100 days of Productivity: catching up and forming new habits

As you might have gathered from my last post – or as you’ll know if you actually know me – I suffer from depression sometimes.

Like this, but less adorable.
Like this, but less furry and adorable.


It’s actually one of the reasons I started this 100 Days project: I want to make the most of the time when I’m able to be productive, to make up for the days when the only things I might be able to cross off my to-do list are ‘get dressed, go to work’ and maybe ‘force self to speak in meeting’. Exercising and writing both make me feel better, and forcing myself to get up early – or at least consistently – will, I hope, prevent the occasional weekend everyone-leave-me-alone-to-watch-The-Good-Wife-under-this-blanket-athons.

I had a couple of bad days last week which threw me off track a little, so I haven’t been keeping up with any of my 5 things (and I had to give $100 to Go F**king Do It – that hurt). But I hadn’t forgotten that last week was all about learning how to form new habits, and hopefully applying this to the most important habit I need to develop, namely Waking Up Early, Or At Least At A Reasonable Hour, Dammit Grace, I Mean Seriously.

I’ve been reading The Power of Habit, which goes into a lot of detail about habit formation (including how it applies to organisations and groups, as well as individuals, which is interesting stuff at a time when local government is well into behaviour change).

A ‘habit’ as described in Duhigg’s book is, at the most simple level, a routine you do in response to a cue to get a reward that you crave. So, if you smoke, it goes like this:

Cue: whatever usually prompts you to have a cigarette, like drinking coffee, being around other smokers, being awake, etc.

Routine: have a cigarette

Reward: a hit of delicious nicotine.

And you can’t get rid of habits, only replace them with a new routine: so if you’re trying to quit smoking, you have to react to the cue by slapping on a nicotine patch, or going for a run to reward yourself with delicious endorphins and smugness.

My current habit goes like this:

Cue: Alarm goes off

Routine: Get up, switch alarm off, get back into bed.

Reward: Mmm, bed. So snuggly and warm.

mmm bed

And I need to replace it with a habit that goes something like this:

Cue: Alarm goes off

Routine: Get up, stay up, do some things.

Reward: Something else nice. Like breakfast. Or a book. Or breakfast and a book!


So how do I do that? Back to AYOP for habit-forming tips:

Start very small. One of the reasons I’m struggling with 100 Days is that I’m trying to change a lot of things at once. It would be much more effective to start with waking up early, focus on that, and then work on more habits over time. (But I’ve started this whole ‘5 things every day’ now, so YOLO.)

Shrink how long you’ll do something until you no longer feel resistance to it. The example used on AYOP is meditation, but over on Sea Change it’s applied to early rising:

“Change your sleep patterns very slowly, and the habit will be much better. Wake just 10 minutes earlier at first, then another 10 minutes. You’ll adjust each time you make a small change, and then eventually the small changes will add up to big ones.”

Make bad habits more expensive. I have GFDI for that.

Anticipate obstacles to new habits. I think this is similar to an earlier tip about rehearsing how you’re going to resist temptation. Sea Change also has a webinar on this, which I plan to watch while I’m washing up tomorrow.

Reward yourself. It’s an essential part of the habit loop. When it comes to waking up early, Sea Change suggests making the reward itself what you wake up for:

“Have something important to do in the morning. Something you’re looking forward to. Something that will make a great use of the 10 minutes of quiet morning time you’re going to have. I like to write. If you know what you’re going to do the night before, then when you wake up, you can move into doing it.”

This week I’m going to keep working on waking up early, with more help from Sea Change and from AYOP tips that are themed around sleep. More posts to follow!


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