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Your New Habits Will Stick With These 5 Killer Strategies

Your New Habits Will Stick With These 5 Killer Strategies

I’m sure you have been there. You write down goals and resolutions, clench your teeth and swear that you will follow through.

Then you miss a day. And another. And another…

Soon, days turn into weeks, and weeks turn into months. Before you know it, that book you said you would finish has been lying under your bed for a year, and that diet you said you would follow has become the last thing that comes to mind when you are in front of a dinner table. At one point, you felt immensely guilty, but now you just feel numb. Your guilt from missing your goals has been squashed mercilessly and cast to the back of your mind so often that doing so has almost become a reflex action.

“It’s not like I don’t want to do it – I just don’t have time for it anymore,” you protest weakly.

It’s normal to be slow in our journey of forming habits.

Hey, it’s okay. Relax. We’re not here to yell at you for being human. The truth is, it is completely normal to run into obstacles on our trek towards building and forming new habits, especially when it’s something that we are not used to doing or even something that is the complete opposite of what we are used to doing. A simple and common example is making it a goal to completely cut out fast food and replace it with salads, fruits, and vegetables. The first few days might be all right, but as time goes on, the urge to revert to grabbing a burger grows stronger and stronger. Eventually, you throw your hands up and say, “whatever, it’s just one day,” and you know the rest.

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However, all is not lost. I turned my life around with five simple steps. Now it is your turn to do the same.

1. Gamify your life when building habits.

Gamification is a self-designed system that operates along a daily exchange of productivity and reward.[1] To put it in simpler words, it helps make completing chores and work fun!

It goes like this:

  1. Identify tasks you don’t like doing.
  2. Assign points to them – the more you hate doing it, the more points it should get!
  3. Set up small, regular rewards to keep yourself incentivized.
  4. Set long term goals and reward yourself with a super prize!

Ultimately, you want to use this system to achieve those long-term goals – your goal could be anything from eating healthy to getting a solid 8 hours of sleep every night! Just don’t forget to make it worthwhile by setting up rewards to give yourself when you succeed, like getting yourself that camera you really want or booking a trip to Japan!

2. Share your goals with the people around you.

This may come across as a little weird in the beginning. Broadcasting your goal of improving your eating habits to your friends sounds ridiculous. But is it really?

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Your friends might laugh at you if fall, but they will also be the ones who help you up from the ground. If you tell your friends that you want to eat healthier meals from now on, you can count on them to remind you to stick to your diet every time you meet up for lunch. When I was trying to go meat-free a few years back, I even had friends who were nice enough to pick restaurants with vegetarian options for meals out with me. Sharing your goals is more effective than you may imagine – so go ahead and talk to your friends!

3. Set your target as your wallpaper.

    It is difficult to forget something you see every day. In this age when smartphones and computers are more frequent companions than the people around us, you might want to remind yourself of your target by setting a quote or a relevant pretty image as your wallpaper. This way, every time you look at your phone, you will be reminded to drink a glass of water, get a quick workout done, or take whatever action you need to take to meet your goal.

    4. Put in the minimum effort needed to form a habit.

    What?

    You didn’t read it wrong. The key to habit formation is for it to be easy. The more difficult it is to follow through, the higher the temptation is to give up. In his article “The ONE Success Strategy that’s so Simple YOU may actually do it,” Greg Clement puts it like this:[2]

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    Instead of putting MAXIMUM effort into my goal each day, I decided to set a floor, a minimum.

    Anything above this minimum performance I’d consider a bonus.

    Set a core goal. It could be about work, relationships, personal health – something that covers an important part of your life. An example might be improving your relationship with your children.

    Then, create your Minimum Acceptable Day (M.A.D.). Following up on the previous example, it could be spending 20 minutes with your children. This is your baseline. Finally, every time you achieve this target, put a BIG CROSS on your calendar. Let them build up.

    If you managed to spend a healthy 2 hours playing Lego with your kids – awesome! However, it’s just as amazing if you can only spend 20 minutes with them. That’s because you are moving forward every day that you adhere to your minimum goal. This creates momentum for you to go on, and before you notice, you will have already been doing this for a year!

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    5. Crave the reward from your new habit.

      In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg proposed the idea of a habit loop. There is the cue: the trigger for your habit; the routine: the behavior itself; and lastly, the reward: the joy you derive from the habit. On top of that, there is the craving, which links the cue with the action and the reward.

      I used to work until 3 AM every day. Needless to say, my eyelids would start to droop after 1 AM (this is the cue), so I would head to the fridge and down a can of Red Bull (this is the routine), rejuvenating and preparing myself for the work ahead (this is the reward). Eventually, whenever I was tired, I would immediately think of getting a can of Red Bull because of the 2-hour energy spike I would get (craving).

      Therefore, herein lies the last tip for creating habits that stick: develop a craving that drives you to maintain the habit by connecting it with the action and the reward. In my case, I could train myself to crave a different reward (rest and better sleep quality) as soon as I encounter the cue (being tired). I could do this by developing a craving for becoming better rested and thus develop my new habit (going to sleep earlier)!

      Get moving!

