Hi all, I am busy getting ready to go on holiday for a week and a half down at the beach with my family, so posting may be less frequent for the next 10 days or so as I get a bit of much needed R&R.
I have been thinking over the last few days how easy it is to fall back into bad habits after you make a change, even if it is a change that you really want to make. For instance, at the start of last year I made the commitment to myself to check email only once per day, in order to limit lost time from constantly checking the inbox, and the distraction of answering mail that really, when you think about it could have waited until the evening.
Email, while a fantastic tool, is a real flow killer. What I mean by that is the constant interruptions, the sense of “this is urgent, I must answer now” that most messages have breaks your attention away from the things that you really should be getting done. I used to find myself checking it perhaps 10 times a day, which is not as bad as some people that I know, but when I look at how I want to be living my life, feeling like “I have to check email” is one of the things that I don’t want to have constantly buzzing in the back of my head.
So the year started of well, I would check my email at 9am, and then just leave it for the rest of the day. I am not going to lie to you, at the start it was a painful experience. I thought I was missing out, I thought that life was going to pass me by. The big surprise is that it didn’t. The worlds turned without me pushing send receive every 10 minutes, and I found that I had at least an hour of productive time more during the day. The one thing that I did learn is that even if you make a minor discretion, it’s not worth throwing in the whole process and going back to your old ways.
Habit Creep, where the old habit slowly starts to worm its way back into your life is always going to happen. It can happen easily. First it’s a check in the morning, then one at lunch, and one at night. And that’s fine. But then its also one at morning tea, then at 11am and so on, until before you know you are back hitting send receiver like a rabid monkey. The important thing is that when you become conscious that you have fallen back into an old pattern to not mentally punish yourself or give up. Just start again and continue.
So If I beat the email demon you ask, then why has this been on you mind for the last few days?
Glad you asked, this has been on my mind because I have become aware of a new, more insidious terror that has crept into suck time from my day. The name of this demon is RSS.
I have got into the habit of checking and rechecking RSS feeds, even when I know that they probably havenâ€™t been updated, even when it is distracting me from more important tasks. It has been my mission over the past few weeks to work on some simple tools to beat “Habit Creep”; the following is what has worked for me.
Top 5 ways to beat “Habit Creep”
1. Write down the permanent changes that you want to make and look at the list once per week. I know that this may sound really pedantic or a bit too much trouble for some, but it really does work. An ingrained habit is your automatic response to a situation, and it will take a lot of work to change it.
2. Only make a change if it is reasonable and increases productivity, not to make a point. If checking email 10 times a day is a real necessity then continue on. Only make a change if it will make a real improvement.
3. Cold Turkey doesn’t work for everyone. A conscious decision to slow down or reduce the amount of a habit can work, if you give yourself a daily reminder. Any change is a step in the right direction, and the only person that you need to prove anything to is yourself.
4. Don’t overly chastise yourself for indiscretion. As I said above, you havenâ€™t failed if you make a slip up and go back to old ways. Just take it as a learning experience on the path to the lifestyle that you want and continue from where you left off.
5. Remind yourself of the positives, not the negatives. On your list of permanent changes, write next to each one what the benefit is. The benefit of not continually checking RSS would be at least an hour of extra time a day, time that could be used to get more done, or to knock off from work early and spend time doing what you love