Building Better and More Productive Habits

You can read lots of advice from productivity gurus on how you can get more done. But it’s a good idea to put all of that advice (including my ideas) into the context of how you work, what motivates you, and your work environment.

Once you have designed your workflow, whatever it might be, it is most important that you implement it consistently and discipline yourself to don’t talk yourself out of keeping up with your productive habits.

Let’s say that you decide to wake up early every day and get in a workout before starting work. You make that promise yourself on Sunday. It’s easy to take advantage of this motivation and get up early on Monday. And Tuesday too.  But on Wednesday, you are sleepy, hit the snooze button, and skip the gym. It will be much harder to resume your new habit on Thursday.

It takes longer to make a new behavior automatic than most people believe. According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology that it takes, on average, 66 days to form your new habit.

There are three elements of every habit. The first is the trigger. It is the cue that reminds you to do something. The second element is the action you take. And, finally, it is the satisfaction you receive for a job well done.

Understanding that, here are my five suggestions for developing successful habits.

  1. Know what habit you want to build and decide that it is worth your commitment.
  2. Add to existing habits. Your morning routine may include brushing your teeth, coffee, and a shower. Adding a minute of meditation in the middle of that routine is easier to remember than a standalone item.
  3. Adopting smaller habits is the easiest way to begin. You might like to walk an extra 10,000 steps per day. You might want to start by adding 2,000 daily to form.  In his book, “Tiny Habits,”  B.J. Fogg, a Stanford University researcher, says significant behavior changes require a high level of motivation that often can’t be sustained. Dr. Fogg wanted to start a daily push-up habit. He started with just two push-ups a day and, to make the habit stick, tied his push-ups to a daily habit: going to the bathroom. He began by, after a bathroom trip, dropping and doing two push-ups. Now he has a habit of 40 to 80 push-ups a day.
  4. Commit to making your new habit each and every day.
  5. Reduce obstacles to completing your action.  Wendy Wood, a research psychologist at the University of Southern California, says she began. The rule of thumb is that when you fail, you get back on the horse immediately so that you never miss twice.

When you’ve successfully repeated your promised action to the point that it is now a habit, reward yourself. Buy yourself a treat. Celebrate. Just don’t reward a habit of eating better with losing weight by eating a pizza and having a pitcher of beer—everything within reason.   

Here are more ideas for becoming more productive.

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