- Mental Health
How to Change Your Habits and Get More Stuff Done
Three steps to changing habits the professional way
The following methods for changing daily habits (and, ultimately, being far more productive and far less destructive) are scientifically and (personally) anecdotally proven to work. They come from years of study by me, and are backed by virtually every productivity book or article I've ever read. These are time proven principles than can help you change your life right away!
If you're looking for a more personal story about how I quit drinking, you can check that out as well. You might also want to check out this article on how to get away from some of the distractions that take you away from accomplishing your goals.
Writing down a goal makes it real
Task lists are an important part of making your day move forward in the direction you want it to, and habit changing is nothing if not a day-to-day process. If you have a list of tasks to get done (or goals to accomplish) for the day, it makes it "real." This means that it is no longer in the realm of the theoretical. It's not, "I should do that!" It's on your list of tasks to get done for the day, so it's going to be done.
Don't make the mistake of trusting your memory here! Memory isn't reliable for precisely the reason that you have negative habits in the first place: they're comfortable and easy to accomplish. I have made tremendous progress toward accomplishing my goals merely from the act of writing them down, and you, too, can see benefits immediately.
Think about SMART goals
Do you make daily, monthly, or yearly goals?
Choosing the right goals: SMART
SMART goals are utilized by successful businesses and individuals around the world. When you are ready to stop playing around and shooting from the hip with your goals, you need to get SMART.
So what does SMART mean? SMART goals are:
These are all ultra-important aspects of a good goal. It needs to be very specific, not vague. If you're just saying you want to be a "better person", that's not going to help any, but if you say that you want to "lose 5 pounds by January1st", that's something else entirely. Similarly, if it's not measurable, there's just no point in making the goal in the first place. You need to be able to say whether or not you have achieved your goal (and that's exactly where the "achievable" part comes in- don't set a goal for the day you wont' ever reach; instead, make the goal something you almost certainly will accomplish if you set your sights on it.
Clearly, the task must be relevant to what you aim to accomplish in life or business in order for it to matter. Putting a time cap on it ("time-bound") is the last piece of the puzzle; without this, procrastination will surely rule the day.
Use a project board for bigger stuff
When you are trying to change a much bigger behavior in your life, or you want to accomplish something much bigger, it pays to have an AGILE style project board. You can use note cards for the individual tasks, break them down into individual categories in the rows (like health, finance, and professional, for example). The columns (labeled up top) are "to do", "in progress", and "done." This allows you to keep track of bigger tasks that are part of a large project or plan. You can accomplish longer term goals in this manner by keeping track of it.
The picture I've included below is the project board we use at my gym. As you can see, the far right column has a great deal more task cards (color coded note cards; each person gets a different color). When you get a task done, there is that sense of accomplishment, and when it's in the "in progress" section, you tend to notice it every day and think about what needs to happen in order to get it done sooner. Very motivating!
Finally, make sure there aren't too many in the "in progress" column. I'd say no more than 3 at a time, although one or two is probably ideal (for us we have more because there are more people working on various projects). It's important to have a very real sense of "I can get this thing done!", and one or two things at a time is ideal.
AGILE project board we use
Change is life
Although I'm a huge believer in having a daily routine, once you've realized that a habit is destructive, it's time for a change. Change is what makes life interesting, and it's also what makes you grow as a person, and, ultimately, makes you happier. Seek to change yourself constantly through incremental improvements, as the above three steps will help, and you'll be well on your way to a happier, healthier, more productive life. Read a little more about how to become more productive, specifically, here.