Making Good Habits

The coming year is The Year of Do.

"Doing" over and over again leads to forming habits. It's important to form good habits because doing so allows us to be not only inherently healthier, cleaner, or more knowledgeable (depending on what type of habit we form and commit to), but it also allows us to be more productive and efficient with our time. A habit is an action, good or bad, that one does with little thought as to the mechanics or steps of the process.

New tasks require a lot of brain power--a lot of RAM, if you will. We must think about how to do the task, our timeliness, ways to do the task better, ways to correct our mistakes, and so on. New tasks are mentally draining. Taking on new tasks can sometimes seem so overwhelming, that we opt out of doing the task all together. The more times that we do a task, the less attention our brain must devote to the task. We have more free space in our brain that we can use to think about other things. Completing a task that has become a habit becomes less mentally draining and causes little if any anxiety.

Unfortunately, bad habits form sometimes without our realizing it. Bad habits can be difficult to break. The good news is good habits can be easy to form. They take just a bit of time, practice, and repetition (about two weeks of repetition for daily habits and 5 weeks of repetition for weekly habits).

 How to start good habits: 
1. Give tasks the necessary time that it takes to complete the task. Deliberately set aside the appropriate amount of time it takes to do a task (for example, if it takes 20 minutes to wash the dishes, give yourself that 20 minutes to wash the dishes every day after dinner. Don't promise to squeeze it in when you have 15 minutes in between waking up and leaving for work because you'll end up being late to work or not doing the dishes).

 2. Do daily tasks at the same time every day and weekly tasks at the same time every week. That's not to say that you must wake up at 6 a.m. sharp, leave work at 4 p.m sharp., run at 4:30 p.m.sharp, and have dinner by 6 p.m. sharp every day. Too strict of schedules become overwhelming and don't allow you to make last minute plans for social and leisure time with friends. Instead of keeping a strict time schedule, form sensible and productive sequences like: cook after running, wash your dishes after dinner, tidy the apartment after brushing your teeth, prepare your lunch and backpack for the next day before going to bed. No more putting things off for an unspecified time; just do it. In the beginning, commit to these routines

 3. Enjoy your routine chores. There's no way around it: as an adult, you must keep clean, you must prepare and eat healthy food, and you must keep yourself physically active. You may as well find ways to enjoy doing these things. I listen to and sing along with music while I wash dishes. I listen to radio podcasts while I cook. I wear running outfits I feel good in and think of my next blog topic when I run.

 4. Make just-for-fun habits. Some of my fun habits include going bouldering (rock climbing) every Wednesday and watching my favorite shows every week. The beauty of habits is that it's easy to have time for these activities because you already have a blocked out time period in your week when you don't have anywhere else to be or anything else to do. You tend to plan around your set set activities. Better yet, join or build a community of people who will expect you to come to bouldering every Wednesday. Good habits built into your days and week will guarantee that you will have done at least those productive activities each week. As each activity becomes habitual, you're able to add on yet more productive tasks to your daily routine. It's a win-win situation; no goal-setting required. Nothing to it but to do it.

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