I’ve recently come across another quite interesting challenge, and once again I just couldn’t let it pass without participating.
It looks like Jenny and Erin are on their quest to find out as much as possible about habits. They seem to be interested in every little detail: what you think of habits, how you form them, and what makes your habit setting and mastering a success. Everyone’s more than welcome to participate.
Those of you who’ve been reading this blog for some time will surely remember that habits are one of the topics I’m passionate about. I like talking about them so much that there’s even a separate category created on my blog: Mastering Habits.
That’s why I knew I had to participate from the very first moment I saw the challenge. I’m not after the prize, really, but love the opportunity to share a few more thoughts on my habits.
Below are my answers to the three questions asked by Jenny and Eric.
How big of a role do habits play in your daily life?
I think habits play huge role in my life. Why? Because most positive progress is made through habitual way of doing things.
I’ve got a habit or a plan to get a habit for just about anything I do:
- an early morning habit to help me get started with my day
- a shower ritual to get energized and wake up before I get to writing and blogging
- a habit of checking my emails twice a day
- a habit of putting everything into my inbox for later processing
There’s also a habit of going to gym every day, and a habit to never leave a question unanswered. A habit to review the progress with my tasks and goals at the end of each day. A habit of planning my day ahead in the quiet hours of each morning.
I could go on, but there’s so many habits that it will take me much longer time than what I have allocated for this post. I hope you get the idea.
Discipline and motivation are key to mastering habits
Some habits require discipline, that’s absolutely true. However, that’s the whole beauty of a really good habit with some clear values: you don’t have to constantly make an effort to maintain it. Most habits need effort when they’re at their forming stage – it takes 30 days or so to form a new habit, but once it’s done – you feel the real need for the habit because of the benefits you get from it, and you start enjoying the time or environment which is associated with a particular task which is part of the habit.
Take my habit of going to a gym, for instance. It’s such a natural and positive habit of mine by now, that my even if I miss a single day of my workout, I will immediately notice the lack of the usual advantage a gym session gives me: a boost of mid-day energy, a sense of physical accomplishment, a taste of a small daily win over my previously set challenges. I need all of these things in my life, and because I know exactly how to get them, I’m more than happy to follow this habit and exercise regularly.
Bad habits (I’ve got a few of them just like every other human has) are playing a rather important role too. They’re here to remind me of some crucial processes and approaches I need to change as soon as I can. Some bad habits have immediate and direct impact, like eating junk food or watching too much TV, but others have a much longer and deeper impact while not being so obviously harmful.
Do your habits typically form intentionally or unconsciously?
That depends. I guess all my habits are different in this regard, and most of them required both conscious and unconscious efforts to form.
For instance, I have an unconscious habit of spending too much time at computer at evenings. I may sit down for just a 5-minute task, and end up working on something for hours and hours.
This is not the worst case of a computer addiction – I actually get things done, while I could be simply wasting my time browsing and watching TV trailers from imdb.com. But it’s very bad that such a habit is not controlled yet. It gets harder when this habit clashes with something conscious you’re trying to work on.
The particular habit of late long computer hours conflicts with the habit of my early mornings. My early mornings are 4:30am, and unless I go to bed around 22-22:30, no amount of will and determination is going to be enough to wake me up at 4:30am consistently, day by day. I can live off 3 hours of sleep for a few days in a row, but eventually this tires me down so much that I have to chance or cancel other plans and activities just to get a moment to rest.
The only way around this situation is to actually make a habit of agreeing on a particular time in the eveing when, no matter what, all activities are stopped because it’s time to get some rest. Such a conscious habit will then impact the unconscious desire to work late.
Conscious approach to forming habits
I try to form my habits consciously. I look at my everyday life and identify needs and opportunities for new habits. I prioritize potential habits by the predicted gains and benefits compared to the required commitment, and once the decision on a particular habit is made I start baby-sitting it for the next 30 days. By that time, my new habit matures and toughens up, and it’s probably safe to relax a bit and reap the rewards.
The longer the habit stays with you, the less work it requires from yourself to maintain it. As you go through weeks and months of following a new habit, the actions required for it become more and more natural to you, and you do them automatically. Such actions need less and less of your conscious attention, thus giving you more time to concentrate on the benefits of maintaining the habit.
What approaches have you found successful in shaping them?
Give at least 3o days for each habit to form
I owe most of success with my habits to a 30 day trial each one of them gets. And this method was originally suggested by Steve Pavlina in his highly popular article: 30 Days to Success.
This means that every habit should go through at least 30 days of consistency. After this period, if you still find yourself following the habit, it’s probably here to stay. If you gave it up earlier, it’s time to reassess the habit – confirm the values and benefits it gives and consider changing part of the habit to make it easier to follow.
Creative habit naming
For many habits of mine, I come up with great names created in such a creative manner that they serve a few purposes instead of just one.
I have come up with this technique quite some time ago, and strongly believe it makes sense to use the name of your habit to achieve maximum results. If it can motivate you, use this opportunity. If the name of your habit can help you track your progress, do it. There are many ways to employ this approach, and I talk about the main three – motivation, progress tracking and positive affirmations – in the Creative Habit Naming series:
Habit List from Productivity 501
This is great way to maintain your habits list which I found great for a high-level overview of how successful each habit is. Created by Mark Shead from Productivity501, this habit list is a perfect example of a paper-based tool which can prove invaluable in your quest to master habits.
The approach is really easy: you list all your habits in a matrix, and mark every occurrence of each habit for every day of the month. At the planning stage, you set a daily target of habits to have gone through, and by summing up the habits on each day you can see good you’re doing overall with your habits.
Have a look at the original post for more info: Habit List at Productivity501.
Now it’s your turn!
I hope you’ve enjoyed the post and gained something new from it. Why not share your own ideas about habits? Please read Jenny and Erin’s original post for all the instructions. As always, I’d love to hear about your take on habits, so please leave a comment or give me a link to your posts.