And this is an appropriate time of year to be thinking about habits because anyone considering setting any New Year's resolutions should absolutely be thinking about their resolutions in terms of habits rather than goals. Yes, I count myself among this group.
After much rumination, I've decided to commit to three new habits in service of becoming less distracted and more purposeful thinker.
Each of these habits can, and hopefully will have a cascading impact that goes far beyond that goal, but right now I'm trying to keep the habits themselves and my stated motivations for them as simple as possible.
And I'm not waiting for New Year's Day to start them. No need to encourage the bad habit of putting off doing the right thing, right?
So here are the three new habits I'm committing to, with links below that dive into the science behind their importance for improved thinking and productivity.
Once you read my habits, I invite you to hit reply on this email and share yours with me!
Here we go:
Habit #1: Wake up at 5:00 a.m. every day.
I know I need to exercise more. And based on how my life is currently constructed between work, family, and hobbies, the most consistent time to exercise is early in the morning. Getting up early gives me that option (but I'm not making it an obligation.)
I also know that I need to sleep more. Now you may wonder how waking up earlier than I normally do will assist in this. Well, it may not. That's why I'm positioning this to myself as an experiment.
But I have a hunch that knowing I'll be waking up at 5:00 a.m. every day will motivate me to get to bed earlier on a more consistent basis, and ultimately get more sleep in the long-term. We'll see how that works out. (According to my FitBit, my current average sleep score is 73, which is regarded as "fair." That will be an interesting data point to track.)
Habit #2: Start each day with a non-negotiable 10-minute planning period (with a pen and paper, not a computer)
Some days (okay, most days) I just sit down and dive right into working. This is usually okay because I tend to have an intuitive understanding of what the most important items are that I should be working on. But not always.
And about once a month, a day arrives where I am stricken with general feelings of anxiety about how much I have to do and how far behind I am. Does that ever happen to you?
Sometimes the feeling is accurate, sometimes it's not. But it's always a function of trying to keep everything in my head and not having a written record of what my plan is and what-to-do items I can't forget.
Committing to a 10-minute planning period each day that is away from the computer will help me think more clearly about how I should be spending my time.
Habit #3: Schedule segments of focused work time and break time
One bad habit I have found creep into my days lately is allowing my attention to drift.
This occurs in part because of not taking proper care of my body and mind (see Habit #1) and not planning out my days (see Habit #2). But it also occurs because I too often don't have a specific objective for what I am aiming to accomplish right now or any type of restraint to keep my focus on the task at hand when it starts to drift.
So it's easy to mindlessly go check Twitter in the middle of writing an email newsletter -- which I literally just did! -- when I haven't formally designated this Newsletter Writing Time, with some sort of timing mechanism (like a Pomodoro timer) giving me a constraint to consider before allowing my attention to drift.
Habits #2 and #3 will work together in that I will use my planning time to schedule segments of focused work time, along with breaks as well. If I know that breaks are built into the day, at which point I can check Twitter guilt-free, then it will be easier to resist the urge during work time.
So there are my habits:
- Get up at 5 a.m.
- Start each day with planning (by hand!)
- Schedule focused work time and break time
I don't know for sure that each one will work. Time will tell, and I'll report back.
But based on my understanding of myself and the general objectives and constraints I'm working with, I think this is the combination of habits most likely to deliver the best results in terms of me becoming a better thinker who does more with my best ideas.
What habits will you commit to?
Reply to this email. Seriously. I want to know.
Now here are this week's links ... one about the power of waking up early, another about the importance of planning, and finally one about the impact of scheduling time to focus (and relax).
Ben Franklin was right.
You’re probably familiar with Ben Franklin’s old saying “Early to bed, and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” It’s actually true.
I know. I’m not a morning person either, but I’ve found that by going to bed earlier, I actually can wake up first thing in the A.M. That has made me more productive, and dare I say more successful. But, that’s not just me.
Here’s the science to back-up the words of advice from Ben Franklin.
Read: 7 Ways Science Proves Early to Bed and Early to Rise Really Works (Entrepreneur)
Plan for success ... or drift away to failure
The power of rituals is their predictability. You do the same thing in the same way over and over again. And so the outcome of a ritual is predictable too. If you choose your focus deliberately and wisely and consistently remind yourself of that focus, you will stay focused. It’s simple.
This particular ritual may not help you swim the English Channel while towing a cruise ship with your hands tied together. But it may just help you leave the office feeling productive and successful.
Read: An 18-Minute Plan for Managing Your Day (Harvard Business Review)
What do the numbers 52 and 17 have to do with staying focused?
A person can't be 100% productive all day. As much as you want to make the most of every minute, to get stuff done, to hustle, it's just not humanly possible.
Concentration is like a muscle: It needs to rest to be able to function, and it shouldn't be overworked. Otherwise it'll simply burn out and take longer to get back into the swing of things.
Read: The Rule of 52 and 17: It's Random, But it Ups Your Productivity(The Muse)
Quote of the week
"Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones."
-- Benjamin Franklin
Chief Creative Thinker