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You Are 7 Steps Away From Making A Habit Last

You Are 7 Steps Away From Making A Habit Last

Habits are the little things we do repeatedly, often subconsciously. They end up shaping our lives. Day after day, they make us who we are. Eat healthy and you get slim, exercise and you get fit, read and you get smart, etc.

“Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.” – Mahatma Ghandi

      Building habits is arguably the most impactful skill we can acquire in life. Can you imagine that 16 million deaths could be avoided every year by simple habit change? It is hard though to break old habits and form new ones. People seem to believe that they can transform their lives by simply making a wish when comes the New Year. But 92% of these resolutions fail.[1] Could it be that modern life makes us lazy? In our on-demand society, food gets delivered to our place in 10 minutes. We have a taxi waiting at our door 30 seconds after we ask for it. Everything has to go fast. We don’t accept that certain things take time and give up easily when we face challenges.

      Let me tell you the ugly truth: forming habits does take time and it requires efforts. It’s not going to happen just by hoping for it. It’s not going to work if you are not genuinely prepared to change. And there will be obstacles on your way. You can try and reject this ugly truth. It’s up to you. You then risk to get stuck in your old ways and fail to build the life you want. New Year after New Year, you will be making the same resolutions over and over again. In 10 years from now, those who don’t change their poor eating habits will be obese. Those who fail to introduce regular exercise in their life will be unfit. And those with bad financial habits will be poor.

      As a teenager, I went through a deep crisis which left my life as a mess. I had to reprogram myself and rebuild my life habit after habit. That’s when I realized that we can become the architects of our lives. Over the years, I refined my approach to setting goals and building habits. It has been my passion for 20 years now. And it has helped me live a dense and meaningful life. Here are a few examples:

      • I have written more than a 100 songs while I’m not a particularly gifted musician.
      • I represented France in the 2015 ITU Triathlon World Championships while I am not the most athletic person.
      • I have launched a promising startup called GOALMAP while I am not very business savvy.
      • I have also gathered the biggest dream journal in the world (I’m getting close to 10,000 dreams)!

      This was all thanks to habits. When you are able to form habits, you can steer your life in the direction you want. If you are keen to try this approach for yourself, you can follow this step-by-step guide.

      1. Assess your readiness for change

      According to James O. Prochaska’s transtheoretical model of behavior change, there are 6 stages involved in changing:[2]

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      • Pre-contemplation: People at this stage do not intend to start the healthy behavior in the near future (within 6 months), and may be unaware of the need to change.
      • Contemplation: People at this stage intend to start the healthy behavior within 6 months.
      • Preparation: People at this intend to start the healthy behavior within the next 30 days.
      • Action: People at this stage have changed their behavior within the last 6 months.
      • Maintenance: People at this stage have changed their behavior more than 6 months ago.
      • Termination: The new behavior is ingrained, no risk to relapse.

      If you jump straight into the action phase while you are not yet ready for it, you are most likely to relapse. In order to progress through the stages of change, you need:

      • A growing awareness that the advantages (the “pros”) of changing outweigh the disadvantages (the “cons”).
      • Confidence that you can maintain changes in situations that tempt you to return to your old, unhealthy behavior.
      • Strategies that can help you make and maintain change. These strategies are called the “processes of change”. Different strategies work best for different stages.

      Don’t put the cart before the horse. If you are not mentally prepared to change, any effort you make will be counterproductive. If you realize that you do not intend to start a new habit right now, try and figure in which stage you are and apply the “processes of change” which are most relevant for that phase.

      If you are keen to find out more, I recommend you read Changing to Thrive by James O. Prochaska. If you are ready for change, keep reading!

      2. Have a grand vision for your life

        Make sure that the habits you decide to work on are aligned with your personal values and the long-term vision you have for life. If there is no deeper meaning in the things you do, you might find it hard to make them stick.

