Making and Breaking Habits

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Going from working a 9-5 job to working from home, I’ve had to tweak what my day looks like. This involves – you’ve guessed it – forging new habits to help me stay productive while breaking old ones that may not necessarily add value to my day. 

Without the structure of the eight hour block at the office, I now have to figure out how to be as productive at home. In my first week, I made a schedule of what I ideally wanted my day to look like. And this was vastly different to how I spent my hours prior. Before, I had to get up at a 7.00am to make my 7.45am train to work, leave and get home by 6.00pm, have dinner, make it to either yoga or have my climbing session and then end my night at home. Now that I have eliminated transit times, and technically don’t have to get out of my PJs any more, I needed to make sure I get myself into the correct mindset each day so I get work done.

It’s been an ongoing process, and one with many trial and error, but here are a few tips on how you can replace old habits with new ones:-

  1. One at a time
    Changing one habit and getting that to stick is difficult enough, trying to change five is nearly impossible. I very quickly realised this. In the early stages, I was excited to fit everything I could into my day that a full time employment wouldn’t allow. And then when they fell through, I realised that I was trying to change too many things at a time. Pick the most important habit you’d like to change and start with that first. And when you’ve succeeded in really incorporating that habit into routine, move on to the next. 
     
  2. Focus on the why
    The reason behind your change is ultimately your driving force. You need to be able to go back to why you’re deciding on changing a habit because trust me, there will be temptation along the way to give up. Why are you really trying to give up junk food? What is the reason for getting up an hour earlier each day? Write down the habits you want to change or implement and try to think of the reasons behind them.
     
  3. Set your environment up for success
    Yes your environment plays a huge part of your habit making. For example, if fitting a work out in the morning is something you want to start doing, see if you can reduce the amount of effort it takes for you to get going by planning your outfit the night before. Likewise, if you’re trying to break a bad habit, eliminate the trigger. For example, if you’re wanting to stop bingeing on junk food, simply be aware of what goes into your trolley the next time you’re at the supermarket.
     
  4. Repetition and consistency
    A habit is really something that has become almost automatic to us, a behaviour that tends to occur subconsciously. If you were to make something occur subconsciously, then it has to be something that you’re repeating over and over so that it becomes ingrained in to our behaviour. Think about the first thing you do as soon as you get up. I’m willing to bet that for many of us, it is to reach for our smartphones and go onto our social media. I for one, don’t even realise how automatic this reaction is until I started thinking about it. Unfortunately, studies can’t seem to agree on how long it actually takes to form a habit, ranging from 21 days to 254 days. What they all agree on however, is that it takes consistency and repetition, over a period of time, before a habit sticks.
     
  5. Celebrate progress
    It is so important to celebrate progress made along the way. Acknowledge the progress you’ve made each week, no matter how small and give yourself a pat on the back. Remember, it’s all about staying consistent. And we’re more likely to keep going if all our hard work is noticed and celebrated.

And there you have it. I love this quote from Aristotle that says, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” I truly believe the patterns that we have cultivated along the way and the things that we have come to subconsciously do can help us live creative and productive lives. Is there a habit you’d like to change? Then, start today.