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Breaking Bad Habits in 28 Days

Breaking Bad Habits in 28 Days

    I was watching “The Big C” on Showtime the other night, and one of the characters mentioned off-hand that it takes 28 days to break a bad habit. A quick Google search showed me that this wasn’t just a bit of silver screen writing, but a fairly well-accepted theory.

    Some people argue it’s more like 21 days, or 30; still others say that it takes 30 days to create a pattern and 90 days to create a habit. Obviously, some habits are easier to break than others. For example, if you are both a smoker and a nail biter, it’s probably more feasible to break the nail biting habit in a month, but less reasonable to think that quitting cigs can get done in 30 days or less.

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    But how realistic is it to try and break any habit in 30 days? And where did this idea of habit-busting in under a month come from in the first place?

    In the Beginning

    The 30 day habit-breaking plan has come under many guises over the years and has been backed by many different experts. But most people agree that the genesis of this theory dates back to a 1960 psychology book: Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. In addition to putting forward the 30-day habit breaking theory, the book also postulated that a person must have an accurate and positive view of his or her self before setting goals; otherwise he or she will get stuck in a continuing pattern of limiting beliefs.

    Getting In the Right Mindset

    Getting ready to break a bad habit is tough, and getting in the right mindset to break a habit in just a month is even tougher.

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    Steve Pavlina puts it best:

    “We often psyche ourselves out of getting started by mentally thinking about the change as something permanent — before we’ve even begun…But what if you thought about making the change only temporarily — say for 30 days — and then you’re free to go back to your old habits? That doesn’t seem so hard anymore. Exercise daily for just 30 days, then quit. Maintain a neatly organized desk for 30 days, then slack off. Read for an hour a day for 30 days, then go back to watching TV.”

    Its important to make sure that when you attempt to break a habit in 30 days, you’re picking a bad habit that you actually engage in on a daily basis. Seems obvious when you think about it, but if you try to break a habit that you don’t do on a daily basis, its a bit harder to gauge your success in a limited 30-day window.

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    Tips and Tricks

    Hiram of Balanced Health Blueprint has a clever trick for tracking your daily progress in your quest to break a bad habit. Take 3 coins (or tokens or buttons, but really, coins are best) and label them 1-30 with a washable magic marker. For every day that passes and you don’t indulge in your bad habit, drop a coin in a jar.

    If you make it to 30 days, buy yourself something small, but symbolic, with the coins to celebrate your triumph. But if you backslide, Hiram says, “Start over. Take your container and hold it up so you can see it clearly. Take a close look at all the coins inside representing your progress. Now dump out all the coins and start over.”

    Conclusion

    You should think of the habit-breaking process like a marathon. Every step you make towards your goal over a 30 day period gets you closer to the finish line.

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    What’s your bad habit? And do you think you could ever break that habit in 30 days? Tell us in the comments below!

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    Last Updated on December 2, 2018

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

    The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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    The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

    Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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    Review Your Past Flow

    Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

    Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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    Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

    Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

    Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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    Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

    Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

    We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

    Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

      Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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