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Last Updated on February 19, 2019

How to Reprogram Your Brain Like a Computer And Hack Your Habits

How to Reprogram Your Brain Like a Computer And Hack Your Habits

Do you struggle with overcoming bad habits? Do you find it difficult to stick with an exercise routine and constantly find yourself back where you started?

If so, what would you think if I told you that you could reprogram your brain and break bad habits similar to how a computer programmer programs code? Sounds crazy right? Yet, it’s not.

Similar to programming computer code, it is possible to reprogram deeply ingrained habits. Computer coding is a perfect metaphor for writing, hacking, or reprogramming our own instructions. We see this when we compare computer coding to habit formation. Think of trying to break bad habits and form new positive habits. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit remarked,

What we know from lab studies is that it’s never too late to break a habit. Habits are malleable throughout your entire life. But we also know that the best way to change a habit is to understand its structure – that once you tell people about the cue and the reward and you force them to recognize what those factors are in a behavior, it becomes much, much easier to change.

So what exactly is computer coding, habit formation, and how can we reprogram our deeply ingrained habits?

What is Coding?

Coding is a finished set of instructions known as a program. We must write a code in a specific way for the program to work. In essence, we must write code in a language for which a computer can understand it. Many different computer languages exist, such as: HTML5, CSS, C, C++, Python, and JavaScript.

Think of our life as a finished set of instructions. In order to reprogram it, we must write our own code in a way that will change our bad habits. Essentially, we must find a reward system our mind and body can latch on to.

Vomputer code is similar to human DNA and it operates exactly like the code in computer software. Juan Enriquez informs us,[1]

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Sequencing DNA decodes its programmatic intentions through its relationship to a combination of four letters of our alphabet: A, C, T, and G.

DNA is a self-replicating material present in all living life-forms and carries our genetic information. Tom Bunzel demonstrates the similarities in his book DNA is Software, Who “Wrote” the Code?  by placing a sequenced genetic code side by side with Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), which is the code for a web page.

    Coding as a Metaphor for Writing Instructions for Life

    My intent here is not to ask who or what wrote our life code (or even how it is done). My intent is to demonstrate that computer programming language (code) is a metaphor for life. The computer program is our life, where the computer code is our habits.

      We can change our habits and switch genes off and on through epigenetics. We know that contemporary geneticists are able to switch genes on and off using DNA internal software. Essentially, they are copying and pasting code.[2]

      Moreover, coding is writing instructions for computers, where a finished set of instructions is a computer program. Life is no different. Just as coding is writing instructions for a computer, our daily actions and habits are writing instructions for life. Learning to code will create a better computer program, so why not learn your code to build a better you?

      Coding (Habit Breaking) Instructions

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        Charles Duhigg writes that every habit starts with a psychological pattern called a “habit loop” which is a three-part process.[3]

        First, we find the cue or trigger informing our brain to go into automatic mode. Second, we identify the routine, which is the behavior itself. Third, we identify the reward, which is the thing that makes our brain remember the “habit loop” in the future.

        Let’s examine how Duhigg used the “habit loop” to break his habit of going to the cafeteria and buying a chocolate chip cookie every afternoon.

          Step 1: Identify the routine

          Similar to understanding the structure and components of computer code, Duhigg writes that we must first understand the components of our loop.

          Step 2: Experiment with rewards

          We use specific inputs when we code, so why not change the inputs to see if we get a different output. Similarly, Duhigg experimented with his reward by adjusting his routine to see if it would deliver a different type of reward. For example, instead of walking to the cafeteria, he walked around the block.

          Step 3: Isolate the cue

          Duhigg says that we can ask ourselves (and record our answers) five things the moment an urge hits us in order to diagnose our habit. These questions are key to hacking our code (habits).

          1. Where are you?
          2. What time is it?
          3. What’s your emotional state?
          4. Who else is around?
          5. What action preceded the urge?

          Step 4: Have a plan

          Duhigg found once we figure out our “habit loop” we can shift our behavior. This is similar to rewriting code.

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          “Put another way, a habit is a formula our brain automatically follows: When I see CUE, I will do ROUTINE in order to get a REWARD.” – Charles Duhigg

          Following Duhigg’s advice, we can reprogram or hack our code (habits) by actively making choices. We do this by making plans and a great strategy for this is through implementation intentions.

          If-Then Strategy

          An “If-Then” strategy is no different than computer language. IF you write a code, THEN you will get an output.

          This is where the computer coding // human life metaphor makes the most sense to me. For example, let’s first imagine we are born as a blank smartphone.

            Now let’s visualize two different outputs for a sprite or image on our phone (representing us). This image represents two possibilities for our future life. We can become a healthy and fit person or we can become an overweight and depressed person.

              We must learn to code or write instructions in order to become the healthy and fit person. Essentially, we must learn to reprogram (or code) our life.

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              We can write instructions for our finished program (our life). I have identified specific instructions coded for my life in the image below. These instructions can also be imagined as habits.

              Let’s examine some of the larger blocks of code I have built (where the output has created a healthy and fit person): morning routine, exercise, nutrition, water, knowledge, education, family, spirituality, and employment.

                Essentially, IF we following a morning routine, we can THEN jump start a healthy morning workout.

                IF we exercise, hydrate and eat right, we can THEN look and feel better.

                IF we strive to improve our knowledge and experience a close relationship with our family, THEN we can live a happy and healthy life.

                  More Resources About Boosting Brain Power

                  Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

                  Reference

                  More by this author

                  Dr. Jamie Schwandt

                  Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

                  How Cognitive Learning Benefits Your Brain 5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory 10 Best Brain Power Supplements That Will Supercharge Your Mind How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills and Make Smart Choices How to Reprogram Your Brain Like a Computer And Hack Your Habits

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                  Last Updated on September 18, 2019

                  15 Best Organizing Tips For Office Organization and Getting More Done

                  15 Best Organizing Tips For Office Organization and Getting More Done

                  You may think that you don’t have time for office organization, but if you really knew how much time that disorganization cost you, you’d reconsider.

