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Turning Television Into A Positive Activity

Turning Television Into A Positive Activity
Television

I used to hate TV. Not because of the shows that were on (although many of them were terrible), but because it killed my productivity.

It was a love/hate relationship. When I was stressed out and my brain had been overwhelmed all day, I’d use television to escape for a few hours and recharge. It sure made me feel better, but then I would feel guilty sitting there on the couch, thinking of all the things I could have gotten done!

Going to the gym was also a stressful activity. I knew it was good for me, but there never seemed to be enough time, and I subconsciously avoided the hard work that went along with it.

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So one day I made a rule for myself: I would only watch TV while at the gym!

It was combining the best of both worlds. I no longer felt guilty about watching TV because I was getting great exercise, and I had an incentive to get myself to the gym if I didn’t want to miss a show!

The benefit was immediate and profound. Pretty soon, I was spending an hour a day, four days per week, at the gym (after all I liked watching TV). And while it wasn’t easy to really pay attention while lifting weights, getting an hour of cardio done was easier when I could reward myself.

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Of course, sometimes I’d cheat (movies in particular I deemed “exempt” from the rule), but overall it worked quite well.

You can also apply this concept to other areas of your life. I call it “getting leverage on yourself” (I don’t think i came up with this, but can’t remember where I heard it first).

The basic idea is to create a simple rule for yourself that AUTOMATICALLY causes you to accomplish your goal. After all, you probably know yourself pretty well after all these years. You know what will cause you to take action, and what will probably never get done. Try to structure incentives and punishments for yourself that will give you this “leverage” on yourself.

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Here are some other examples of getting leverage on yourself:

  • If you have a tendency to waste time on instant messenger, and you KNOW you can’t ignore it, then make a rule you will turn it off during the day, and only turn it on once your top three items are done.
  • Let’s say you’ve set a goal to call at least 100 new prospective clients. Give $100 to your best friend, and tell them to give you back $20 for every 20 calls you make in the next month. (By the way, this works for any goal that requires you to do something over and over again. It could be to write 100 pages, approach 100 people, or to do 100 push ups.) Your friends will happily agree, sensing the opportunity to earn some cash, and I guarantee you will think about making those calls every day!
  • Get an accountability partner who will make you feel guilty when you don’t hold up your end of the bargain.

Getting leverage on yourself is a lot like what your parents did when you were younger: “if you don’t eat your green beans, you can’t have any desert!” But now you are being your own parent, and creating the rules for yourself.

If you’d like to spend less time watching TV and more time at the gym, try getting leverage on yourself by making that a rule: I can only watch TV when I’m at the gym.

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Give it a try and you might just be surprised with the results!

Brian Armstrong is an authority on time management and how to quit your job to work for yourself! You can download three FREE chapters of his book and sign up for his free online course, “Successful Entrepreneurship”, by clicking here now: How to Start Your Own Business

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Last Updated on January 13, 2020

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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