"I don't need time. I need a deadline."
In my last post, we talked about building foundational habits, and using monitoring to change habits.
In the book, “Better Than Before”, Gretchen Rubin outlines two additional strategies you can use to help stay on track. Remember your personality type? I’m an obliger, and the two strategies we’re going to discuss in this post totally appeal to me. (If you haven't read my prior post, it's totally ok. These strategies are useful for anyone! But, if you care to read the article to find out what your personality type is, find it here.)
The first strategy is called scheduling. It’s just as it sounds—scheduling an activity and putting it on the calendar. The more you schedule an activity, the more likely it may become automatic and habitual. This year, I began scheduling my days, instead of letting them unfold without a plan. To stay motivated, I bought a beautiful planner, one that I love to look at and write in. (Post Update: I originally started with a beautiful Rifle Paper Company planner, but gave it up for the "Self Journal" form the Best Self Company. If you're interested in a roundup of the best, most stylish planners and accessories, see my gift guide here).
My habit is to plan out my day the night before. If I’m able to assign a specific time to the task, I’ll write it in. Thinking about the next day and writing it all down has become a habit, and has caused me to become infinitely more productive. And the more productive I am, the more motivated I am to stick with this system.
Note: Do you struggle with multiple to-do lists? Do you find that you frequently forget stuff on yourmental "to-do" list? I've found a super simple solution and now have my own organizational system. Watch my short, animated 10 minute video to find out how you can do it too (watch it here.).
Rubin, as well as most productivity experts, say that you should aim to schedule the most important tasks in the morning, when you are most alert, focused, and have the most self-control. As the day goes on, our willpower decreases. This is why, Rubin says, “sexual indiscretions, excessive gambling, overconsumption of alcohol, and impulsive crimes usually happen at night.” Now, I make a conscious effort to do the tough tasks in the morning, usually by assigning it a time.
Another great idea Rubin discusses in her book is scheduling time to do those pesky, low priority odds and ends. She schedules one hour per week into her calendar. I thought this was a great idea that I’m going to try!
While most times we think of scheduling as a list of things we “need” to do, we can use scheduling to do things we “want” to do. I see the value in this. As the years go by, and as my friends and I are increasingly busy with our kids’ and their school and sports activities, it’s harder and harder to get together. By making a conscious effort to schedule time to see each other, we all get a much needed break from the everyday grind and we get to see each other! Another friend of mine has a group of friends that has dinner once every month. At each gathering, they all look at their calendars and set up the next get-together for the following month. This ensures it gets on the calendar 30 days in advance, and all other activities can be planned around it.
Rubin says scheduling appeals to upholders and may also appeal to questioners and obligers. From an obliger standpoint, seeing it on the calendar or on my daily to-do list gives it extra weight and importance. Rebels may have difficulty with this tactic.
Next up is the strategy of accountability. The research supports the effectiveness of this strategy. I’ve read multiple times about how employees are less likely to take a snack from the office snack room (where there is a jar for payment by honor system) without paying when there is a picture of two eyes near the payment jar. Just the subconscious thought that we’re being watched causes us to be more conscious of whatever we’re doing.
To further the point that self-awareness is key, it’s important to know if you find external or internal accountability more compelling. For obligers, external accountability such as an accountability partner, accountability group or Coach is important to keep you on track. The other three types (upholders, questioners, and rebels) all benefit from this strategy as well. Upholders can create accountability systems to themselves and be effective.
Many find communities that you can join and that can motivate you to keep with your habit. CrossFit, running clubs, online business Facebook groups, scrapbooking groups, sports fan groups, martial arts groups, paleo and vegan food enthusiasts, home cooks, etc. There are groups for just about any interest or topic in this universe!
Physical accountability devices can work as well. Many find wearing the FitBit helps them to be more intentional about their activity level, even while working a sedentary job.
Find what works for you! For two other strategies to protect your new habits, check out my other article here.
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Rubin, Gretchen. Better Than Before. Hodder, 2016.