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how to build positive habits, and reduce or eliminate negative habits  RSS feed

 
steward
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Aren't we all wanting to improve in some way?

Just a quick skim of the decision making forum and we have these threads:
  • Learning to prioritize
  • Overwhelmed...need ideas
  • 2018 New Year - Goals.

  • There's more - too many to list here. Though I did not find one focusing on changing habits.

    I have some serious problems with brain fog, which is part of why Paul and I eat so, so specifically (which we go into a bit here). I'm working with a Naturopath on several things underlying the brain fog (and narcolepsy!), and in the mean time, with all the roles I fill, even the simplest change can plunge me into debilitating overwhelm.

    Currently, my coping strategies (like endlessly playing a stupid card game on my computer, or surfing Facebook - gah!), can worsen things, because the overwhelm and stress both increase, and then I can't sleep, don't eat right, etc., in a downward spiral kind of way. I think building good habits, which can serve as better coping strategies (I hope!!), would/could/can keep me more stable, more alert, and more able to cope with change (ha!?).

    In effect, I'm looking to be all around more resilient in a multitude of ways.

    My coping strategies, while I have not timed them to see how long I spend, I am concerned they almost equal or can some times equal the amount of TV watching of the average American. In the Medium article:  The Simple Truth Behind Reading 200 Books a Year by Charles Chu, the author comments on how long it takes to read 200 books per year:

    I mean, 417 hours sure feels like a lot. But is it, really? Let’s try to get some more perspective.

    Here’s how much time the average American spends on social media and TV in a year:

    705 hours on social media
    2,737.5 hours on TV


    Whew, and *WOW*, right?!

    So, I want to do better. FAR better.

    I read another Medium article (the link has escaped me) about an author who showed an image of just two apps on his phone home screen - one of them was Habitica - an app to help build positive habits. That got me curious.

    While I talked about all manner of tech tools for agile work, content creators here on the forums in the past, an app to help with habits sounded like something I could use!

    ~~~~~

    So I dug in to find out more about habit building apps. (Links are for Android/Google Play, though I'm sure you could find iPhone versions, too.)

    Habitica
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.habitrpg.android.habitica
    I watched this video about it (note the name has changed)

    that, in short, says that if you don't stick with your habits in the game/app, then your team members can die or lose "health" or power ups! Not sure if this one would be a fit.

    Todoist
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.todoist
    I think this is more of an organizer than a habit changer though from watching the video about it, it does have a way to set productivity goals. I already use Evernote, which I don't think has productivity goals, so a change to something like this would have to be well worth it. ???

    Forest
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=cc.forestapp
    A pomodoro technique (Wikipedia link) app, which has some appeal for loads of obvious reasons for me, though it sounds like it works best if you upgrade to the "premium" version. Not sure this is the right fit for me either though.

    Loop
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.isoron.uhabits
    This one has the highest rating of all the apps in this e-mail 4.7 stars - from 18k reviewers!! So it has some potential though a couple of the reviewers are talking about issues with the app in their review, and frankly, the screens look a bit boring to me. Completely ad free though - wow.

    Habit Tracker
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.oristats.habitbull
    Hm, it seems this is almost identical to Loop with how the screens work (and Loop's might not be quite as boring as I thought, Habit Tracker just made a slick video about theirs) with Habitbull/Habit Tracker's upside being the inspirational quotes/images and online discussion forums. I don't think I'd use the forums because I'd rather use permies.com (of course!), but I like the inspirational messages a little. Not sure if it has ads. So, I'm not sure if the inspiration would make up for any ads!

    ~~~~~

    And then some folks simply use a paper calendar on their wall, to mark off each day a habit was done (ala Jerry Seinfeld's productivity technique).

    Or there are journals, "day timers" or using the apps mentioned in tech tools for agile work, content creators.

    In the past, I even installed an app that tracked how much time you spent in your different computer programs - one function being that it could show how long you spent surfing the web - and that didn't seem to make a difference in my computer habits.

    Somehow, these different tools haven't quite been enough to engage my foggy brain on my bad days. Though, I'm wondering would an app be any better?

