3. Change Your Habits
Your Task: In “The Power of Habit,” author Charles Duhigg writes that habits are formed out of routines, which each consist of:
- a cue–the trigger that sets off the habit
- the routine, which is the habitual behavior itself
- a reward, which makes the habit worth remembering for the future
For instance, he had a mid-afternoon cookie habit that led him to gain eight pounds. In observing his habit, he noticed that he always got a craving between 3 and 4 p.m., but what he mainly seemed to want was an excuse to have a chat with co-workers.
In order to change your habits, you have to identify each of these aspects in your bad habit. You can do this just by observing your bad habitual behavior for a week: Note what you were doing, what you were feeling and what actions proceeded the urge for the bad habit.
What I Did: I realized that my cue was simply being in bed, procrastinating on either getting up or going to sleep. Part of it was due to the feeling that I wanted to do more–whether that was reading more articles or checking to see what my friends were doing on Facebook. I could literally while away hours “doing” these non-essential activities that don’t help me to progress with my goals.
The solution: I removed the device that allowed me to keep procrastinating–my iPhone. I set a rule not to keep it in my bedroom, and I was only allowed to break this rule for specific reasons.
What I Found: Sure enough, by not having my phone by my bedside, I was able to find time for things that I’d previously put off. I also got out of bed more easily, since I actually did want to check email–but when I was already on my feet.
Your Own Game Plan
Ultimately, how we spend every second is a choice. If you feel like you don’t have time for big priorities, sometimes all you need is a little consciousness to steer your habits in the right direction.
For me, making myself aware of how I was spending my time was the main kick I needed–I realized that I didn’t want to spend hours of my life watching Jon Stewart (as entertaining as he is) on my iPhone. And setting simple rules for myself quickly set my time on a more fulfilling path.
Now for my next New Year, New You project: Getting some exercise!