Left unattended, what started as a one-time thing can turn into a habit, then a ritual. It begins small and builds until it’s part of your being.
Perhaps you didn’t notice that you always brush your teeth the exact same way, until your dentist pointed out that you always missed the same spot. Perhaps you didn’t realise you’d spent your week watching television until a friend asked what you’d been up to. Habits creep in and take over.
Here are five habits to break for a better year.
Snoozing your alarm
Hitting the button on the top and rolling over for five more minutes is the opposite of what champions are made of. There is no point in that stage. It’s not wakefulness, it’s not rest. It’s a waste of your time and if it’s five minutes every weekday it’s nearly 22 hours of your year. Former US Navy Seal Jocko Willink, who compares snoozing to letting “the day [get you] all intimidated”, gives advice on getting out of bed:
“What I’m going to do is I’m going to rip those covers off, I’m going to get out of bed and I’m going to go handle what I’m supposed to handle. I’m gonna get it done. Don’t let those days beat you. Beat those days.”
Move the alarm clock across the room and away from you or just get tough.
Always being switched on
It’s late and you’re tired. Or perhaps you’re taking some time off. You’re determined to have a break and get some rest, but you quickly check your emails, just in case. Or you answer a client call because you were trying to get hold of them for ages. Or you keep worrying about that project or those campaigns. Before long, you’re operating on the same frequency as if you were working, so you might as well be. It’s straddling two worlds and giving neither your all. It’s messing up your sleep and your mindset. It’s not rest but it’s not work, it’s a purgatory filled with typos in emails and absent minded meals.
Be in work mode or be in home mode. Give each 100% whilst you’re there.
Going on autopilot
If a situation is familiar, your brain wants to switch on autopilot. It’s saving energy by defaulting to what it knows. But cruising around with your head in the clouds means you miss things. 77% of car accidents happen when someone is within 15 miles of their home. Sometimes the answer is right under your nose. The best ideas come with a change of scenery because it forces your brain to fully engage.
One tactic, for achieving this even in familiar situations, is to narrate your own life, in your head, as you’re doing it; “I’m leaving the house, I’m locking the door, I’m calling the elevator, I’m passing a restaurant, I’m ordering coffee.” It keeps you present, and you will likely notice more extraordinary in the ordinary.
Practice being conscious and present and notice what you had missed.
Being too available
If you are constantly available, you will train people to constantly need you. If you are regularly unavailable, you will train people to find answers for themselves. Even if they can only get 50% of the way there, it’s still far better than asking you for solutions without having thought of any.
I recently interviewed someone who called YouTube the greatest teacher of all. They were an impressively resourceful person for whom it was second nature to look something up and make an informed decision. Empower those around you to do the same. If you end up being someone’s Google search bar, you will get nothing done because you can’t access a state of flow. Your thinking will be stunted, and ideas limited to those that come straight away.
Set your available hours and be strict with them. Focus on deep work for the rest of the time. Train resourcefulness, not helplessness.
Living in the future
Whenever you’re talking or thinking about your life, how much of it is set in the future? Sentences starting, “One day I’ll…” or “When that happens…” or “Next year…” are all talking about a time that hasn’t yet happened and isn’t happening right now. The biggest indicator of your future is your present. The past only existed to bring you to the present, and when the future arrives it will be the present. So stay here. Swap talking about what might happen with what you’re going to make happen today. Swap dreaming about everything you’ll achieve with noticing what you have now that you once only dreamt about.
The future is out of your control but today is yours to choose.
As John Irving said, “Good habits are worth being fanatical about”. Break the habits of snoozing your alarm, always being switched on, going on autopilot, being too available and living in the future for a better year.