    ~~~~~

    The thing is, I can deal with too much to do, or being overwhelmed, IF I know that I put my best, reasonable effort in to my day. And after days and weeks of putting my best effort in to my days, I think I'd be better able to decide what to let go, what to say 'no' to, and how to prioritize. I think it's a valid theory based on my past experiences and stress and energy levels.

    I want to hear from others.

    What method or technique do you use to build healthy habits (and overcome negative ones)?


     
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    One way I have been building my positiveness (?) Is by eliminating tv. I still watch you tube for instructional videos, but no news, no politics, no religion, no crime. I read no newspapers and I politely avoid negative people. 
    Oh, and I listen to your and Paul's podcasts of course!
    Do I get an apple for sucking up?
     
    garden master
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    I feel that repetition helps build habits.  When I am not able to concentrate on the things I need to do I make lists.  Sometimes after a few days/weeks of making them, I no longer need them.

    I also am real fond of self help books, especially "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale.

    Amazon: The Power of Positive Thinking

    And this one by Wayne Dyer:  "Your Erroneous Zones: Step-by-Step Advice for Escaping the Trap of Negative Thinking and Taking Control of Your Life"

    Amazon: Your Erroneous Zones
     
    Amanda Launchbury-Rainey
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    Thank you Jocelyn. Feeling even more positive now!
     
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    What method or technique do you use to build healthy habits (and overcome negative ones)?



    To overcome many decades of overworking this body, I exercise...walking, yoga and recently physical therapy for my shoulder.

    For peace of mind, to avoid unnecessary anxiety, I spend LESS time at the computer...and more time meditating and in touch with family and friends....planting, tending and nurturing plants and trees

    I have always eaten well but bounced around weight wise gaining and losing the same ten to twenty pounds. 
    A year ago I  switched to ayurvedic way of eating according to body type and feel so energized and as a side effect have lost weight effortlessly...the twenty pounds I gained after moving to town and a bonus ten more that seems to be where I level out.

    I've also gotten really good at saying 'no, I don't want to' in very nice inoffensive unarguable ways without a bit of guilt


     
    gardener
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    I have never had much luck telling myself that I shouldn't do something. If there's a television in front of me, I'm going to watch it. If there's a chocolate bar on the passenger seat of my car, I'm going to eat it. If I lived beside a strip joint, I would hear it calling my name.

    So, I have found that the best way for me to avoid temptation, is to not have that Temptation in my immediate vicinity.

    There is no television in most of the places that I go, and I don't have any outside. My YouTube usage is limited to times when I can get free Wi-Fi. When I do have a television in front of me, I like to go on 8 hour binges. So it's just a matter of planning it for times when there is no work. And it's good to multitask and get some exercise or do something else during those binges.

    I always make sure that the passenger side of the car is stocked with nuts, fruit and vegetables. I have a little insulated container that holds those things. So, I still stuff my face while I'm driving, but with healthy choices. My exercise clothing never leaves the car. It sits there on the seat beside the healthy food.

    I don't live beside a strip joint, so I haven't been in one in years. I have lived with a woman who was the object of my desire. That proximity can be very positive thing, if both people are on the same wavelength.

    So, for me it's mostly about real estate. I'm going to eat the food that is closest to me and I'm going to choose other activities based on whether or not I think of them, and how easy it would be to achieve whatever goal pops into my mind.
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
    steward
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    Amanda, you made Paul and I smile! Thanks! And we also avoid TV, and I avoid the news, too.

    Anne, good tips on those books. It reminds me that I had read David Allen's Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivit (affiliate link) and I found it helpful. It might be worth a re-read (or listen since I can't stay awake to read and have to be up doing menial chores while listening to audio books, which I am loving).


    Judith, what a great reminder on the Ayurvedic body types. I keep meaning to check that out.

    Dale, yes, not having the temptation helps. I uninstalled some card games from my phone which has helped a bit.

    ~~~~

    Yes, and yes. Feeling better definitely helps me be more productive and have less brain fog. I've been feeling a bit better the last couple days (via trying about 5 things at once, so I'm not sure which of the 5 worked...yet).

    It's probably funny that I thought an app could help, so I appreciate all the more down-to-earth replies here.

