“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” — Warren Buffett
About a year ago I started taking one dance class a week.
I started eating better – so I had the energy to keep up during this one hour class.
I worked out 3 times a week so I was more flexible, and stronger, to perform.
I was cleaner – putting the clutter away before I left and making my bed.
I felt less stress and an increased motivation to reach my goals, both professionally, financially, and personally.
Those hardwired connections set in my brain rewired themselves, and I became a better person for it.
And it all started because I took one dance class a week.
You may think some of your habits are unbreakable, because you’ve failed at altering them before (as have all of us). But you’d be surprised at the results you can get from small tweaks to your normal regimen.
We’re going to get into 8 habits that you can develop to help with your work flow and your bucket list of personal accomplishments, today.
1.“Every time I sit down to work, I get distracted by [my email, websites, twitter updates, fill in the blank]”
Everyone’s been here. You think back on what you did all day at work, and you know you were doing stuff, but can’t name any significant accomplishments.
We get distracted by social media, refreshing our emails every 12 minutes, and pings, buzzes, and everything else in-between.
Hell, while writing this post, I just got pinged by my parents on Skype, caught up in a Slack conversation, and got texted by my landlady about apartment repairs. Let me wave those two hours goodbye…
One app that might help (with the web surfing portion, that is) is a free Google extension called StayFocusd. You can block out “time-suck” websites for a set amount of time, for the full day, or forever!
Say goodbye to losing 2 hours of time from reading through Reddit AMAs for “research”.
“But I can’t seem to concentrate when I’m writing a blog post?”
I can’t write in a silent room. Silence does not facilitate any type of productivity out of me.
So, I play a song and put it on repeat. Choose a mellow song that doesn’t have too many variations. It’s most likely a song that you already know all the lyrics to – but experiment with songs with, and without, lyrics.
We won’t get into the details as to why this works, all we know is that it WORKS. This has helped thousands of entrepreneurs and writers, like Tim Ferriss and Matt Mullenweg, get in the zone to do research and knock out articles (and other types of work) in record time.
2. “Where the Billy Blank did I put that file? (shuffle, shuffle, shuffle)…It was in this pile yesterday (shuffle, shuffle, shuffle)…Wait, what is this bill? Oh sh*t….”
Let’s knock this out quickly, Pig Pen.
- Papers: Grab all those random papers and old receipts and either file them away or throw them away (shred first, then the recycle bin). Yup, you’re being decisive and giving yourself only 2 options.
- Pens: You probably have about 12 pens on your desk, but only 2 of them work. But you only like that one, really. Like Channing Tatum said, “Let it Go“.
- Dust: A dry paper towel for the first wave of wipes. A disinfectant spray for the second wave. And a wet paper towel for the third. It’ll take less than 5 minutes.
- Dishes: Go and wash them all. Now. Some of the food has already dried out on the dish. Ewww…!
Done? Look at your work desk in all it’s spacious and organized glory (sparkle, sparkle, sparkle!), and vow to reset it to this EXACT setup, before you leave for the day, every day.
3. “I have notes everywhere…what were we talking about during that meeting, again?…”
This is probably our favorite work productivity tip!
Instead of having sticky note reminders everywhere (where you try to remember what the conversation was about, in the first place, and what you needed to do) – USE SCREENSHOTS.
To take a screenshot:
On a Mac it’s: Command + Shift + 4
On a PC it’s: PrtScn (depending on your model)
So, you’re having a conversation with someone on Slack and they need you to send them some information later on.
Step 1: Take a quick screenshot of a part of that conversation and it will automatically be saved to your Desktop (or whichever folder you allocate your screenshots to).
Step 2: At around 3pm, go to your desktop, look at all the screenshots you’ve allocated – for the day – and go through each and every one of them – knocking out the tasks, one-by-one.
Prepare to be amazed by the visual reminders!
- “I had a conversation with Jacqui today? Uhhh…” (Look at screenshot) Oh yeah, she emailed me.
- “Matt needed me to writeup something. What was it again?…” (Look at screenshot) Oh yeah, the details are in that pinned Slack file. Get it? Love it? Good.
4. “I’m pretty sure I’m addicted to my phone”.
You want to show people that you’re not really listening to them while you’re having a conversation?
[BUZZ! You glance at your phone that’s sitting on the table]
[Pause…pause…pause…as the person sitting across from you stops talking, mid-sentence, and watches your eyes, glued to your telephone screen, dart from left to right]
“Okay. It’s not important. What were you saying?”…
Nothing turns people off like a quick glance at your phone in mid-conversation.
The other person’s reaction when they hear that ding or buzz, whether they say it out loud or not, “F**k! I lost them, again”.
When you’re having a conversation with someone – whether it’s with friends, colleagues, or coworkers – commit to it! And if you can muster it, look the other person in the eye – the whole time.
And in an A.D.D. world, that’s a superpower my friend.
“Sooo…what do I do with my phone?”
Turn it off.
Or leave it in the armrest, or glove compartment, of your car – out of sight and earshot.
We get it. But as, world renown speaker and leadership consultant, Simon Sinek says, “with the cell phone in hand, on the table (even upside down), you’re giving off a signal that you are not the most important thing to me right now”.
