“Successful people are simply those with successful habits.” Brian Tracy
Bad habits are hard to break. They’re deeply ingrained into your subconscious because of behavior you learn and repeat over time. So how do you “unlearn” them and finally quit those bad habits once and for all?
Identify what triggers the bad habits.
Research tells us that one of the most effective ways to control bad habits is to be aware of your triggers for potential slip-ups and vigilantly monitor those triggers. Have a response ready to combat these triggers when they pop up, and make sure the response is framed in an assertive manner.
For example, “I do not drink soda” or “I will pass on dessert.”Advertising
They’re surprisingly effective.
Avoid situations where you know there will be triggers.
You’re probably well aware of the situations that are going to trigger your bad habits. Maybe you want to quit smoking and you know you smoke more when you go out drinking with your buddies. Or you eat fairly healthy at home but know you’ll splurge when you go out to eat.
As hard as it may sound, don’t put yourself in these types of situations where you know you’ll trigger a bad habit. You can still go out with your friends or go to dinner, but have a clear intention of what you’re not going to do and stick with it.
Replace bad habits with good ones.
Here’s an idea: every time you get the craving for a cigarette, eat a mini-carrot instead. Or every time you see the creme brulee on the menu, ask for a cup of fruit. Of course it’s infinitely more difficult than it sounds. Habits take time, persistence, and patience. You need to make a commitment and find ways to stick with it (more on that to come).
Start small, and repeat your good behaviors as much as possible and they’ll eventually turn into habits.Advertising
Anticipate failure and plan for success.
Failure is inevitable, especially when you’re trying to quit your bad habits. When you slip, accept it and move on. But learn from your mistakes. View every failure as an opportunity for growth.
Let’s say you’re spending time with your family over the holidays and you know you won’t be able to resist your mom’s amazing apple pie. Set your plan in motion in advance. Offer to cook a healthy side dish. Commit to splitting a piece of pie with someone else.
A little foresight goes a long way.
Make tiny changes.
Stanford behavioral psychological BJ Fogg recommends a “tiny habits” approach to turning bad habits into good ones. His premise is simple:
1. Start small. For example, if you want to exercise more, do two pushups a day.Advertising
2. Link the new behavior to an existing spot in your routine. For example, do two pushups every day as soon as you wake up.
3. Repeat the behavior every day until it becomes a habit. You’ll find yourself naturally progressing and doing more pushups each week.
Make a commitment.
Commitment is a proven psychological principle that can help you quit your bad habit. In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Dr. Robert Cialdini says that people who make a firm commitment to do something are more likely to stick with that goal.
Tell your friends.
This is a common strategy that weight loss clinics employ. They require their clients to write down their weight loss goals and show it to friends, family, and colleagues. Why?
Because it works.
Telling about people about your commitment to quit your bad habits puts pressure on you to stick with the commitment. It helps hold you accountable during times you want to give up.Advertising
Keep a journal.
Research proves that there’s a significant association between self-monitoring and positive health outcomes. In other words, keeping a journal to track your progress can help you increase your odds of turning a bad habit into a good one.
Ask for help when you need it.
As much as you might try to go about it alone, you’re going to have a much easier time ditching a bad habit if you have the support of the people you love. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When you slip, it’s okay to call a friend and talk about it. If you know friends who have quit the same bad habit you’re looking to get rid of, ask them how they did it, and seek their advice when you get stressed.
Focus on your plan more than the end goal.
Too many of us are outcome-focused. We want immediate results and get blinded by the end goal.
Instead, focus on the journey. Form a plan to quit bad habits and place your time and attention on your plan and “system”. If your mindset is too focused on achieving your goal by a certain date, you can set yourself up for failure when you don’t accomplish your goal by that deadline.
Build your plan, then focus on small action steps each week to get you closer to where you want to be. This is the most important thing to remember to quit your bad habits and/or achieve your dreams. Stop thinking, start doing.