    No one else here has been desperate enough to use an app or a calendar or other habit-building tool?

     
    Judith Browning
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    I'm finding, amazingly enough, that I have more energy all day with an early morning walk. We walk one to two miles each morning at dawn and see the sunrise...even at our leisurely pace and stopping to take photos of flowers to ID later, the walk is at the most  forty to fifty minutes...not much out of a long day   We have done this for years with some gaps for health reasons and weather, etc.  It's surprising how once it becomes a habit and routine, the time is never missed.  It was especially important back when our boys were in high school and my mom with Alzheimers lived with us...a bit of stress back then   It's a great time to 'chat' and or just enjoy each others company silently...we try to stay in the moment and not go over any kind of 'todo' list.

     
    gardener
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    One thing that I've found that helps to strengthen positive habit formation is repetition with reinforcement.  Habits are often done unconsciously or semi-consciously.  I'll give an example involving something Dale said about having the healthy food on the car seat.  So, if Dale always has healthy food there, and also always has healthy food on the kitchen table or counter then Dale is more likely to eat healthy food when he snacks, Right?  But I'm guessing (from my own experience and personal life habits) that Dale is reaching for snacks semi-consciously-he's not really processing it mentally, and making a conscious food choice.  So that (putting good food choices in front of you) is only the first step in my thinking.  The next stage is to reinforce the habit--By consciously reaching for that healthy snack, and Dale can then also consciously reinforce the idea that he wants to eat in healthy ways.  "I've put this here so that I eat healthy things.  I want to eat healthy things."  This is sort of self-hypnosis.  

    It takes a lot of repetition to build positive habits in place of negative ones.  Breaking habits is not easy and takes effort.  You have to want it.  And you have to commit to it fully if you want to have the change happen as soon as possible.  

    I used to spend a great deal of time in my youth eating chocolate bars and soda pop and potato chips.  Yay!  Great healthy choices there, buddy.  This was when I lived at home with my parents and my small part-time income was for me to randomly spend. 

    ...Then the reality of living alone and feeding myself on a very low income forced me to reconsider what I was eating. 

    And then later I was blessed with a slightly higher income where I could choose to eat healthier foods.

    I started to get into healthy food, thankfully when I was dirt poor, so healthy choices involved things like Tahini and avocados, mangos... These were very extravagant items on a low income but with a moderate income they were affordable, sort of.  The thing is, in Vancouver Canada, they were still somewhat expensive even on this higher budget.  But then when I had an avocado in my hand and looked at the price I would remind myself of how much I used to spend on a chocolate bar and pop, and how much of that crap I had put in my body in my youth.  I would tell myself that I owe it to myself to purchase this avocado!  It felt great to have that avocado and I'm sure it tasted even better because of the positive reinforcement that I had given it.  By not ever purchasing things like potato chips and even consciously politely declining them when offered by friends, I build positive habits. 

    There are probably other things that I do that I'm not thinking of now in this process.  But it comes down to positive reinforcement for good habits more so than negative reinforcement on bad habits, I think.  Nobody wants to feel too bad about their choices or about things in their life.  They want to feel positive.  So make positive choices, but reinforce those choices in any way that you can to further enhance the positive aspects.  Make everything you do a conscious choice.  The more conscious we are, the more we are enabled to make good decisions.

    In the case of video games or things like that, I would suggest that people set a timer.  Give themselves the benefit of the brain candy of playing the game, taking the break from reality or whatever, but put a limit on it.  Remind yourself when you set the alarm that the game is serving a specific purpose but for a specific time, and also remind yourself that it doesn't matter if you complete the game or get to the next level or whatever, the purpose is to have the distraction from the overwhelm and to focus on something fully and completely, not to be the best tetris player in the state.  When the alarm goes off, turn the game off, again reinforcing that the game served its purpose, that it was fun and great to get the brain off into La La land for a bit but now it's time to get on a task.  It's good to have a plan as to what task you are going to get on afterwards as well. 