        Before rushing headlong, dig inside of you and get in touch with the powerful vision beyond your desire to change. If you have aspirations such as eating healthy or exercising, what is your vision beyond these goals? Maybe a vision of yourself in good health, fit, slim and happy… Take a moment to visualize the person you aspire to build.

        With this vision in mind, you can see meaning in everything you do. After all, why would you put your sneakers on and go for a run rather than watching a TV series? The sofa might be more tempting than the effort! But get back to your vision and the choice will come effortlessly. When your vision is anchored deeply, it is easy to light it up. The closer the vision is to your heart, the stronger it will be, and the more easily you will push through the obstacles. Get back to your vision, when you fail or when you succeed – it will show you the way.

        3. Start small

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          When we think about changing our life, we are tempted to change everything at once and come up with a bucket list of 20 things to work on at the same time. It’s so exciting! It rarely works though. If we try to do too much, we soon feel overwhelmed. Chances are great that we will give up.

          This doesn’t mean you have to focus on a single habit. Actually, taking action on one behavior increases the odds of taking action on a second behavior. This is called “coaction”. Start with the top 2 to 4 habits you want to build.

          Don’t set the bar too high at the beginning. When you get on a bike, you should start with an easy gear, and shift up gears as you build speed. It’s all about momentum.

          4. Make a plan

          You need to plan how you are going to weave the new behavior into your life. For a habit to stick, it has to become part of your routine. You need to turn it into some sort of automatic process. The key to building a habit is repetition. Try and build a ritual: same day, same time, same place, etc.

          Make sure you have the basic questions answered in advance: When will you do it? Where? How? With whom?

          If you want to exercise more regularly, you have to plan how this is going to happen. Which sport? Which days of the week? Will you go straight after work? Then you need to take your gear with you. Do you have all the equipment you need? If not, go get it. Do you have a friend who could go with you and become your motivation partner?

          B.J. Fogg, a psychologist and researcher at Stanford University who has studied behavior change for more than 20 years, has a great trick: attaching the new behavior to an existing one. For that, use “after”: after I wake up, I meditate for 10 minutes; after I get back from work, I do 10 push-ups; after I finish my breakfast, I take vitamins, etc.

          5. Set goals

          If your aspiration to change remains too vague, you are likely to fail. Set instead proper goals for the habits you want to build. These goals must be S.M.A.R.T.: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.

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          Have clear, quantified targets. Instead of “drinking more water”, set a goal to “drink at least 2 liters a day”. Instead of “playing music again”, set a goal to “play the piano 20 minutes per day”.

          Set daily goals wherever possible. If you do something every day, it becomes much easier to make it stick. Let’s imagine for instance that you want to read more. You have more chances to make it a habit with a daily goal (20 minutes) than a weekly one (2 hours).

          Read more about how to set yourself the right goals in my other article Why I Can Be the Only 8% of People Who Reach the Goal Every Single Time

          6. Track your progress

            A study of nearly 1,700 participants in a weight-loss program showed that those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records.[3] Tracking fosters self-awareness. When you understand yourself better, it becomes much easier to change.

            “That which is measured improves.” – Karl Pearson

            Track your progress in a systematic fashion, not just in your head. You can use a piece of paper, an Excel spreadsheet, an app, etc. Make it simple to update and easy to access.

            7. Analyze your progress and adjust your habits

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              Your habits are not meant to be cast in stone. We said earlier we have to start small. Then, as we gather momentum, we can add another habit, or raise the bar higher.

              On the other hand, when we go through tough times, we can momentarily revise our ambitions down and avoid hitting the wall. That’s part of the journey. You shouldn’t judge yourself. Stay flexible, shift to a lower gear and your habits will pick you up.

