There are a ton of materials on forming habits (trigger, routine, reward) but equally important are habit disruptors. These break up your day and help to get perspective on where your time is going and true value of your activities. We have all kinds of biases that can mess with our perception of value of activity. Its worth regularly double checking our assumptions.
Habit disruptors are usually simply stopping some activity. I like to stop something for a week. Here are some good examples:
- No phone
- No meat
- No alcohol (this one is good to plan quarterly)
- No coffee
- No sugar
- No TV
- No after hours coding up
- No videogames
Stopping something can be very difficult but there are a few tricks to help you get through the week.
Going without a phone for a week can be a challenge. If you'll need GPS direction you may need to map things out before you go. You may need to check your calendar on your computer more often to avoid missing meetings. If you're going without meat or other consumable, you'll need to buy more of other foods for the week.
If you're going without food or alcohol it helps to have none of those in the house. If you live with someone, let them know what you're doing and see if they're up for joining you. This is easier with friends, hold each other accountable.
Let your friends and family know what you're up to. This is the same for building habits: the more people you tell the more likely you are to take it seriously and they can help hold you accountable.
At the end of the day, take mental note of what was more/less challenging. How did you fill the time you would have otherwise spent on your phone or watching TV. Are your assumptions of the value of the habit true? Were you doing too much or too little of that activity?
The ability to form and remove habits is without a doubt the most important skill you can learn in life. Now that you have some good perspective, make adjustments and evolve!
Here are some examples of insights I've found in my personal adventure:
- No phone: Realized I don't do a good job of preparing for meetings or planning out my day - I lean on my phone for this. Also realized how frequently I check time/calendar/email without benefit.
- No sugar: Amazed at how much sugar I was consuming and just how many things have sugars (pickles!?). I've cut back a lot on sugars ever since this week.
- No coffee: I don't actually need coffee to "wake up" and focus. Tea is a great alternative that gives me less headaches/jitters.
- No videogames: I was spending an enormous amount of time on videogames. I actually failed this week and it had a real impact on my awareness of my own willpower and weakness. At this point I decided to remove the temptation and now I don't own any videogame system other than my phone (which I don't find enjoyable so we're good there).