Harnessing your habits

We all have habits, it is part of human nature to create routines. The route you pick to go to work, when you brush your teeth, and the way you get ready in the morning are all habits.

This human nature toward creating habits can be harnessed to work for us to get tasks done that we tend to procrastinate on. This is especially true for the onerous tasks we face every day such as reading our e-mails, filling out our complex time sheets, balancing our budgets, or reading a technical paper.

If you weave these tasks into a pattern that becomes a habit, you will find them getting done on time, and they will be less draining on your energy.

A habit sticks best if it becomes part of a ritual. Look at how you brush your teeth. Chances are it has become part of your bedtime ritual; you hardly even think about it, yet you would feel incomplete going to bed without brushing them.

This linking of several tasks before you get to an end result is how you create a ritual. You can do the same thing for your less-than-desirable work tasks. For example, managing your e-mails is a task that should happen daily. To ensure this happens, try linking this task with another task that is a habit, such as getting a morning coffee or a snack. Your ritual could be to buy your coffee and drink it only while managing your e-mails. When your coffee is done, your e-mails are done, and you move on to your work day.

To get a ritual to become automatic, you should force yourself to repeat it every single day for three weeks. At first, it won't feel comfortable at all, and it may feel inconvenient and a time sink. However, after three weeks, you should find it is more automatic. After a month, it will feel odd not to do it, and you will have a new habit that helps you.

Karen Bolda, M.A., is a meeting facilitator and professional development trainer. She's lived in Ashland for 13 years where she operates her own consulting business. Visit her website at www.karenbolda.com or contact her at karen@karenbolda.com.

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