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The Benefits and Dangers of Habits

The Benefits and Dangers of Habits
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Habit: a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.

The topic of this article is particularly interesting to me because I believe that most of us really don’t consciously create our habits, and yet, they are what influence our actions and thoughts the most.

Some habits help your productivity while others lead to self-sabotage.

A productive habit could be a morning ritual of gratitude journaling, or even just drinking a glass of water when you get out of bed.

A self-sabotaging habit could be procrastinating on tasks that could be easily completed on the spot, or mindlessly eating bread when you sit down for dinner.

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Most of our thoughts and actions seem to be on autopilot.  This could be great if habits are designed proactively, but it can also harm us in the long run.

We tend to act and think based on what automatically serves our most immediate needs and what we are familiar with.  This often works against us in the long run because we get used to making unconscious (unaware) decisions.

Bringing awareness to your recurring thoughts and actions.

The very first step to change and build new habits is bringing awareness to those thoughts and actions that are repetitive—because they are gaining strength every minute.

Start by paying attention to your actions and the results of those actions.  Pay attention to what your thoughts are on a regular basis.  Thought patterns are habits too.

The more aware you are of your thoughts and actions, the more power you have to break patterns that don’t serve you and replace them with something that makes you more productive.

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Breaking and designing new habits is a result of awareness, which leads to conscious repetition, which leads to habit, which leads to hypnotic rhythm.

The Law of Hypnotic Rhythm.

The Law of Hypnotic Rhythm is when a thought or physical movement repeats itself over and over through habit to the point where it reaches permanency.

In other words, the more something is repeated, the more likely it is to get to a point where it is locked in motion.  Once something is locked in motion, it is incredibly difficult to change.

Do you have someone in your life that is set in their ways?  If so, I don’t need to tell you how challenging it is to introduce new routines to them.

The longer habits are in motion, the more power they have over you (even if you are well aware of them).

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That is why it is crucial to proactively be aware of your habits and design them intentionally and that will help you break old negative habits.

Consciously design habits that benefit you and kill those that don’t.

It’s better to add a new positive habit before trying to destroy a negative one.

Start with something small and repeat it on a regular basis.  Use your smart phone or an alarm at the same time of the day ideally.

For example, I wanted to stop checking email first thing in the morning because I found that it led me to feeling overwhelmed.  Instead, I chose to start my day with gratitude to get my mind clear and start in a place of power.  So, I set my alarm clock on my iPhone to read “Gratitude.”  I immediately started thinking of all that I was grateful for right when I woke up.  I did this first for about a month or so.  This made me feel good, and I got hooked on feeling good right when I woke up.  I noticed I felt way more control.  This habit is now locked in and I no longer feel that feeling of overwhelm in the morning.

Follow these steps to gain control over your habits.

1.  Bring awareness to any negative habits you currently hold (actions and thoughts.).

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2.  Pick something small and manageable to add to your routine that will make you feel good before trying to destroy a negative habit.

3.  Incorporate the new positive habit to take place of the habit you want to destroy.

I encourage you to share anything that has worked for you.  Please comment below.

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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.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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