On Fresh Starts and Modifying Behaviors
When I find myself procrastinating or not getting things done as quickly as I need to be, I rely on a few behavior modifying tricks. They work for me, and it turns out some of them have been scientifically examined to show their effectiveness on most folks.
- Identity mind twist
- I first frame the problem, e.g., “buying back tasks that I delegated”
- I then interpret the action as being out of character for me: I can do it better, but if they don’t get practice, they’ll never get better; therefore, I am denying their opportunity to improve, which is not like me because they count on me to be their mentor and I enjoy nurturing my staff.
- I come up with a one liner for my identity: I’m a nurturing mentor, and a nurturing mentor would support them rather than buy back the delegated tasks.
- I imagine what specific action a nurturing mentor would take, rather than the existing action I’ve been taking
- Habit creation
- I create a routine for what I am supposed to do, so I can make it into a habit
- I make the task into a small discrete (meaning it has a beginning and an end) so the specific routine can take place frequently and on a regular basis (every day vs. once in a while): e.g., my “appreciation practice” consists of writing down 3 things I appreciate per day: one about myself, one about my husband, and about anything/anyone else, before I go to bed
- I create an environment where I eliminate any obstacles for the routine and have all the things I would need: e.g., a dedicated notepad and a pen by the bed, a lamp that I can turn off without getting out of bed
- Nothing else but this
- For tasks that I have been procrastinating about: I tell myself I can’t do anything else but the task I’m avoiding by setting up a carrot and a stick
- Carrot: after I finish this task, I get to _______
- Stick: (for tasks that tend to take up as much time as you have or give it) I pick a piece of music I like without any discernible lyrics and in common time or regular beat, and set it on loop until I get the task completed
- Gamification bonus (to be more aware of how long I actually take vs. my forecast): pick an album or a playlist whose length is about how long I think the task will take to complete: race!
- Tell Everyone (scientifically explored as public commitment)
- For tasks that are on-going or for a larger goal that takes time, I tell my friends once I get the ball rolling
- I appeal to my vanity but also my identity (Point #1) that I don’t go back on my word and that I like to be consistent with what I’ve said
- Bonus: friends asking for progress acts as a nudge
- Use Goals
- Add other goals that help your fundamental goal (e.g., the goal for a daily blog post can benefit from the goal of trying out new recipe each week if you can incorporate the recipe into your blog post so you have more material to work with)
- Make them into a new year resolution to take advantage of the fresh start effect
My new year resolution for 2015 is to have on a weekly basis: 5 blog posts, 3 statements of appreciation, and 1 new recipe to try. The blog post resolution is a culmination of my 2013 resolution to live a life in a mindful manner so that I had at least one thought or experience worth remembering the following year. One of my 2014 resolution was to review all these thoughts on sticky notes, which turned out to be quite intense. This blog partly addresses that resolution by making use of all of the tricks above: I can’t make my declaration more public than a blog!