According to our recent research, 3 out of 10 British businesses say they haven’t questioned their bad habits at all and 2 out of 10 don’t want to make the effort. Sage Business Expert Grace Marshall tells us how we can make it easier.
1. Pay attention – understand your habits
Most people know they have bad habits, but that’s where they stop paying attention. But as Carl Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Pay attention to your habits. Notice where and when it tends to happen, what’s going on around you at the time, how you’re feeling, and how it happens. This can give you clues to how you can change your habit.
2. Make it easier
Want to go running at lunchtime? Pack your bag the night before, or even better, keep a spare gym kit in the office. Want to drink more water or eat more healthily? Keep a glass or bottle handy on your desk and put the fruit bowl within reach. Or if you want to increase the number of steps you take, put things further out of reach so you need to get up and move!
My friend and Chief Ninja Graham Allcott, calls these power moves – one powerful move that overrides hundreds of tiny temptations, for example, switching off your email notifications avoids all those pings and pop ups distracting you throughout the day.
Taking the takeaway number off your phone stops you ordering on autopilot. Switching your phone to flight mode when you need to concentrate avoids having to revisit the decision of ‘shall I pick up?’ every time it rings. Booking your holidays at the beginning of the year removes the need to “find time when I’m not busy” later.
3. Use existing habits
A friend of mine filled her coffee travel mug with water when she wanted to drink more water, and used her automatic habit of reaching for the coffee mug to her advantage. Another friend puts a glass of water by her bed, and drinks it before getting out of bed each morning.
Incorporate new habits into your existing routine, for example, listening to a meditation exercise on the train commuting to work, sharing your daily ‘win’s with your family at the dinner table, starting each team meeting with ‘what’s your good news?’
4. Baby steps
Changing habits can be hard, especially if we try and change everything at once. Imagine making a mammoth New Year’s resolution to start the year afresh by overhauling your whole lifestyle: quit drinking, quit smoking, eat healthy, go to bed on time, exercise every day, complete to-do list every day, never procrastinate, always get my inbox to zero, oh and don’t get stressed. Phew! Just thinking about it is enough to reach for that piece of cake…
Most nutritionists will tell you that steady changes are more sustainable than crash diets, and the same goes for any habit. If you try and go cold turkey, you set yourself up with such high expectations you’re much more likely to give up. Instead, go for one-point improvements. Baby steps that you can take everyday, that add up to make a massive difference.
Want to wake up, go to bed or leave the office earlier? Start with 10 minutes earlier and build it from there. Want to be more active? Count every time you take the stairs rather than beat yourself up about the one time you take the lift. Time to change that last minute tendency? Celebrate every piece of work you hand in early. What you focus on grows, so focus on progress rather than perfection.
There’s nothing quite like a deadline in someone else’s world to get you moving. Last winter a friend and I started going for early morning runs together. The only thing that got me out of bed and into my running gear was knowing that my friend would be knocking on the door at 7am.
Procrastinating over a project? Make a public commitment to deliver it and declare your deadline. That’s how I managed to write my book, ‘21 Ways to Manage the Stuff that Sucks Up Your Time‘, in 40 days. Got a product to launch or a speech to deliver? Don’t wait until it’s perfect. Prelaunch or presell it, get yourself booked to deliver it, then you know you have to get it done!
Or if you always leave things to the last minute, book an appointment with a colleague to run through a rehearsal, or review a draft ahead of time, so you have an earlier deadline to meet.
7. Don’t just stop bad habits, replace them
When I quit smoking, I arranged to go for a walk with a friend at lunchtimes, so that I would have someone to talk to. This gave my mouth something to do, and distracted my brain from the craving. When my husband decided to change his diet, he stopped buying biscuits and stocked up on apples instead, so that every time he wanted a snack, the apples would be there in the fruit bowl, ready and waiting.
Stopping doing something can be hard, but replacing it with something else, giving yourself a different reward, can make it both easier and more enjoyable.
8. Shake things up
Sometimes just a change in routine or environment can help you get out of a rut. Take a different route to work. Park in a different spot. Sit in a different seat at a regular meeting. Stand up when you usually sit down, or go for a walk instead of hammering it out at opposite sides of the table. Go old school with pen and paper instead of staring at a screen. Simple changes to our daily routines has a way of waking us up and priming our brains for change.
9. Your choice – ditch the ‘shoulds’
Habits are not good or bad. It’s not about what you should or shouldn’t do. The real question is, how much are your habits serving you?
Ultimately, it’s your choice. Ask yourself, “What does this habit give me? What does it cost me?” Then you decide whether it’s something you want to change.
For more tips, motivation and Ninja tricks to change your habits, check out Grace’s Monday Momentum messages and ask her about her Productivity Ninja workshops.