So every morning I get up, make 4 cups of coffee, and get in front of my computer.
Nothing wrong with that scenario, except that every morning I dump out coffee and rinse the coffee pot.
A couple of days ago, I stopped to think about why I was throwing out coffee every day when, clearly, coffee isn’t cheap.
Habit. Plain and simple.
I’ve simply been doing the same thing every morning for so many mornings I don’t think about why I’m doing it.
For the last two days, I’ve made only two cups of coffee. Enough to fill my mug once. This morning when I rinsed the coffee pot, it had just a few drops in it.
My coffee costs will drop in half, which is pretty significant when you think about it as a yearly expense.
It got me to thinking about how often we repeat actions over and over; never actually stopping to review whether or not the action serves us any longer.
Habits can, clearly, hold us back, and while paying double for coffee isn’t going to move my FICO score… there are other habits that can have far more significant effects.
Discovering The Bad Habits
Before we can kick habits that don’t serve us anymore, we need to first figure out which ones they are. Here are three ways to start figuring out whether or not you need to kick a habit to the curb… or at least modify it.
Stop and smell the roses, look around, get out of the automatic pilot mode. Pay attention to the things you do on a daily or weekly basis that don’t make sense anymore. Keep a list in your journal and track activities so that you can review them later.
Some actions my not require elimination but, rather, modification.
My coffee habit for instance. Sure, once in a while I have time for a second cup or even three, but making more on the off chance I might have the time or desire for it is simply wasteful. The same could be said of a Starbucks habit, especially when those funds could be put to better use.
Everything is temporary. When things improve you can change things up.
If you are cutting a habit because of cost, then when things improve you can include it again… if it makes sense. If you are cutting a habit to gain time for another project, then when the project is complete you may want to add that old activity back in… once again, if it still makes sense.
But once we figure out which habits we want to modify or eliminate, how do we tackle them?
3 Things You Can Do To Kick The Wrong Habits
So, how can start kicking asslet on the wrong habits?
Let’s see what the research shows:
1. Start a new habit.
According to Charles Duhigg’s author of, Habit, anyone can create a new habit using a simple and basic formula. It goes something like this: choose a cue and a reward.
First, choose a cue to go along with the habit you want to create. Using Duhigg’s example, “exercise more”, the cue might be to go to the gym every morning, as soon as you get up.
The second part is to choose a reward for completing the activity or habit. Duhigg uses a smoothie at the end of the workout as the reward.
The idea is to think about the smoothie, to anticipate the smoothie at the end of the workout. Duhigg says, “Eventually, that craving will make it easier to push through the gym doors every day.
Using Duhigg’s idea, you can replace a bad habit, like sleeping in, with a good one, like going to the gym.
2. Forgive Yourself First
Seems counterintuitive, but research shows that when trying to break a habit, a little self-forgiveness goes a long way. Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D, author of The Willpower Instinct, suggests that getting rid of the guilt surrounding our failure to say on track can help.
According to McGonigal, “Study after study shows that self-criticism is consistently associated with less motivation and worse self-control.”
Before you kick yourself for sticking with your bad habit, whatever it is, consider giving yourself a little self-forgiveness. We all fall off the wagon when we are trying to create new habits. Just saying that it’s okay to falter and that you can simply try again tomorrow, could be just enough to keep you on track.
3. Start Early
Willpower is a finite resource. We have a set amount and when it’s used up we have to wait until it’s replenished before we can fight off the monsters trying to get us to eat just one more cookie.
Roy F. Baumeister, author of Willpower, researched judges and what they discovered was that the judges became progressively less decisive as time passed. Decision fatigue, discovered in Baumeister’s lab, is simply the idea that making decisions requires willpower energy and when the energy is used up, it becomes more and more difficult to make decisions.
The theory played out in research conducted by a team of psychologists who reviewed more than a thousand parole board judges. Even when all the parolees had similarities that might dictate a judge would make the same decision about parole for each of them, the first two would be given parole and the second two, the ones just before lunch, would be denied. As brain fatigue set in, decisions became more difficult, therefore, the judges defaulted to the “easiest” decision… no parole.
While you likely aren’t making life and death decisions, you should start with habit changes early in the day. The more tired we become the harder it is to resist the easy choice. It’s easier to stop for fast food when tired, than to make a healthy meal at home.
Kicking habits doesn’t have to be hard; it does take discipline and awareness. The best way then to figure out what you need to stop doing is to become aware of what you are doing that might not be serving you well any longer. Be strong enough to weight the pros and cons of any action you think might need elimination or modification. And, finally, remember it’s temporary if you want it to be.
Once you’ve decided which habits to kick, then start your practice early in the day, give a little self-forgiveness, and choose something new to replace that old habit with.
One way to look at habits is to see them as opportunities for change. Change is always good for you, and your business.