Daily Habit Tracking
Ever since the wonderful Kai Davis posted about his habit-tracking nerdiness, I was inspired to nerd-out myself.
I use a tracking spreadsheet as a way to shine a light on how well I’m doing at integrating new practices and habits into my life.
Still pretty straightforward.
Here’s how it works
- Make a copy of this template habit-tracking spreadsheet. (Or make a Google Spreadsheet with columns that have habits you want to track and rows that have dates)
- Once-a-day, fill in the results for what you’ve done that in the last 24 hours. Put a “1” if you’ve done, a “0” if you haven’t, and “n/a” if for some reason you really had no option to do that thing.
- At the end of each month, hide the last months results (you don’t need lots of data for months and months). Remove habits that you’ve been successful with and add new habits that are important to you. Wash, rinse, repeat.
That’s about it.
What benefits have I seen?
It helps me bring consciousness to these parts of my life. When I’m about to skip flossing and go straight to brushing my teeth, I remember that I’m going to have put a zero in the spreadsheet for that day, and then I do it anyway. When my chattering mind wants to skip a habit because it thinks no one will notice, this spreadsheet helps me call on my authentic self to take authentic action.
So go ahead, try this yourself and see what shifts you notice. Start by making a copy of the template habit-tracking spreadsheet
Running Lean Flowchart
Want to skip to the Flowchart?
Have you ever started a new project and wished there were a guidebook for that type of work? I always do.
Travelling through Dark Terrain
I started building RallyRoom 9 months ago, after years of reading startup blogs. I was hyper-aware that I was focused on building an app I thought was cool, and that to succeed in starting a business, I needed to look at the whole picture, not just the code. I spent a couple weeks searching for a “guidebook” to this new land of startups that I had just entered. I found a few neighborhood maps on building, usability, and emotional design, but nothing that told me how to get where I was headed: building a tool that will change the world and pay my bills.
So I set off on my journey, figuring that navigating on-the-fly was better than waiting for a perfect map. After 9 months, I had talked to a bunch of users, learned about design, built a prototype, and was about to start a multi-month development phase to build out the MVP.
Enter: Running Lean
Then I stumbled across Running Lean.
Now I know how to get where I’m going. Before I had a bunch of tools from blogs I had read, but they were all sitting in pile, and I was using my best guess at to when to pull them out. Now I have a toolbox and snapshots of what my product should look like at different stages.
As a technical founder, I love building things. One day I said “I really want to spend a ton of time building this one thing, and I hope someone will pay me for it so I can spend all my time on it.”
Running Lean gave me to tools to shift my attention from building a product to building a business.
Key things I learned: * How to find the right problem to solve * How to build a solution for a market that will pay for it * How to iterate on your first guesses to find ones that work * What the stages are for building a startup, and what my goal is for each stage * The “when” and “why” that I can now pair with all of the “whats” I learned from startup blogs
I highly recommend Running Lean to any startup founder (especially the ones who started as coders), and to any entrepreneur in general.
To better understand the Running Lean methodology, I decided to illustrate it all on my whiteboard1 .
Below is a flowchart of the steps, process, and products presented in Running Lean. This is my contribution to the community and others who are trying to absorb this school of thought.
It takes you through the 4 stages presented in Running Lean 1. Understand the problem 2. Define the solution 3. Validate qualitatively 4. Verify quantitatively
This is the first iteration and there are lots of improvements I could make. I wanted to get it into your hands before perfecting it. If you’re a designer or know one, I’d love to work with someone to turn this into an info graphic of sorts. Hit me up if you’re interested.
Ask questions in the comments if anything is unclear on the diagram or if you have suggestions for future iterations.
Twitter Bootstrap Experiment: jbrinkerhoff.com
Just finished developing jbrinkerhoff.com with the design skill of Ms. Brinkerhoff herself!
The technology stack I used to build the site made it very quick to get the site up.
- Django - For URL routing and database backend
- Jinja Bootstrap (by yours truly) - A framework for bringing HTML templates into Jinja (and Django) templates.
- Heroku - My favorite part of the stack! Heroku is absolutely phenomenal hosting service!
