A lot of nice advice is just that…nice.
And then there are battle tested, forged-in-fire rituals that can change your life.
The three I’m sharing did that for me: less procrastination, more productivity and more resilience for what life throws at me.
These are power habits – or keystone habits – the kind that embolden you to face bigger battles and embrace even more willpower-building rituals into your life.
Now the back-story…
I stumbled into habits the first day I picked up garbage on a training run for the Canadian Ironman. Twenty eight years later I still pick up garbage on my runs.
I became a devotee of habit building when I took on the challenge to record where I spent my money, realized the cost of my then-habit of coffee drinking and quit cold turkey.
It was the first time I had truly invested in my discipline – everyday resisting temptation (the aroma of a coffee shop doesn’t help).I became a devotee of habit building when I took on the challenge to record where I spent my money, realized the cost of my then-habit of coffee drinking and quit cold turkey. Click To Tweet
Soon after, I started a regular investment routine that, over the next two decades developed into a healthy real estate portfolio.
15 years ago I started recording my exercise as motivation to reach my monthly goals.
10 years ago I recognized the value of focused work and developed an end-of-day, clean up my workspace ritual.
8 years ago I started drinking water before my morning tea.
6 years ago I started having cold showers (and stuck with it even while trekking the Himalayas to Everest base camp – twice.)
2 years ago I started blocking time in my day (and love it) – you’ll learn more about blocking time in this article and below.
I don’t practice habits to become a boring automaton living the same day over and over. I actually love spontaneity and surprisingly randomness of life.
My habits accomplish two things: build my willpower muscles and get more from the hours in my day. How about you…
are you ready to supercharge your day?My habits accomplish two things: build my willpower muscles and get more from the hours in my day. How about you… Click To Tweet
Here are the three habits I would recommend first to anyone struggling with procrastination, productivity, motivation, willpower, or just needing a good kick in their life-butt.
1. Do the hardest work first
“The people who achieve extraordinary results don’t achieve them by working more hours. They achieve them by getting more done in the hours they work.” –Gary Keller
Doing the hardest work first has been my biggest productivity game changer.
There is resistance to hard work, like: phoning prospects (who might say ‘No’), finishing the next chapter of your book, advertising for that desperately needed assistant, or getting to InBox zero.
We know the work is important – the payoff is obvious. But our brain wants to take the path of least resistance.
Building a habit of doing the hardest work first changes all that. You move from being a victim of the latest email or client demand to master of your day – deciding what gets your attention and when.When you do the hardest work first, you move from being a victim of the latest email or client demand to master of your day - deciding what gets your attention and when. Click To Tweet
When you do the hardest work first, two things happen…
- You slay the dragon, move the project ahead, land the sale – or whatever the job was, it gets done. Productivity is no longer something you experience on a good day – you are productive every day.
- You feel like a frick’n hero. You overcame resistance, fought off email temptation, closed your door and did it! Now you enjoy more motivation for whatever else is on your list.
2. Block time
“My goal is to make sure progress is being made on the right things at the right pace for the relevant deadlines.” –Cal Newport
When you block time you create an appointment with yourself.
More than that – you make a commitment.
It’s no different than telling a colleague you’ll meet them at 9:30 to help finish the proposal they’re working on: it’s in your calendar, you anticipate it, you mentally prepare, and you show up – on time – get the work done, and then move on.
Creating time blocks is an antidote to a frustratingly distracted day where it feels like nothing important got done. It’s all about doing the “Deep work” author and professor Cal Newport defines as “Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit.”Creating time blocks is an antidote to a frustratingly distracted day where it feels like nothing important got done. Click To Tweet
The process is easy (I go into more detail in this article): as soon as you recognize a chunk of work that requires your full attention, block it in your calendar. And then respect that appointment.
If you want to really fix your distracted approach to work (like allowing email to direct what you work on), time block your whole day. As soon as I adopted that morning routine everything changed.
First, I had to think through what was really most important to get done today (and what was not so important). Next, my day became a series of appointments, rather that a miscellaneous list of competing priorities.
Best of all, every time block (appointment with myself) was focussed work time. I started wearing headphones more often to avoid hearing conversations in our office. I closed windows on my computer, I stopped checking email as often.
And my productivity soared. If you are not blocking time, you are missing a big opportunity.
3. Make your bed
“Your bed is a symbol of you. There’s something about having your bed feel orderly that makes your life feel that way.” –Gretchen Rubin
I always get a lot of smiles when I recommend this habit to a live audience. It’s like a secret habit so many people have adopted and come to love.
The pro-make-your-bed are supported not just by the likes of Jeff Bezos, Adrianna Huffington, and Bill Gates, but also by research.
In one study, Hunch.com found “bed makers” are more productive and happier. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habits, selected this habit as a Keystone Habit – the kind of habit that leads to other good habits being formed.
“It’s a pretty trivial thing,” author of The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin wrote, “but over and over people say that getting control of this little action makes them feel more in control of their life, generally.”“It's a pretty trivial thing, but over and over people say that getting control of this little action makes them feel more in control of their life, generally.” @GretchenRubin Click To Tweet
In a commencement speech at the University of Texas, Retired U.S. Navy Admiral Seal William H. McCraven, author of Make Your Bed: Little Things Can Change Your Life…and Maybe the World told students “If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day,″ he said. “It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”
Enjoyed this article? Here are 3 of my favourite articles about habits: