More Best Practices for Habit Creation – Part 2

Creating New Habits
Three more of the TEN “Best Practices”

©Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Time & Task Management Series:
Habits, Decisions & Attention-6

Moving Right Along . . .

This is the second of a three-part article in the Habits Series: The Top Ten Best Practices for Habit Creation. In Part One we went over the first 4 Best Practices (listed shortly below).

The article began with a relatively short introduction where I reminded you not to get hung up on the word “best” in the term “Best Practices.”

It’s a business term that has been adopted by the self-help gurus.

The BEST “best practices” will be whatever works for YOU.

In the first part of this article we covered the following practices:

  1. Identify the brush-fires and hose them down
  2. Identify what you already do
  3. Drive habits with Goals
  4. Work with sub-goals first

(If you haven’t read Part one, you will find it HERE.)

NOW we’re going to take a look at:

5.  Keep a record of some sort
6.  Grease the Slide
7.  Limit Your Options (not your life)

Part-3 will conclude with an exploration of 8, 9 & 10:

*  Be Consistent
*  Think WHO, not what
*  KEEP getting back on the horse

If on-screen reading is frustrating for you, even with the article broken into parts,
try taking it ONE Practice at a time.

SO – lets get right back to it!

Be sure to checkout the sidebar for how links work on this site, they’re subtle ==>

Movin’ on to Number Five

arrowgold5. Keep a record of some sort – check in with yourself and cross things off

Calendar cross-offs, star-charts, food journals and spreadsheets are all ways that people have used to stay on the horse.

The key is to keep it down-and-dirty. If it turns into a major production, it will end up unproduced.

  • Unless you are planning to publish the darned thing, how neat and nifty does it have to be?
  • Don’t let yourself be sucked down by tracking quicksand.
  • Avoid making record-keeping a bigger to-do than the items you’re tracking.

Know Thyself

Don’t use a tracking system you already know is a cue for goofing off, getting distracted, or hyperfocusing your day away. If you know you can be a bit obsessional when you create a spreadsheet, for example, don’t set yourself up by using one to track completions. Pick something else!

If you can’t resist web-browsing when you use your computer, don’t keep your list in the cloud.  Don’t EVEN pop open your word processor to update your list.

Don’t confuse “easier” with “more familiar”

If you spend hours a day on your smartphone, is it really “easier” to set your tracking up there too, or will you easier your way into a host of “while-I’m-at-it”s that will eat your schedule for lunch (and the habits you are tracking for dessert)?

Don’t forget the CYCLE

Keep all four parts of the HABIT CYCLE in mind as you track your progress, especially as you Sherlock habit development clues.

CUE ==> ACTION ==> REWARD (reinforcement)==> REPEAT

SmileyGreatJobgold_star_smallCues are relatively easy to pick out, but rewards – what your you and your brain are getting out of the behavior that reinforces the repetition of the action – can be more subtle, and difficult to identify.

Once you figure it out, however, you can use the same reinforcement to help you develop other habits (or, in the case of a bad habit, to link the cue to something else that scratches the same itch).

  • Once you identify the reinforcement, you can make certain that the relationship between the cue and the reinforcement remains fairly stable and only the behavior changes
  • That makes habit creation a whole lot easier and more effective.

Sherlocking for Clues to determine rewards

To give you just one possible new-habit development example, consider when and why you eat dinner.

Is it a response to hunger, or do you always sit down at the table at about the same time every night? How come?

Is the timing of dinner totally up to you, or do you follow somebody else’s lead?

Maybe your habit is to respond whenever you are called to dinner – unconsciously primed by the good smells wafting out of the kitchen, perhaps.

  • If you’re the chef, you probably think about eating as soon as you have taken dinner off the stove, so take a look at what cues you to begin preparing the meal.
  • If somebody else is in charge of that little food-prep chore, the likelihood is high that you probably wait to be called to the table.
  • In that case, the reinforcement might be keeping the peace with the chef.

Most cooks hate it when food they’ve taken time from their lives to prepare for others gets cold. They can be fairly insistent that you sit down to eat it while it’s hot! (and pretty unhappy with you if they have to call you a dozen times)

Anyplace else that particular pairing of cue/reinforcement might be effective?