- django-template-heroku - A template project structure built to quickly get bootstrap projects up and running. I made it just for this project!
We open-sourced the whole thing as an example site that others can learn from. Check out the jbrinkerhoff.com source code on GitHub.
My 2012: What & Why
It looks like Zach and I will be featured in the summer issue of Eugene Magazine in the It List: 30 People to Watch article. That’s pretty awesome! Our dearest friend, Kai was the awesome fellow who recommended us for our work with the Climate Justice League, and I’m honored to accept the recognition.
Below are the interview questions and my responses.
I love what I wrote because it concisely tells the story of what I’m putting my energy into, why I’m doing that, and how I got here. Enjoy.
Title, a little bit about the work you do
Founder of RallyRoom.net
I’m building RallyRoom to empower activists and organizers to create solutions to pressing social and environmental challenges.
My generation is going to live through a number of radical disruptions in the way our society is organized. In order for this to be a time of beautiful growth, it’s our responsibility to create solutions for our communities.
After co-founding the Climate Justice League at the University of Oregon, I realized just how hard it was to keep teams on the same page and motivated toward our goals. We were great at organizing people, but important information was falling through the cracks, tasks weren’t getting completed, members were confused and disengaged, and we weren’t able to reach our goals as effectively as we desired.
Fed up with all of that chaos, and armed with a bunch web development experience, I set out on a journey to build RallyRoom so my fellow activists could stop worrying about organizing their team and get back to changing the world. RallyRoom takes care of tasks, reminders, meeting notes, and serves as a home for your team to gather around
When I’m not working my day job developing web apps at Concentric Sky downtown, I’m devoting all of my time to planning, designing, testing, and building RallyRoom. And I plan to have it in the hands of change-makers by the end of the year. Sign up at http://rallyroom.net if you’d like to test it out with your teams.
Briefly, how did you get started in this line of work?
Two years into a computer science degree at the University of Oregon, I found myself in a course on Social Inequalities. The course showed me parts of our society that I was aware of, but had the privilege to pay little attention to: race, gender, economic, and environmental inequalities. I realized I needed to make a choice to answer this call and address the social and environmental choices or remain silent. The next term, I changed my major to Environmental Studies and devoted my time, energy, and passion to create a sustainable, just, and prosperous future for all.
Through this community, I found passionate, devoted, authentic people; learned how to have a bold vision, set specific goals, and be strategic in bringing them into reality; and saw how to treat each day as an opportunity to create solutions to the problems I saw in the world.
Zach Stark-MacMillan and I used our new skills to found The Climate Justice League at the University of Oregon. We built a structure that engaged students in actively creating the world they wanted to see: stopping bottled water sales on campus, responsibly investing the University of Oregon’s money, making the University carbon-neutral, and stopping the proposed coal export terminals in Oregon and Washington. Our philosophy is to do everything 50% better/bigger than we have to. And it shows: the group has 30-50 active members each term, has accomplished a number of goals, and has earned a lot of respect across campus.
What inspires you to do the work you do?
I’m deeply energized and motivated by the community of activists and organizers, younger and older, whom I’m able to work. Their hopeful visions for the future fuels mine. Lately, the Occupy movement has been a great source of inspiration for me: it demonstrates that people are willing to actively resist the current destructive trends our system has created and directly create new ways of living.
What is one of the best things about living in Lane County?
The best thing about living in Lane County is the Homemade Veggie Burger at The Humble Beagle. That, and the alternative living culture that Eugene is known for.
What are you looking forward to doing this summer in Eugene?
This summer, I’m stoked to continue a tradition I’ve had going for a few years: giving “free hugs” at the main exit to the Oregon Country Fair for the last couple hours before the fair closes each day. Giving that many hugs to that many amazing people is the most joyous experience I know of. Come find me if you’ll be there.
You should make a Light Budget today
I spent 4.5 years during college telling myself, “I’ll start budgeting and taking care of my finances when I graduate.” Then twelve months went by. And I still ignored my finances, because if I don’t look at them, I can’t find out any bad news… right?
Then I finally got some coaching about my finances and arrived at a point of clarity: budgets can be easy!
