Hacking Habits

Jan 17, 2017 · 3 min read

5 Tricks to Help you Manage Your Habits

After internally discussing our post Own Your Resolutions, the team agreed that what was at the heart of it — habit building — was a process that needed a post of its own.

Take a minute right now to think about some of the habits you live with day to day. Good or bad, if these habits become routine, they become emblematic of who you are as a person. Never make your bed? Throw your clothes on the ground? Procrastinate on doing your laundry so that that hill of underwear becomes a mountain? Hate to break it to you — you might be messy. Whether we’re the product of our habits or vice versa is a chicken and egg question. The good news is, habits can be learned and unlearned.

Here are a few tips to help you regain control over what you do, and, in the long term, who you are:

1)Keep a Journal: That’s right. The first and possibly most effective way to keep a new habit is, well, to adopt this particular new habit. By keeping a journal, you not only give attention to the more mundane aspects of your life (washing dishes, reading a chapter of a book, etc…), you also hold yourself accountable. Let’s say you’re trying to eat less meat. By journaling, you’re forced to record exactly how much meat you did or didn’t consume in a day. Knowing you’ll have to write things down helps us not act so impulsively.

2) Daydream the Right Way: We all like to spend some time imagining who we could be. So long as the gap between who we are and who we want to be remains significant, the image of who we could be remains a fantasy. Instead, take some time to imagine yourself doing the things that would help you grow into that person. Rather than imagining yourself in a Superman costume, imagine yourself sewing a Superman costume. What, you think his mom bought it for him? C’mon.

3) The If/Then Rule: It’s easy to want things. Whether it’s about losing weight, running longer distances, or becoming kinder people, wanting is the easiest part. But it’s not enough. Remember what we said about fantasizing? If the gap is too big between what your reality is and what your goal is, your goal becomes a bit of an abstraction. Instead, try implementing the If/Then Rule. IF I want candy, THEN I’ll eat fruit. IF I run all the way to the train tracks, THEN I’ll run 5 more minutes. IF someone is having a bad day, THEN I’ll compliment their hair. Okay, complimenting someone’s hair when they tell you their dog’s died might not be the kindest move, but you get the point.

4) Know Yourself: If you repeatedly give up on the same habit, take a good, long look at what exactly is going on. You keep telling yourself you’ll wake up an hour earlier so you can fit in some gym time in the morning. Somehow, it doesn’t stick. You do it once, sometimes twice in a row, but it’s just too tempting to smash your smart phone against the floor. Don’t do it! Instead, consider what exactly you’re trying to accomplish, and why. Is the idea to get in better shape? If so, why wake up earlier to do it? By shooting too high, you set yourself up to fail. Instead, try to find time later in the day. Then, once you’ve developed a workout routine you’re comfortable with, start experimenting with times.

5) Choose to Choose Less: Ever wondered how many decisions you make in the span of 24 hours? Researchers at Cornell University concluded that we make approximately 226.7 decisions a day about food alone. Think about the sheer amount of brain processing power it takes to make mundane choices about what type of juice we’d like or what colour shirt we should wear. These things might seem important in the moment, but in the grand scheme of things we’re distracting ourselves from the more pressing tasks at hand. Building habits requires a ton of focus and discipline. By choosing to choose less and routinizing as much as possible, we allow ourselves to allocate more time and attention to the habits we’d like to develop.

Any other ideas on how to successfully manage habits? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section!

Originally published at THE HUDDLE.

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