Authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, on their book, “The One Thing”, explain that research shows it takes 66 days on average to create a new habit. I’m testing myself out, hoping it’s true for me. According to the results of a test I took a few years back, I’m neither a morning nor a night person… I’m a midday person! This revelation posed a conundrum for me, as it left lunchtime as the most productive part of my day. I didn’t do much at the time to change that, but it did remain in the back of my mind.
With this new theory from Keller and Papasan’s book, I decided to change those results and started a new habit on July 14, 2014, which means I’m starting my 3rd week now. So far, so good… So what habit am I trying to create?
I made my goal simple and divided it into simple steps:
Goal: Write an article a day
1. Prioritize the night before (I’m creating a simple list of instructions for the next day, so I don’t have to wake up and ponder on what I need to do)
2. Be in bed by 12 a.m.
3. Wake up at 5 a.m.
4. Exercise 20 minutes
5. Sit down to carry out the actual goal
6. Avoid distractions at all costs
So, steps 2 – 4 are straightforward. I go to bed before 12 a.m., wake up at 5 a.m., stretch out and get going. I get back, and by 5:30 a.m. I’m sitting down at my desk, looking at 1 – 3 things I jotted down the night before on my paper pad. I already know what my main distractions are, so I’ve written them down, but I’ve also written down the tools I need to focus on my priorities, here are the lists:
Distractions to avoid:
• E-mail (unless it’s part of my priorities list… I’m finding out that I can delay 95% of the e-mails I get and reply them in half an hour the next day; it’s turning out great, helping me recover my focus)
• Social media (particularly Facebook – I’ve even disabled Facebook notifications on my phone)
• Browser (specially one with a million open tabs)
• Cel phone (in general… as using it for any purpose makes you look at all the notifications you got during the night, helping you waste time… it turns out you don’t really need it at 5 a.m.)
The one thing that has helped me most during this experimental stage, is knowing that no one is expecting to hear from you until at least 9 a.m., which gives me a 3.5 to 4-hour head-start to be productive on what matters most to me. Now I don’t “play catch-up” all day and can feel productive all day (even allowing distractions from time to time, with the satisfaction of knowing I have gotten the most important part of my workday already taken care of).
My advice on creating a new habit (and buying time for yourself): prioritize and wake up early
Now, I have 3 kids, ages 1 thru 8, and this (hopefully) life-changing experiment is being carried during the summer. Once they get back to school, and they have to wake up by 6 am, I need to know exactly how I’m going to accommodate them… Any suggestions?
Additional note for early morning or late night folks: If you’re already a morning or late night person, and are pressured for time, I suggest you step out of your comfort zone and try to find a space where you normally wouldn’t find the time, and create a new habit. You might also want to pick up “Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick” by Jeremy Dean.