In my last post I discussed how there’s so much great advice out there on how to be more productive each day but most of us struggle to implement these new habits. Check the last post to understand what’s holding you back.
In my quest for complete transparency here at simple mindfulness, I’m laying out the steps that I’ll be following to kick the excessive email habit and replace it with my new writing habit. I consciously chose to label it “my” new writing habit instead of “a” new writing habit to further own it.
I’m taking the advice of Leo Babauta at Zen Habits. He’s the master at creating new habits. Up to this point I’ve told myself that making these changes should be easy and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to just wake up tomorrow and start doing things the way I would like. Well, I can’t tell you how many months of this kind of thinking has gotten me nowhere.
So here’s my plan:
- Identify the new habit you want to adopt. Only one habit at a time for 30 days minimum.
- Keeping my email program open all day and checking my inbox throughout the day.
- Writing once a week when my reminder pops up telling me it’s time to write my next post.
- Check email at 11am, 4pm and 9pm (after the kids are in bed) for no more than one hour each time. Keep my email program closed the rest of the day.
- Write first thing every morning.
While this may appear to be two new habits, I’m actually replacing a bad habit (checking email first thing in the morning) with a desirable habit (writing first thing in the morning).
- Create accountability by making it social.
Sometimes you can get someone to join you in reinforcing a new habit like exercising. My new habits aren’t group activities so I’m creating accountability by telling you all what I’m up to. I’ll report in at the end of each day on my simple mindfulness Facebook page.
I have also added this to the log I keep on my refrigerator where I track three things that I want to keep myself accountable for each day. I’ll simply put a check in the appropriate column: started day with email or started day with writing. The logs I kept for the last couple of months only had “Write” at the top of a column so I could check if I wrote or not. This wasn’t nearly enough. It didn’t work.
I’m making writing the most important thing in my day (other than my family and health). If I have other deadlines or “work” to do, it all comes second. I’ll figure out a way to make it all happen with writing happening first.
- Enjoy the habit.
This one seems like a no-brainer. Of course I’ll enjoy doing more of something I love! But I know that chattering little monkey mind will try to spoil my party and bring up all the reasons I shouldn’t be having this much fun. I’m aware and I’m ready for him.
- Handle the temptation to fall back into the old habits.
Notice that I didn’t say “avoid” the temptations. Avoiding is pretending they don’t exist. I know they’ll arise and this is what I’m going to do about them:
- Start by becoming aware.
I’ll be aware of the urge to check email instead of write. I’ll notice my triggers, most of which are simply having my email program open and having a pause in my train of thought.
- Don’t act.
Instead of mindlessly repeating my old pattern, once I notice the thought, I’ll take a deep breath and consciously do nothing.
- Let it pass.
I know that if I wait long enough, the urge to check my email will pass, just like every other negative thought and emotion.
- Beat the rationalizations.
My monkey mind will say something like, “Oh, just check in for a minute. It won’t take long. You don’t have to go through ALL your emails. The more you do now, the less you’ll have to do later. It will be one less distraction while you’re writing.”
I’ll beat these rationalizations by reminding my monkey that those excuses are what leave me writing only once a week. Checking email is what keeps my stress level higher than I want. And I don’t really need to be needed that much. I know that the subtle feeling of stress in my chest that I constantly feel when my email program is open noticeably drops as soon as I close my email program.
That’s my plan and I’m sticking with it.
Nothing else I’ve tried has worked so far, regardless of how smart I think I am (actually, the whole “smart” thing is usually what trips me up). Leo is the master of changing habits, given how he has transformed his life. I’ll be humble and coachable and follow the steps and let you know how I do.
I would love it if you would join me on this 30 day challenge to change a habit. Leave a comment and let me know what habit you’ll be changing. Then post with me on my simple mindfulness Facebook page with your daily results. No judgments. Only support! Game on!