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Michael's success story

Man’s Search for Structure

Alan Nguyen
Alan Nguyen
In the fourth story, we get practical with a lot of Michael's advice on how we can form habits better, which he has instilled through a 5-year-long of constantly tweaking and experimenting with productivity apps.
Table of Contents

(A qualified remake of Man’s search for meaning)

Post-graduation is a terrifying time for many people, as they suddenly have to navigate and facilitate their own life. In the blink of an eye, they are no more students and they have to create their own timetable for the day. 

“What should I do first”, “Why am I doing this”, “What else do I need to do”

Questions keep bombarding until it defeats and demoralizes them. As distressing as it may sound, Michael Jay has managed to find structure in his life soon after graduation from University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB). 

I had a chance to talk with Michael to how he has found a way to find it.


Hi Michael, nice to talk to you. Finally! 

As usual, would you mind sharing your habits for our members?


Absolutely Alan.

As a matter of fact, my habits are constantly evolving as I grow, so I don’t have a fixed set of habits. The only two that I have been sticking to for many years now is brewing coffee in the morning after I wake up and going outside for a walk or run. 

They may sound minor, but if I can get at least one of them done in the morning, I will feel very motivated and will want to complete the rest of the list. If I miss them, then I’m really inclined to (ahem) miss all. 

I also have a habit of hitting the gym 3 days a week. 


Tell me more about it?


I have been doing it for 3 months and it has brought about significant changes in both my body and my mind. Besides a mental boost that helps me focus on lifting more weights, my body gets leaner and feel better during or even after the workout.

“I look much better today” - Michael


That’s amazing! As a newly graduated student, how do the habits help you?


Good question Alan. 

The habits are a part of my life purpose. To be more specific, they remind me of what I truly want to do. They’re important because they shape the day. I just do a run-down on the list and I know for certain that I’m pursuing the correct direction. 

If I finish all the habits in Habitify before the end of day, I feel strongly motivated and I can have the rest of the day to do whatever I want. 

5 years ago, my life has no structure. I just kind of “go with the flow”, you know, no direction, no purpose. Now, I’m more productive in general. I don’t want to settle for mediocrity in my life so I have to start atomic habits that can, hopefully, lead to huge shift. 


I’m glad you know where you’re going now, pal. 

So with 5 years of testing out hundreds of productivity apps, what are your advice for Habitify newbies who just start their own journey?


Even though I only have around 20 habits, I learned a lot when forming them. 

My first advice is to increase the exposure of the habits to you. In my case, I keep Habitify on the homepage of my iPhone, not hiding it in page 2, 3 or in a folder. This way, whenever I unlock the phone, I see the app on the front screen, visible, with all the popping badges that nudge me to get the list checked off.

Following up on that, I think it’s a good idea to use emojis when you name your habits. Emojis make the list 10 times livelier and actually more appealing to me. For example, the first habit on my list is to make my bed. But instead of putting the “bed” emojis in the name, I put a gold medal, bright and shining, because I feel like completing it sets off the momentum for everything else. It’s a big win despite its small nature.

My second advice, also relating to naming habits, is to put a time estimation in the name. For example, I would do Brew coffee + Emoji + 2 Mins, or Meditate + Emoji + 10 mins. It gives me a more realistic and actionable view of the habit. When I look at it, I know what to do right away. Being specific is the start of being consistent. (Alan: Wise words!)

So with the time estimation, comes my next advice. You should be mindful when setting reminders for habits. They should be chained, or followed up by each other. Each will act as a context for the next one. For example, if I wake up at 9am every day (which I do), I will set a reminder to make my bed to be within 10-20 minutes of that time. So even when I slack off and stay in bed a little longer, when I wake up, the reminder comes right up and I know I gotta make the bed now. 

What I love in Habitify is that it’s accessible on everything, from my Mac, Apple Watch and iPad. I like to stay in control of my habits, so whenever I go and mostly whatever I do, I can still access them and know what to do next. 


Thank you so much for the advice, Michael! I hope you’ll find a wonderful job in the upcoming months!