In today’s episode of Productivity Tuesday, let’s talk about habits. We all recognize that we have “good” and “bad” habits. I think many of us might agree that journaling is a good habit. Many of us might also agree that drinking until you puke every Friday and Saturday night is a bad habit (It might be fun every once in a great while, but it takes its toll on our bodies, spirits, emotions, and productivity in a big, bad way). We could list a variety of habits and judge their merit, but the theme that binds them all together is that we tend to do them without giving them conscious thought.
Sure, when you are four, your parent has to remind you to brush your teeth. By the time you are an adult, you’ve like got that habit down. If you don’t do it after every meal and before bed, you at least likely brush those pearly whites when you wake up.
Many studies have shown that repetition builds habitual action. In other words, if you want to make a behavior habitual, repeat that behavior for some time et voila, it will ingrain itself into your routine and before you know it a habit is born.
That works great if nothing in your life changes, and you can develop and maintain a consistent routine. But what happens when life blasts you a curve ball? You have to roll with it and try to maintain equilibrium in the face unexpected change. Heck, even if you knew the change was coming, a disruption to your routine can make all your good intentions go the way of the do-do.
So, what do we do? How do we ride those changes and keep our good habits on deck? We do it by making it as easy as possible to continue our habits regardless of our situations. We facilitate a pattern of behavior by creating an atmosphere where that pattern can continue unimpeded regardless of outside circumstances.
Here is an example. I have a rule that I’ve mentioned before. Regardless of anything else going on in my life, I am required to at least step on my yoga mat, every, single day. In my world, at my house, that is easy. I know where the mat lives. I know how much time my yoga practice will take. I know how long I can go before the dog requires his morning constitutional. So, I can practice yoga and move on with the rest of my day.
But, what happens when I have to travel like I do this coming weekend? Suddenly, the routine flies out the window. I’m in a different space, different city, and with a different schedule. And on top of that, depending on where and how I am traveling, I might not be able to bring my yoga mat with me. So, I have to plan ahead and make things easy on myself.
I figure out my morning schedule. Will I have early meetings? Great! Then, I set my alarm 30 minutes early to make room for yoga. Will I need to walk my dog because he traveled with us? No? Then, that 30 minutes is bought and paid for because I can now place yoga into that time slot. If I plan it ahead of time, my routine doesn’t have to change much at all.
But what happens if I can’t take my mat with me? Well, some people buy Yoga Toes. I’ve tried them, and they don’t work for me because my feet slip out of them too easily. Instead, I created my own version of a yoga travel mat. Someday, I might even make these for sale. But for now, this is what my yoga travel mat looks like. Instead of the big, long rolled up tube, I have just a few small strips to carry with me.
It does take a little extra prep time, but that conscious planning ahead of time helps me remain true to my good habits. I look at this planning as an investment in ourselves and in our future. If we keep ourselves accountable to our inner planner, we can maintain positive habits for all the days of our lives. Remember, the habit is an ingrained unconscious behavior. But the prep time to keep that habit going? That’s something we can plan and implement. And that’s how we thrive!