    Just as in the video game example just given... Even though I get a lot of positive things from permies, I have to set a time limit on my time here, as it can become a bit of an obsession and I don't get tasks done at home.  I love this place and I want to spend time here, but I NEED to get things done at home.      
     
    pollinator
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    I think using meditation/mindfulness has been touched on before, but this link kind of brings together that concept in terms of dealing with unhealthy habits or urges:

    https://portlandpsychotherapyclinic.com/2011/11/riding-wave-using-mindfulness-help-cope-urges/

     
    Judith Browning
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    This article reminded me of this thread https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/on-getting-an-early-night/

    To a surprising, and almost humiliating extent, some of the gravest problems we face during a day can be traced back to a brutally simple fact: that we have not had enough sleep the night before.

    We are likely to be up against genuine hurdles: the economic situation, politics, problems at work, tensions in our relationship, the family…

    These are true difficulties. But what we often fail to appreciate is the extent to which our ability to confront them with courage and resilience is dependent on a range of distinctly ‘small’ or ‘low’ factors: what our blood sugar level is like, when we last had a proper hug from someone, how much water we’ve drunk – and how many hours we’ve rested.



    Now, I sleep a good solid 8 or 9 hours a night but I spent a number of years with only 4,5 or 6 hours....a good absorbable magnesium supplement made all the difference and it's wonderful

    Sometimes the solutions are simple.....
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    Hm. Just by discussing this with you all and your wonderful ideas, I'm learning. Slowly.

    You see, yesterday I noticed I actually had the physical  energy (enough spoons) to do some things many might take for granted. I was shocked to realize it had been a long time, and I'd habituated to avoiding that kind of (very minor) physical challenge. Wow. I have been more low energy than I thought. And I'm really not that old!

    So...tonight, I'm back in *super* low energy mode again (I won't bore you with why - I'm working on it!) and there. is. so. much. to. do.

    I'm worried that if I sit at my computer to answer emails (from yesterday and days prior!) and do the bookkeeping that is needed that I will fall asleep. So I'm thinking about getting other things done first.

    Though chopping rapidly ripening fruit (even into a simple compote or sauce in the crockpot), or washing dishes, watering houseplants, taking care of other household things/etc., all seem a bit too hard at the moment. How sad is that? And I noticed I was looking at stupid stuff on my phone...which isn't helping get anything done.

    If I put an audio book on, I can push past the tired (and even pain) and get things done. So I'll shift to that mode in a moment here.

    In other words, I think for me the struggle is real in that my bad habits have something of a physical basis. At least some times. If I were more handy with some kind of handicraft, that might be nice to put my feet up and work on right now. But chopping fruit (or veg that need to go in ferments!) requires some more managing and washing up than sitting allows very easily.

    What do you all like to work on when you're low energy or at the end of a tiring day?


     
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    Jocelyn said:

    . I think building good habits, which can serve as better coping strategies (I hope!!), would/could/can keep me more stable, more alert, and more able to cope with change (ha!?).

    In effect, I'm looking to be all around more resilient in a multitude of ways.

    My coping strategies, while I have not timed them to see how long I spend, I am concerned they almost equal or can some times equal the amount of TV watching of the average American.   


    Whew, and *WOW*, right?!

    So, I want to do better. FAR better. 



    I totally understand wanting to improve your situation. I have been an improvement junky forever. That said, however, there is a lot of self-judgment and stress inherent in not accepting myself as I am. What is thought constantly telling me? "I could do better." "What's wrong with me that I can't ...eat healthily, be healthier, acquire better habits, ad infinitum." Basically, thoughts say "There is something wrong with the way I am and I need to fix it." Well how stressful is that?! I can never rest and just be who I obviously am (not perfect) because there is a loop tape in my head that says who I am is not good enough and I should do something about that.
    So, I have found relief in noticing those thoughts and resting with them in particular ways. This CD set helped me see what thoughts were bothering me and gave me some tools to deal with them. The Mindful Way Through Depression; Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness
    All my best,
    denise
     
    pollinator
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    Jocelyn - I have had very difficult times, times that I had one daily spoon. I could either cook dinner for my kids or shower. I barely got out of bed for 5 years, so I understand. That being said, I have transitioned as much kitchen work to sitting as possible. The plan for my new house is a kitchen table in the middle like an island but for sitting. So much processing for preserving can be done sitting, as well as snapping beans, shelling peas, making things like egg rolls, wontons, dumplings, tiropita, etc. , or picking herbs like thyme or rosemary

    I also spend my evenings crocheting, and planning for the next day or week or year, looking through books on gardening, my cookbooks etc. I often do these things while the TV is on, I don't generally watch it, but I like it on, it comforts me. I rewatch my favorites over and over. My TV time is decreasing, but I try to be gentle with myself.
     
