Creating New Habits
Two weeks ago, when I shared my goals for this year, I mentioned self-sabotage. Sabotage may seem like a harsh term, but when small things that I have the ability to control change the course of each day, the word sabotage seems appropriate.
For me, it was the little things. I'd check my email first thing in the morning, leading me into a rabbit hole of unproductive habits. I'd hit the snooze button eight times before finally getting up, leaving me feeling groggy and losing a couple hours of my day. I'd put off tasks that were tedious until the last minute, leaving me feeling stressed and even more annoyed about having to complete them.
I had already identified that I was doing these things, but I needed to make a conscious effort if I wanted to toss these bad habits to the curb. So far, almost two weeks into the new year, I've stayed on track with my efforts. I decided that in order to create new habits, I needed a better routine. I'd mentioned before that I had a list of strategies that I was going to try to put into place. Here's a look at a few of these strategies I have used in order to try and create new habits that lead to better productivity.
1 // I make a schedule and to do list for my day the night before. Every evening after dinner, I've sat down with my planner to schedule in both daily to dos and important tasks for the next day. This gives me a chance to reflect on my day and identify what went as planned and what could have been better. It also allows me to clear my head of pressing tasks so I'm not thinking about them while trying to sleep. In the morning, it gives me a running start since I don't need to spend that time in the morning trying to organize my thoughts and my day.
2 // I moved my alarm to my dresser across the room instead of on the nightstand beside the bed. This may seem like a small thing, but it's perhaps the best change I've made so far in my attempt to change bad habits. When my alarm goes off, I have to get up to turn it off. I set one alarm for 7am, 6 minutes earlier than I used to get up when I was still teaching. Usually, Andrew is out of the house at this time, taking Lilah for her morning walk. This means, I have two options-- stay in bed and listen to the horrid sound of the alarm, or get out of bed to turn it off. No one else is going to do it for me. And it has worked. Once I'm out of bed, I'm cold, so I head to the shower to warm up.
3 // I take a shower before breakfast. As mentioned in the last point, because I must get out of bed to turn off the alarm, it leads me to take a shower before I do anything else. This is a game changer. Before, I had the goal to be showered and dressed before 9. Sometimes that happened and sometimes it didn't depending on how comfortable my yoga pants were and how much coffee and reading I wanted to enjoy in the morning. Because I take a shower before anything else, I feel as though I've gained an entire extra hour in my day.
4 // I schedule time to read and respond to email and close Gmail at all other times. Big game changer. If Gmail isn't open, I don't know if new emails arrived in my inbox. If I know I'm setting aside time to respond to emails, I don't feel as though I must check my email first thing in the day. One day, I went until 3 in the afternoon until I remembered that I probably should check in to see if a customer needed a response. I'm hoping to stick with this.
5 // I schedule and take breaks. This has definitely amped up my productivity. In the morning, I take a 30-45 minute break at 10am, to do yoga. It gives me something to look forward to while I spend the previous two hours working. Additionally, I've noticed some major benefits of this practice in only a few weeks (I'll save that for another post). I schedule another break at noon for lunch and reading time, and yet another break around 3 to run to the post office and grab a snack. Each time my break is over, I feel refreshed and ready to go, and my productivity before the scheduled break time peaks as I work to get my task done in the allotted amount of time.
I've stuck with my plan and I've accomplished a lot in the seven work days that I've implemented these strategies. I've been checking things off of my to do list and goals sheets left and right, which becomes a bit addictive and rewarding at the same time. I've often read that it takes 21 days to form a habit, one that you do without having to consciously think about. If that holds true, I'm a third of the way there in creating new habits. Maybe I'll check back in with you on day 14.
Have you formed any new habits lately? What strategies have you used to try to form new habits? Am I late on this alarm clock thing? Because seriously, that was the biggest game changer for me.