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“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Fun fact: It wasn’t Aristotle who said that, the quote appears to have originated with the 1926 book “The Story of Philosophy” by Will Durant.
But it doesn’t matter who said that. The key is, that habits define us. They define the good and the bad in us. Habits make us productive people, they make us lazy. They make us crave popcorn at the cinema.
Habits are also the reason why we strive. Without habits, we would be lacking order. And then we have chaos. Habits can be simple, they can be complex. Some are simple in the beginning and become more complex over time.
I believe that a repertoire of good habits is something that simplifies your life and increases the quality of it.
Identify your current habits
To change your habits and routines you have to identify what your current habits consist of. Do you eat a chocolate bar every time you sit down on the couch? Do you default to turn on the TV when you get home from work? It is very easy to default to unhealthy habits like snacking a chocolate bar. They are made to be convenient and you have basically no friction eating them.
Write down every habit that you can think of and mark it with a small “+” for positive “-” for negative.
Examples of positive habits:
Brushing teeth before bed
Doing 10 push-ups after waking up
Examples of bad habits:
Turn on the TV when you get home
Eat chocolate every time the TV is on
Breaking bad habits
The first thing you should do is to do a reset. You have to get rid of the negative habits by creating friction. The harder it is to do something the less likely you will do it – every time I want to write something I take out the laptop of my girlfriend because there are no games installed and I won’t be tempted to play a few rounds.
But how can you increase friction? You could hide the TV remote in a place which isn’t close to the TV. I surely would think twice if I really want to binge some Netflix when the remote is in a box in my closet on the highest shelf where I cannot get without a chair or ladder.
But the safest way to avoid your bad habits is by not even being tempted to do them. If you don’t even buy chocolate in the first place you won’t be tempted to grab it.
Don’t be discouraged – this isn’t easy. And you will inevitably fail, and that is okay. Just remember to get back on track right where you left off. It won’t help you when you make it to day 20 and then fail and then completely give up. Just accept that you failed one day and continue right away – don’t be discouraged!
Forming new habits
Forming a new habit is basically the reverse of unlearning old ones. This time you want to make everything as frictionless as possible. Let’s say we want to substitute our chocolate bar with a carrot.
To make it as easy as possible you could peel and cut 7 carrots on Sunday and put them in a box for easy access. Every time you are on the couch now and want to eat something you just have to open the box and you are set.
Preparing 7 carrots at once instead of preparing one every day is a way of batching I really think we should use more in our everyday lives.
This habit is very basic of course, and you might want to do something more special, maybe you want to do 100 push-ups every day. This is intimidating and you won’t do it from day1 on.
But what if you would start with 1 push up per day for 2 weeks and work up to 10 push-ups per day for 2 weeks? You have established the habit. Increasing the volume is just slightly harder than STARTING with the new habit.
Now you could increase it by 10 per day for 2 weeks again, or you do 10 more every day until you reached 100.
This is basically the same journey I am doing right now. I am at 10 per day for this week – from Monday on I will increase it by 10 every 2 days until I reach my 100/day goal.
Forming a new habit may you a few days – don’t think that 2 weeks of push-ups will get you there – it will take around 66 days to form a habit!
Tools to help you with
To make your efforts and accomplishments, your progress towards the new habit more visible, you can visualize it for yourself. There are many ways to do so here are a few examples:
- Habit tracker app (I use “loop” See my 6 best productivity apps 2021!
- I really recommend you read “Atomic Habits” by James Clear.
I prefer the app because it is always at hand and easy to use. But if you are more of an analog type you can draw a paper with a square for every day and cross it off once you did it. Whatever works for you.
- Break your bad habits
- Establish new habits (Around 66 days)
- Use a tool to help you track your progress
I hope you could learn something from this post and it made your life a little bit simpler – let me know! You can find more productivity-related posts on the right-hand side.
As always, I would be happy to hear some feedback on this post.