    Judith Browning
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    What do you all like to work on when you're low energy or at the end of a tiring day?



    My friend suggested a long time ago (she is a massage therapist and the one who taught me about ayurvedic) that one way to energize is 'legs up the wall' .  It is very helpful when I remember to do it gets blood flowing and is also a nice time to quiet my mind as well.

    Here's a 'how to' from this site https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/balanced-living/exercise-fitness/legs-up-the-wall-pose/

    Begin by sitting on the floor with a wall next to your side. Your legs should be stretched out straight in front of you. Exhale and gently lie down on your back, engage your core and hip muscles to bring your legs up into the air with the bottoms of your feet pointing to the ceiling.
    Pivot your body so the backs of your legs are now touching the wall. Bring your sitting bones flush to the ground and as close to the wall as possible so your torso and legs create a 90-degree angle.
    Relax your neck and place your hands on your belly or to your sides with palms facing up. Focus on your breathing and with each breath release any stress or anxiety, starting from your feet and down through your body.
    Stay in the Legs Up the Wall Pose for five to 20 minutes. To come out of the pose, gently press the bottoms of your feet into the wall and roll to one side, making sure you support your legs until they reach the ground. Stay on the ground for a few seconds until sitting up so as to avoid lightheadedness.




        Provides anxiety and stress relief
        Therapeutic relief for, headaches, arthritis, high blood pressure, low blood pressure
        Relieves menstrual and menopause symptoms
        Stretches hip and leg muscles including hamstrings and calves
        Relieves swelling, cramping and fatigue in legs and feet
        Relieves lower back pain



    Sometimes though, I think we just need a nap
    but we've been conditioned to think that it is bad to take the time out for one when there are things that need doing. 
     
    pioneer
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    In partial response to the original question about what apps might be helpful, this was just posted today on David Allen's Getting Things Done website:
    What Are The Best Apps For Getting Things Done

     
    pollinator
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    Great subject, and thanks to everyone who has shared so far.

      This is kind of a lifelong frustration for me.  I have ideas and ambitions along side a long list of boring but necessary chores... and a body that just can't keep up.  I have autoimmune issues which cause me pain and fatigue, migraines, insomnia. I have some mental health issues that get in my way...depression, anxiety, OCD...and each issue feeds the others.  Geez when I write it out, I'm always shocked at what a mess I am.  If I dont get things done, I get anxious.  When I'm anxious i dont sleep, no sleep can cause a flare of pain/fatigue/weakness which means I get less done, which maybe leads to some OCD crackdown and overworking obsessively on some project, which leads to more pain, more depression, and a 2 day migraine.

    I'm intrigued by the idea of a habit forming app. But a little wary as well.  With my obsessive personality another app just means another excuse to have the phone glued to my face.  I have used an old fashioned journal for years, writing out my to-do list, roughly in order.  I am mindful of the most important tasks, those things I MUST do no matter how shitty I feel.  The kids and the animals must get care.  Some wise soul once advised me to do the hardest most hated chore first.  For me, that's washing laundry by hand.  And I have to say by sheer force of will I have simply FORCED myself to complete that one vile task first thing every morning... And it has indeed become a habit.  After that I simply peck away at my daily list.  I get that nice hit of dopamine whenever I actually finish something and I get to scratch it off the list.  I havent actually FINISHED a daily list in years, but I still find that I get more done with it than without it.  I also play games and make deals with myself.  If I finish a chore I reward myself with a rest and a YouTube video.  I also do what Jocelyn already mentioned - I play audio books or listen to inspirational content during mindless tasks. 

