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6 Lessons on Making Smooth Transitions in Life

6 Lessons on Making Smooth Transitions in Life
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Smooth Transitions

Last week I started working on my new job as a lecturer. The job is pretty flexible, but it takes quite a lot of time for preparation, especially because I’m relatively new to some subjects. Since I’m still adapting to the pace, my life was pretty disorganized. I couldn’t do my morning ritual as it should, and I didn’t even have enough time to write for my blog. It’s now getting better, though I haven’t coped with it completely.

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In the process, there are some things I learn about how to make such transitions smoother:

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  1. Reject new commitments
    Since I’m still organizing things, I decided not to accept any new commitments. Sometimes it’s not easy to say no to new commitments, but I’ve learned to say no without feeling guilty. In the past, I tended to say yes to new opportunities without thinking about the effect they may have on me. And more often than not, I ended up unable to handle them and failed to produce optimal results. I’m now more cautious and think in longer terms before saying yes to a commitment.
  2. Know what you want
    Sometimes it’s difficult to decide which commitments to take when there are several options. But, if you know exactly what you want, making such decisions is easy. By knowing what you want, you can easily see which commitments are helpful to achieve your goals and which are not. You can then quickly make decisions when you need to.
  3. Maintain focus
    To achieve your vision, you need focus. I learned this the hard way. For years, I set goals and saw that none of them were achieved. It was terrible. So I changed my approach and focused on only one or two goals a year (now I set only one goal). Since then, I started to see significant progress in achieving my goals. My attention and energy are used on only a few things, so the chance of achieving them is much higher.

    I apply this lesson to my current situation. While previously I could easily get distracted by various things, now I anticipate the distractions and avoid them in the first place.

  4. Maintain balance
    While we should focus on what we want, we should not be so obsessed by it that we sacrifice other parts of our life. Keep your life balanced. In my life, I always try to balance the four facets of prosperity: financial, spiritual, social, and physical.
  5. Anticipate unexpected events
    This is what I didn’t do well. I didn’t expect that class preparation would take so much time, and I ended up being disorganized for some time. I should have anticipated such potential busyness beforehand.

    For instance, I didn’t have ready-to-publish posts at that time, and since I didn’t have time to write, I missed a posting schedule on my blog. What I should do is to always have some ready-to-publish posts which can be used in such situations.

  6. Identify the weak points
    To stabilize the situation as quickly as possible, I identified the weak points I should give special attention to. For instance, I noticed that there are some days in which I’m busier than the rest. By realizing this, I could better anticipate them in the future. Another possibility is there are certain things that take too much time to do. By identifying them, I can work to make them more efficient.

Of course, these are just what I’ve learned from my experience. I’m sure there are still many other tips that I haven’t covered here, so feel free to share them in the comments.

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Donald Latumahina

Donald Latumahina is the founder of Life Optimizer, a self-improvement blog to help people reach their full potential.

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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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