This week we're considering why it matters to have good habits and some suggestions for habits to develop this year.
Develop good habits to be more productive
Good habits allow us to be more efficient. As we’ve discussed before in Episode 147 when we talked about Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, our brain wants to be efficient because it consumes less energy.
When something becomes a habit, it is controlled by the basal ganglia instead of the prefrontal cortex where decisions are made, leaving more bandwidth to focus on creative thinking, problem-solving, etc.
“Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous.”
~ James Clear, Atomic Habits
It's easier to create a new habit that serves you than to “break” a bad habit
How do we create a new habit?
The process of habit creation has been studied and well documented.
“First there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is a routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is the reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future. Over time, this loop — cue, routine, reward; cue, routine, reward — becomes more and more automatic. The cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges.”
~ Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit
One recommended method for establishing a new habit is to tack it on to something you already do habitually.
- If you want to journal regularly, plan to do it each morning while you drink your morning coffee or each evening right after you brush your teeth.
- If you want to exercise regularly, plan to do it right after you drop your kids off at school, or on your way home from work
Don’t try to change everything at once.
You're more likely to be successful if you choose one habit at a time. Choose one new habit to focus on for 4-6 weeks, then add another when it’s become habitual.
How to choose which habits to focus on
Is there an area of your life that’s bugging you? What keeps you awake at night?
What’s a habit that could help there?
Habits to Consider for this Year
1. Take one small action each day toward one of your most important goals.
- 10 minutes on a treadmill
- Write 2 sentences of your book
- Declutter one shelf or drawer
- Read one chapter of a book
- Call or email one client or prospective client
2. Send a hand-written note of thanks or encouragement each week.
- Someone who’s helped you
- Someone who’s inspired you
- Someone who’s encouraged you
3. Read every day.
Read something uplifting, inspiring, motivating, thought-provoking and expand your horizons and your skills. Make reading a part of your morning or evening routine.
Consider Blinkist as a tool for finding good non-fiction. It's not a substitute for savoring a whole book/ (Full disclosure: Blinkist is not a sponsor of this episode, but have sponsored the Productive Woman Podcast in the past)
Audiobooks can be a great option if you have a long commute or can listen while working. Here’s where our sponsor Audible can be invaluable! I used this service when I had a long commute each day. Listening to audiobooks while I drove meant I learned new things, and it made the time pass faster.
“Reading has been shown to help us better understand and interact with other people, keep our brains sharp, expand our world views and grow as individuals, Green says. “Stories allow us to feel connected with others and part of something bigger than ourselves.”
4. Get more sleep.
Adequate sleep helps us be more productive by helping us make better decisions, recover more quickly from distractions, make fewer mistakes, and react more quickly.
There a lots of ways to improve your sleep:
- Set a reasonable bedtime and be consistent about when you got to bed and get up.
- Turn off screens 1 hour before bedtime
- Evaluate your room and design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Some tips recommended by experts:
- Your bedroom should be cool – some experts recommend between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep.
- Your bedroom should be free from any light.
- Check your room for noises or other distractions. This includes a bed partner's sleep disruptions such as snoring.
- Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy – about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Have comfortable pillows and make the room attractive and inviting for sleep but also free of allergens that might affect you and objects that might cause you to slip or fall if you have to get up during the night.”
5. Do something for yourself every day.
Find things that bring you joy or make you feel good in some way, and develop the habit of spending a little time each day doing one or more of them:
- Cup of really good coffee or tea and a chapter of a good book?
- Go for a walk outside?
- Take a nap?
- Do something creative – spend time crafting or creating art or music?
6. Journal daily.
Journaling improves self-awareness, creates a record of our experiences and feelings, and provides a release of emotions and the thoughts that clutter your mind.
There's no one right way to journal–do whatever works for you. Use a pretty (or plain) notebook and pen, or the Day One app (or a Word document you keep as a running journal). Whichever tool you choose, you can get started by freewriting for 10 minutes or asking and answering a couple of questions every day, like:
- What am I proud of today?
- What am I thankful for today?
- What do I regret today?
- What lesson did I learn today?
7. Do something new each week.
Trying new things results in many benefits: it can help you overcome fear, get to know yourself better, boost your creativity, and it prevents boredom (from “A Look at the Incredible Benefits of Trying New Things” and “Trying New Things” by Dr. Alex Lickerman on Psychology Today). Some examples might be:
- Try a new restaurant
- Visit a new business or local attraction
- Take a different route to work or back home (or a different means of transportation – ride the bus or your bike)
- Take a class in something you know nothing about
- Change your shampoo or toothpaste
For more ideas, check out “52 Fun Things: Try a New One Each Week of the Year” on ElephantJournal.com.
8. Eat one meal a day in silence.
One writer suggests eating one meal a day in silence. No talking, no phone, no TV – just pay attention to the experience of eating. This contributes to mindfulness, peacefulness, and helps you get out of the habit of eating mindlessly.
9. Save money with the $5 Challenge.
I saw this on Facebook. For the rest of the year, whenever you break a larger bill, if you get any fives, put them in a box, and let them accumulate all year. Have a purpose for it: a large purchase you need to make, or a treat or luxury for yourself or your family.
10. Do something physical each day
Take a walk, go for a bike ride, do yoga etc. Figure out what physical activity you can fit into your day and when you'll do it. Make a commitment to do it every 4-6 weeks it will take to solidify it as a habit in your life
What do you think?
Are you going to develop one of these habits this year (or are they already part of your life)? Or is there another helpful habit you’re trying to incorporate into your life? Please share your ideas in the comments section below this post or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group or send me an email.
Resources and Links
- How Sleep Can Help You Be More Productive | Sleep.org
- The Effect of Sleep on Productivity, and How to Improve Both | Tuck Sleep
- Why a Lack of Sleep is a Productivity Nightmare – Taking Note – Medium
- Eight ways to turn your bedroom into the sleep sanctuary it was always meant to be.
- Healthy Sleep Tips
- A Look at the Incredible Benefits of Trying New Things
- Trying New Things
- 10 New Things to Try This Year
- 52 Fun Things: Try a New One Each Week of the Year
- Episode 147: Productive Reading: The Power of Habit
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