    But for me it feels like I'm juggling flaming swords.  To be productive without overworking.  To accept my physical disability and limitations without hating myself.  To make healthy choices without becoming obsessive.  To stay in the present and stay positive.  To try and make sure a bad day doesn't become a bad week, month, year.  To find those things that give me joy and satisfaction.  To have big dreams and ambitions, but break them up into reasonable pieces, bite size daily tasks.  Immediate achievable goals.  I can't replant the whole garden, but maybe I can do one row (and that works out better anyway - staggered harvest).  I can't clean the whole kitchen, but I can wash the dishes.  Some days I am so incapacitated I can't get off the bed.  Then I need to surrender, and not do battle with myself for being "lazy", " useless" , "stupid", and "worthless".  I always remind myself that each task I complete is one more thing than I did yesterday.  My mantra of late is, " safe, sane and serene. "
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    Greg Harness wrote:In partial response to the original question about what apps might be helpful, this was just posted today on David Allen's Getting Things Done website:
    What Are The Best Apps For Getting Things Done


    Ooh, I like the reminder in this article about the recommended GTD basic lists.

    And, I *really* like the questions to ask before choosing an app.

    Thanks Greg!
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    Maureen, it sounds like you are doing an amazing job "juggling flaming swords." I'm impressed by your tenacity and openness in sharing here. Thank you.

    I've skipped over replying to others and with more thoughts - only because I am now hitting the ground running with 3 back-to-back weeks of events here.

    I'm filling in for about 3 roles in addition to my normal 3 part-time jobs. So for a bit, I'll have the equivalent of about 5 part-time jobs. 5 x 15 hours (low estimate) = 75 hours per week...if I'm lucky.

    And I *am* lucky in that I am feeling better than my recent rather pathetic average - so I'm starting out in good shape. Plus there have been lots of offers of help, too.

     
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    I find that I go in cycles of productivity. Sometimes they are related to external circumstances (having two children, a longer commute cutting my time, etc...) but more often I find that I get much less productive when - for what ever reasons - my personal systems fall down. But over the years I have also worked out what kind of systems help to keep me on track.

    Habit Tracking Apps
    I have used these in the past and like them. Inspired by this thread I have downloaded a fresh one and got set up again. My experience of these apps is that they work really well for "simple" habits. Things that you really should do, that only take a few minutes, but are frequently forgotten. They work less well for a habit that is actually a longer complicated task.

    Some examples that work well for me
    "Brush your teeth in the morning"
    "Make the bed when you get up"
    "Load the dishwasher before bed"
    "mark one set of books"
    "use my anki flashcards" (more on this later)

    Things that work less well, because they are not really "habits"
    "Go to the gym" - this involved packing the gym bag, making sure that my wife is able to have the kids, checking that the gym is open and not being used for a class, driving etc... This is actually a whole series of tasks none of which is really a habit in and of itself.

    All my reading, and own practising of this, suggest that habits are much easier to form if you bolt them on to other regular tasks. The existing regular activity acts as a trigger.

    Let's say I want to remember to tidy the kitchen and put the dishwasher on. When specifically am I going to do this?

    When I ... come downstairs from putting the boys to bed... I will ... check the rooms for dishes and load the dishwasher
    When I ... get out of the shower in the morning ... I will ... brush my teeth
    When I ... get out of bed in the morning ... I will ... make the bed and put dirty clothes in the basket
    When I ... walk from the car to school ... I will ... review my anki flashcards on my phone
    When I ... get ready to leave work ... I will ... clear my desk

    Clearly identifying the trigger event is as important as defining the habit you want to build.

    All of these habits by themselves are tiny, but cumulatively they make a huge difference.
     
    Michael Cox
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    I ran out of time earlier, so this is being split over 2 posts!

    The second big thing for my personal productivity was discovering The Pomodoro Technique.

    The principal is incredibly simple.
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  • Work with 100% focus and at maximum intensity on a single task for 25 minutes. Then take a 5 minute break.
  • Repeat.


  • Actually doing this was, for me at least, totally mind-boggling. When I use this technique I consistently get as much work done in a 25 minute stint as I used to do in an hour of casual "work". I find this hard to maintain over the long haul, but when I face a time when I have a huge burden of school work to deal with (report writing, exam marking etc...) then this is my default. I still dislike reports, but previously I used to DREAD doing them. Doing all my classes would take about 8 hours and stretch into my evenings and weekends. Now I do them in half the time, and frequently they are better than before, because I have more energy while doing them.

