First we form habits, then they form us. Conquer your bad habits or they will conquer you
-- Rob Gilbert
Beyond these greater emotional habits, we can choose to make our lives better by tackling those daily bad habits that affect our quality of life in a more tangible way. I am about to bare my soul a little bit here so don't judge too hard. These are the bad habits that I am currently working to improve on.
Hitting the Snooze Button when I wake up
Yup, I do it. I roll over every morning to the growing crescendo of my surprisingly pleasant (at least initially) Blackberry alarm. I fumble around to find my phone and hit whatever button my fingers can find in the pre-dawn light, before it rises from soft wake-up music to blaring alarm 'beep'. I'll do this anywhere from 2 to 5 times depending on the day. Not only is this is a habit that teaches a lack of self-discipline, it also ensures that my 'morning' routine can never be exactly the same, because depending on when I get up I may have to rush through one thing or another to get out the door on time.
Not surprisingly, as a consequence of hitting the snooze button too many times it's not hard to be late in the morning. This is where it can start for me, but I also have the bad habit of thinking I have more time than I do, and often underestimating the time it will take to get to one place or another. I'll look at the clock with 5 minutes to the beginning of a meeting and think 'Oh yeah, I can finish up this power point slide real quick and be down in time'. I'm finding one thing that is helping me to overcome this tendency is trying to be conscious about keeping an up to date schedule and referring to it regularly. The biggest thing for me is just being conscious of my arrival time and not being afraid to be early to something.
Staying up Too Late
I'm terrible for this one. In fact, I'm currently indulging this bad habit. It's quarter to midnight and I should have been in bed an hour ago. I find now that I have a son, I spend from 5:30 to 8:30 playing with him, feeding him and helping him get ready for bed. Once that's over I spend an hour or two relaxing with my wife and discussing our days. Tiff usually goes to bed due to shear exhaustion, at which point I have a bit of time to make time for the things I enjoy. Reading a book, playing my guitar are reading an article or two online. I know how important sleep is and I'm a big advocate for it's importance, but I still find myself going to bed later than I should. Time to start practicing what I preach!
Being an In-active Listener
I'm noticing how bad I can be at this lately. I have the tendency to anticipate what a person is saying and then interrupt them because I think I know what they are going to say. I can zone out and completely miss what a person is talking about because I am trying to figure out what I will say next. I'll be introduced to someone and the moment they tell me their name I'll have forgotten it. My wife will be the first to tell you that I have a habit of hearing her but not listening to what she is saying. It's a bad habit and in order to fight it I've been working to be a more active listener, nodding along and 'mhmm'-ing, looking at a person while they're talking, not allowing myself to get distracted, repeating things they say back to them to make sure that I've understood correctly. It's not an easy habit to break, but one that I'm really working to improve on.
If it takes 30 seconds, just do it
Ever find a bill sitting on your kitchen table that has been there for a week and realize you've never even looked at it? How about that envelope that you've been meaning to mail for the last couple of days but just haven't gotten around to? One of the most useful things I've heard lately is 'if it takes 30 seconds, just do it'. Rather than putting off little jobs and letting them pile-up, I'm focusing on tackling the little things like keeping my work place tidier, making my bed when I wake up in the morning, putting dishes in the dishwasher as soon as I'm done eating. Simple stuff, but really powerful.
Building Daily and Weekly 'Action plans'
This one has been really cool. At the beginning of my workday I write out the projects I'm working on. The people I need to contact in the day and 3 to 7 tasks that I want to accomplish that will help me complete my ongoing projects. Likewise, at the beginning of each week I write down goals, motivations and specific tasks that I want to accomplish that week. I keep it out where I can see it and check things off as I go. It's incredible how much more effective you can be with your time when you're not wasting it trying to figure out what you should be doing. It's also really empowering checking things off the list as you accomplish them. The feeling of having accomplished the things you set out to do in a day is amazing!
This might end up being an entire blog post in itself but I've been noticing how important it is to set goals. Spending the time to not only consider what you want to accomplish, but then writing it down and reminding yourself of it on a daily basis is so incredibly useful. The scope of the goal doesn't matter, it could be wanting to finish a book or trying to start a new business. Write it down and remind yourself why you want to accomplish it.
Making More Time for the People I Care For Most
Life is busy, it's fast paced and often it's easy to lose track of time. I can't tell you how many times when asked how my weekend was I reply with 'good, but I couldn't even tell you what I did'. Time flies by at such an unbelievable rate and it's often hard to make time for all the people that I care about. One thing I know, is that I have great friends and an amazing family. I know that I am a product of all of their love and support and now that I have a son, I want him to benefit from that same love and support. I want to be better at being generous with my time and always be willing to share a meal with a friend, open up my home or say yes to an activity out with those closest to me. Nurturing relationships and investing time in relationships is so valuable and something I want to continue to get better and better at.
So there you have it. Sadly, there are many more bad habits I could have added to that list and many more good habits I would like to add as well. Rather than get overwhelmed I'm trying to focus on the things I know are going to have the biggest impact on my life and the lives of those around me. Some people say that doing something for 21 days straight creates a habit (a quick Google Scholar search says it might be more like 60 days, *gulp*) Regardless of how long it might take, each day is an opportunity to practice a good habit and start building a stronger version of yourself.
Live your Best Life!