Old (false) view of budgets
- I’m going to learn some unpleasant news, so I shouldn’t look at it
- I’m going to have to spend one entire weekend a month staring at spreadsheets and getting frustrated like my parents always did
- There are going to be a hundred categories to track
- I have to know where every cent is going
- Since it’s so hard, I need it all super-automated with Mint.com so I have some hope of keeping track of it
The truth about budgets
- The point is to help me know where my money is going in general and make sure I’m not spending beyond my means
- I do need a spreadsheet with a bunch of categories
- I need to look at my budget frequently for it to help me adjust my spending habits, so automating it is out of the question
- The only “real” categories that I need to track are the ones I have control over that vary each month … If it’s a fixed cost (like rent, utilities, etc), then I don’t need to know about it.
Making your Light Budget
Before you can make a Light Budget you need to make a Heavy Budget: a broad perspective on your finances that lets you know how much spending money you have. I make mine using a spreadsheet that has all of by expenses. This only takes an hour or so one time. I spend five minutes every couple months updating it.
Checkout my Heavy Budget template (make a copy!)
Now for the Light Budget which you should actually look at frequently. I only have three categories in mine:
- $200 - Food (dining out)
- $40 - Tech (domains, software, etc)
- $75 - Spending (everything else)
I don’t even have groceries on there because I live in a communal house with 10 awesome folks, and we split all of our supplies. And since it is not a category that I directly control, there is no reason for me to keep a super close eye on it. Your Light Budget might include groceries, entertainment, alcohol, or any other spending you want to be careful about.
How do I calculate the Light Budget you ask? Easy. Just use the Heavy Budget: to figure out your income, fixed expenses, and savings goals.
$income - $expenses - $savings = $budget
The rest is what you can distribute among various Light Budget categories.
Keeping track of your Light Budget
Here’s the deal: use EEBA. End of story.
It uses an “envelope budgeting” approach which you can probably understand from the name, but it helps you conceptualize your spending by giving you digital “envelopes” that you refill at the beginning of each week/month to a set amount. You pull money out of the envelope each time you enter a transactions, and EEBA’s progress bars let you know how far you should be into that envelope if you’re pacing yourself throughout the month. Super simple.
I have the EEBA iPhone app and enter most of my transactions the exact same time that I’m waiting handing my cash/card to someone to pay. It was easy to get into the habit. And if you don’t have a smartphone, the web app does a great job too. My only criticism of EEBA is the workflows on the web app. As someone who is designing his own web app, I care a lot about usability, and the EEBA web app needs a complete usability overhaul. Hopefully that is in the works! That said, the web app is still an awesome tool.
“But I want to use Mint, you say, it automates everything for me!” you exclaim. Yeah, I thought that was cool too, until I realized that my credit card transactions often involved bills that I split with friends (which made my auto-filled budget inaccurate), and that I never checked my budget because it was overly automated for me. I tried Mint a dozen times, and could never work it into my life.
Now I’m happily using EEBA, tracking the spending that I actually have control over, and relaxing into the comfort that comes with knowing where my money is going.
What budgeting questions do you have?
Let me know in the comments. I’d love to support you in getting some clarity around your finances. Trust me, it feels way better to look at them frequently than it does to squeamishly ignore them and hope everything is okay.
Jinja Bootstrap (for Django!)
I use Bootstrap for all of my recent projects because it is beautiful, simple, consistent, and quick. For my Django projects, I use Jinja2 instead of the default Django templates. Jinja2 is far more powerful and robust. (And I use Jingo as the glue between Jinja2 and Django).
I needed a way to use Bootstrap without re-adding all of the template tags, blocks, and macros that I needed. There’s where Jinja Bootstrap comes in.
Benefits are as such:
base.htmltemplate to use as a base for your bootstrap projects
- Lots of blocks to make overriding easy
- Form field rendering macros
- Alert/message rendering macros
If you want to try it out on your Bootstrap Django project, you can find setup instructions on the Jinja Boostrap GitHub page.
Right now it supports Django fairly well. However, Jinja can be used with other platforms like Flask, Google App Engine, and Hyde. I’m hoping to expand this library to have full support and documentation for those libraries as well. Please open a ticket on GitHub if you’d like to contribute.