Alright, so we know what habits are and why they are so important. Now lets start looking at how we can change our habits as Junior Developers and start working towards succeeding and excelling in the industry. We want to start with the First Law Of Behavior Change "Make It Obvious".
To start, our brains are basically prediction machines. They are continuously taking in our surroundings, analyzing information and when we experience something repeatedly, our brain begins noticing what is important. It will sort through and highlight the relevant cues, and add that information for future use. Our brains encode the lessons learned through experience.
This is why it is always best to practice what you are learning. You may not feel like you know what you are doing when it comes to building a project, but the more you practice and don't sit in front of the tutorial; actually putting effort into building things on your own the more your brain will learn and commit things to memory. This will make it easier to remember certain aspects of what you are learning. You won't memorize it all immediately but you will begin to understand aspects you didn't before.
One of the most surprising insights about habits is that we don't need to be aware of the cue for a habit to begin. This is why the first full step towards building good/better habits begins with awareness. An effective way of gaining awareness of your habits is to use a system called Pointing-and-Calling.
Pointing-and-Calling is effective because it forces you to become aware of what you are actively doing bringing the level of awareness from a nonconscious habit to a more conscious level. Examples of Pointing-and-Calling:
Verbally calling out items needed when you leave the house
I have my keys, I have my wallet, I have my brain, I have my manners etc...
The more automatic a behavior becomes, the less likely we are to think about what we are actually doing. After we do something repeatedly so many times, we begin to overlook things. We make assumptions that everything will work like the last time. In the Miltary we train soldiers based on repetition, commit things to muscle memory so that in the fight or flight moment your body acts and you don't have to consciously think about what you are doing. We also train soldiers about complacency and spot checks repeatedly to ensure we aren't overlooking things.
We need to build a system like this in our developer lives as well. Spot checks (code review) and committing things to muscle memory (repetitions).
We have to get a firm grasp on our current habits to see what we can do to improve. A simple way to do that is the Habit Scorecard.
This is an example of the Habits Scorecard from James Clear's Atomic Habits. To help identify our habits, simply write down a list of your daily habits in one column, then next to each habit evaluate whether you feel this is a positive habit, negative or neutral. Neutral habits are those habits that you can't change for better or worse...ie waking up. Notice these are not labeled as Good Habits or Bad Habits. That labeling would be misleading in a way, so we will go with effecive habits and non-effective.
Prioritize habits based on the end outcome on whether it is a net positive or a net negative outcome.
Smoking a cigarette relieves stress immediately, but the end outcome is damaging your overall health.
To help even more, if you struggle to identify whether a behavior is effective or non-effective the question suggested in the book is to ask yourself:
- Does this behavior help me become the type of person I wish to be?
- Does this habit cast a vote for or against my desired identity?
After you complete your habits scorecard, there is no need to change anything just yet. We just want to notice what our daily habits are. If you have a non-effective(bad) habit, acknowledge it, just like you would point something out watching another person.
Why would they do something like that?
Try to enforce better behavior for yourself by calling out your bad habits and the outcome. You want to get more code practice in, but you notice that you spend more time on social media or watching videos online, say it out loud,
"I am about to watch a movie, video, play a game, but I don't need to. It will prevent me from learning and developing into a successful Developer"
When you hear yourself calling out your non-effective behaviors it makes the consequences much more real. This approach is also useful for remembering things that need to be done as well. Verbalizing that you need to remember to get milk from the store before you leave the house may help you remember to do it. You are getting yourself to acknowledge the need for action, that can make all the difference of whether it actually occurs or not.
Thank you again for sharing and giving your input on these articles, it really means the world to myself and to the organization that you are interacting with our writing. I would like to give a huge amount of credit to Steve Clark who makes my writing sound and look a lot better than I can make it on my own. Teamwork is what it is all about. Anyway
In the next article we will begin looking at the best ways to start a new habit and some good practices that can help us get there.