Getting organized (or establishing new habits) is like following your breath when learning to meditate. We are taught that, when you notice your mind wandering off and straying from the intention of following the breath, you simply notice having done so, without judgment, and return to following your breath. What if we could apply the same technique to habits, following routines and using strategies? What if the habit was not the new desired behavior, but the habit was returning to the desired behavior without judgment? If you solidify the habit of return, you will worry less about leaving the path. You will always have a way back.
– A listener’s letter to an ADHD-themed podcast. Link.
What are the warning signs when making resolutions? And how can you do it better? We’re talking New Year resolutions or any decision to change for the better.
- A strategy that consists of “I mean it this time!”
- Any strategy that is based more on willpower than on triggers and routines. (A milder form of point 1.)
- A goal that sounds good – when I think “I really should do this” rather than really thinking through the most likely paths to achieve my goal.
- A vague goal, without a clear target, such as like “eat healthier”, “exercise more” or “blog”.
What can work better? First, let me emphasise: Find what works for you, and be willing to experiment.
Below are some insights which have helped me to create good habits:
– Expect that you’ll need to improve your strategy, as you find things that aren’t working, and try new approaches, until you have it working just right.
– Goals to “get X done” haven’t been the most effective for me. Goals to “Make it easier for myself to do X”, or “Work out a routine to do X” have given better results.
– Make it easy. Put effort into minimising any obstacles.
– If what I need for my habit is within reach and within sight, so I can start on my habit in seconds, it’s much more likely that I’ll do it. E.g. my yoga/exercise mat lives on my bedroom floor. It’s not the only place I exercise, but it makes starting that much easier.
– A good routine is awesomely powerful, making your new habit easier and much more consistent.
– The energy I have for life determines the energy I have for achieving my goals. For this reason, exercise and good sleep are key for me, and I’ve persisted in getting these right. (These habits are much improved, and my energy levels are better for it.)
– If your new habit requires focus, create time when you won’t be distracted. E.g. getting up early is by far the best way for me to write. (Staying up late to write can work for me in the short term, but ruins my energy and productivity in following days.)
What are you doing to make success more likely in 2015?
Three kinds of over-exertion can defeat your commitment to a resolution…
Continue reading at How to Avoid the Resolution Traps, at my new blog, Procrastination Ambulance.