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I am totally fascinated by our habits and how they affect our daily lives, not to mention our overall success in life.
I’ve recently read Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life by Gretchen Rubin.
In the book Gretchen highlights the relationship between habits and self-control/self-discipline. Gretchen explains that the action of constantly making decisions taxes our self-discipline.
With habits the decision is already made for us allowing us to conserve our self-control.
The secret to more self-discipline = mastering our everyday habits.
Here are my thoughts on how to have more self-discipline.
In Gretchen’s book, she talks about The Four Tendencies.
They are Upholder, Questioner, Obliger and Rebel.
Here’s Gretchen’s brief description of each one.
Upholders respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations.
Questioners question all expectations, and will meet an expectation only if they believe it’s justified.
Obligers respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations.
Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.
After reading the book I’ve worked out that I am a Questioner.
Each of the four tendencies have their own way of linking with habit formation and self-discipline. Knowing how you tick is an important step in forming new habits that will in turn increase your levels of self-discipline.
Know your best time to be productive
Working from home has taught me that my best time for writing is first thing in the morning. It’s when my mind is most alert, creative and full of ideas. It’s also when I have the most energy.
I’ve discovered I can power on from 6 am till about 2 pm (as long as I eat several healthy snacks during that time).
Since I’ve never really regarded myself as a morning person, this discovery came as quite a surprise. In saying that another habit – having the responsibility of a cat who wants to be fed early (4.30 anyone!) has made getting out of bed early much easier for me. My responsibility to him drives me to get up.
Between 2 – 5 pm I’m not as productive. My energy levels dip during this time. This period of time is often best reserved for lunch (from 2 – 3 pm), admin work and getting chores done around the house. I’ve also found that eating later in the day means I am less likely to have a big meal for dinner.
After that I can sometimes go back to work from 5 onwards and power on for another couple of hours. I certainly don’t do this every day but if I am feeling energetic, I make the most of it and go back to work.
Working with my natural energy levels is definitely easier than struggling against them.
If you are trying to get something done that needs a lot of concentration aim to do it during the time your energy is at its highest (which might be midday, afternoons or evenings for you).
I’ve known that mornings are my most creative time for a while now but reading the book definitely opened me up to making the most of that time.
A great tip I picked up from Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life is about the Strategy of Monitoring.
Since I finished reading the book I have been monitoring my food consumption (including tea, water and alcohol), my television viewing and how much I exercised.
I have also been monitoring how I spend my time during the day. I’ve been keeping track of when I take breaks, how long I work on a particular project and start and finish times. I’ve also been monitoring how much time I ‘stuff around on the Internet’ during the day (needless to say this can be a big trap for anyone who works at home using the Internet).
I know this might sound like a lot to track but it was really quick and easy to do.
It’s definitely been an eye opener. I’m actually doing better at some things than I thought and worse at others.
The interesting thing about monitoring – it heightens your awareness which in turn has you changing your habits (sometimes without even realizing). It helps you stop and think before you do something as to whether that is the right thing for you.
Monitor something that is important to you for a couple of weeks and see what results you get. Most likely studying your data will help you see immediately where you need to change.
I made a substantial change after only one day of monitoring!
Know your vices
This one isn’t so much about knowing you drink or smoke more than you should. It’s much more specific.
I’ll use a personal example involving food for this one. I have one particular brand of potato chip (or crisps depending on where you live) that I just love. I can eat a large bag in one sitting. Despite the fact that I tend to feel a bit sick after eating that many I sometimes still eat the whole packet. Occasionally I can eat half the packet and leave the rest for tomorrow but not very often. I’ve noticed however that I only do this with one particular flavor of chip.
After reading Gretchen’s Strategy of Abstaining, Convenience and Inconvenience I’ve realized the best way to deal with eating too many chips – don’t buy them in the first place.
For me and this particular junk food it’s better to abstain than kid myself that I’ll only have a small handful.
The fact is I never buy these chips when I do my normal grocery shopping. I never even walk down the chip aisle!
It’s those quick pop into the corner store shops that get me, so as long as I am aware of that and summon all of my self-discipline when I am in the corner store I can avoid buying them altogether.
I allow myself to have chips if I go to a party or somewhere similar and they are serving them because I know I won’t have as many. I can moderate my consumption in that environment but it’s better for me to completely abstain at home.
What’s one bad habit that you want to ease up on or stop? Can you use the abstain model to help you form a healthier habit?
It’s exciting to know that we can build healthy and productive habits around our personalities and that we can use habits to have more self-discipline.
Grab a copy of Gretchen’s book Better Than Before – it’s a great read! Click on the image below to buy yourself a copy.
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