              With quantified targets, you can easily keep track of your progress against the goals you had set. It is then time to take a step back, draw conclusions and reset your habits. Here are a few examples:

              • Add: “I started with two habits, drinking water and going to bed early. I’m now fairly comfortable with those two. It’s time to add regular exercise to my routine.”
              • Adjust down: “Running three times a week was too ambitious. I manage to go once a week, two sometimes. I’ll change my target to twice a week instead and build up from there.”
              • Adjust up: “I have consistently hit my target of reading two hours per week. I enjoyed reading that much and learned a lot. Let’s increase the target to two and a half hours.”
              • Stop tracking: “I used to drink too much coffee some days when I hadn’t slept enough the previous night but over time I managed to ingrain a new habit. I don’t drink more than two cups a day anymore.”
              • Replace: “I liked the idea of practicing martial arts but I fail on this goal week after week. I realize that I don’t enjoy the process as much as I liked the idea. It’s time to switch to another sport.”

              Try and do such a review of your habits at least every other month. It will help you adjust your trajectory over time.

              Forget about the magic potion

                Rome wasn’t built in a day, I know it’s cliché but it’s always true. There really is no shortcut to a happy and fulfilled life. One has to be persistent, and walk day after day. It’s incredible how far we can get when we walk in the same direction without stopping, even at a gentle pace.

                Forming habits definitely requires effort, especially at the beginning as you have to overcome inertia. Please keep fighting. If you don’t fight, you run the risk of going through life without really living.

                Make this effort, focus on repetition, and day after day it will get easier. The habit of doing will replace the habit of not doing. It’s challenging to get started, but it’s also difficult to stop once you get started.

                Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

                Reference

                More by this author

                Damien Catani

                Founder at GOALMAP

                Why I Can Be the Only 8% of People Who Reach the Goal Every Single Time You Are 7 Steps Away From Making A Habit Last How I Bounced Back From a Fiasco

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                Last Updated on February 17, 2021

                50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

                50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

                If you feel like you don’t have enough time to do everything you want to do, maybe it’s time to check-in with your time management skills.

                No one is born to be very good at time management, so that’s okay if you think you’re bad in it. But everyone can learn to boost their productivity and achieve more!

                Here are 50 ways to increase productivity and add hours to your day.

                1. Set a Timer

                Estimate the time you need to tackle different tasks and set a timer for each of your tasks. How you go about this is up to you as there are many different ways. There is the Pomodoro technique where you focus on a task for 25 minutes followed by a five minute break afterwards.

                In the event that you have a task that will take much longer than that, you can consider one of the many timer-based apps. One that comes to mind is Clockify. It’s used for freelancers and entrepreneurs alike, however it’s a good way to be setting yourself a timer. It provides reports and you can serve as a project manager of sorts too. Best of all, it’s free.

                2. Eliminate All Distractions

                Distractions include the phone, email notifications and having multiple web browsers open on the desktop. Just as it’s important to be organized offline, it’s key to have things organized online as well. This free guide End Distractions And Find Your Focus is a good tool to help you. With this guide, you’ll learn how to get rid of distractions and boost productivity. Grab your free guide here.

                You can also learn more on how to get rid of all distractions in this guide: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

                3. Listen to Music That Boosts Productivity

                Distractions should be avoided, but sometimes a bit of music in the background can help you focus.

                Of course, it doesn’t need to be heavy rock music, but a bit of Beethoven may do you some good.

                Here’s a complete guide to help you pick the right music for better productivity: How To Maximize Your Productivity With Music: A Complete Guide

                4. Find Meaning in What You Do (And Love What You Do)

                Enjoying what you do is the ultimate way to increase your productivity.

                If you aren’t sure what you love doing yet, don’t worry. Leo Babauta has some unique ways to help you: How to Find Your Passion

                5. Prioritize your tasks ahead of time.

                By listing your tasks in order of importance, you can make sure that you finish all of your most important tasks during the day.

                Learn a unique technique to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster.

                6. Batch Similar Tasks into a Single Batch.

                Tasks like blog writing, phone calls, email and errands can be grouped into a single batch. You will save time by completing similar tasks in one session. One way to help you with organizing all of those things is through the app Todoist. It’s an easy and simple way for you to plan out your day, set reminders, and group all of your most important tasks in a convenient spot.

