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Don’t Be a Minimalist: Regain Focus With Technology

Don’t Be a Minimalist: Regain Focus With Technology

    We all hear the “minimalist” zealots screaming at us from on high,

    “Sell your stuff, get rid of everything that isn’t important, use paper for everything, and be as minimal as possible.”

    All this so we can regain focus on an important project as well as the things we have to do.

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    Sounds like a great idea, that is, as long as you work for yourself and work to sell the idea of being minimal. Don’t get me wrong – I try to minimize certain things in my life, but there are times this idea can be taken too far. We all can’t get rid of everything and many of us have to focus on things that we don’t want to do.

    Instead of getting rid of all your stuff and “going minimal”, here is how you can use technology to stay focused and productive.

    1. Create a system that supports, not complicates or simplifies

    If you want to stay productive and focused in your complicated life you need a system. We have discussed many times at nauseam how to create and use a personal productivity system. Some say that we should “toss productivity out”. I couldn’t disagree more.

    As long as you are creating a system that is just complicated enough to support your complex life but isn’t overcomplicated, you are good. Use one of the many awesome productivity tools that you have at your disposal.

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    2. Choose your notifications wisely

    We here at Stepcase Lifehack prefer to keep notifications to a bare minimum, but don’t believe that they should be completely turned off (of course, that is other than email). What is more important is choosing your digital notifications wisely.

    If you are working on a project during the day, it may be the best time to mute your phone or just turn it off all together. Maybe you want to turn email notifications off for a set period of time. There are also some awesome apps like Tasker for Android that allow you to setup all kinds of smart notification options based on time, calendar entries, and even location.

    3. Setup times for “distractions”

    Distractions is in quotes for a reason. I consider a distraction anything other than important projects that I must get done. This can be Twittering, IMing, SMSing, chatting, etc.

    One of the best things that I have tried to implement during my day is that instead of blindly checking RSS feeds or tweeting something that would piss someone off anytime I want, I schedule that time instead. Schedule it in to your calendar and have time setup to “distract” yourself rather than focus on a project.

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    4. Guard your productive times

    This is the other side of the “distractions” coin. We have to make sure that we protect our productive times with our life and limb so we can keep our focus. If you work in an environment where others can see your calendar appointments, make sure to block out some time during your day as a “meeting” so you can get stuff done.

    5. Create and follow an “ignore list”

    I’m a list maker, mostly because I can make them in almost any app I choose. Something that I heard on a recent The Accidental Creative podcase was from Peter Bregman about creating an “ignore list”. The idea is simple. Just make a list of all the things that you want to ignore. Done.

    This is a great thing to do, especially if you are the geeky, technical, or creative type that wants to play and mess around with new stuff. That stuff wastes your time. Add them to your ignore list and then reevaluate the list every so often so you don’t break your focus.

    6. Automate to get rid of the mundane and mindless

    Using technology to automate things that we can do mindlessly is a great thing. This helps us recoup time and energy for other things as well as keep our focus our currently active task. Actions like paying your bills online, renaming photos, and even filing digital files can all be done automatically now with help of online payment systems and tools like Hazel.

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    Of course there are going to be important things to think through, but you might as well use technology to automate as much as possible.

    You don’t have to lose the shirt off your back and give up your iPhone to regain focus. You can simply use amazing tools that are at your disposal to keep your focus on the things that are important and that you must get done.

    (Photo credit: Stack of grey massage stones via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on February 19, 2019

    How to Break Bad Habits: I Broke 3 Bad Habits in Less Than 2 Months

    How to Break Bad Habits: I Broke 3 Bad Habits in Less Than 2 Months

    The cycle of bad habits is what keeps us living small and stops us from reaching our true potential. Breaking a bad habit isn’t as hard as it seems; despite being a CEO of a company and raising two children, I still managed to break 3 bad habits I had within 2 months. Yes, that’s quitting one habit in less than 21 days.

    I took steps to eliminate them one at a time. Habits such as drinking Coke every day, slouching when sitting and not having a consistent exercise routine.

    So how did I break these habits? I used the Control Alternate Delete Method (Ctrl Alt Del).

    What is this method and why is it so effective? Read on to find out how to break bad habits with this unique method.

    How to break bad habits with the Control Alternate Delete Method

      We all notice on some level what our bad habits are. A lot of the time we choose to ignore the negative ways these impact us.

      For me, I was sitting most of the day in front of my computer at work in a slouching position. I drank Coke every single day in an attempt to stay awake. I put off any kind of exercise regime because I felt that it was better to just relax and have fun after a whole day of work. As a result, I was leading a really unhealthy lifestyle suffering from weight gain and back pain.

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      I needed to make a change.