Maybe you’ve been hoping to awaken with a little less brain-fuzz, making the whole getting-ready-for-work process go more smoothly.

You know you need to go to bed earlier if you expect to awaken refreshed. Still, despite your best intentions, you continue staying up into the wee hours before finally wending your way into the bedroom.

If your partner tends to go to bed earlier, perhaps you can ask for a call from the bedroom to cue you. Chances are good that s/he’ll be equally disgruntled to have to call you to bed repeatedly. (There could be a few other benefits to going to bed at the same time that might also serve as reinforcement.)

arrowgold6. Grease the slide

Take time to develop structures designed reduce friction  – make it easy by default.  You know what trips you up.  Take a bit of up-front time to set systems in place so that you can avoid those snafus.

Here are a few examples:

  • Make liberal use of the container concept – keep items that are used together TOGETHER. (i.e., keep the toothpaste WITH the toothbrush and dental floss in a small basket, glass or tray, which allows you to keep everything together — and easy to move in one fell swoop.)
  • Loosely alphabetize your spices (first letter only) to minimize distractions while cooking. Take the couple of extra seconds it takes to put them back where they go when you’re finished with them.  (How much longer does it take to locate them when you need them again otherwise? Do you really think you won’t be in a hurry at that time too?)
  • Plan the next day.  Develop a routine of checking your lists and appointment book daily – in a designated “planning spot.” Those of us from Alphabet City must realize that, for us, to fail to plan is to plan disaster!

FIRST, schedule the “down” time you need to remain functional — and a bedtime 30 minutes earlier than you need to be in bed to get enough sleep.  (I really don’t have to explain WHY, do I?)

If you haven’t had the good sense to keep your wake up time stable, set and double-check your alarm whenever you schedule your bedtime.

Paper’s cheap; time’s expensive!

To be able to write down ideas and reminders as they occur to you throughout the day, keep notebooks or post-it pads in key places (bathroom, kitchen, by the bed, in your car?)  Don’t forget to include something to write with in every place too.

“Make the rounds” at the start of your planning time – even if that means you need to make a list of your lists! Collect them all (top sheets only!) and take them to your planning spot, even if there’s only one item written down on a sheet or two.

1. Calendar the items that must be done by a certain time, in INK.

2. Put the others on a “running to-do list” (I call mine a data-dump), or schedule a time when you plan to handle them ON your calendar (these go in pencil).

3. Then throw the slips of paper away so they don’t become clutter — it breeds. (Keep your “running to-do/data-dump” with your planning calendar)

  • Under promise yourselflower your standards – avoid perfectionism and black and white thinking.  Good enough IS good enough for a great many things — maybe even most of them.

Toss the shoulds in the garbage can (everyone else can, I “should” be able to too.) Everyone else is not your “size” — what makes you think you all should wear the same clothes?

  • Keep a notebook of directions to places you go regularly but infrequently. Keep it with you. (If your sense of direction is as lousy as mine, you might need to add directions to places you go frequently!)

You can throw them away as soon as somebody perfects GPS technology — when the maps download instantaneously.

Why set yourself up to be late when technology does what it usually does when we’re rushed?

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to [have to] make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing because I have too many other decisions to make”. ~ President Barack Obama

arrowgold7. Limit Your Options (not your life)

Whenever she found it difficult to make a decision, my wonderful and highly effective, non-ADD friend Cindi Godino used to say, with a laugh, “I’m suffering from over-choice!” 

That was her cue to take a look at what she could eliminate from consideration, as it reminded her of the abundance of choices her wonderful life afforded her.

What do you think made her laugh?

We could all take a page from her book, especially those of us with ADD tendencies.

In paralyzing black and white fashion, ADDers frequently feel that we are not “doing complete work” unless we investigate ALL the options available to us to come up with the BEST one.