    The Pomodoro technique is hard is you are someone who is prone to being distracted. You are essentially using it to teach yourself to not flit from one thought to the next, but to hone you "concentration muscles". One thing that can help is to keep a tally on a scrap of paper. Each time you find your thoughts slip off track make a mark on the paper then switch back to task. At the beginning of using this I consistently found I had 15 to 20 tally marks over a 25 minute period! No wonder it was hard to make progress on anything. Now I find my thoughts slip off track maybe 2 or 3 times in a pomodoro and I quickly get back on track again.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique

    The creator and his proponents encourage a low-tech approach, using a mechanical timer, paper, and pencil. The physical act of winding the timer confirms the user's determination to start the task; ticking externalises desire to complete the task; ringing announces a break. Flow and focus become associated with these physical stimuli.




    https://doc.lagout.org/programmation/Pragmatic%20Programmers/Pomodoro%20Technique%20Illustrated.pdf
    This one is a proper book on the subject. Well worth reading so that you get the most out of the method.
     
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    John Weiland wrote:I think using meditation/mindfulness has been touched on before, but this link kind of brings together that concept in terms of dealing with unhealthy habits or urges:

    https://portlandpsychotherapyclinic.com/2011/11/riding-wave-using-mindfulness-help-cope-urges/



    I use meditation and could not agree with you more.  It definitely clears the fog, giving clarity, and gives more focus on goals.  There is a phone app called headspace, a guided meditation to help get you get started but you will soon learn that you need anything but your mind to do it.
     
    Michael Cox
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    And for my last of these...

    ANKI

    Yes, it deserves the huge text

    https://apps.ankiweb.net/

    Anki is a free flashcard app/programme with efficient memory algorithms built in (the iphone version is not free). This has fundamentally transformed the way that I learn.

    "The single biggest change that Anki brings about is that it means memory is no longer a haphazard event, to be left to chance. Rather, it guarantees I will remember something, with minimal effort. That is, Anki makes memory a choice."



    It is based on statistically verified learning algorithms that use spaced repetition to trigger memory retrieval and reinforcement just before you are about to forget.

    Learn a new fact in any context (a book, a conversation, and piece of vocab, a course of study)
  • Create one (or multiple) flashcards in the app
  • Review your decks of flashcards daily
  • New cards get shown to you at 10 minute spacings
  • When you get it right they get shown the following day
  • When you get it right again it will show you 3 days later
  • and if you get it right gain it might show you in 10 days


  • If you get it wrong you go back to the start, cementing the strength of the memories that you are least secure on, without wasting time and effort on the ones that you are confident of.


  • How I personally use it

    Names and Faces - each school year I have to learn approximately 200 new names of pupils and staff all in one go. I used to be crap at it. Christmas would come round and I would know 3/4 of my pupils names... but one or two I would likely never get. Now I create a new deck of flashcards with photos of the pupils and over the first week I learn the cards and then regularly review them. By 2 weeks I confidently know 90%. By a month I confidently know 100%. And the effort is really minimal - 5 minutes a day, maximum.

    Courses of Study
    As I learn through a course of study (or just reading a text on a new topic) I create a set of cards after each chapter - terminology, concepts, facts etc...

    Visual IDs
    Ever wandered round your garden an wanted to know what the names of the plants are? Snap a photo on your phone to create a card. Add the name (ask a friend, read a book, look it up online). Then review. Within a week you will know it.

    Foreign Vocab
    Anki is awesome for this. Each time you come across a new word just make a card - one side shows the english and one shows the french (or german/spanish etc...)


    Now, why does this belong in a productivity/habits thread?
    Creating and then reviewing flashcards is a perfect daily habit - takes just a few moments to review 20 cards on your phone
    It takes the element of chance out of studying - you KNOW that when the exam comes around those facts and details and terms will be in your head
    It reduces the time and effort of study and learning, by adjusting the pattern of the work

     
    Good night. Drive safely. Here's a tiny ad for the road:
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