Last Updated on September 11, 2019
Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)
How often do you feel overwhelmed and disorganized in life, whether at work or home? We all seem to struggle with time management in some area of our life; one of the most common phrases besides “I love you” is “I don’t have time”. Everyone suggests working from a to-do list to start getting your life more organized, but why do these lists also have a negative connotation to them?
Let’s say you have a strong desire to turn this situation around with all your good intentions—you may then take out a piece of paper and pen to start tackling this intangible mess with a to-do list. What usually happens, is that you either get so overwhelmed seeing everything on your list, which leaves you feeling worse than you did before, or you make the list but are completely stuck on how to execute it effectively.
To-do lists can work for you, but if you are not using them effectively, they can actually leave you feeling more disillusioned and stressed than you did before. Think of a filing system: the concept is good, but if you merely file papers away with no structure or system, the filing system will have an adverse effect. It’s the same with to-do lists—you can put one together, but if you don’t do it right, it is a fruitless exercise.
Why Some People Find That General To-Do Lists Don’t Work?
Most people find that general to-do lists don’t work because:
- They get so overwhelmed just by looking at all the things they need to do.
- They don’t know how to prioritize the items on list.
- They feel that they are continuously adding to their list but not reducing it.
- There’s a sense of confusion seeing home tasks mixed with work tasks.
Benefits of Using a To-Do List
However, there are many advantages working from a to-do list:
- You have clarity on what you need to get done.
- You will feel less stressed because all your ‘to do’s are on paper and out of your mind.
- It helps you to prioritize your actions.
- You don’t overlook so many tasks and forget anything.
- You feel more organized.
- It helps you with planning.
4 Golden Rules to Make a To-Do List Work
Here are my golden rules for making a “to-do” list work:
Studies have shown that your brain gets overwhelmed when it sees a list of 7 or 8 options; it wants to shut down. For this reason, you need to work from different lists. Separate them into different categories and don’t have more than 7 or 8 tasks on each one.
It might work well for you to have a “project” list, a “follow-up” list, and a “don’t forget” list; you will know what will work best for you, as these titles will be different for everybody.
2. Add Estimations
You don’t merely need to know what has to be done, but how long it will take as well in order to plan effectively.
Imagine on your list you have one task that will take 30 minutes, another that could take 1 hour, and another that could take 4 hours. You need to know the moment you look at the task, otherwise you undermine your planning, so add an extra column to your list and include your estimation of how long you think the task will take, and be realistic!
Tip: If you find it a challenge to estimate accurately, then start by building this skill on a daily basis. Estimate how long it will take to get ready, cook dinner, go for a walk, etc., and then compare this to the actual time it took you. You will start to get more accurate in your estimations.
To effectively select what you should work on, you need to take into consideration: priority, sequence and estimated time. Add another column to your list for priority. Divide your tasks into four categories:
- Important and urgent
- Not urgent but important
- Not important but urgent
- Not important or urgent
You want to work on tasks that are urgent and important of course, but also, select some tasks that are important and not urgent. Why? Because these tasks are normally related to long-term goals, and when you only work on tasks that are urgent and important, you’ll feel like your day is spent putting out fires. You’ll end up neglecting other important areas which most often end up having negative consequences.
Most of your time should be spent on the first two categories.
To make this list work effectively for you, it needs to become a daily tool that you use to manage your time and you review it regularly. There is no point in only having the list to record everything that you need to do, but you don’t utilize it as part of your bigger time management plan.
For example: At the end of every week, review the list and use it to plan the week ahead. Select what you want to work on taking into consideration priority, time and sequence and then schedule these items into your calendar. Golden rule in planning: don’t schedule more than 75% of your time.
So grab a pen and paper and give yourself the gift of a calm and clear mind by unloading everything in there and onto a list as now, you have all the tools you need for it to work. Knowledge is useless unless it is applied—how badly do you want more time?
To your success!
More to Help You Achieve More in Less Time
- 7 Effective Time Management Tips To Maximize Your Productivity
- 50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time
- How to Be Productive at Work: 9 Ground Rules
Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews via unsplash.com