or ideas, feel free to let me know.

Until then, have a good day.


Here is a link to the book:

It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy by D Michael Abrashoff