By Guest Author: Harrison Thorne Originally Published on LinkedIn
There is an overwhelming amount of literature on habits. Every author seems to have a different perspective, but most seem to agree that habits cannot be “broken.” Rather, they must be replaced.
A lot of people have the habit of multitasking, checking social media, and becoming distracted. If this is you, read on!
As I have mentioned before, most people can get 80% of their work done using only 20% of their efforts. For instance, I have to read a dense section on wills and trusts law this morning. This reading will take me about one hour. However, before I replaced my social media/multitasking habit with deep, productive work habits, the reading might have taken me three hours. I might have read five pages, checked Facebook, texted a friend, read another page, browsed my inbox, etc.
So, how do I replace these habits?
Step 1: Identify the habits you have in place.
Be really honest with yourself. Do you procrastinate? Do you procrastinate more than you actually work? It’s okay if you do. Just recognize and assess honestly.
Step 2: Decide what habits you want.
Be as creative as you want. Do you want to be a person who works with unbroken focus for short periods of time? Do you want to be a person who gets everything done? The trick, however, is to be very specific when deciding what habits you would like to replace old ones with. Instead of saying, “I would like to work productively,” say something instead like, “I would like to work in 90 minute, unbroken blocks, for up to 4.5 hours of real unbroken productive work every day before 2pm.”
Step 3: Understand habits.
Habits are great. They allow us to act without having to deliberately think about what we’re doing. Thus, I brush my teeth every night before bed without expending mental energy thinking about it. Some people suggest that habits account for 40-60% of our total behavior. That is crazy—it means that if we change our habits, we can change 40-60% of our behavior!
Habits, however, are tricky. Most think of habits as stimulus/response. Every time X happens, I do Y. For instance, every time I’m getting ready for bed, I brush my teeth.
The stimulus (i.e., bedtime) won’t go away, ever. You can’t change the stimulus (usually). But you can change your response to the stimulus.
What does that mean? That means that you can’t “break” a bad habit. Rather, you must recognize what stimulus precedes the habit, and think of some alternative habits to put in place.
Putting It All Together
If you have the habit of multitasking and checking social media excessively, these tools can really help. Go through the analysis:
What is the stimulus? For most, the stimulus that precedes checking Facebook is intense, thought-provoking work. Perhaps it can also be mind-numbing busy work. Regardless, actual work usually is the stimulus.
What is my current response? Really ask yourself if your current response is working for you. Is constant social media connectivity really making you happier? If not, consider replacing it.
Replacement: What can I do instead of drifting over to social media when my attention wanders? I will share my own strategy. I will also admit I’m not 100% perfect, and sometimes fall short–but that’s okay!
When I am working on something, and I notice my attention start to wander, I take a deep breath and feel my body. What I mean is that I scan my body, noticing any tension I’m carrying. I often find that when working, I’m tensing muscles, my shoulders are shrugged, and I’m not breathing deeply. I then take about 5-10 deep breaths, and close my eyes for a few seconds. I think to myself that while social media would be fun, it is not going anywhere, and will be there after I finish my set task.
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Author: Aimee Haynes
I motivate, I blog, I listen, I give advice, I help, I create, I work with others, I stand my ground when needed, and I am always open to new ideas. In addition to the qualities that define me most, I'm also a Corporate Law attorney working with entrepreneurs, creatives, and small businesses to help them achieve success.