Be present in the moment. We promise you the quality of the meeting you are having will go up. The person on the receiving end of the conversation will remember how you made them feel during these moments. Be THAT person.
5. “I wish I had more time to read”.
“Reading must become as natural as eating and breathing to you. It’s not something you do because you feel like it, but because it’s a reflex, a default”. Ryan Holiday
The solution, to reading more, is simpler than you think.
So this is what you do.
With every spare minute that you have — you read.
No, seriously. That’s it.
Whether you carry a Kindle with you everywhere you go, or a physical book, instead of playing around on your phone during downtime, you break out your book, instead, and read.
Standing in a long line at the store? Knock out a few pages.
Meeting up with a friend but you arrived at the rendezvous early? Knock out some more pages.
You usually watch YouTube or go on Reddit during lunch time? Get cozy and cover a chapter.
As, media strategist and 6-time NY Bestselling author, Ryan Holiday has said, “Carry a book with you at all times. Every time you get a second, crack it open. Don’t install games on your phone–that’s time you could be reading. When you’re eating, read. When you’re on the train, in the waiting room, at the office–read. It’s work, really important work. Don’t let anyone ever let you feel like it’s not”.
Next thing you know, you’re knocking out 2-3 books per week and everyone’s asking you, “how do you do it?”
(and you can trust me on that).
6. “Ugh…I should really drink more water”.
Keep a giant pitcher, or water bottle, AT your desk.
Your phone is in arm’s reach, why not a pitcher of water?
“Yeah, but it tastes so ‘blah’!
We get ya. Toss in a few lemon slices, mint leaves, and berries into the mix.
Pinterest “water recipes“.
“But 8 glasses a day? That’s a lot of water”.
Yeah, we’re not letting you off the hook here…
Purchase a bottle that has already measured out how much you need to drink per hour (or every 2 hours. Look how little those lines are apart from each other!) OR break out a sharpie and one of your old water bottles and scribble it out yourself (8 fl oz = 1 cup).
Now, every day you’re guzzlin’.
7. “I can never get anywhere on time”.
We all know someone who is ALWAYS late, to the point where you lie to them about the actual time they should be there.
“Yeah, yeah Tim…we’ll be there at 7”.
“Everyone else get there at 8, okay”?
But, if that person is YOU – let’s go over a reverse-time engineering technique to get you to where you have to be 10-15 minutes early.
You have to be at the restaurant at 8pm. Okay, so:
– I get off at 5pm
– It’ll take me 30 minutes-max, with traffic, to get home.
– Heat up and cook dinner. That’s 45 minutes – I could cut that in half, but enh.
What time is it now? 6:15? Perfect.
– Shower, shave, dress, lookin’ dapper!
– Make sure I have everything on hand that I need, get directions, and I’m out the door at 7:30.
– It takes 10 min by train to get there.
– Another 5-10 min walk, and bang-a-rang!, I’m the first one here!
Think I’ll break out my book and knock out a few pages.
And WHEN do you coordinate all of this?
Get your reversed engineered plan in place the day BEFORE, including all of the extra errands and TRAVEL TIME.
Want to get even more methodical?
Set your alarm clock 15 minutes prior to you exiting the premises, as a warning, that you have 15 minutes left before you HAVE to leave.
Do this a few times and you’ll be a pro at getting to places on time, in no time.
8. “Damn I wish I didn’t eat so much junk food”.
The first thing that professional chefs do when going to work is prepping the food that they will be cooking for the day (and sometimes the week). So when an order comes in, they grab a few items out of the fridge (or the line), throw it in the skillet and in <10 minutes they have a full entree meal.
You can do the same in two ways:
#1) You can prep your meals for the week. Place your portioned out ingredients in ziploc bags, or containers, and place them in your refrigerator. Add all the seasonings, butter, marinades, whatever to them so all you have to do is drop the portions in the hot skillet, cook for a few minutes, and go to town on your home cooked meal.
#2) Crockpot, or slow cook, your food overnight. We dump some healthy food in a pot, set it on “low”, and let it cook overnight. We wake up to lunch/dinner – perfectly made! The meat falls off the bone, the vegetables taste perfect, and you now have lunch and dinner prepared for the week.
Don’t willpower your way into eating healthy. Set up the systems, so that you can’t help BUT want to eat your awesome, practically ready-to-eat, dishes.
“Not hitting goals isn’t the biggest problem I think most businesses [and people] have; the biggest problem is that so many [people] don’t deliberately define their goals in the first place”. – Alex Turnbull
Pick one task off this list and execute on it until the habit becomes the default. You want to hardwire the practice into your daily routine so that eventually, you don’t even need a trigger (something that you associate with the habit change) to set it in motion.
As, zen habits blogger, Leo Babauta says, “The first step to change: don’t change everything at once. Drastic changes rarely fit into our lives, and are much less likely to become habits”.
So, pick one task above and have at it for 30-100 days. After that habit is hard wired, go on to the next task.
We’re all trying to be the best version of ourselves. We just need to get out of our own way and put systems up that will tip the scales in our favor to the likelihood of success.
Hope these tips help you get the creative wheels turning on other habits you want to build, over time, and design the life that you want to live.
And as our motto goes, let’s “get sh*t done”.
What’s a habit you want to change, for good?
Mention it in the comments below, if you dare say it out loud.