      I started to read books about building habits such as The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, The One Thing by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan, and The Now Habit by Neil Fiore. After reading all these books, I’ve come up with my own method to quit bad habits — The Ctrl Alt Del Method.

      I started by focusing on just one bad habit, the first one being the sheer amount of Coke I was consuming each day.

      Every day I applied the Ctrl Alt Del Method and after two weeks, not only did I stop drinking Coke every day (I only drank one can in 2 weeks), but I started the better habit of drinking 8 glasses of water every day instead.

      After eliminating one bad habit, I moved on to the other two with this same method and a month later I was:

      • Hitting the gym twice a week.
      • Improving my sitting posture, not only at the office but also at home and everywhere else, improving my back pain.
      • Gaining core muscle which improved my back pain as well.
      • Losing fat around my waist which went from 36″ (considered obese level) to 32″ (normal level).

      If I can improve my life using this method, then so can you. Using this structure to eliminate your bad habits will increase your success and replace your bad habits with more positive ones.

      Control: Master your desire

        Identify your triggers

        Bad habits such as drinking alcohol, smoking and snacking too much trigger the release of dopamine, a feel-good chemical in the brain.[1] Although you might not like the end result, they give you a positive outcome in the moment. This is pure psychology.

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        It’s important to identify what is triggering you to continually act out your bad habit. This isn’t always an easy step because our habits have been built up over a long period of time.

        If you need help in identifying your triggers, here’s a list of common bad habits and their triggers: 13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away

        Self-reflect

        To help you work out your triggers, do a bit of self-reflection. Ask yourself questions such as:

        • What comfort are you getting from this habit?
        • Why do you need comfort?

        For example, I chose to drink coke because it tasted good and it made me feel good when I was stressed. I slouched only when I sat for too long working on my desk and started to feel tired. I skipped exercises because every day after work I felt I already did enough works and didn’t want to work out.

        If you choose to eat fast food every night, you’re probably telling yourself you’re too busy to cook. But ask yourself why? What are your priorities?

        Maybe you have a lack of self-worth that means you don’t have the self-love to want to look after your health. Perhaps it’s a sign you’re not making enough time for important routines like shopping and creating a healthy meal yourself. Maybe you’ve always had a belief that you’re a bad cook.

        Write a diary

        Write down your thoughts and feelings around this bad habit. Writing things down forces the brain to think harder.[2] This helps you to find the source to your stress or limiting negative beliefs.

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        Alternate: Find a replacement

          Find a positive alternative habit

          Once you think you’ve discovered your trigger, try to find a similar but healthy option. This is where I replaced Coke with lemon water; slouching with simply taking a walk and stretching my back every hour; and chilling at home after work with workout exercises that I actually found fun.

          You could decide to walk to the office instead of driving or getting off the bus earlier to walk. You could switch to a healthier breakfast cereal instead of grabbing a sugary snack when you head out of the door.

          By doing this, you aren’t getting rid of the act altogether like you would if you completely gave something up with nothing to fill that void. This helps your brain accept the improved habit more.

          Create a defence plan

          Everyone has moments of weakness and that want to revert back to the bad habit will rear its ugly head. This is where a plan can help counteract these moments.

          Think of things you can do when the temptations come. For example, if you want to check your phone less, ask your friend or partner to keep it for you or switch it off and read a book. If you’re a starter for an exercise routine, like me, get someone to do it with you to keep you accountable.

          Decide on something you will do once you feel triggered to go back to your old habit. Repeating these positive alternative habits consistently will help wire your brain to see them as your normal new habit over time.

          Delete: Remove temptations

            Remove stuff that reminds you of the bad habit

            Getting rid of anything that reminds you of your bad habit is essential. For example, I got rid of coke in my office and at home and replaced my usual office chair with an exercise ball. It makes it much easier to stop slipping back in a weak moment.

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            Avoid all kinds of temptations

            In the same vein, avoid places or people that you know will tempt you back into that bad habit. Don’t go to the supermarket on an empty stomach to avoid the temptation to buy trashy snacks, don’t drive past that fast food joint but find an alternative route instead, say no more often to the friend you know will get you drunk again this weekend.

            It’s all about not putting yourself in the situation where you’re in danger of relapsing.

            Conclusion

            The Control Alternate Delete Method uses the right steps you need to overcome your need to indulge in your bad habits. Working with your core psychology, emotions and feelings behind your actions is what makes this method effective and easy to apply to all bad habits you have.

            Bad habits are easy to form and making changes can seem difficult but remember that it’s all about consistency and repetition.

            Start using the Control Alternate Delete Method today and you can stop a bad habit permanently.

            What bad habit do you want to put a stop to once and for all? You must set aside time and pick one bad habit to focus on. Start using the steps to increase and maintain more positivity in your life moving forward.

            More Resources About Changing Habits

            Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

            Reference

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