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Published on November 26, 2018

10 Steps for How to Change Habits When You Feel Stuck in a Rut

10 Steps for How to Change Habits When You Feel Stuck in a Rut

We’ve all been there.

We wake up one morning and realize that we’ve repeated the same day, over and over. Wake up, go to work, eat dinner, go to bed. Maybe we sprinkled some family time in there. An occasional trip to the gym. But we long for so much more. More time. Time for self-care. Time to work on that dream project that we’ve thought about for so long. But we feel stuck. We are on a hamster wheel and we don’t know how to get off.

What we don’t realize is that repeating the same day, day in and day out, is simply a habit.

According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, habits are a three step loop. First, you are given a cue (for example, a time of day like 3pm), you perform a routine (walk to the vending machine), and you receive a reward (candy bar).

Understanding how habits work is a key to understanding how to change habits. Once you change your habits, you can take control of your life and your time. And finally reach those goals that you’ve dreamed about for so long.

Here are 10 tips for how to change habits when you feel stuck.

1. Start with awareness

You march through your day without a thought, because it has become a habit. But take some time over the next few days to write down everything you do during the day, and when. Include the time you spend on your phone (many phones now have a Time Tracker on them). You might be surprised at what you see.

Are you spending more time on activities than you realized? Are you mindlessly performing tasks that you don’t need to perform? Once you see a few days in black and white, you can better understand what you are doing. And how each habit does or does not align with the larger goals of your life.

2. Stop saying YES to everything

Another parent at your child’s school asks you to make brownies for the bake sale, and you say yes. Even though it means that you will have to stay up late, and be too tired to go to the gym the next morning. Or the marketing team asks you to sit in on the 2pm call even though you’re not on that project, and you say yes; even though it means you won’t finish a big report today. And will have to use some family time over the weekend to get it done.

Saying yes is a habit. The cue is someone makes a request. So, of course you say yes. And the reward is that you get to avoid a feeling of guilt. Or you get to enjoy feeling needed. But the habit is not serving you. Because you are pinging around like you’re in a pinball machine. And you’re not getting to all the things that are important to you.

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The next time someone asks you to do something. Take a minute. Break the habit loop. And actually think about the request. Before you respond.

3. Figure out what is important to you – and what isn’t

Let’s say you find yourself spending a lot of extra time volunteering at your kid’s school. Time that is spent away from your children and your job, and doesn’t improve your health.

But when you sit down and think about what is important to you. You realize that you need to prioritize work, family life, and a health goal. So how does that volunteer time fit in? Is it important to you, or not? You realize that much of what you do is not related to your own personal priorities.

We are all busy. But we need to learn how to change habits that involve doing things that don’t align with our larger goals. So it is important to take the time to figure out what your larger goals are:  family, work, health. Or, work, health, and writing that book you’ve dreamed about.

Be mindful of what is important to you. So that you can prioritize your days accordingly.

If you aren’t sure how to prioritize your life, this guide can help you:

The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life

4. If you don’t have a productivity system, create one

A productivity system doesn’t have to be complicated. It does have to be something that works for you. Basically, a productivity system is a way to make sure that:

  • You are doing tasks that align with your goals
  • You know what those tasks are
  • You know when you are going to do them

Everyone has a different system. Some love to use beautiful paper planners, others prefer an app on their phone. It doesn’t matter how you want to do it. But you need to take control of your own schedule.

Make a new habit of planning out your day or your week on a regular basis. Figure out a cue for it. Every day at 5pm I will take 15 minutes to plan out the next day. The cue will be the time of day. The routine is to plan. The reward is to create a day full of intention.

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5. Start slow – 1% change a day can add up to powerful results

When something is a habit, it is well ingrained into our routine. We perform a habit almost mindlessly. So, when we think about how to change habits, we need to start slow.

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, talks about the 1% rule. He says:

Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. They don’t seem like much on any given day. But over months and years their effects can accumulate to an incredible degree.

Basically, you only need to figure out how to change habits by 1% per day to see a significant benefit over the course of a year.

So start with one, small habit. When it’s 3pm and you find yourself walking to the vending machine, make your way over to the water fountain instead. Or, go outside and walk around the block. Pick one thing and make a change. And then go from there.

