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Last Updated on December 7, 2020

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about changing habits in a way that doesn’t help you: You need to push yourself more; you can’t be lazy; you need to wake up at 5 am; you just need more motivation.

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or to wake up at 5 am. In reality, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation, and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to share. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say:

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing habits are both simple and easy, but this doesn’t mean they won’t make a difference.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. It’s better to start small with your good habits and focus on one habit at a time.

If you want to read more, don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

If you want to become a writer, don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

If you want to eat less ice cream, don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one scoop less of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big generally leads to failure simply because it’s not sustainable.

When you start small, think of what will help you keep one foot in your comfort zone. If you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen, which means continuous improvement[1]. They use this notion in healthy habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line—where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided on. Don’t continuously push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number, and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are Inevitable

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this when changing habits, so it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

For example, if I read 20 pages of a book a day, and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet, to a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand. It takes less than 20 seconds a day but will create momentum for the days and weeks ahead.

6. All Days Make a Difference

A single gym session won’t make you fit, but after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel great.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites Paradox)[2] is that no single gym session made you fit; they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on changing habits, one day at a time.

7. Habits Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. Some of them do, like showering a certain way or brushing your teeth.

But many habits don’t become automatic; they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle. It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about—you simply do it.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones that will bring you to the next step.

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Don’t be afraid of changing habits when you sense that they won’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started my reading habit, I focused on reading business and tactic books. Two years into it, I switched to philosophy books, which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree, not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

It sounds paradoxical, but here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something—”I want to become a healthy individual”—and then you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits—”I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process because you are working on the process of becoming healthy, and it’s always in the making.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience the yo-yo effect[3] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal, but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

The last two sections are pure Pavlovian—you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior when changing habits. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

I told you in point 3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

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It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for. You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[4]

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphins—a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards, and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

The Bottom Line

When you work on changing habits, it matters not only to you but to the people around you. That’s the great power of habit.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

More About Changing Habits

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Investopedia: Kaizen
[2] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[3] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[4] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit

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Bruno Boksic

An expert in habit building

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Last Updated on June 1, 2021

7 Signs That You’re Way Too Busy (And Need to Change That)

7 Signs That You’re Way Too Busy (And Need to Change That)

“Busy” used to be a fair description of the typical schedule. More and more, though, “busy” simply doesn’t cut it.

“Busy” has been replaced with “too busy”, “far too busy”, or “absolutely buried.” It’s true that being productive often means being busy…but it’s only true up to a point.

As you likely know from personal experience, you can become so busy that you reach a tipping point…a point where your life tips over and falls apart because you can no longer withstand the weight of your commitments.

Once you’ve reached that point, it becomes fairly obvious that you’ve over-committed yourself.

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The trick, though, is to recognize the signs of “too busy” before you reach that tipping point. A little self-assessment and some proactive schedule-thinning can prevent you from having that meltdown.

To help you in that self-assessment, here are 7 signs that you’re way too busy:

1. You Can’t Remember the Last Time You Took a Day Off

Occasional periods of rest are not unproductive, they are essential to productivity. Extended periods of non-stop activity result in fatigue, and fatigue results in lower-quality output. As Sydney J. Harris once said,

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”

2. Those Closest to You Have Stopped Asking for Your Time

Why? They simply know that you have no time to give them. Your loved ones will be persistent for a long time, but once you reach the point where they’ve stopped asking, you’ve reached a dangerous level of busy.

3. Activities like Eating Are Always Done in Tandem with Other Tasks

If you constantly find yourself using meal times, car rides, etc. as times to catch up on emails, phone calls, or calendar readjustments, it’s time to lighten the load.

It’s one thing to use your time efficiently. It’s a whole different ballgame, though, when you have so little time that you can’t even focus on feeding yourself.

4. You’re Consistently More Tired When You Get up in the Morning Than You Are When You Go to Bed

One of the surest signs of an overloaded schedule is morning fatigue. This is a good indication that you’ve not rested well during the night, which is a good sign that you’ve got way too much on your mind.

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If you’ve got so much to do that you can’t even shut your mind down when you’re laying in bed, you’re too busy.

5. The Most Exercise You Get Is Sprinting from One Commitment to the Next

It’s proven that exercise promotes healthy lives. If you don’t care about that, that’s one thing. If you’d like to exercise, though, but you just don’t have time for it, you’re too busy.

If the closest thing you get to exercise is running from your office to your car because you’re late for your ninth appointment of the day, it’s time to slow down.

Try these 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

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6. You Dread Getting up in the Morning

If your days are so crammed full that you literally dread even starting them, you’re too busy. A new day should hold at least a small level of refreshment and excitement. Scale back until you find that place again.

7. “Survival Mode” Is Your Only Mode

If you can’t remember what it feels like to be ahead of schedule, or at least “caught up”, you’re too busy.

So, How To Get out of Busyness?

Take a look at this video:

And these articles to help you get unstuck:

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Featured photo credit: Khara Woods via unsplash.com

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