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Building A Habit Will Be A Lot Less Painful With These 4 Simple Techniques

Building A Habit Will Be A Lot Less Painful With These 4 Simple Techniques

New Year’s has come and gone again and left you with the same goal as last year: develop a healthy exercise routine. Somehow between January 1st and March 1st, you tend to fizzle out and go back to your sedentary ways. Before you give up on your goal this year, consider using these four methods to keep yourself on track.

Develop Rituals

Most of us have trouble developing new habits because we don’t give ourselves exciting reasons why we need to change. If our only reason for exercising is to vaguely “feel better” or “look better” or “avoid people’s judgments,” we are unlikely to take action.

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Rituals help us come up with reasons for our new habit that will keep us motivated. According to the motivational website, Create Alchemy, rituals involve at least three out of six key areas in our lives. Create Alchemy describes these six areas as “mind, body, soul/spirit, nature, relationships, and passions.” The more areas of your life you incorporate them into your new habit, the more likely the habit will stick.[1]

Since exercise naturally involves your body, you already have one area down. To add “mind” to the mix, try listening to an audiobook or podcast while you are exercising. You can also find an exercise buddy, which will add the “relationship” area. Now you have included three life areas in your new habit, giving you even more reason to stay on track. 

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Create Triggers

Another great way to prime yourself for success when starting a new habit is to use triggers. These can be behaviors or activities you already do. For instance, most people have some kind of regular morning routine. You may get up, brush your teeth, and make a cup of tea. You can use one of these steps as a stimulus or “trigger” that will remind you to exercise.[2]

The most important thing to keep in mind when using triggers is to be consistent. If you want to use finishing your cup of tea as a trigger for your new exercise habit, make sure you start putting on your shoes or walking out the door as soon as you wash your empty cup. You want to train your mind and body that finishing your tea means start exercising. If you keep up this pattern consistently, within a few weeks you won’t even have to think about your new habit. Just like you wouldn’t leave the house without brushing your teeth, you now won’t “feel right” unless you exercise after finishing your tea. After all, brushing your teeth is just a habit!

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Share Your Goal with Others

Sharing your goal with others will force you to define your goal in specific terms and will also provide accountability. Once you tell someone else that you plan to start a new exercise routine, that person will likely check in with you next time you see him/her. He/She will be curious to see if you have been working toward your goal and may be disappointed if you have not.[3] Sometimes, just anticipating that conversation with another person is enough to make you follow through.

Make Your Habit into a Game

If you still need an extra boost that will inspire you to take action, try making your new habit into a game. Set up a system of rewards that you will give yourself if you achieve specific goals. Using a point system can also be helpful. For instance, you may give yourself ten points for running one mile and twenty points for fifteen minutes of strength training. As rewards, choose activities, experiences, and things you enjoy. Then, assign each reward a point value and give yourself the reward whenever you earn enough points.[4]

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Many people struggle to start new habits, but this does not have to be you! Just adopt some of these simple strategies to stay motivated. You may want to rotate these strategies to add variety or use them all at once to break through to the next level. Either way, you will experience the exhilaration of success as you follow through on your new goal. When the next New Year rolls around, you will be eager to celebrate your achievements and challenge yourself to even greater goals in the year to come.

Reference

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Lindsay Shaffer

Lindsay is a passionate teacher and writer who shares thoughts and ideas that inspire people to follow their passions.

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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