                7. Complete Your Most Dreaded Tasks First Thing in the Morning.

                Whichever activity you are dreading the most is probably the one you need to complete first thing in the morning.

                Many people tend to check emails in the morning because after checking a list of emails, they feel fulfilled. But that’s just an illusion of having achieved more.

                Doing simple tasks like checking emails first in the morning is bad for you. Instead, do the difficult tasks because you have more energy in the morning to tackle them!

                8. Reward Yourself for Finishing a Big Task

                To stay motivated for whatever you do, reward yourself every now and then.

                Keep track of your small wins and milestones and celebrate them. So whenever you struggle about your progress, you see how far you’ve come!

                Find out more about this 2-Step Approach to Self-Motivation: Track Small Wins and Reward Yourself.

                9. Don’t Multitask

                Research has shown that multitasking is not productive. If you think you can multitask, think again.

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                For optimum productivity, focus on one thing at a time.

                10. Step Away from the Computer

                The Internet has become one of the number one distraction. To increase your productivity, try to do as much of your work offline as possible.

                I do this a lot when I try to brainstom new ideas and have found it to be very beneficial to simply unplug.

                11. Use Focus Tools

                Make good use of apps and technology to help you remove distractions.

                Here’re 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools to help you stay focused. This way, you’re not distracted by the web, e-mail, or IM.

                Also, join the free Fast-Track Class – Overcoming Distraction, and you’ll learn the one simple method to work even when you’re surrounded by distractions. Join the free session now!

                12. Just Start

                Often times, starting is the hardest part. People tend to wait for the perfect time with perfect condition to start. But there’s no perfect condition.

                Once you get going, you will quickly get into a rhythm that could last for hours.

                13. Find out Your Productive Hours

                Everyone has a certain time of the day in which they are more productive than others. For me, it’s the morning.

                Find out when your prime time is for productivity and optimize your work schedule accordingly.

                14. Keep a Notebook and Pen on Hand at All Times

                This way, you can write down your thoughts, to-dos and ideas at any time. The key is to get everything out of your head and onto paper. Your subconscious mind won’t be reminding you about it every other second. Another consideration is getting the app Evernote. Not only does this save you on ink and paper, Evernote is a convenient place for you to jot down notes and thoughts and then share them with the team. In certain circumstances, this can prove useful if you’re the type of person that has a lot of ideas that you want to share.

                15. Write a Blog to Chronicle Your Own Personal Development and Achievements

                The blog keeps you accountable and always working towards self improvement and personal growth.

                When you write down all the small achievements you’ve been having, you’re also more motivated to move forward.

                And you know what, this is how I started Lifehack too! What also helped me in starting Lifehack is WordPress, which allows people to set up a website for free. WordPress has simplified a lot of the process of building a site to the point that virtually anyone can build a website now.

                16. Write out a To-Do-List Each Day

                I like to plan my day the night before. This way, I can get started on my most important tasks as soon as I wake up. The Full Life Planner is a nice tool to help you organize your days and get things that matter done. Check out the planner here and start to plan your day ahead easily!

                Make sure you don’t make any of these common to-do-list mistakes!

                17. Write Your Most Important Tasks and To-Dos on a Calendar.

                The key to good time management is knowing where to be and what to be doing there at any given time. Effective calendar management goes hand in hand with good task list management.

                Learn here How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space.

                18. Reflect on Your Productivity Constantly

                As you go throughout your day, repeatedly ask yourself:

                “Am I currently making the best possible use of my time?”

                This one simple question can be an excellent boost to your productivity.

                19. Get up Early Before Anyone Else

                I know it could be difficult for some to wake up early in the morning but nothing beats a quiet house!

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                Here’s How to Start Your Day at 5:00 AM and some Simple Things Early Risers Do to make waking up early easier.

                20. Get Plenty of Sleep

                When you work online, sleep can become a long lost memory. However, it’s important to get plenty of sleep so that your working hours can be as productive as possible.

