Organize IT 1st Birthday Interview: Part 3
This is the final part of Organize IT’s birthday special where I posed three questions to a number of my favourite productivity bloggers. I hope you enjoyed this series and gained something from reading such varied opinions, I know I did. I will have to try doing another interview in the near future. Anyways, onto the final question I asked which was, “What are your experiences and advice for breaking bad habits and developing new ones?” Leave your own thoughts and answers to this question in the comments!
Stephen Smith: “I wrote an entire post about this and here are the important tips. 1) Making important changes in your life is not to be undertaken lightly, 2) Once you make the decision, commit yourself to it, 3) Find a partner in change to help you through the tough spots, 4) The research that you do before starting is important and needs to be thorough. Don’t believe everything that you find on the internet! 5) Expect it to be difficult, track your progress, and prepare rewards for yourself when you complete each step and 6) Do not be afraid to ask for help! We have an excellent resource in our community, as many of the ‘productivity bloggers’ have other expertise as well.”
Mark Shead: “Don’t fight yourself. If you really hate doing something, don’t try to overcome by determined effort alone. Arrange your affairs to make it easy to do the things that are important to you. For example, if you never have time to exercise, commit to using a treadmill while watching your favourite TV show. Good managers know how to get results from their people without using heavy handed tactics. You can apply the same principles to managing yourself.
A similar principle is to be ruthless in what you decide NOT to do. I see a lot of people fill up a todo list with a ton of trivial items that really aren’t that important and that they don’t really want to do. Take the time to ask yourself “what would happen if I didn’t do this?” You may find some tasks that you’ve been hating for years that really don’t need to be done.
Another principle I use for establishing habits is to keep habits separate from to-do items. If you have 3 things that you must accomplish today, you don’t want to have a list of 50 “habits” cluttering up that list. I keep a separate list for habits that allows me to track my progress over time. For example, it isn’t as important for me to exercise on a particular day as it is that I’m exercising at least a few times each week. The habit list lets me see these types of patterns at a glance instead of focusing on one day at a time.“
I wish someone would have told my former manager that :D I agree about keeping habit building separate from other lists. I really liked your habit list and added a special section to my current system for such a purpose. I suggest others check it out.
Rosemary Honn: “I have not mastered this, but I believe being highly aware is a big part of it. First to be aware of what you are doing (or not doing) and why. Then success is tied to being highly motivated to being aware of the activity you want to change at all times.”
GTD Wannabe: “Okay, here I’m just talking about relatively minor habits like ‘too much time surfing.’ I’ve found it very useful to monitor how much time I spend wasted online. That, combined with concepts like the dash, or restricted surfing times, can be very helpful at keeping on track.“
I agree about being highly aware. If you do not understand what the problem is and why you are doing/not doing it, then you are basically failing at the first hurdle. GTD Wannabe’s comment ties in with this point; by monitoring your bad habit on a regular basis you become much more aware of how it fits into your life.
Rolf F. Katzenberger: “I side with Stephen R. Covey on the issue of habits: each one is an intersection of knowledge, skill and desire. So if you want to supersede a bad habit 1) Acquire some knowledge (read about a better one), 2) Acquire some skills (practice a better habit for a few weeks and integrate it into your daily routine) and finally 3) Use your imagination, your friends, your loved ones to get affirmation and a foretaste of success.”
Matthew Cornell: “This is a tough one, and I continue to work on it. After all, what I do is teach new best practices, and adopting them is closely linked with forming new habits. I’ve collected a number of them, and my favorite so far is One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer. He gives nice examples of very small changes that, when repeated over time, can result in big improvements. Another book that comes up (but I’ve not yet read) is Don’t Shoot the Dog! by Karen Pryor – applies to people as well as pets.“
Dwayne Melancon: “Conventional wisdom holds here – pick habits that improve things you really care about, motivate yourself to achieve ‘little wins’ along the way to maintain momentum, get support from others, and if you fall off the horse, don’t give up – just get right back on and keep working on it. As for technique, I recommend Lisa Haneberg’s book Two Weeks to a Breakthrough as an awesome resource to kick off new projects or save broken ones.”
Falling off the horse is part-and-parcel of the process of breaking/building habits, though it often gets neglected. As long as you keep getting back on and persevering you will be on the right track.
Donald Latumahina: “Motivation is key. If we have the motivation, it will be much easier to break bad habits and develop new ones. The motivation ultimately comes from our life purpose. It is the life purpose that gives us the clear goals and directions which motivate us.”
gtdfrk: “You have to really want it for yourself. Don’t do it for somebody else or because it is socially accepted. You have to be motivated. Always focus on the successful outcome of the new habit in contrast with the old bad habit and take a single small step every day towards achieving your goals.“
The key is repetition, so doing something everyday no matter how small or minor is critical. Habits are something you do – often subconsciously – regularly, so you need to focus on breaking that cycle.
Leo Babauta: “I was horrible at breaking bad habits and forming new ones for many years, trying and failing at a number of goals. It wasn’t until November 2005 that I quit smoking and began running, and finally began to discover the habit-change methods that work for me, and has worked for many others. I write a lot about this on Zen Habits, but here’s my main advice, simplified:
- Commit yourself publicly.
- Be accountable to another person or group.
- Reward yourself for successes.
- Keep a positive attitude, squash negative thoughts.
- Just get started.
- Take little steps.
- Focus on one habit at a time.“
This is a great list which I think sums up the whole process nicely. I should stress the importance of focusing on one habit at a time. From personal experience when I took on more than one habit, if I fell off the horse with one habit, it negatively effected my progress on other habits.