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Make Significant Changes in 15 Easy Steps

Make Significant Changes in 15 Easy Steps
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Whether or not humans can change is a question as old as time itself. While the innermost character can be hard to actively change, there are some things that can change easily such as your routine and habits. These tasks make up 40% of how you spend your time. Things that some people consider part of a person’s character, like “being lazy,” or unsociable, or awkward, are often caused by a tangible difference in behavior. However, changing these aspects of yourself requires considerable work. Here’s 15 ways to help you make the change easier:

Break Your Goals Down Into Small Actionable Steps

Get ultra specific. Down to the point where you have a set of repeatable actions that you can do every day/week. This way, you ensure that you are always making progress. Don’t set something vague, like eating less. Instead, decide what you should do. Pick a few healthy meals that you will eat and the forms of exercise you will do each week. Make it a plan, not simply a goal.

If your goal is unconventional, like becoming a sculptor, make it a point to reach out to successful sculptors every week so that you can get the guidance you need. Focus not only on steps that improve your skills, but also ones that increase your network and chances of success later on down the road.

Tap Into The Power Of Routine, Make It A Habit

Contrary to popular belief, creating a habit isn’t about repeating something for 21 days and then you’re all set. It is true that the longer you do something, the closer to second nature it becomes. However, understand that you will experience times when it is extremely hard to keep going. These are the times when it is essential that you do just that.

Write Checklists By Hand

Write checklists to keep yourself in check, no pun intended. When you’re working towards a long-term goal, it’s easy to get sidetracked and forget the daily actions that keep you moving forward. Plus, the added physical effort of writing them down by hand seems to make all the difference.

If your goal is to become a self sufficient artist, don’t forget to put time into making connections. Add anything to your list, such as practice daily, reach out to successful artists, or contact local galleries. Perhaps, include a mandatory daily relaxation time. The checklists will be a reminder, when you feel like making excuses, that the long road is the only way to true success.

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Track And Share Your Progress

Track your progress to motivate yourself and spot patterns. This allows you to find out what works best for you and your goals.

A study showed that people who wrote weekly progress reports and sent them to a supportive friend were more likely to successfully change than people who didn’t do this. Who is your most supportive friend? Tell them what you’re trying to achieve, and how it’s coming along.

Focus On The Most Effective

Sounds simple? To the contrary, figuring this out can be a job in and of itself. Have you ever heard of the Pareto principle, or the 80/20 rule? Basically, the idea is that we spend 80% of our time doing things that contribute only 20% towards our goals, and only 20% of the time doing the vital stuff that contributes 80%.

If you can isolate what helps you the most, you progress more in less time.

Further reading: How to apply the 80/20 rule to earn more, work less, and dominate

Don’t Try To Reinvent The Wheel

Sometimes it can be tempting to venture out into new area. Don’t go overboard. If you’re trying to lose weight or bulk up, don’t try to invent a new diet revolving around your favorite food, chocolate chip fried chicken. Stick to tried and tested principles.

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If you find yourself overwhelmed, pinpoint what may be causing it. Think about the simplest alternatives. What can you do easier? Be careful and thoughtful, sometimes shortcuts turn out to be counterproductive and inefficient.

Leverage Your Strengths

If you’re great at lifting weights, and you actually enjoy it, but you suck at cardio, and hate it, focus on where you excel. Instead of forcing your way through traditional cardio, adapt your weight-lifting routine and add medium full-body exercises that suit you better. This doesn’t only apply to weight loss.

A designer, who may not be talented in marketing, can create a uniquely compelling business card and hire someone else to do the marketing.

Take Steps To Make It An Enjoyable Process

If you like listening to music and you’re still able to concentrate, integrate it into the pieces of the process that you don’t like. If you enjoy a particular sport, start getting personally involved in an amateur league, or just arrange games with your friends. If your goal is to learn to play an instrument, don’t stick to the songs in the book if they bore you to death, choose some of your very favorite songs. These small steps will help you enjoy the process, not just look forward to the goal.

Make Use Of Past And/Or Preexisting Habits

This one is pretty straight forward, but it’s also easy to miss. If you have a habit that would be useful for working towards your current goal, revisit it, ramp it up, and reap the benefits.

If you want to learn a new language, and you spend a lot time watching TV, incorporate it into your goal, by watching foreign language TV shows. If you like mountain climbing and long walks in the park to relax, take it one step further and add it to your workout.

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Remember The Little Things

Don’t overlook the little things. According to the Pareto principle, the little things can be a huge part of your progress.

They may seem insignificant, but given enough time, the little things can mean the difference between not losing any weight one year to losing 10 pounds the next.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

One thing a lot of us have in common is that we don’t ask for help enough. Maybe it’s pride, or maybe it’s fear of rejection, or even a combination of several factors. Regardless, the solution is simple: ask for help more often. Seek out the people who are most qualified to help you with your current problem.

Accept And Move Past Your Failures

If you fail at something, don’t beat yourself up over it. Think about why you may have failed and what you could have done better. Accept that a speed-bump is part of the journey, and get back to work.

One thing that helps is to focus entirely on what went wrong and exactly how. When you move yourself out of the equation and look at the failure objectively, it’s easier to improve and move on.

Don’t Push Yourself Too Far Too Quickly

You may witness this at your local gym. Somebody that hasn’t worked out for months, or ever, comes in and tries to show off. Inevitably, they either embarrass themselves at the gym, or pay the price later in the form of aching muscles and decreased mobility.

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Instead, start off slow. Think about how much you can handle, and then lowball yourself. You can always gradually increase the amount of work you do, but keep in mind that it’s counterproductive to go too far.

Don’t Expect Things To Stay The Same

When you change, your habits and interests also change. Other changes will follow. You may have less in common with your very best friends, and even find yourself hanging out with a new crowd. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

If your old friends are nurturing and worthwhile, don’t kill the friendships, but also don’t let them disrupt your improvement.

Prioritize Your Health And Happiness

There’s nothing productive about burning out after the first month of pursuing change. Instead, balance your rest, work, and play.

Be sure to sleep at least seven and a half hours every night. Leave yourself some “me time” to unwind and relax. Spend time with your friends and family. Eat healthy and exercise regularly. Write these things in your daily checklists so you don’t forget. If you want to pull through, you will need to be healthy, happy, and energetic. Remember that change will not be instant, and in most cases it will not be quick, either.

So prepare yourself for the long haul.

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More by this author

Ragnar Miljeteig

Ragnar is a passionate writer who blogs about personal development at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

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

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

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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