When you think of the word “habit”, what comes to mind? Do you think about bad habits like biting your nails, smoking, or going to bed late? Habits: the small decisions we make every day that, when repeated regularly, become almost involuntary or subconscious. We all probably have a bad habit we’d like to kick. But what about good habits? Habits that impact and improve our productivity and lives in meaningful ways.
James Clear, a prominent author who has written three books on habits, has said, “A behavior becomes a habit when you notice you are not doing it.” According to Duke University researchers, habits make up 40% of our behaviors everyday. In his article on habits, Clear argues that “what you repeatedly do (i.e., what you spend time thinking about and doing each day) ultimately forms the person you are, the things you believe, and the personality you portray... When you learn to transform your habits, you can transform your life.”
A little over a year ago, after wanting to increase my news consumption, I decided to start listening to The Daily podcast while I got ready every morning. Now, I can’t imagine my mornings without the sound of Michael Barbaro’s voice. The Daily is an easily digestible amount of audio to consume in the morning (roughly twenty minutes), perfectly timed to my morning routine. I feel more aware of what is going on in the world, and like a better, more informed citizen after listening.
Every day after work, on my walk to the train from my office, I call my mom to catch up and hear about her day. I started doing this simply because I wanted to talk to my mom, but it quickly turned into a habit that I call her at the same time every day. Now my first instinct when I leave the office is to dial her number. This habit makes my walk to the train less cold (because I’m not thinking about the temperature as much as I am listening to my mom) and less lonely.
Another habit that has significantly improved my productivity at work is setting 20-minute timers. I set timers for everything, but especially for simple yet daunting tasks like tidying up, answering emails, reading, or even writing in my journal. The Pomodoro Technique, as it’s widely known, has been proven to increase productivity and focus. Simply set a timer for 15-25 minutes, work on the task at hand for the set amount of time, and when the timer rings, take a short break to reward yourself. Every four completed “pomodoros” you can take a longer break. This method has been such a game-changer for me because committing to working on a task for 20 minutes is much less intimidating than working on a task for an undefined amount of time.
These are just a few examples of the habits I have started doing that have improved my day-to-day schedule and focus. Implementing these habits has really changed my perspective, my productivity, and my way of life. Below you’ll find a few tips to keep in mind when setting habits for yourself: