A habit is formed because of the way our brains are wired. First, we have a cue or trigger, which might be a specific time of day, a location, or an emotional state. Next comes the action performed, such as exercising, reading a book, submitting a report, drinking a hot beverage, socializing with friends, or eating a cookie. If we enjoy the activity, then the pleasure center in our brain rewards us by releasing feel-good hormones such as oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins, or dopamine. This process is called a habit feedback loop and it makes us want to repeat an action. If we repeat it often enough, it becomes a habit. Habits are said to be so strong that they can override common sense. Because productivity matters more than ever, both in our business and personal lives, you should never underestimate the power of building regular productive habits whenever and wherever possible.
Habits serve a great purpose by freeing up our conscious minds to let us get other things accomplished. In repeated studies, psychologists have found that over 40% of our daily activities are on autopilot, or habit-guided. They control our lives to such an extent that changing them means changing our lifestyle. Forming solid new habits takes dedication and patience but the end result is worth it. The latest consensus is that it takes at least 66 days of committed behavior to shape a new habit. If your goal is to increase productivity, there are plenty of habits you can change that will start moving you in that direction.
Choose new ways to start your day
Everyone agrees that it can be addictive to stare at a phone, which is why most of us reach for it as soon as we wake up. Contrary to popular opinion, however, experts say you should not go near any electronic devices for the first hour after waking up. There are several reasons for this. The first reason is that your brain is at its most susceptible first thing in the morning, which means you will absorb any negative news or unpleasant emails more deeply. This can cause you to feel stress and it can set the tone for the rest of your day. In addition, because your brain is more vulnerable, the instant gratification you get from electronics will train your brain to expect that level of stimuli throughout the day, which is not realistic.
Because your brain is most connected with your subconscious mind first thing in the morning, there are things you can do right away that will drive the direction of your entire day. One tip is to not hit the snooze button. This tells your brain to get moving and not procrastinate. Because success breeds success, another tip is to make your bed. The simple act of making one’s bed will set a satisfying tone for the rest of the day and make you subconsciously want to accomplish more. Eating a healthy, balanced breakfast is another important habit because your brain needs energy in order to make decisions.
Have a schedule
Something happens in our minds when we write something down. Some feel it’s because it removes the anxiety of having to retain the information once it is safety transferred onto paper. Others enjoy the gratification they feel from being able to cross items off a tangible list. Whatever your daily goals are, it’s important to prioritize them. Everyone has a task that needs to be completed that might not be preferred. Schedule the most unpleasant tasks for when you have the highest energy level.
Cut down on decision-fatigue
We all have a set number of decisions that we are able to make each day before our brains get tired. This is the trade-off of decision-based thinking. It is extremely important to prioritize what you want to accomplish. Many famous individuals have taken the decision-making out of the equation for minor decisions such as outfits and meals. They have clothes laid out the night before and they eat the same breakfast each day. Two notable figures are Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama.
Take care of your mind, body, spirit
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a great visual representation of the importance of self-care. Before we can make any type of decision or use higher cognitive functions, we must first take care of our basic needs, such as sleeping and eating properly. It’s also important to listen to one’s own circadian rhythm when it comes to doing self-management.