Streaks V: Not This Again

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Regular readers of this blog know about me and my streaks, so I thought I would give an update, since it’s been a while. This whole thing probably only interests me, but it helps motivate me to see all this data in one place every now and again. Anyway, here we go.

Every night before I go to bed, I have a mood tracker called Daylio that I use to give a quick rundown of the day’s activities and swings in my mood over time. Not counting tonight’s entry, which of course hasn’t happened yet, I’m up to 424 straight days of tracking my mood.

I also track my daily caloric intake as best as I can through an app called MyFitnessPal. It has an extensive database of items and allows you to input recipes so that even the most complicated foods can be accurately tracked, along with their nutritional information. As of today, I’ve logged 464 straight days’ worth of food.

To help keep my mind limber, I’ve been using two apps, one called Elevate which gives quick exercises in reading, listening, math, and more, and the other called Duolingo, through which I’ve learned the rudimentary basics of Spanish and am now doing the same with Italian. Each of them has an identical streak in place – 344 days now.

The one I came to talk about, however, is my checklist streak. I have a checklist of 21 items that I have to do every day, things that include taking my meds four times a day and checking my blood pressure three times a day as prescribed, eating at proper times (I’m diabetic, so regular food is important, and I’ve been known to skip meals without the checklist), exercise, but also things like leisure time and socialization, and even my daily entry into this blog. Before the middle of January of this year, I’d only every gotten full marks for a day just a handful of times – less than 20 since I started my checklist back in October 2014. But something happened in January that made everything click, and now I’m completing that checklist almost every day. I had a streak of 84 straight days that was ended when I forgot my evening blood pressure one night. There were a few days that I took off shortly after that – I had a trip out of town that I didn’t want the pressure of trying to hit everything on that list every day for, but once I got back in town, I started back up again, and I haven’t stopped since. The new streak hits 85 days tonight, which makes it now the longest uninterrupted streak I’ve ever recorded of achieving full marks.

I’m really proud of that mark, but there’s a part of me that would really, really like another day or two off. I might do that once I hit 90 days; I might decide to keep going until I actually forget to do something – I haven’t decided yet. But for now, I’m going to take a moment to recognize this achievement, and remind myself that the changes that I’m making are good and significant. Sometimes I don’t think it’s any big deal. The more days that I have where my mood stays good and stable throughout the day, the harder it is for me to put my accomplishments in perspective. “Well, this is something that’s expected of you now, isn’t it? So it’s no big deal,” I find myself telling myself. I write these blog posts to remind myself that it is a lot of work and that it’s nothing to minimize, but I find myself doing it from time to time. I write in my blog as much for those following my journey back to “normalcy” as I do for myself, but these posts are mostly for me.

The next big achievement is going to be in five days, when I extend this full marks streak out to three straight months. After that, I’m closing in on a solid year that I’ve been challenging my brain every day. That will be a big deal when it happens.

I haven’t really given much though to how my checklist will change once I’m back in school. Certainly there will be some things that will fall by the wayside, and some new things added. I haven’t changed the items on that checklist in over a year now, because I’ve found a list that works for me. But that list also isn’t taking twelve credit hours a semester into account. Whatever changes happen, I expect the streak to end soon after, because it’ll be a change from what I’ve been doing. But hopefully I can keep it up.

Right now, though, I’m content to wrap things up for the night.

This Is Interesting

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Regular readers of this blog know about my daily checklist, the 21 items that I try to complete every day to both ensure that I take care of myself medically (medications, recording blood glucose and blood pressure, eating meals, etc.) and that I try to achieve a few items each day. A daily entry in this blog is one of those achievement items, another is my learning.

I define my learning as completing daily exercises in two smartphone apps, Elevate (a math- and language-based “brain training” app) and Duolingo (an app that teaches foreign language basics). To complete Elevate, I complete three games daily. A day’s worth of Duolingo now consists of at least two Italian lessons (if a module needs refreshing, I complete it, plus at least one new lesson each day) and all the Spanish modules that need strengthening, regardless of number. That number can wildly vary. At minimum, that’s only two Italian lessons, if Spanish is all maxed out. Yesterday, it was five Italian lessons and five Spanish.

I was mentioning to my wife how long my current streak is, and I realized something pretty cool.

My current streak is 292 days long. The streak I had before that was 119 days. That means that I’ve only missed one day since April 24, 2016. I’m strangely proud of that.

In the broad scheme of things, it’s not really that big a deal, I know. But it’s a measure of consistency for me, and I do value consistency.

