Building healthy habits

When you woke up this morning, you put one foot down before the other. It’s very likely you have a preferred foot. Do you get out of bed left foot first or right foot? Like many people you probably don’t think about it. Just like how you don’t think about which direction you brush your teeth or which side of the bed to sleep in at night.

Many of the things we do each day run on autopilot. Our habits eventually become so ingrained that we don’t even realise we are doing them. Life just seems so much easier that way. Productive people take advantage of this to build habits that sustain their goals. Bestselling fiction writers are people who have the habit of writing a few hundred words each day. Virtuoso musicians are people who have the habit of practising for two hours each day. Five hundred words do not make a decent novel but multiply those words by the number of days in a year and you have a trilogy. Similarly, two hours on the violin won’t make you a professional but do that over ten years and there is no piece you can’t tackle.

Good habits are easy to form if you are aware of a few things:

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Give it your best shot for just 15 minutes

A major challenge faced by people who work with a computer is how to work on a task while resisting the urge to open a browser window or watch a film. Companies have tried to address it by configuring office laptops such that social media, video streaming sites and games are inaccessible. That hasn’t really stopped the desperate. Unless you work in a customer-facing role in a bank, there is often no restriction on cellphone usage in most offices.

Tired man staring at screen
That screen had better have interesting content
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Put your phone in a drawer (and learn to leave it there)

A magnifying glass focusing on a passage

How many hours could you go without peeking at your phone? So many people experience anxiety if they had to stay away from their internet enabled devices for a long time. Whatsapp notifications that run in the thousands and ever refreshing social media profiles have made it very difficult for some people to stay focused. Every notification is a distraction and even when they turn off data, the fear of missing out ensures at least some of their brain power stays thinking about what they could be missing. This is good for social media companies but bad for productivity. The ability to get focused and stay focused is becoming a rare skill just at the time when being able to stay focused can provide you with a huge advantage at work.

An arrow stuck in a bullseye
Focus is a moving target

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Have you had your pomodoro this morning?

A pomodoro timer on a desk

Do you have trouble getting started on a task even though you know what the next step should be and have everything you need? If this sounds like you, the bad news is not getting your tasks done automatically sets you up for productivity failure. The good news is you can do something about it. Let me introduce a new word: Pomodoro. No, it’s not English. The pomodoro technique is named after the Italian word for “tomato.” The technique was developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. He chose to name the technique after a tomato shaped kitchen timer he used as a student. I promise you don’t have to buy a timer to use this technique.

A tomato shaped kitchen timer
The timer that started it all

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