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Last Updated on January 11, 2021

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

                  If You Don’t Know What Your Next Thought Is, You’re Not Alone Being Self Aware Is the Key to Success: How to Boost Self Awareness 10 Best Brain Power Supplements That Will Supercharge Your Mind How to Reprogram Your Brain Like a Computer And Hack Your Habits The Power of Deep Thinking: Essence of Creativity

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                  Last Updated on January 6, 2021

                  14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

                  14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

                  Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

                  In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

                  For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

                  For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

                  Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

                  Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

                  Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

                  How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

                  Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

                  1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

                  Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

                  For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

                  2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

                  Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

                  Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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                  Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

                  3. Create a System

                  Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

                  This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

                  You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

                  Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

                  Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

                  4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

                  We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

                  If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

                  Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

                  Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

                  5. Use a Ratings Scale

                  Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

                  Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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                  It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

                  6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

                  This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

                  You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

                  You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

                  7. Offer Feedback Forms

                  Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

                  First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

                  Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

                  You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

                  8. Track Cost Effectiveness

                  This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

                  Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

                  Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

                  9. Use Self-Evaluations

                  Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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                  Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

                  10. Monitor Time Management

                  This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

                  Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

                    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

                    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

                    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

                    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

                    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

                    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

                    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

                    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

                    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

                    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

                    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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                    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

                    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

                    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

                    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

                    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

                    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

                    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

                    14. Use an External Evaluator

                    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

                    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

                    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

                    Final Thoughts

                    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

                    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

                    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

                    More Productivity Tips

                    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

                    Reference

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