The First-Thing Principle

This is going to start with a total non-story about how the morning after a room mate moved out I had no couch, nowhere to sit, so the first thing I did upon waking up was move a chair from the bedroom to the living room.

It was a complete revelation to me. After a life time of lethargy and depression and procrastination here I was, my to-do list for the day complete two minutes after I woke up. I went out drinking.

Necessity is the mother of inspiration and from then on I knew that if I was going to get something done it had to be before I sat down, it had to be because I couldn’t sit down.

Not every first-thing has to be the first-thing after you wake up.

All our schedules have tent poles, the big things we know we’re going to do. When you want to build a habit, put it before or after a tent pole. You know you’re going to work, you know you’re going to shower before going to work, so that’s your tent pole now do something, something specific, before you shower.

Then go on stacking your priorities like that and soon it’ll be seamless and you can move things around.

When I started running in the gym after work all I had to do was not sit down in between work and hitting the treadmill.

In the vacant spot of what to do immediately upon waking up I started weight training. I was lucky to get a set of adjustable dumbbells from Liv’s parents. This allowed me to do different moves with ideal weights (because anyone can curl 20 pounds but I still couldn’t lat raise that), and it allowed me to move up and challenge myself (because like I said, anyone can curl 20 pounds and if all you have is 20 pound dumbbells that’s all you’ll do but if you can add five pounds whenever then you’ll test yourself often).

This First Thing principal is really important. We can all not-do things we want to do, and then we look back and wonder why we didn’t. It’s because all actions have inertia. Once you sit you keep sitting, once you drink you keep drinking, once the TV is on it stays on. If you want something done with as little drag as possible you have to do it before an inertia activity.

And you’ll notice that you enjoy relaxation a lot more if you’ve already knocked out something important and it’s not hanging over you.

I found that with video games after my summer morning routine of run, shower, breakfast. Instead of trying to enjoy video games and thinking about how I should be exercising I was just free to enjoy them. Joe Rogan calls it paying off your day’s mental mortgage.


Singer/songwriter, jerk.

Posted in Pragmatism
One comment on “The First-Thing Principle
  1. […] saved starting my jogging routine until I was on a break from work so that I couldn’t skip it. No matter when I woke up, no matter how slow I moved, I declared that I couldn’t eat, drink coffee, open my laptop, or […]

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