My iPhone. It’s Not Just a Habit

Last Wednesday I blogged about rituals. After publishing the post I continued to think about rituals. What is the difference between a ritual and a habit, I wondered. A ritual, as I wrote in the previous post, is a customarily repeated act or series of acts. Habit, on the other hand, implies an act done unconsciously and often compulsively.

Grocery shopping is a ritual. It begins with making a shopping list. Before making a list I plan what I will eat. For many years I had a list of favorite recipes tacked to the inside of a kitchen cupboard door. “What would you like to eat this week?” I would ask myself. To answer the question, I consulted my cupboard door. Now I keep a binder with recipes taken from magazines and newspapers or printed from the internet. The recipes are organized by category. Having decided on what, I make my shopping list. The shopping list is organized by categories in the order in which I push my shopping cart through the market.

Arriving at the market, I take my reusable fabric shopping bags from the bin in the trunk of my car. I retrieve a stray shopping cart from the parking lot, put my shopping bags in the kiddie seat, and head for the entrance to the market.

When I leave the market, I load my groceries into the trunk of my car and return the cart to a designated cart return area. With only a couple bags of groceries, I take them from the cart, return the cart to the shopping cart storage bay at the entrance to the market, and carry my groceries to the car. I don’t leave the cart in the parking lot, cleverly hooking the wheels over the curb so it won’t roll into the traffic lane or damage someone’s car. I push the cart to the “PLEASE RETURN SHOPPING CARTS HERE” sign in the parking lot or return it to the area adjacent to the market entrance. Grocery shopping is a customarily repeated series of acts. The grocery shopping ritual.

Keeping track of mileage is a ritual. I used a small spiral notebook to jot down beginning and ending odometer readings. At the end of the year, I went through the notebook and tallied business, medical, and charity mileage. The mileage tracking ritual.

Tracking fuel consumption is a ritual. In another small spiral notebook I recorded the odometer reading, amount of fuel, cost per gallon, and total cost each time I  refueled. The fueling ritual.

Managing my money with Quicken is a ritual. I rarely write a check. Online banking simplifies everything. I know where every dime goes. Organizing reports for my accountant at tax time takes no more than an hour. The Quicken ritual.

Use of an iPhone, like all cell phones, is a habit. Reaching for my iPhone to check email, text messages, Facebook, and Instagram is an unconscious, if not compulsive act. The magic and wonder of “apps” makes a ritual of what appears unconscious and compulsive.

Shopping List organizes my grocery list. I scroll through the list I developed over a couple of years checking the items to buy. As I walk through the market, I check off items as I add them to my cart.

Tracking mileage is easy with Trip Cubby. It stores frequent trip information. All I have to do is to enter the beginning odometer reading. It does the rest. At the end of the year, I export the file to an Excel spreadsheet, sort it by category, and produce an itemized listing of deductible travel.

Mileage Keeper makes fuel consumption calculations a snap.

If it weren’t impossible to find a pay phone, I could easily give up the habit part of my iPhone. The rituals? No way!

12 thoughts on “My iPhone. It’s Not Just a Habit

  1. Terry Redman

    Dennis, you are able to synthesize ideas so well. Alas, I am currently in the early stages of limiting both tv news/commentary and Internet. I like the ritual of reading blogs by my friends and chippin in when I feel like it.
    And I am now a committed vegetarian…we must talk about that sometime.

    1. Dennis Post author

      Terry, thanks again, for your kind words. I am pleased to be a part of your blog reading ritual.

      I’m happy to talk with you any time about my vegetarian experience. Let’s make a date for coffee at Panera soon.

  2. Annis

    Dennis, this is a reasonable, easy-to-see differentiation between ritual and habit. I love how you show us the tiniest of details; it really gives a feeling as well as a visual. Loved the post and agree with Karen. You are amazing. xoA

    1. Dennis Post author


      Your comments on my blog posts always make “Determined Dennis” more determined. Thanks for your encouragement. XOD

  3. Joan Raymond

    I have to admit I am not as efficient as you, but I do have a few apps I couldn’t live without. I’m a weather-a-holic so I keep track of our local weather along with the locations of friends and family on a regular basis. As you said some of it is habit, other ritual. Nevertheless, it seems your system is part of your daily life and has really helped make it easier.

  4. iola

    I don’t think I have any rituals. I love routine and order but the responsibility of caring for others and the unexpectedness of life keeps me slightly off kilter.
    I give kudos to all who have daily activities down to the fine art of a daily ritual.

  5. Anna Stewart

    I have long regarded habits as traps. I like how you’ve differentiated ritual from habit, raised it up and set it apart. I think I need to develop a few. I think you may have a few more than my poor brain can handle though. Wow!

  6. Mark Fisher

    Grocery shopping rituals. Yep, got ’em. Of course routes through the store are somewhat designed by the store, but it can be quite disconcerting if they decide to redesign the store layout. I don’t have a smartphone, but my early morning computer rituals are pretty well developed. Oops. Just looked at the clock. It’s time for a break….


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