I graduated from Foreign Trade University specializing in External Economics. Despite that fact, I am scared of economics, supply and demand, accounting, and all things related.
Unfortunately, I had to confront my fear today by talking with Edward Kerstein, a Vice President Financial Analyst at Bank of America one of the largest banks in the world and the bank that historically initiated the birth of the VISA credit card.
Edward has had 8 years of experience in the field with several roles in finance and technology. He says (with modesty) he has always been relatively good at finance and is fascinated by looking at society as a whole and thinking about economics. As a self-proclaimed data nerd, Edward finds interesting patterns in his life by diligently tracking everything from his weight in the morning, to how many times he interacts with friends and family, to exercise, and beyond.
Hi Edward. I’m truly impressed with your profession. With such a busy schedule, how many habits do you have?
My habit list is just as busy as my to-do list at work, to be honest. I have 79 habits at the moment (Can you believe that?). Just 1 year ago, I didn’t use any habit tracker at all. I remember starting with only 5 habits in another app. I kept adding more and more until I found that the UI of the app wasn’t sufficient and ended up switching over to Habitify.
I have both personal and business habits on that list. My personal categories are health (physical and mental) and relationships.
Currently, I’m focusing on some lower back problems. As you know, I work from 9 to 5 at a bank so back problems are inevitable. I have some habits to make sure I walk around the office a lot and exercise often. Right now I’m on 123th day of that habit (yeahhh)
Oh, you’re the first one to have business habits on the list! Can you dwell upon that?
Yeah, I am working on my own blog at the moment. You can visit mine here: NotUnhealthy.com. The habits are mostly to remind me to write articles a few times a week so my site is always fresh with new content.
Beautiful website, Edward! Can you tell me a little bit about how you manage the other habits?
If you look at my list there is a big difference between habits that I do every day and habits that I tend to skip often.
For example, I take supplements every morning and I want to make sure I do it every day. On the contrary, there are habits like washing my bed sheets. Obviously we don’t need to wash the bed sheet every day, right? But I just keep it in Habitify, every day, so it does not slip my mind. If I don’t see it, I might just forget about it. That’s my approach to all other habits that only need to do a few times a week. Exposure matters, Alan.
There are also some habits that are easier than others so I rarely miss them. For example, I have been tracking my food for 79 days, and weighing myself for 90 days. These only take a few minutes per day and are relatively painless.
Even though I have a lot of habits, I only look at the app twice a day: one time in the early morning and once before I sleep. Actually, lately, I never go to sleep without making sure I have checked all the habits off. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and permission to go to bed, like brushing my teeth.
The order of my habits is important. I always put my most important habits at the top of the list, so when I open the app I see them again and again and they stick in my mind. After using the app for a few months I can now remember my daily routine without having to see one by one as the early days (laugh). Oh, I remember, when I first started, I often had to go into the app to check the habits right after I completed them. The more I do them, the more sticky they are in my mind.
Exposure, that’s the keyword, right? Exposure and repetition can make anything stick!
So Edward, what is the most significant change you’ve noticed after adopting this technique?
I have more consistency in my life, that’s the first thing. You know, even for very easy habits like weighing myself, I can still forget it. Putting it in the list among all the others ensures that I do it every single day.
And after a year of adding and removing my habits, I soon realized my personal threshold maxes out at around 80. More than that, and I’m screwed. It takes time, no doubt, but it gives me an insight that I could never figure out without Habitify.
I notice less pain in my back after I take up lots of walking and exercises in my office. By tracking it carefully, I can realize some patterns in the things that cause more pain. For example, on the days that I sit a lot more, my pains seem to be more severe. Or on days that I go swimming, I notice way less pain in my back.
To do all of that, I use Habitify and some other apps and create a few customized dashboards myself.
For my blog, my writing skill has become sharper. I combine Habitify with another service called Beeminder, which is useful if you want to write every day and have negative (financial) consequences if you don't.
I feel like a better person overall, consistently moving towards my goals.
What are the productivity tips that you have learned for yourself?
For a newbie, start out small. I can’t stress it enough. It’s best to go with 10 habits at a time. Try to bring them into a routine and don’t forget to log them in the app. The act of logging might seem a bit arduous, but it is rewarding in itself. I have found that knowing what I have done and what I haven’t done is really helpful to adjust my goals and my execution plan accordingly.
We should always bear in mind that we’re not seeing the benefits after 1 or 2 days. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are our habits. Only when they are wired into our routine and become part of us that we realize “Oh, I am doing it right now!”
For Habitify, I like to use the app badge which keeps me aware of how many habits are left to do. I know it’s basic, but it’s important to know where you are, and where you should go next. The more I do, the better I feel. It’s kind of like gamifying the whole journey, as I see my progress visualized in charts it keeps going up the more effort I invest in. Maybe that’s why I kept on adding more and more habits as I use Habitify.
Thank you for your kind words and your heartfelt sharing! I truly wish our members could learn from you and have a wonderful work-life balance. Keep your back safe, will you?