  • The seventh of the Best Practices encourages us to remember to narrow our focus.
  • It’s wise to limit ourselves to THREE options, ideally.
  • Not the BEST three, by the way, three that sound relatively plausible. Pick one and move on

Another lesson from President Obama’s Way:

“Nothing comes to my desk that is perfectly solvable, otherwise, someone else would have solved it. So you wind up dealing with probabilities.”

“Any given decision you make you’ll wind up with a 30 to 40 percent chance that it isn’t going to work. You have to own that and feel comfortable with the way you made the decision.”

“You can’t be paralyzed by the fact that it might not work out.” ~ fascinating & empowering interview; Michael Lewis/Vanity Fair

For more complex decisions where you’re struggling to reduce the options to three (or can’t decide on the best choice out of the three), work on paper with a decision matrix – a criteria rating form – to help you narrow down your choices.

Once you get used to the this particular thinking process, you may find you no longer  have to write it down anymore.  A great example of a decision matrix can be found HERE.

Limiting your options also helps you stay out of trouble.

Trying to lose some weight?  Don’t tempt yourself by keeping the foods you are trying to avoid in your house.

Can’t resist the dessert tray when you go out to eat?  Pick healthy restaurants where the food is so good you’d never have room for dessert anyway.

Or go someplace where the desserts are not particularly wonderful, or not the ones you typically crave.

A place famous for their pies or baklava or donuts would work for me, since my sweet-tooth has never really been activated by any of them — as long as their cookies weren’t on display and luscious looking.  A place famous for cupcakes, on the other hand, would be a recipe for diet-disaster no matter what they looked like!

Need to make sure you floss as well as brush?

If you haven’t adopted the container principle yet, at least put the toothbrush in plain sight and put the floss right next to it — to limit the number of distractions in the medicine cabinet, or wherever you WERE keeping your toothbrush and floss.

Once the habit is firmly in place you can probably chance hiding them away again.

Desperate to disconnect from your cellphone addiction?

Begin right this very minute to keep your cell plugged in when you are at home – and don’t plug it in somewhere especially convenient.  You need it tethered instead of on your person as a chronic temptation. Make yourself go there, like phones of old, every single time you have to use it.

Start using it as a PHONE rather than an information center or GameBoy (change the cue)

Stop texting.  Texting and IM’s are the biggest time wasters in many ADD/EFDer’s lives.  If you MUST (really?) remain available on demand, force yourself to text only when you go to the bathroom.  If you have a bladder like a camel, pretend you have to go.

CALL the people who text you often and throughout the day and tell them the chronic distraction of texting has become a big problem for you and you plan to stop cold turkey.  “Please help me by calling, if it’s important, okay?  Don’t text, call.”  

DO NOT respond by text if they text you again.  CALL them, nicely remind them of your conversation, then ask what they need. It really is not very nice of them to prioritize their own impulsivity over your need to focus, right?  Hold that thought when they try to make it out like YOU are the unreasonable one!!


Coming Up

Part Three of this article will be available next Wednesday [available here NOW], bringing you the final three of the 10 Best Practices for Habit Creation — so stay tuned.  Between now and then, sherlock what you do — and if you’ve missed any of the five prior habit articles (linked below), go take a look.

Prior Habit Articles in the Growing Habit Series

  1. Habits, Decisions, Attention Intro 
  2. Brain-based Habit Formation
  3. Changing a habit to change your LIFE 
  4. Goals drive habit formation
  5. 10 Best Practices for Habit Creation – Part 1

© 2014, all rights reserved Check bottom of Home/New to find out the “sharing rules”

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

10 Responses to More Best Practices for Habit Creation – Part 2

  1. There are so many benefits to developing good habits and pushing out the bad ones. Great points on how to do this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: 10 Best Practices for Habit Creation – Part 1 | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  3. Pingback: "Organize your Life in Five Simple Steps" | POLITIC GLAM MAGAZINE

    • Thanks SO much for the link. Have three weeks to complete move (not by choice!) so am scrambling. Will visit and sign up, etc. as soon as I land somewhere and have computer set-up to support staying tracked.

      SO appreciate your support – and will support back as soon as I can.


  4. Pingback: Building Habits I am… | Writing = Passion

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