                Try out this night routine which I highly recommend for productivity: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

                21. Exercise

                Research has shown that midday exercise boosts productivity and morale in the workplace.

                Take a short walk at lunch or do some simple stretches during your break to maximize your productivity.

                Here I have some exercises recommendations for you:

                22. Outsource as Much as Possible

                If you want to achieve more in less time, learn to delegate or outsource work. Here are just a few of the companies that will help you outsource your everyday tasks:

                Also, read this guide to learn how to delegate effectively: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

                23. Set Some Exciting Goals

                Without worthy goals, you will never be motivated to get things done.

                Set goals that are challenging and achievable. The best goal setting framework is a SMART goal. That said, there are other tools that can help you out as well. For example, The Dreamers’ Guide To Reaching Your Goal is a great guide to help you set and reach goals effectively. Grab your free guide and learn how to make your goals happen this year!

                24. Tell Other People About Your Goals

                When you tell others about your goals, you will instantly be held accountable.

                25. Listen to Podcasts

                Listen to educational podcasts or audio books while you’re driving to work, cleaning the house, exercising, or cooking dinner.

                Audio learning has the power to add hours to your day. Not to mention, your cranium is sure to thank you for it.

                Some recommendations for you: 11 Podcasts To Inspire Yourself

                26. Read David Allen’s best-selling book Getting Things Done

                This is one of the most important productivity books you will ever read. Read it, apply the tips in your daily lives and get more things done.

                Here’re more great books about productivity too: 35 Books on Productivity and Organizational Skills for an Effective Life

                27. Learn to Speed Read

                When you can read faster, you will read and learn more! Check out these 10 Ways to Increase Your Reading Speed.

                You can also make use of the app OutRead to help speed up your reading speed!

                28. Learn to Skip When You Read

                When you’re reading a book, just read the parts that you need and skip the rest. But you have to read with a purpose.

                Learn how to make it work here: How to Read 10X Faster and Retain More

                29. Focus on Result-Oriented Activities

                Pareto’s law (also known as the 80 20 rule) states that 80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs. This means that 20% of our actions result in 80% of the results.

                We must find the 20% that is creating the 80% of our desired outcomes and focus solely on those activities.

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                30. Take a Break

                You can’t always be working at optimum productivity. Instead, you should shoot for working in short bursts at your most productive times.

                31. Start a Polyphasic Sleep Schedule

                What is polyphasic sleep?

                Polyphasic sleep is a sleep pattern specification intended to compress sleep time to 2-5 hours daily.[1] This is achieved by spreading out sleep into short (around 20-45 minute) naps throughout the day. This allows for more waking hours with relatively high alertness.

                While you can learn more about it here, you’re recommended to take some naps during the day to recharge your energy too.

                32. Learn to Say “No”.

                We can’t do everything and therefore we must learn when to say no in order to save our sanity.

                Learn the Gentle Art of Saying No from Leo Babauta.

                33. Go on an Information Diet

                Most of the world lives on information overload. We must eliminate mindless Internet surfing.

                Stop reading three different newspapers a day and checking your RSS feeds multiple times a day. Otherwise, you’ll never get anything done.

                The key is to limit yourself only to information that you can immediately take action on. Here’re some simple tips you can try: 10 Simple Productivity Tricks To Manage Overloaded Information

                34. Organize Your Office

                The piles of paper around your desk can be a huge barrier on your productivity. Optimize your time by organizing your office, setting up a system and dumping the junk.

                Check out these 21 Tips to Organize Your Office and Get More Done and 20 Easy Home Office Organization Ideas to Boost Your Productivity.

                35. Find a Mentor

                By modeling after those who have already achieved success, you will save yourself a lot of time and energy.

                A good mentor is hard to find, so here’s a guide to help you: What to Look for in a Mentor

                36. Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

                With technology’s help, you can double your work efficiency. Even better, you learn all the shortcuts when using technology, for example keyboard shortcuts.

                When you use keyboard shortcut, you gain 64 hours every year!