I’ll keep you guys posted as I close in on the one year anniversary of this streak.

Streaks IV: A New Hope

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It seems I measure my life in streaks these days, so I thought I’d give regular readers an update on how I’m doing.

Back on January 24, I gave a progress report on my streaks and explained the logic behind why these streaks are so important to me. So in lieu of a better, more thought out blog post, given that it’s 10:30 pm and I have an hour and a half to hit publish or break the streak that I’m proudest of, here are the updated stats, current as of today except where noted.

Consecutive days recording at least my morning vitals: 536.

Consecutive days recording my caloric intake to the best of my ability: 320.

Consecutive days tracking my mood and activities in my mood tracking app: 280, current as of yesterday. (As I explained back on January 24, this is one of the last things I do before turning out the lights at night, so I haven’t recorded today’s entry yet.)

Consecutive days completing my exercises in my Elevate and Duolingo learning apps: 200.

Consecutive days achieving full marks on my daily checklist: 51, current as of yesterday.

I’m especially proud of these streaks because they’re all continuing a month into my usual annual downswing, where I stop everything except the bare minimum that I need to survive – recording vitals and taking medications. I think keeping these streaks alive is part of how I’m combating that this year, so I’m clinging to the streaks. I’ve still got a month and a half to go before I’m out of that period in my annual mood cycle, so I’m almost halfway there at this point.

Another Big Milestone (And Another!)

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Yesterday I wrote about hitting thirty days of full marks on my daily checklist. Today I have another, even bigger milestone to write about.

Today – just now, in fact – I completed my 180th straight day on my learning apps, Elevate and Duolingo. That’s six months straight!

When you combine this streak with the one that I broke six months ago, that means that over the past ten months I’ve only missed one day of doing my learning. That’s really kind of cool.

The learning is helping me to certain degrees. The things that I’m learning in the Elevate app are helping me to become a better listener and writer, and I’m able to do more complicated math problems in my head these days. The Duolingo is where I’m noticing more progress, since there’s more and more Spanish that I see out in the wild that I can read at least part of and understand. More often than not, I can see something written in Spanish and go “I can read some of that!” and that’s a good feeling.

I’m looking forward to seeing how long I can stretch this streak. I know that by the time I finish another six months I’ll have completed my Spanish lessons on Duolingo and will either need to move to a new language or continue brushing up on my Spanish as my memory naturally forgets things over time (or both).

EDIT: I just logged breakfast in my calorie counter and was informed that I’d logged in for 300 days in a row. So double bonus!

Streaks III: Live From the Trenches

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I don’t know why personal streaks are so important to me. I think that’s because I had a reputation when I was younger as someone that would start something and then walk away from it when it got too hard (to avoid failing) or I got bored with it (which was very often) or when it became clear that I couldn’t do it perfectly (I once crumpled a test into a ball and took the zero on it rather than use an eraser to correct a mistake that I’d caught myself making), and more than anything I thrive on long-term stability, something that admittedly eludes me to this day.

I’m also a stats junkie, and it always amazes me that an organization called the Elias Sports Bureau can very quickly recall statistics like “most MLB career postseason strikeouts by a left-handed pitcher during games four played at home,” a stat that I just made up but I can guarantee you they could tell me within about five minutes of analysis. Statistics have always fascinated me and I wish I had the math skills to attempt a career in the field. I think that’s got a lot to do with it as well, this is my way of quantifying my life in a concrete form that I can easily measure.

So here’s where my streaks lie on the various things that I keep streaks on. Everything is current as of today, except where noted.

Consecutive days recording at least my morning vitals: 492.

Consecutive days recording my caloric intake to the best of my ability: 276.

Consecutive days tracking my mood and activities in my mood tracking app: 236, current as of yesterday. (This is one of the last things I do before turning out the lights at night, so I haven’t recorded today’s entry yet.)

Consecutive days completing my exercises in my Elevate and Duolingo learning apps: 156.

Consecutive days completing at least some math study on Khan Academy: 55.

Consecutive days achieving full marks on my daily checklist: 7, current as of yesterday.

I’m most proud of that last one. Doing everything on my checklist is difficult and takes a considerable amount of effort, especially on days when I’m not well mentally or physically. This is the second longest such streak since I started my checklist in October 2014, and I’m hoping to surpass my record of 12 consecutive days with this current streak.

And as George Carlin once said at the end of one of his routines, “I don’t have an ending written for this, so I just take a small bow.”