6. Stop listening to all your negative thoughts

“I don’t know how to do this.” “I don’t have enough time.” “I’ll fail and then people will judge me.” Do any of those thoughts sound familiar?

For many people, those thoughts play on a constant loop. Telling you what you can’t do. It’s too hard. Don’t even try.

Change is scary. The idea of doing something new, or something that people could judge, can make your heart pound and make your mouth dry. To your body, it feels exactly the same as if you are a caveman being chased by a tiger. So your brain wants to respond the same way. It wants to run away and hide.

But guess what? Those thoughts are a habit, too. The trigger is that you want to try something new. The routine is to tell yourself you can’t do it. And the reward is to stay in the same routine. One that is safe. Where you might not make any progress toward your goals. But you won’t be eaten by a tiger, either.

So the next time you hear that voice in your head telling you that you can’t do it. To run away from the fear. Remind yourself, it’s a new habit, not a tiger.

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7. Make a plan for when things do go wrong

The psychologist Peter Gollwitzer came up with the powerful concept of “if-then planning.”[1] The basic idea is this: make a plan that says, if X happens, I am going to do Y.

Gollwitzer showed that this behavior has can have a huge impact on the success of changing habits.

Let’s say you usually sleep until the last minute before you have to get up for work. But you are looking to start a habit of running in the mornings. And your plan is to run 2 miles tomorrow morning. But when you wake up, it’s raining or snowing. Enough that you don’t want to be outside. What do you do?

Without an if-then plan, you will probably roll over and go back to sleep. But if you made a plan the night before. If the weather is bad, I will go to the gym down the street. And run on the treadmill. The reward will be that I get to watch 30 minutes of a”guilty pleasure” TV. Then, when you look out the window and see the rain, you know exactly what to do. And you won’t fall back into your old routine.

8. Focus on your effort

Here’s a secret about everyone you know. Everyone has failed. Everyone from Steve Jobs to the co-worker in the cubicle next to you.

But what makes the difference is how you manage that failure. Do you take failure as a reason to give up? Or do you reframe it as a learning experience? Accepting failure is a way to stay in that rut. To keep doing what is safe. Even though it doesn’t make you happy. Accepting failure is a habit.

But if you can focus on your effort. Your attempts to change. Then you can continually learn from any missteps. And keep moving forward.

Carol Dweck found, in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, that the most successful people in the world focus on their effort, not on the outcome. That they frame failures as learning experiences. And, as she says in the book:

John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach, says you aren’t a failure until you start to blame. What he means is that you can still be in the process of learning from your mistakes until you deny them.

9. Celebrate small wins

One of the most powerful ways to reinforce how to change habits and make new ones is to give yourself a reward. As Charles Duhigg wrote in The Power of Habit:

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Studies of people who have successfully created new exercise routines, for instance, show they are more likely to stick with a workout plan if they choose…a clear reward, such as a beer or an evening of guilt free television.

So don’t downplay any positive changes that you make. Reward yourself and celebrate:

How To Celebrate Small Wins To Achieve Big Goals

10. Keep trying

Let go of the idea that you need to be perfect at this, or that you need to do it all at once. Learning how to change habits takes a long time and will need to be refined continually.

But when you are feeling down or frustrated, remember this is not about getting on or off a wagon. If you slip up, that doesn’t mean you need to give up and fall back into your old habits.

There is no wagon. There are just good days and bad days. If you keep your bigger goals in mind and remember how you long to find more time, work on that side project, or focus on your health, you can do it.

Keep going and find what works for you!

More Articles to Help You Build Habits That Stick

Featured photo credit: The Journal Garden | Vera Bitterer via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Deb Knobelman, PhD

Neuroscientist and C-Suite business executive who writes about the intersection of mindset, productivity, entrepreneurship and how to reach goals.

How to Set Goals and Achieve Them Successfully The Most Effective Way to Measure Your Team’s Productivity How to Start a Small Business That Thrives (From the Ground Up) 10 Steps for How to Change Habits When You Feel Stuck in a Rut

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Last Updated on February 15, 2019

7 Clever Goal Tracker Apps to Make the Most of Your Business in 2019

7 Clever Goal Tracker Apps to Make the Most of Your Business in 2019

There’s nothing more fulfilling than the sense of accomplishment you get by achieving your business goals.

