Dictionary.com defines “habit” as an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it is almost involuntary.
Habits can be timesavers, like macro keys on your computer, and simplify repetitive work tasks.
However, habits can also lead to problematic behaviors, especially at work, and that’s why people try to get rid of them with everything from anti-smoking patches to rubber bands to snap to stop negative thoughts.
Do you want to stop getting bogged down at work? Then change your habits.
And what’s the best tool to help you break a bad habit? Your mind.
That’s not only because your decision to change your patterns is the very important first step. It’s because unleashing the power of your mind on your recurring routines is virtually the only way to do so successfully.
You can think of a habit as a circuit you’ve wired for yourself in your brain. And your conscious thought is the only effective circuit breaker there is.
The trick to effectively breaking a bad habit is to keep your conscious brain engaged with the problem as long as you can. Here are 9 steps to help you do just that:
- When the impulse to perform your habit strikes, imagine alarms going off in your head.
- Ask yourself what you’re doing.
- Answer honestly, as in “I’m sitting down going through e-mail instead of tackling that report.”
- Ask yourself what will happen if you continue with this behavior?
- Answer honestly, as in “I’ll waste the morning, have to stay late and get behind on everything else while I do a sloppy job on the report.”
- Challenge yourself to come up with other behaviors, as if for someone else.
- Ask yourself to pick one of these alternative actions, just this once.
- Do it.
- Repeat until you feel the habit lessening its hold over you.
Some people say it takes 30 days to break a bad habit, but I’m not sure that’s right. I think it takes 30 days to make a new habit, and maybe you haven’t actually decided what you want to replace your bad habit with.
When you’ve made up your mind and are not just doing things because that’s what you’ve always done, you might come up with more creative choices.
A Spanish proverb says, “Habits are first cobwebs, then cables.” Use your mind to brush those cobwebs away and you’ll become more effective at work.
by Danielle Dresden