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4 Tips for Breaking Bad Habits

4 Tips for Breaking Bad Habits

Do you find yourself unconsciously biting your nails, fidgeting, procrastinating, or reaching for a cigarette? Have you ever tried to quit, only to relapse within a few days? You’re not alone. Many people unknowingly acquire bad habits that continue for months, or even years, and never do anything to change their life. But no matter how long you’ve harbored your habit, you can always break free. Here’s a short list of the most effective ways to break any bad habit.

1. Awareness

The first step to breaking a habit is to become aware of its existence. Surprisingly, many people never reach this step; some habits form as early as childhood, often picked up from mimicking parents or guardians, and seem completely normal. These habits are the hardest to break, and you may require a little help from your friends and loved ones. Ask them if they’ve ever noticed any bad habits of yours (they’ll want to know of theirs, too). Once you’ve become aware of the habit, visualize yourself in a tempting situation and mentally practice good behavior over the bad habit. If you can dream it, you can do it.

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2. Cold Turkey

If you’re well aware of your habit and it still gets the better of you, you may need to rearrange your life a little bit. Try tracking your habit: keep a list of when, where, and why your habit appears so you can more effectively remove the behavior from your life. This may mean taking different routes to work or school, or avoiding certain people who tend to bring out your bad side for a while, until you feel confident that the habit is kicked. If your habit involves substances such as alcohol, cigarettes, or marijuana, this means immediately and completely abstaining from it, and even suffering through withdrawal. But this is good; it’s the first step in becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be.

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3. The Tier Method

Self-control is like a muscle that needs to be strengthened through practice. If you find that you can’t give up a habit in one fell swoop — which can actually increase cravings and put you at risk for relapse — you may need to wean yourself off of a certain behavior. The most popular way of doing this is by systematically cutting back your intake by half at regular intervals. For example, if you’re used to drinking 30 beers a week, force yourself to only drink 15 for a given period of time. Eventually, when you feel you’re ready, lower it to 7-8, then 3-4, etc. until you’re no longer compelled to overindulge and you can exert control over your habit. By putting your habit (or addiction) in hindsight, you’ll begin to see the beauty of the present moment (most addicts are blind) and enjoy a new-found freedom of choice.

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4. Replacement

Now that you’ve become aware of your habit and are taking steps to remove it from your everyday life, you must ensure that the habit won’t ever return. Withdrawal from any activity causes the reward centers in our brain to crave stimulation, even if it’s negative or harmful, so you must counteract this with positive replacements such as hobbies, physical activities, or creativity. How do you fulfill yourself? People overcome with bad habits don’t believe in themselves enough to change; every day you must consciously choose to be the person you want to be. A morning stretch is a much better habit than that first cigarette of the day, don’t you think?

However helpful these tips are, the most important part of breaking a bad habit for good is really wanting to quit on a deep personal level in order to move on with your life. Most people have to hit a “rock bottom,” when their lives have become so desperate that they have no choice but to face their problems or suffer dire consequences. But you don’t have to. Just think about how much better your life will be without your bad habit, and start making a change today.

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Last Updated on September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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