Gone are the days when you used pen and paper to take notes and manage your work day. As millennials are relying heavily on technology to manage almost everything from finances to their personal fitness, goal tracking apps are also becoming increasingly popular.[1]

In this piece, we will shed some light on 7 such goal tracking apps that you can use to streamline your operations.

I have handpicked these apps from a software rating web services site Best Online Reviews. Industry experts review software on these websites and help businesses to find the right solutions to meet their various, unique business requirements.

1. Aha!

    Aha! is a California-based roadmap software provider and offers excellent goal tracking app that lets you define goals and objectives for projects. The app also lets you list out primary tasks and allows you to focus on them.

    Hosted securely on the cloud, the app offers enhanced communication tools for sharing updates through emails with select colleagues or the entire organization.

    Aha! is available on multiple platforms such as the web, Android, iOS, Windows, etc. and starts from $59 per month per user.

    Available for Web

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    2. Asana

      Asana is one of the more popular project management apps available for businesses. It lets you organize all your team’s work, such as setting up and tracking goals, creating tasks, sharing files and notes, etc.

      Asana also allows your team to organize all their tasks and focus on urgent priorities. Moreover, the app offers a delightful user experience that makes task management simple and easy.

      Asana is available on multiple platforms from PCs and Mac to iOS and Android. Multi-channel adaptability makes Asana the perfect choice to track your goals anytime, from anywhere.

      Available for iOS | Android | Web

      3. Basecamp

        Basecamp is an excellent tool to manage all your team’s projects and keep your activities organized. It opens a new thread for every task and that task is visible by the whole team.

        With Basecamp, you can schedule tasks, add to-dos, discuss tasks by adding comments, add files and attachments, and much more.

        The app is available on both mobile and desktop platforms and costs $99 per month. It is available on the web, Android, and iOS platforms and offers excellent multi-channel access.

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        Available for iOS | Android | Web

        4. Forecast

          An efficient tool for successful task management, Forecast is also a popular goal tracking app. Apart from effective milestone tracking, the app also offers convenient status reporting.

          Forecast uses project history to let you know the status of your current work. Moreover, it uses the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to provide high-quality assistance. It is a robust app for small teams to track goals and time.

          Forecast is available for free and comes with Android and iOS app support. The premium version of the app starts from $19 per month per user.

          Available for Web

          5. Wrike

            Wrike is a cloud-based collaboration and project management app that successfully manages projects from start to finish. It lets you create tasks, track work progress and retrieve reports with ease.

            The app also gives real-time work updates and helps team members to understand their work priorities. A custom report builder helps you to generate in-depth reporting.

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            Wrike’s premium version is available from $9.80 per month per user and is available on multiple platforms.

            Available for iOS | Android | Web

            6. Todo.vu

              Todo.vu is a unique platform that delivers enhanced customer relationship management (CRM), task management, time tracking, and billing functionality in a single app.

              According to Capterra, it’s an ideal app for freelancers and consultants, who are looking for tools to improve efficiency and transparency.

              Although the app is free to use with basic features, the premium plan starts from $5 per month per user. The app also comes with calendar sync and task reminder functionality to keep you on track, always.

              Available for Web

              7. Flock

                Looking for a tool to simplify task management? Try out Flock.

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                Flock comes with enhanced goal tracking and additional features like instant messaging.

                Moreover, Flock offers tons of integrations with tools such as Google, MailChimp, Jira, Dropbox, etc. It is a powerful tool that’s packed with robust features such as reminders, notes, polls and to-dos.

                Even though you can use the tool for free, the paid version of Flock is available from $4.50 per month per user.

                Available for iOS | Android | Web

                Conclusion

                Businesses need high-quality project management tools to streamline collaboration and operations. Enhanced goal tracking apps make it easy for your team to improve productivity by keeping its tasks organized.

                But it’s essential that you choose an app that meets your unique business requirements. You can choose from the above-mentioned apps to streamline operations and improve the productivity of your team.

                Featured photo credit: Alvaro Reyes via unsplash.com

                Reference

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