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Last Updated on April 6, 2020

How to Stop Bad Habits: 9 Scientifically Proven Methods

How to Stop Bad Habits: 9 Scientifically Proven Methods

Have you ever imagined why some individuals maximize every aspect of their lives?

When they establish goals, they always attain it. It could be a goal to break an addiction, work out more, or to achieve financial freedom.

Do you find it challenging to replicate their successes? Perhaps, you even make some attempts for a while, but then you give up before you could reach the target.

If you experience that consistently, you can quickly become frustrated, but you don’t have to give up.

But how long does it take to break a bad habit? Some researchers recommended a 21-day plan to permanently get rid of bad habits. Others suggest a month plan or even 3 months. The most crucial factor is to follow through whichever timeframe you choose.

In this article, I will share with you 9 proven strategies on how to stop bad habits permanently.

1. Make the Negative Habits Obvious

If you desire better habits, the best approach is to make those habits visible. This strategy also applies if you are devising strategies on how to stop bad habits.

Cues are very crucial in habit formation. James Clear, in his book Atomic Habits, recommended the use of Habit Scorecard. This is an easy exercise that helps you become conscious of your behaviors daily.

The first step is to pen down a chronological list of your daily habits. Then, you rate each habit as an “effective,” “ineffective,” or a “neutral habit.” The importance of this strategy is that it assists you in discerning the relevance of each habit in your personal growth.[1].

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Now that you have a list of habits, the next thing is to take the negative habits out, which leads to the next point.

2. Start from Simple to Complex

Everybody wants to generate a significant change as fast as they can. They want to work out for 1 hour every morning, reflect for 20 minutes when they have been managing to meditate consistently for 5 minutes, switch to eating a healthy diet.

The challenge is it will always require strong willpower to achieve any bigger goal. Willpower is like your muscles. It becomes tired, the more you exert it. And when it retires, you will give up on achieving your goal.

The best approach is to take out the single target, then make progress towards a higher target. You can start by dealing with the bad habits from the less serious to the more severe.

3. Create a New Environment for Good Habits To Grow

Several studies show that our environment influences our habits. The basis is that you depend more on what you see (visual cues) than other senses of perception. This is no doubt why visual cues define our behavior.

To stop bad habits, you need to focus on positive cues that reinforce good habits. Another approach is to build new habits and stop exposing yourself to cues that will strengthen negative patterns. You will find it easier to avoid temptation than to resist it.

For instance, if you want to read more books than you watch the TV, keep the remote control in another room, and position books at every corner of your house and your office.

4. Identify the Consequences of Bad Habits

Bad habits have grave consequences. According to WebMD, bad habits affect nearly every organ of your body. They can lead to cancer, stroke, emphysema, diabetes, heart disease, bronchitis, and other health problems. Bad habits can increase the chances of eye problems, tuberculosis, and several immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. It becomes easy to stop those bad habits when you are aware of their consequences.[2]

Here’re more consequences of bad habits: 13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away

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5. Make Bad Habits Difficult and Painful

Do you want to eliminate those nasty habits? Then, attach an instant cost to each action or make those unhealthy behaviors difficult.

James Clear again recommended ‘a habit contract’. This is a written agreement where you stipulate commitment to a specific habit and the punishment for not meeting up. You will also identify two individuals who will serve as accountability mentors to append on the written agreement. In this same way, make good habits simple and attach rewards for practicing them.

6. Change Your Mindset

Whenever you are devising a strategy on how to stop bad habits, use a ‘scientist and subject’ mindset. You will need to consider each action as a behavioral experiment where every challenge offers useful data for the subsequent step.

Direct your energy on how to stop those bad habits daily instead of focusing on the long-term. If you follow the process, the outcomes will show up as outcomes of your daily efforts.

7. Associate with Supporters

The individuals you associate with have a significant influence on your habits. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, if your friend becomes obese, you stand the risk of obesity by 57% even if that friend lives some miles away. [3]

Other studies also added that we tend to adopt the same lifestyle, goals, and aspirations of the company we keep. If you want to stop smoking, you need to dissociate yourself from friends who smoke.

8. Practice Positive Speaking

Peradventure you have made these statement in the past:

‘This situation is seemingly hopeless.’

‘I don’t think I can go through this.’

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‘I will never be able to break through this situation.’

‘I will give it a shot, but…’

‘It’s just disgusting.’

If you have made any of these statements, then you have been reinforcing bad habits. Psychological studies have found that the subconscious provides meaning to what it hears. Your thought pattern and your body will align with your words. Thus, if you desire more success, peak performance, and more connections, begin to speak positive words every time you open your mouth.

The power to stop bad habits is in your words. The ability to make a good impression and create opportunities is in the words you speak.

9. Meditate to Knock Out That Bad Habit

Your life derives definitions from what you repeatedly do, not what you do once in a while. Thus, developing a knock-out strategy on how to stop bad habits is a must and not an option for total transformation.

A lot of individuals have at least one or two bad habits they wish to discard. Some people are heavy smokers, and they want to quit. Some others aspire to minimize their consumption of sugar and alcohol. Some people are also battling with less dangerous habits such as nail-biting, nose picking, and they find it difficult to let go.

Several practices exist on how to stop those bad habits. Meditation is of them.

People who practice mindfulness and meditation achieves two things:

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First, they become more self-aware. As you start to meditate, you progressively penetrate each layer of your being and move beyond the delusions and lies that you often believe about yourself.

Second, they focus on reality and what they desire. Meditation assists in identifying what will satisfy you beyond what those bad habits can. You will learn how to stop bad habits by visualizing reality while discarding the bad behavior.

In a recent study, researchers Marlatt, Rose, Pagano, and Marques studied the impact of meditation and other organized relaxation exercises among heavy social drinkers.[4] They discovered that the respondents who have histories of substantial social drinking but began to engage in meditation experienced a significant decrease in the consumption of alcohol. This means meditation can help on how to stop bad habits and illicit personal improvement in your behaviors.

Final Thoughts

Bad habits will prevent you from reaching your full potentials. Establish a commitment timeline to avoid procrastination and excuses. It could be a 21-day or one-month timeframe.

It takes a higher force to dispel an effect. It takes words to overcome thoughts. Habits are the outcome of a cycle. It starts from a feeling(positive or negative), it culminates into a thought(positive or negative), then leads to action. An action is a thought that implement. Repeated action forms a habit.

If you don’t like the outcome, block the source, which is the feeling by speaking the right words.

Your words empower you to take control of how you feel. If you need to wake up early, for instance, you need to tell your body to rise and shine. If you don’t, your feeling will entice you to sleep more.

Learn more about breaking bad habits and sticking to good ones:

Featured photo credit: Jason Briscoe via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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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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