Why you need good habits

We are forever hearing about people whose bad habits have led to major issues in their life like drink and drug abuse, but are all habits bad, or could they in fact be the cure to some of my time pressures and a way to get things done?

I must admit that I have been described by my wife as having a “grass hopper mind”. Now I wouldn’t call it that I would say that I multi-task. This I accept may be rare in the male species, but I have proven it by being able to walk and chew gum at the same time!

But I do understand what my wife means in that my mind does hop very quickly from one subject to another and hence it is easy to move on mentally and forget to get certain tasks done.

This is where I need to fall back on the “Auto-pilot” part of my brain which is there to help us get the necessary things done, like what it takes to get out of the house first thing in the morning, or I would never get to work on time.

Now our brain doesn’t come with a pre-programmed auto-pilot, we have to develop the programme and one of the ways is by developing habits. In fact once we develop them it is actually very hard to break them, hence we need to develop the right ones from the start.

One of my employees used to arrive for work at 9.10am and I remember asking him, why can’t you get here for 9.00am. He answered, “Well it is the oddest thing but I leave the house at the same time every day but it doesn’t seem to matter which route I take I seem to get here 10 minutes late.” Now I am sure you have immediately spotted that the cure was to leave 10 minutes earlier. Of course once it was pointed out to him, he was clear what he had to do, but do you know it was very hit and miss as his morning habits were in place and he found it hard to change them. After several months he had the new habits in place so he was able to get it right.

The bad news is that it can take 155 days to break a bad habit. You only have to ask someone who smokes how hard they have found it to permanently quit. It is not unusual to fail at the six month which is just on the edge of success. The good news is that it can take only 21 days to create a new habit, and the new one can replace a habit you are trying to change. I must admit I can’t think of a habit that you could replace smoking with, so that one may only be cured by perseverance. We are just blessed that God gave us the Fruits of the Spirit one of which is patience – and in this instance it is really needed.

Fortunately we have been programmed by the creator to build successful habits to form the “auto-pilot”. You will know what I mean when I ask those of you that drive to work, how many times you can’t remember driving the route that morning as your mind was elsewhere and your pilot got you there. For that matter, when was the last time you actually thought about “mirror, signal, manoeuvre”.

They say that men come up with some of their best ideas whilst they are shaving, this is not because shaving has some great inspirational quality, but purely because during that time the motions of shaving are being governed by the auto-pilot freeing our mind to think unfettered, and hence it can be quite innovative.

But we can go further and build habits that help us to achieve repetitive task without letting yourself down. Did you know that in companies that insist on a clean desk, when you go home, get it, and that is despite the various tidiness levels of the staff within the building. I know of one well known multi-national who insists that your desk is clear anytime you leave it! Can you imagine if you are one of those people who suffers from piles (all over you desk) and you have to clear your desk before you even can go off to the toilet, how could you possibly achieve?

Well if it is insisted upon, whoever you are, you would have to build the habits to ensure you keep your desk tidy most of the time and ultimately even you could do it. It sounds almost impossible for the person who currently can’t even see their desk, but I can assure you that everyone ends up being able to achieve it. One tip, if you did want to do this, you start by taking out of a desk drawer a hanging file, which you open to use as like a desk blotter. Then when you either finish a task, or need to leave your desk, you just close the hanging file, put it back in your desk draw (or filing cabinet) and you have a clear desk.

Habits can also play a part helping to guide your life forward like learning to get everything down on paper thereby freeing your mind from carrying everything around in it.

Going to a gym regularly needs a habit attached or it will never happen. So many people have a gym membership but never get around to using it as they haven’t developed the regular time (habit) of going. If you know anyone who has booked for an aerobics class or karate class you will find that they usually make it because the time is preset and you can build your life around it. A habit for going to the gym can be formed first by identifying a logical time you could make reliably, then putting into your diary as a fixed appointment, then start going for at least three weeks in a row ensuring that you do not allow the time to be used for anything else, and soon you will have built the habit of going.

On my time management programme I end with the seven habits that will transform the time management of their lives, knowing that new habits are needed for the programme to take effect.

I leave you with a thought:

What are the habits you wish you could change, and what habits would like to develop? Remember the creator programmed us with the ability to control these habits and it is up to us to do so.