      You have all you need – so set your goals and get moving!

      Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

      Reference

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      Eamon Suen

      Student, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

      Life Is Not Supposed To Be Fair, We’re Supposed to Learn To Live With It If You Want To Be Successful, You May Need To Cut Off Something From Life The Earlier You Understand These Truths Of Happiness The Better Accept Where You Are And Happiness Is At Your Fingertips Your New Habits Will Stick With These 5 Killer Strategies

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      Last Updated on July 8, 2020

      How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

      How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

      What is decision fatigue? Let me explain this with an example:

      When determining a court ruling, there are many factors that contribute to their final verdict. You probably assume that the judge’s decision is influenced solely by the nature of the crime committed or the particular laws that were broken. While this is completely valid, there is an even greater influential factor that dictates the judge’s decision: the time of day.

      In 2012, a research team from Columbia University[1] examined 1,112 court rulings set in place by a Parole Board Judge over a 10 month period. The judge would have to determine whether the individuals in question would be released from prison on parole, or a change in the parole terms.

      While the facts of the case often take precedence in decision making, the judges mental state had an alarming influence on their verdict.

      As the day goes on, the chance of a favorable ruling drops:

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        Image source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

        Does the time of day, or the judges level of hunger really contribute that greatly to their decision making? Yes, it does.

        The research went on to show that at the start of the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%.

        But as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.

        However, right after their lunch break, the judge would return to the courtroom feeling refreshed and recharged. Energized by their second wind, their leniency skyrockets back up to a whopping 65%. And again, as the day drags on to its finish, the favorable rulings slowly diminish along with the judge’s spirits.

        This is no coincidence. According to the carefully recorded research, this was true for all 1,112 cases. The severity of the crime didn’t matter. Whether it was rape, murder, theft, or embezzlement, the criminal was more likely to get a favorable ruling either early in the morning, or after the judges lunch break.

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        Are You Suffering from Decision Fatigue Too?

        We all suffer from decision fatigue without even realizing it.

        Perhaps you aren’t a judge with the fate of an individual’s life at your disposal, but the daily decisions you make for yourself could hinder you if you’re not in the right head-space.

        Regardless of how energetic you feel (as I imagine it is somehow caffeine induced anyway), you will still experience decision fatigue. Just like every other muscle, your brain gets tired after periods of overuse, pumping out one decision after the next. It needs a chance to rest in order to function at a productive rate.

        The Detrimental Consequences of Decision Fatigue

        When you are in a position such as a Judge, you can’t afford to let your mental state dictate your decision making; but it still does. According to George Lowenstein, an American educator and economy expert, decision fatigue is to blame for poor decision making among members of high office. The disastrous level of failure among these individuals to control their impulses could be directly related to their day to day stresses at work and their private life.

        When you’re just too tired to think, you stop caring. And once you get careless, that’s when you need to worry. Decision fatigue can contribute to a number of issues such as impulse shopping (guilty), poor decision making at work, and poor decision making with after work relationships. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

        How to Make Decision Effectively

        Either alter the time of decision making to when your mind is the most fresh, or limit the number of decisions to be made. Try utilizing the following hacks for more effective decision making.

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        1. Make Your Most Important Decisions within the First 3 Hours

        You want to make decisions at your peak performance, so either first thing in the morning, or right after a break.

        Research has actually shown that you are the most productive for the first 3 hours[2] of your day. Utilize this time! Don’t waste it on trivial decisions such as what to wear, or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

        Instead, use this time to tweak your game plan. What do you want to accomplish? What can you improve? What steps do you need to take to reach these goals?

        2. Form Habits to Reduce Decision Making

        You don’t have to choose all the time.

        Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be an extravagant spread every morning. Make a habit out of eating a similar or quick breakfast, and cut that step of your morning out of the way. Can’t decide what to wear? Pick the first thing that catches your eye. We both know that after 20 minutes of changing outfits you’ll just go with the first thing anyway.

        Powerful individuals such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg don’t waste their precious time deciding what to wear. In fact, they have been known to limiting their outfits down to two options in order to reduce their daily decision making.

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        3. Take Frequent Breaks for a Clearer Mind

        You are at your peak of productivity after a break, so to reap the benefits, you need to take lots of breaks! I know, what a sacrifice. If judges make better decisions in the morning and after their lunch break, then so will you.

        The reason for this is because the belly is now full, and the hunger is gone. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University social psychologist[3] had found that low-glucose levels take a negative toll on decision making. By taking a break to replenish your glucose levels, you will be able to focus better and improve your decision making abilities.

        Even if you aren’t hungry, little breaks are still necessary to let your mind refresh, and come back being able to think more clearly.

        Structure your break times. Decide beforehand when you will take breaks, and eat energy sustaining snacks so that your energy level doesn’t drop too low. The time you “lose” during your breaks will be made up in the end, as your productivity will increase after each break.

        So instead of slogging through your day, letting your mind deteriorate and fall victim to the daily abuses of decision making, take a break, eat a snack. Let your mind refresh and reset, and jump-start your productivity throughout the day.

        More Tips About Decision Making

        Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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