Maintaining effective habits begins when we take notice of our daily actions and reactions to the world around us. Subconscious routines must first be conscious decisions fueled by dedicated practice. Of course, it’s very easy to go on autopilot. According to James Clear in chapter 4 of Atomic Habits, actively acknowledging our daily habits can be a huge step toward leading more productive lives. Often, it can be as simple as a brief verbal confirmation that you do in fact have your keys in hand before leaving your apartment. This is a method called pointing-and-calling which can be employed to reduce errors and boost efficiency all at once.
Never be ashamed to talk to yourself. Many people use the pointing-and-calling tactic without realizing it, talking through every item in their gym bag to ensure they haven’t forgotten anything for their workout or speaking aloud an itinerary as they embark on a busy day of travel. This calls awareness to those little mundane activities in order to avoid autopilot mishaps.
However, it can also be an intentional strategy. In chapter 4, Clear recommends creating a habits scorecard which is nothing more than a list of all the tasks you complete each and every day without fail. Everything from snoozing your alarm four times to that 2pm cup of tea which propels you through the end of your work day is a habit to be considered. Once you have your list you can then rate each of your habits as positive, negative or neutral habits. Positive habits are routines which encourage effective problem solving while negative habits tend to do the opposite. You can then use your list to pinpoint specific areas for improvement throughout your day. As stated in previous chapters, developing productive habits has nothing to do with overhauling your current routine and starting over. In this step you’re simply “getting yourself to acknowledge the need for action.” What’s on your habits scorecard?
I’ve always been a planner. I have notebooks filled with goals categorized by achievability, deadlines or my mood at the time when I wrote them. Writing things down always made them feel more real and therefore, one step farther on the road to success. However, starting is only half the battle. I’m very good at starting things. Here are a few of my personal UFO’s from 2020.
Knit a sweater – Despite help from my mom, an expert knitter, I still have the torso and sleeves left to finish.
Paint a picture – I was so proud two weeks ago when I finished color #1 on my very first paint by numbers. I haven’t touched it since.
Read my bookshelf – Admittedly, this is more of a long term goal. I keep buying more books.
Write a story – Since high school, I’ve toyed with a couple of different storylines that I always thought would be fun to put to paper. Character development was my strength and my downfall. I’ve imagined them in such vivid and wonderful detail that I now find it difficult to be mean to my characters which is of course required to move the plot forward.
Paperwork – The stack of mail and papers to be filed is beginning to look like a daunting task that is slowly taking over my dining room table.
Learn to cook – I’m terrified to try new recipes in case they don’t turn out and I’m forced to taste my failure for a week until my next grocery run.
Become a pro on the piano – Similar to my reading list dilemma, this is more long term. I know what I need to do and how to practice but it’s difficult to hone in on one or two songs to get really good at.
Get in shape for my sister’s wedding – I’ve fallen off the exercise wagon so many times I’ve lost count. The joys of solo apartment living; my rules, my schedule and no built in accountability, are a blessing and a curse.
Plan my sister’s wedding – Thankfully, there is a fairly rigid schedule that must be kept for this particular goal. So far so good.
Reconnect with friends – The recent global pandemic threw a bit of a wrench in the previously steady progress of my social skills.
Sleep – Much like my social life, my time management skills took a vacation during the long months of lock down and have yet to return in full.
Well… There you have it. I’m sure there are other unfinished projects on my mind that I’m simply forgetting at the moment but it feels good to get these out of my head. I’m looking forward to a time when I’ll reread this post, clap my hands together and say mischief managed. What are some of your UFO’s and strategies for handling them? Share in the comments.
This is a friendly reminder to anyone with a rough week ahead of them that you can handle whatever life throws at you. I, like many people, often find myself falling into the trap of worrying about things that are completely out of my control. I’m a perfectionist and can occasionally become stuck on projects among all facets of my life when a good enough job would suffice. It’s hard to step away when something seems imperfect but that’s what I have to remind myself to do on a regular basis. Completion is usually more important than perfection.
For all the constant worriers and overthinkers like me, cut yourself a break this morning. Allow yourself a few minutes to savor your coffee and watch the sunrise. Even if you’re working from home, let your brain wake up before you plop in front of your computer to begin your day. Life is full of challenges everyday but these are so much easier to face when you get your week started on the right foot with the right attitude. Happy Monday!