Streaks II:The Streakening

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So, back on August 22 I wrote this post about my learning streak coming to an end after 119 days, and how devastated I was that I had let it lapse.

To fill you in, what I consider my learning is a daily round of exercises in Elevate, which is a brain-training app, and at least two exercises in Duolingo, which teaches foreign languages – Spanish in my case. I got a lot of support from my friends who reminded me that it just means that I get to start a new, longer streak.

This morning the streak that I started on August 22 reached 120 days. It is now that longer streak that you all said I could do.

I want to thank everyone who supported me through a brief, but rough time where I was kicking myself for making the mistake of missing a day. That one day is now the only day that I haven’t done my learning exercises in eight months.

But I have some other streaks that are going on, and I thought I’d tell you about them.

Recently I made the decision to go back to school for my associate’s degree, and in preparation for registration, I’ve been brushing up on my math on Khan Academy. I’ve been doing that since the first of the month, so that streak is 19 days long.

I started using my CPAP machine on August 17th, and except for a single night that I was camping in October, I’ve been completely compliant with it .So that’s a streak of 65 days, followed by a current 58-day streak.

I track my mood on an app called Daylio. It helps me track my activities throughout the day as well as my overall mood for the day, and gives me the ability to write notes so I can relay the rough spots to my therapist when the need arises. That particular streak is now 200 days long.

I also use another app called MyFitnessPal to help me track my caloric intake. My streak of using that app is 240 days long, which matches my two long streaks on Elevate and Duolingo plus the skipped day.

And finally, the last day I missed writing down at least my morning vitals was September 20, 2015, which makes that streak my longest at 456 days.

These streaks are simple things in the broad scheme of things. One day I’m going to break all of them and start on a new one. But together they help to provide some structure to my otherwise unstructured day, and I’m thankful for each and every streak that I have.

Streaks Both Long and Short

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I have two learning apps on my phone. One, called Elevate, provides brain games that help expand vocabulary and quicken mental mathematics skills. The other, called Duolingo, uses a method similar to Rosetta Stone to teach foreign languages – in my case, Spanish. Both apps provide daily exercises and usually only take just a few minutes a day to complete. Both apps also track streaks of consecutive days used. Heading into yesterday, I had a streak of 119 days – nearly four months – of consecutive days used.

And then yesterday, on what would have been day 120, I forgot to do my learning.

When I looked at the clock a few hours ago (I’m up late – early? – nursing a sore back and a glass of water) and saw that it was past midnight and realized that I’d put my learning off long enough to break the streaks, I was furious with myself. Logically, I knew that this was no big deal in the scheme of things, that the 119 day streak started on day one and that today I could start a new, even longer streak. I was exceedingly proud that I had clocked 119 days straight. I was beyond embarrassed that I missed day 120.

My wife tried to remind me that it was no big deal, but the more she kept trying to convince me of that, the bigger of a deal it became, until the streak had been built up in my mind as the most important aspect of the exercise, rather than the incredible body of learning that I had strung together and had only taken one day off of in four months’ time.

I went to bed angry. I hate going to bed angry. In the bedroom there was an exchange of increasingly heated words as she became more frustrated at me for not listening to her and I became more stubborn about how this was a life-altering, unforgivable error that I had committed against the universe. Finally I got tired of trying to make my point and tired of not seeing hers and I strapped on my CPAP mask and laid there, fuming into the night. The longer I stared at the wall in silence, the cooler my temper became, and eventually I grabbed my phone to start a text conversation with my wife laying mere inches away. I apologized for my behavior, I apologized for not seeing things her way, and I apologized for sending her this apology via text and not vocally. (I can say short sentences with the CPAP mask on, but the longer I talk, the more choked I get trying to vocalize while air is being gently forced into my nostrils, and I had a lot of apologizing to do.)

I used the Nook app on my phone to read for a short while, continuing to cool off, and eventually we rolled into position and I spooned her, and that’s how we fell asleep.


Speaking of the CPAP mask, I haven’t reported on how things are going since picking up the machine on Wednesday. I’ve slept every night since with the mask on, throughout the night, and have been waking up with progressively better rest. Thursday I took two short naps after waking up around 9:30. Friday I took an hour long nap after waking at 7:00 am with my alarm. Yesterday I woke at 10:00, but didn’t nap at all throughout the day. We’ll see what happens after I go back to bed, now that the pain in my back has eased off and my glass of water is gone. It’s a streak of three days so far, but it’ll be 119 days on its own before I know it, and who knows what changes will have happened because of the improved sleep?