                  Rearranging and moving piles occasionally doesn’t count. Neither does clearing off your desk, if you swipe the mess into a bin, or a desk drawer.

                  A relatively neat and orderly office space clears the way for higher productivity and less wasted time.

                  Organizing your office doesn’t have to take days, it can be done a little at a time. In fact, maintaining an organized office is much more effective if you treat it like an on-going project, instead of a massive assault.

                  So, if you’re ready to get started, the following organizing tips will help you transform your office into an efficient workspace.

                  1. Purge Your Office

                  De-clutter, empty, shred, get rid of everything that you don’t need or want. Look around. What haven’t you used in a while?

                  Take one area at a time. If it doesn’t work, send it out for repair or toss it. If you haven’t used it in months and can’t think of when you’ll actually need it, out it goes. This goes for furniture, equipment, supplies, etc.

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                  Don’t forget about knick-knacks, plants (real or artificial), and decorations – if they’re covered with dust and make your office look shabby, they’re fair game.

                  2. Gather and Redistribute

                  Gather up every item that isn’t where it belongs and put it where it does.

                  3. Establish Work “Zones”

                  Decide what type of activity happens in each area of your office. You’ll probably have a main workspace (most likely your desk,) a reference area (filing cabinet, shelves, binders,) and a supply area (closet, shelves or drawers.)

                  Place the appropriate equipment and supplies are located in the proper area as much as possible.

                  4. Close Proximity

                  Position the equipment and supplies that you use most within reach. Things that you rarely use can be stored or put away.

                  5. Get a Good Labeler

                  Choose a label maker that’s simple to use. Take the time to label shelves, bins, baskets drawers. Not only will it remind you where things go, but it will also help others who may have a need to find, use, or put away anything in your workspace.

                  6. Revise Your Filing System

                  As we move fully into the digital age, the need to store paper files has decreased.

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                  What can your store digitally? Are you duplicating files? You may be able to eliminate some of the files and folders you’ve used in the past. If you’re storing files on your computer, make sure you are doing regular back-ups.

                  Here’re some storage ideas for creating a smooth filing system:

                  • Create a meeting folder – Put all “items to be discussed” in there along with items that need to be handed off, reports that need to be given, etc. It’ll help you be prepared for meetings and save you stress in the even that a meeting is moved up.
                  • Create a WOR folder – So much of our messy papers are things that are on hold until someone else responds or acts. Corral them in a WOR (Waiting on Response) folder. Check it every few days for outstanding actions you may need to follow-up on.
                  • Storage boxes – Use inexpensive storage boxes to keep archived files and get them out of your current file space.
                  • Magazine boxes – Use magazine boxes or binders to store magazines and catalogs you really want to store. Please make sure you really need them for reference or research, otherwise recycle them, or give away.
                  • Reading folder – Designate a file for print articles and documents you want to read that aren’t urgent.
                  • Archive files – When a project is complete, put all of the materials together and file them away. Keep your “working folders” for projects in progress.
                  • File weekly – Don’t let your filing pile up. Put your papers in a “To File” folder and file everything once a week.

                  Learn more tips on organizing your files here: How to Organize Your Files for Better Productivity

                  7. Clear off Your Desk

                  Remove everything, clean it thoroughly and put back only those items that are essential for daily use.

                  If you have difficulty declutter stuff, this Declutter Formula will help you throw away stuff without regretting later.

                  8. Organize your Desktop

                  Now that you’ve streamlined your desktop, it’s a good idea to organize it.

                  Use desktop organizers or containers to organize the items on your desk. Use trays for papers, containers for smaller items.

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                  Don’t forget your computer desktop! Make sure the files or images are all in organized folders. I’d recommend you clear your computer desktop everyday before you leave work.

                  9. Organize Your Drawers

                  Put items used together in the same drawer space, stamps with envelopes, sticky pads with notepads, etc.

                  Use drawer organizers for little items – paper clips, tacks, etc. Use a separate drawer for personal items.

                  10. Separate Inboxes

                  If you work regularly with other people, create a folder, tray, or inbox for each.

                  11. Clear Your Piles

                  Hopefully with your new organized office, you won’t create piles of paper anymore, but you still have to sort through the old ones.

                  Go through the pile (a little at a time if necessary) and put it in the appropriate place or dump it.

                  12. Sort Mails

                  Don’t just stick mail in a pile to be sorted or rifle through and take out the pieces you need right now. Sort it as soon as you get it – To act, To read, To file, To delegate or hand off. .

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                  13. Assign Discard Dates

                  You don’t need to keep every piece of paper indefinitely. Mark on files or documents when they can be tossed or shredded.

                  Some legal or financial documents must be kept for specified length of time. Make sure you know what those requirements are.

                  14. Filter Your Emails

                  Some emails are important to read, others are just not that important.

                  When you use the filter system to label different types of emails, you know their priority and which to reply first.

                  Take a look at these tips to achieve inbox zero: The Ultimate Way to get to Inbox Zero

                  15. Straighten Your Desk

                  At the end of the day, do a quick straighten, so you have a clean start the next day.

                  Bottom Line

                  Use one tip or try them all. The amount of effort you put into creating and maintaining an efficient work area will pay off in a big way.

                  Instead of spending time looking for things and shuffling piles, you’ll be able to spend your time…well…working and you’ll enjoy being clutter free!

                  More Organizing Hacks

                  Featured photo credit: Alesia Kazantceva via unsplash.com

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