Have you heard of habit triggers? In addition to helping you get rid of bad habits, you’re supposed to be able to use them to get develop new, positive habits, too.
According to Leo Babauta,
Habits become automatic after we’ve created a bond between the trigger and the habit — the stronger the bond, the more ingrained the habit.
He then goes on to outline some common triggers, which include waking up, eating breakfast, your morning commute, your afternoon commute – really, anything that you do every day can become a habit trigger.
I have wanted to develop a consistent journaling habit for a very long time. The key term there is “consistent”. I have so many notebooks and journals lying around with a page or two filled, a sign of my many attempts to develop a journaling habit.
And why do I keep trying? Because I do feel that compulsion to write things down, as Joan Didion describes in her marvellous essay, “On Keeping a Notebook” (pdf):
The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself. I suppose that it begins or does not begin in the cradle. Although I have felt compelled to write things down since I was five years old, I doubt that my daughter ever will, for she is a singularly blessed and accepting child, delighted with life exactly as life presents itself to her, unafraid to go to sleep and unafraid to wake up. Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.
It’s just that I don’t feel that compulsion consistently. Hence all those aborted attempts at keeping a regular journal.
So I decided to try using a habit trigger. I have a morning ritual that’s quite indulgent – it includes meditation (good) and surfing around online (not so sure about this one). It’s not the most productive of rituals, but it’s definitely become my morning ritual.
Last week, I decided I’d add journaling into the mix. And to make things easier on myself, I also decided to use my Bullet Journal. I put all of the rest of my life in that journal anyway, so why not, right?
What I’ve been doing is writing in my Bullet Journal every morning. I write about what I’m thinking, ideas I have, what I’d like to get done. Then I do a very very short to-do list for the day. I love the idea of to-do lists but I’m very bad at them. Even though I only have between two to four items on my daily to-do list, often I only accomplish half of the items. Some days, only one.
How has it been working out? It’s only been a week, but it’s already starting to feel like a habit! So this habit trigger thing seems to work.
Once I have this new routine nailed down, I’d like to work on a nightly observation log a la Lynda Barry. The only problem? I don’t have something I do consistently every night (other than going to bed and all the things associated with that – none of which feels conducive to sitting down and writing).
When I’m on deadline, I usually work until I am too tired to think straight. And when I’m not on deadline, I do a lot of puddling around, but nothing consistently. I was thinking maybe my night time ritual should be reading followed by an observation log. And the habit trigger could be … feeling tired? Hmmm. That doesn’t sound like it will work!
I originally titled this post “How to be a morning person” and then realized that was a bit misleading, since I have no clue how to be a morning person. But I want to learn how.
I’ve always been a night owl. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been noticing I actually like those occasional mornings when I do get up early. I end up feeling more productive and more energized throughout the day – even though usually the only reason I got up early in the first place was because of an appointment I was unable to schedule for the afternoon (my preferred time for appointments). Which usually meant the morning would be a write-off. It didn’t seem to matter. I still felt more productive.
And I’m also finding it more challenging these days to stay focused when I’m working late into the night. This used to be something that came easily to me. Now? Not so much. (Apparently this can have something to do with getting older. Hmmm.)
The question, though, is how to wake up early on a consistent basis, without having to go to the trouble of scheduling morning appointments?
I decided to search online to see how I, too, could become a morning person.
As it turns out, there are a LOT of articles and blog posts out there on “how to be a morning person.” (Obviously I’m not the only one yearning to wake up earlier.)
I found some pretty good tips. Like, get more sleep (this sounds like common sense but apparently most people don’t get enough sleep, which makes it harder to get up early). And make your bedroom the right environment for sleep. There are also some good ideas for making sure you get out of bed when the alarm goes. (Moving your alarm across the room, for instance. And letting more light into your room in the mornings.)
My main problem, though? There are two, actually. First, because I work from home and my work is very deadline-driven, there are many nights when my office actually is “open” at midnight. And at 1:00 a.m. And 2:00 a.m. This problem is one of those vicious cycle kind of things, though. Obviously if I got up earlier and went to bed earlier, I’d still have the same number of hours in the day to do my work, right?
My other problem is that I tend to get my second wind right around 11:00 pm, when most people are thinking about getting to bed. From everything I’ve read, if I want to get up at, say, 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning, then I really should be in bed at around 11:00 or 12:00. That’s kind of hard to do when right around then is when I start feeling energized. Not that I want to go workout or anything like that. I just feel, well, kind of like I’ve just woken up and had a cup of coffee. Which I haven’t. (And anyway, I’ve been off caffeinated coffee for a few years now, so I can’t even blame it on the caffeine.)
