Why do we as humans, let bad habits run rife but struggle to even try and build strong positive habits let alone healthy ones?
This post is about me being inspired to identify my bad habits and the trial and error I went through to get rid of them, so that I could lead a better life.
We need to understand that for the most part, we don’t form habits by actively starting out to do so. Usually a habit is forced upon us. Think about it. Do you think when someone has their first cigarette, they have stopped and said to themselves I want to start smoking to the point that it’s second nature.
Or when we first started using mobile phones.
“I want to become to addicted to checking this thing that I get stressed about when I don’t” – said no one ever.
Yet these habits form and someone else’s life is enriched. Not yours, someone else. Marlboro Light shareholders, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey all profit off of our bad habits. As a race, and an industry (talking about tech) we strive to get people addicted to our products. These habits look like dollar signs in our eyes.
“Social networks are like Crack – and if there’s anything we know about crack, it’s that it is bad for you.” – Lisa Perryman
Thus at the beginning of 2017 I sat down and wrote out all of my bad habits. I wanted to enhance and enrich my life in a noticeable, semi quick and free way. Yes I wrote down that I wanted more success and a large salary, but there were things that I knew I was already doing; that if I could just stop would make me a better person and happier as a result.
The number one of these was online distractions. As mentioned above, technology is built to consume us, learn from us and never let go. And Facebook is the biggest distractor of all. I was in no way an addict, but that newsfeed would suck me in everyday.
It knew to show me things I disagreed with or that would upset me so that I could “engage” with it, stay there and scroll on. The silly thing of it all was that I wouldn’t actively go looking. I would jump on only to respond to a message (I hate typing on phones) and it had me.
This was and always has been a huge driver for me getting involved with Flex. We need to build technology that makes people healthier, but that’s another story.
So what did I do?
Well I knew that Facebook notifications would lead to newsfeed scrolling, and that would then open a door to Youtube videos, Imgur browsing and a tonne more.
What I didn’t know though, was how much of my workday or even day it would consume, and in reality I kind of didn’t want to know. That would be like finding out Santa wasn’t real all over again. Too shocking.
I needed a reasonable, effortless limit that would just stop me and train me not to go on there. I found Stayfocusd.
Stayfocusd is a chrome plugin where you blacklist the sites you want to stop visiting and set an allowable time.
I blacklisted Facebook, Youtube, Mashable and Imgur, and set it so that I could not visit all of them combined for more than 10 minutes a day. That resets every midnight, so surely we don’t spend that much time on these sites right?
The first day was terrible. I forgot I was actively trying to stop and ended up on Facebook. Right when I was commenting on something the timer kicked in. 10 minutes up. No more for the day. Argh!
It blocked me right there.
This happened over and over for about a week and I did start to notice when I would end up on Facebook and try and stop. Those 10 minutes started stretching out across the day, but it wasn’t enough.
You don’t eliminate a bad habit, you replace it.
When Monday came around, I thought “okay new plan”. I remembered reading a blog by James Clear on how to break bad habits where he stated clearly “You don’t eliminate a bad habit, you replace it.”
Think about it, smokers often replace cigarettes with food – they taught us that in school.
I had to find a way to replace my bad habit with a good one.
Well Stayfocusd remained on my laptop, just incase I swerved from the path. In fact what I found happening was that when I would hit Facebook I would remember the fear of being locked out and leave pretty quickly.
I needed a new habit to replace it with. What are the easiest slight edge habits you can always build on?
Drinking more water, and getting more exercise.
Now there was a new task in town. If I was to find myself hitting one of the blacklisted websites, I was to close it, stand up, go get a glass of water and sit back down.
At first it was a bit of a nightmare. The amount of water I drank each day shot through the roof, as well as my bathroom time. Both detractors from getting done what I needed to do, but by the end of the week I could feel I was on my way to doing something pretty powerful.
The added water made me feel better. My skin felt better, my eyes felt better, my mood felt better and my concentration had vastly improved.
My concentration had improved? Yes my concentration had improved. When I would get a Facebook message I needed to respond to, it became the trigger for me to go get water. I would read the message, think about the needed response over some water and quickly fire away a message.
Sorry Zuck, I’ve broken your evil mind numbing hold.
Or maybe #SorryNotSorry I should say.
This story doesn’t have to apply to your social media habits. Maybe you have a bad smoking habit or snapping habit or even nose picking habit.
Know this: bad habits compound and compound and compound and kill. They kill your time, your health and for some they kill you.
Take a moment today to stop and think about which habits you have that don’t enrich your life and could do with killing off. I have every faith in you to make the tough but right decision and do it.
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