“Life is a habit that’s hard to break.”
Over the years, I’ve developed habits that have become an integral part of my operating system. Some of these habits have driven other people nuts, or got them scratching their head in bewilderment.
Nevertheless, these habits are an essential make up of my personal life and work. And this article is my attempt at cataloguing them.
1. Being conservative in how I dress. I’m naturally quite lazy at shopping for new clothes, and of course, deciding what to wear every day. So, to reduce this psychological effort as much as possible, I figured out that there are patterns to what I tend to wear. For instance, I mostly only wear stripes, plain designs, and occasionally, band graphics for a t-shirt, slacks for pants, and Converse leather sneakers for shoes. In fact, when my previous pair of sneakers got too worn out, I simply replaced them with the same model. There’s not really much of a good reason for this habit, other than that I’m just lazy — but perhaps, it does free up the mind to focus on more important stuff.
2. Drinking 5 to 7 cups of coffee a day. I love coffee. A lot. I’ve even turned superhuman in the sense that having a cup before bedtime doesn’t affect my sleep. Sometimes, a cup of coffee is like a world of deep, reflective thoughts that you sip from. Other times, it’s like a friend that gives you company when you feel blue — or, it can be the fuel that keeps your engine running. On a weekend, my idea of leisure is to spend some time alone at my favorite café — except that I wouldn’t be alone, I’d have a cup of coffee with me.
3. Carrying a pocket notebook. In most cases, I wouldn’t head outside without a pen and notebook in my pocket. As the French chemist Louis Pasteur put it, “Fortune favors the prepared mind.” I wouldn’t want to be without a pen and notebook whenever inspiration strikes, or whenever I see or hear anything interesting that’s worth scribbling down. A phone might help you do the same thing to some extent, but I personally prefer to keep things analog. Having my notes in physical form makes it more likely for me to go through them, as I tend to just store away my notes and forget them if I were using my phone instead. But more importantly, I enjoy the process of physically writing these notes.
4. Working at odd hours. I generally write better during the early hours of the day, when everybody else at home is asleep. Unless I’m too tired, I would normally wake up at 4:30 in the morning. I’d spend the first 45 minutes or so having my coffee, performing tahajjud prayers and journaling, before diving into my work. Waking up this early might not necessarily work for you, but at least for me, this time of the day is when I’m most focused. Not to mention, it’s a spiritually intimate time for personal reflections and for you to make supplications, or speak with God.
5. Listening to the same song over and over again. I’m definitely one of those people who would listen to the same song, album, or playlist for weeks on end, until my mind starts getting restless for something else — so Spotify’s On Repeat playlist is a gem. The byproduct of this habit is that it does wonders in keeping my focus at work. I’m not sure about the exact science behind this, but it’s essentially the same principle as meditating. After a while, you dissolve into whatever you’re listening to, and it becomes almost effortless to ward off any distracting thoughts. Also, by listening to the same thing on repeat, you would inevitably have a much deeper appreciation for it. As I write this, I’m listening to Alter Bridge’s Blackbird for the umpteenth time.
6. Going down rabbit holes. Whenever I really like something — like a book, film, or music — I’d be utterly obsessed with finding out everything I could about it and its artist. I’d be curious enough to pore over their interviews, any making-of content like drafts or scripts, their other works, or any other works related to the topic. It’s just a fun thing to do, to sate my curiosity. But from that, I would have a better understanding of how the artist thinks, how they view the world, and how they approach their work. Most of the insights I gain from this process would be distilled into the articles I write — because I’d feel like I can’t not share them.
7. Posting articles every Saturday. Writing on this blog consistently used to be near impossible, and the longest I was able to commit to a fixed schedule was only for a few weeks. But that changed three years ago, when I found myself in rock bottom. There were very few things that could comfort me in my grief or to make me feel better, except to write. Three years onwards, it has since become second nature for me to post an article every Saturday at midnight sharp. I do it because I love it, especially the thrill I get when I’m engaged in the writing process. But if I could make at least one person’s day better with my writing, that’s alright too.