                Not sure what shortcuts to lear? Check out these 22 Tricks That Can Make Anyone A Keyboard Ninja.

                Besides learning the shortcuts, you can also create keyboard shortcuts with AutoHotKey.

                37. Improve Your Typing Speed to Save Time

                Do you know you can save 21 days per year just by typing fast?

                You don’t really need to take some serious courses to type faster, try these typing games online:

                38. Work from Home and Avoid the Daily Commute

                If your job is a flexible one, consider working from home. This saves you the commute time and you’ll find yourself more energetic throughout the day as you have saved the long ride.

                Take a look at these tips to help you stay productive while working from home:

                How to Work from Home and Stay Ultra-Productive

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                39. Get Rid of Time Wasters

                Common time wasters include Instant Messenger, video games, Flickr, checking your stats 10 times a day, television and extraneous Internet surfing.

                Don’t rely on your willpower, make use of some of these useful tools to help you stay focus: 10 Online Apps for Better Focus

                40. Plan Your Meals in Advance

                Plan out all of your meals a week ahead and make your grocery list accordingly. This allows you to focus on the necessary – saving you time and money. You can also save yourself even more time through a wide variety of apps. One app that I find helpful is Mealime. It’s an app that provides you with a wide selection of recipes and also a convenient spot for your grocery list as well.

                Considering the fact that over 4 million users have this app, it goes to show that there is a good selection of meal plans that you can follow and that the app is friendly to use.

                41. Cook Your Meals in Bulk

                When you cook your meals in bulk, you will have plenty of leftovers. This can avoid having to cook everyday.

                Find out more about how to make cooking in bulk works: Once a Month Cooking: Productivity Hack or Overrated Time Suck?

                42. Protect Yourself from Unnecessary Phone Time with Caller ID

                The minutes you spend on picking up unnecessary phone calls are time wasted. You can prevent that from happening.

                Check out this detailed guide how you can deal with those unnecessary phone calls: How To Lose the Useless Items that Weigh Down Your Day – Cellphone Calls

                43. Take Shorter Showers

                This one may sound silly but it’s actually something I struggle with. I spend up to 30 minutes in the shower. Think of the time I could save simply by speeding up a bit.

                44. Save the Trips to Bank by Taking Direct Deposit

                Many employers now offer direct deposit. If yours does, then be sure and take advantage of it and save yourself from a number of trips to the bank.

                45. Auto Pay Your Bills

                How many times have you been worried about whether you missed the bills deadline?

                Auto paying your bills will save you time and eliminate late fees and increased interest rates.

                46. Shop Online

                Whenever possible, avoid going to the store. When you shop online, you can be more focus about what you’re getting.

                47. Speed up your Internet With a Broadband Connection

                Many people are aware of the slow speed of internet but aren’t doing anything about it. In fact, this is the number one Internet time-saver!

                If you must use dial-up, then you can use accelerators like Propel and SlipStream to double or even triple your speed.

                48. Keep up the Speed of Your Computer

                If you’re a Windows user, use Windows hibernation feature to avoid the slowdown of exiting and restarting Windows.

                Or maybe, consider switching to Mac as there’re plenty of Advantages You Probably Don’t Know About Switching To Mac From PC.

                49. Turn off the TV

                The average American watches more than 4 hours of television every day. Over a 65-year life, that’s 9 years glued to the tube.

                For better health and productivity, turn off the TV. Here’re 11 more reasons to tell you to stop watching TV so often.

                Turn off the TV and you are sure to get more out of life.

                50. Use a Tivo or DVR

                This can help you cut an hour-long television show down to just 40 minutes. You can save time while not missing the fun.

                So, here’s the ultimate list of techniques you should learn to boost productivity. Pick the techniques that work for you and make them your daily habits. As time goes, you’ll find yourself being a lot more productive.

                More Time Management Tips

                Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                Reference

                [1] Medical News Today: What is biphasic and polyphasic sleep?

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