Despite this, though, I’m going to give it a good try later in February, when work isn’t so chaotic and I have a chance of implementing a totally new sleep schedule. Wish me luck!
What about you? Are you an early bird or a night owl? Have any tips for me?
I’ve been reading Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, by Joe Dispenza as part of an informal book club with some of my friends. And since I happened to be in a sketchnoting frame of mind while I was reading it, I ended up taking sketchnotes of every chapter.
Here are my notes from chapter one (click on the picture for a bigger version). Please excuse the sparkly nature of the pen; I’d just come across an old set of really nice gel pens and couldn’t resist using them (I used a different colour for each chapter of the book – thankfully, the lighter pens were used for later chapters!).
As you can see from my notes, the book goes quite a bit into quantum mechanics, and how we can apply what we know of the quantum field to “rewiring” ourselves and breaking out of old habits. It’s a very interesting discussion, although sometimes the application of theory seemed a little bit forced to me. But since I believe there are mysteries of life and consciousness that just aren’t explainable by our current scientific knowledge, that didn’t bother me much.
For me, the power of Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself lies in the four week meditation program outlined in the last half of the book. I actually spent several weeks going through the process – but found myself resisting taking it beyond week two every single time.
But luckily, I’ve been reading this book with some friends of mine, one of whom went all the way through the four week process – and rather inspiringly, she has been experiencing all sorts of lovely and welcome career-related surprises in her life. I am currently standing at one of those proverbial forks in the work/life road, and such surprises would definitely be an asset right around now!
So I ended up going to Joe Dispenza’s site and buying the MP3 download of the guided meditation, which was what my friend was using as a companion to the book. The book refers to this meditation a few times; unfortunately, access to the meditation doesn’t come with the book but both Ward and I have been doing the meditation for a few days now and I’d say it’s well worth the $4.95.
For one thing, each time I’ve finished the meditation (which, at over an hour, is quite long) I find myself just bopping with energy. This morning, right after I finished, it occurred to me to go to the local coffee shop and work on my current novel. I spent a wonderful two hours there, and managed to discover the solution to a plotting problem I was facing.
Pretty powerful stuff. If you’re into the quantum mechanics aspect of changing old habits, you’ll probably find the book interesting. And if you find yourself having problems with the meditation program outlined in the book, you might want to give the guided meditation a try.
At the very least, Ward and I are both enjoying our meditation practice a lot more these days!
Incoming! is a feature at Ms. Bookish that chronicles new books that have arrived in the Ms. Bookish household. Here’s one of the latest new arrivals:
Excuses Begone!, by Wayne Dyer
Within the pages of this transformational book, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer reveals how to change the self-defeating thinking patterns that have prevented you from living at the highest levels of success, happiness, and health. Even though you may know what to think, actually changing those thinking habits that have been with you since childhood might be somewhat challenging.
If I changed, it would create family dramas … I’m too old or too young … I’m far too busy and tired … I can’t afford the things I truly want … It would be very difficult for me to do anything differently … and I’ve always been this way … may all seem to be true, but they’re in fact just excuses. So the business of modifying habituated thinking patterns really comes down to tossing out the same tired old excuses and examining your beliefs in a new and truthful light.
In this groundbreaking work, Wayne presents a compendium of conscious and subconscious crutches employed by virtually everyone, along with ways to cast them aside once and for all. You’ll learn to apply specific questions to any excuse, and then proceed through the steps of a new paradigm. The old, habituated ways of thinking will melt away as you experience the absurdity of hanging on to them.
You’ll ultimately realize that there are no excuses worth defending, ever, even if they’ve always been part of your life – and the joy of releasing them will resonate throughout your very being. When you eliminate the need to explain your shortcomings or failures, you’ll awaken to the life of your dreams.
First line: It’s been said that old habits die hard, implying that it’s next to impossible to change long-standing thought patterns. Yet the book you hold in your hands was created out of a belief that entrenched ways of thinking and acting can indeed be eradicated.
Where I got this book: Bought this at Costco
Why this book?
I believe that our lives are shaped by our beliefs. My life is a reflection of whoever it is I believe I am, and that’s a choice I’m always making, whether I know it or not, in every second of every moment of every day.
It’s been a while since I’ve picked up any of Dyer’s books, but when I saw this one, I decided to get it. Just knowing you have a belief you don’t want doesn’t guarantee that you can let go of it and go on to one you do want. So I’m very interested in reading what Dyer has to say about how to go about releasing an old, unwanted belief, and adopting a belief you really do want to have.
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