I have now been doing weekday morning yoga and journalling for a month. Success!
After months of failed productivity challenge attempts (see productivity challenge blog posts) I’ve cracked it! So what did I do differently?
Well I started doing what the research says do. Don’t rely on willpower! (I know people who can and I’m not one of them) and use the keys, cue, routine, reward and accountability.
I had so many habits and behavioural changes I wanted to make this year. Get up early, write more, read more, one blog post day, exercise…. too many.
I just didn’t do any of them. I couldn’t even remember which habit I was trying to build up and I definitely didn’t have the willpower to follow through on my goals.
Scott Adams, the Dilbert Cartoonist, has a brilliant example of how he looses weight with no willpower and still eating everything he wants.
“ A goal orientated approach would be I want to loose 10 pounds with my willpower….I’m gonna push those cookies away from my mouth… it just doesn’t work in the long run, you need a system… Here’s a system I’ve been using that has me in the best shape of my life at 58 and using no willpower at all. I eat whatever I want, whenever I want. My system is education. I go out of my way if I see an article that says eat more protein, I say okay how deep does this knowledge go and what difference does it make?… I’ve learned that sometimes sleep pretends to be the same feeling as hunger…”
This super easy and small change means that he is able to make educated choices about what he would be good to eat.
So I started to make the habits small. Then even smaller. I went from aiming to read everyday to aiming to read a chapter a week and now to reading 3 pages a day. I can squeeze that in! And if I read more I feel like great.
Take a look at Tim Ferriss morning journal it’s rough and it’s achievable.
The trick is to make it as easy and painless as possible for yourself. The minute it becomes too difficult the harder it will be to follow through.
That’s where the cue’s come in.
As BJ Fogg explains link it to something you already do regularly. If you want to exercise more, do 1 push up after immediately after you use the toilet. Make it small, and something you can do in almost no time. He says 30 seconds but I haven’t got that small yet. eg. after I get out of bed, I will _______
Another trick is to set an alarm.
This takes some experimentation. I wanted to start exercising more, so I chose yoga. I tried to go to classes but after a couple of weeks of finding one excuse after another I decided to try youtube videos from home. There are thousands online!
I thought I could do it in the evening. The only problem was I have literally zero motivation when I get home.
Another Tim Ferriss podcast with Robert Rodriguez inspired me to try mornings. Robert Rodriguez (who is fast becoming a hero of mine) he said that writing is the hardest thing he does, so he writes first thing in the morning. As soon a he gets up no matter what time it is and writes. It means all the tasks of the day don’t get in the way.
So I tried that with yoga. Every weekday I get out of bed and do yoga. That simple.
I started with 10 mins a day, discovered that I wasn’t getting up early enough, so I’m down to 5 minutes a day give or take. I use Tara Stiles videos, she has hundreds with different lengths, and for different things and moods, even morning bed yoga! So no matter how I feel when I get up I can find a routine.
Mornings are a great time for a habit.
Doing the most difficult thing at the start of the day, like Whitney Cummings who drinks her healthy drinks first thing. Then it’s out of the way and you don’t have to worry about it or like me forget. If nothing else it gives you a sense of accomplishment to start your day with.
Experiment to find the best time.The great thing about slotting habits into your routine is that it makes you understand yourself more. What times you are the most productive, when you have the most quiet time (Robert Rodriguez writes his journal at night), when you are the most motivated.
I’m working on writing 10 ideas a day inspired by James Altucher. My mornings are busy with journalling, yoga and breakfast. So I’m now trying deciding the “10 ideas to…” in the morning and keeping notes through out the day (on everything, post its, my phone). I’ve not managed 10 ideas every single day however I have started noting all my ideas. Creating a spark file which I’m looking forward to reading in a few months.
The example is always given of if you want to excercise more, reward yourself with a piece of chocolate after you go for a run.
I can’t reward myself with a chocolate bar everytime I write a journal entry. I’m instead moving from Evernote, where I have so many notes, to Day One. Keeping all my journal entries in one place. Simple, uncluttered and easier to write. And I have to say it feels great.
Accountability is the other side of the reward coin. Not one I’ve practised much yet. It could be asking a friend to report to, asking the blogosphere as Seth Godin’s writing challenge did, or as simple as having a wall calendar which you cross out the days.
Like me you probably want to build that habit because it will make your life better in some way, healthier, more productive e.t.c. Overtime these small changes have an impact on you. I’ve noticed I’m more focused since starting yoga. The sense of accomplishment I get from doing these things is great. My morning habits help my day get off to a good start.
And yes habit building does become addictive!