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Month: September 2018

3 Easy Ways to Form a New Tech Habit


On this blog, we often provide tips for how to make more mindful, productive, and efficient use of technology. It’s easier to describe what to do than to actually create and engage in the habit of doing it. Suggesting that you don’t use your smartphone immediately upon waking up in the morning or within an hour of going to bed doesn’t make creating and following that habit easy to do. 

Today, I’ll offer three pointers that will improve your chances of forming a new and enduring technology habit.

Ease into It

Many of us try to create a new habit by just engaging in it directly. For example, if you want to practice not using your smartphone for an hour after you wake up, you might try going cold turkey right away. I’ve found that this approach often results in failure, as it doesn’t help change my behavior or reinforce the intended behavior.

Try easing into a habit like this: On the first night, start out by not using your phone for the last five minutes before you go to bed. That should be much easier than an hour. Practice that for a few days, a week, or until you feel like that habit is ingrained and does not need to be practiced. Then increase the amount of time and keep expanding the habit in that way.

By easing into it, you may find that you’re more likely to create the habit than if you try to bite off the entire task from the beginning. Start with a smaller, more manageable version of it and increase it over time.

Make It Easy on Yourself

When I try to create a new habit for myself, I often do it in a very austere kind of way. This can work if I pose some structure around it, but it can be quite boring. Other than the reward of feeling like I’ve accomplished my goal, it doesn’t really have any other positive associations.

With that said, there’s a wide variety of ways to make it easier to create the habit. For example, these are all things I’ve done and you can try:

  1. Enlist the help of your friends, family, and coworkers to support you. Maybe they can provide reminders for you.
  2. Use technology to set a reminder to do or not do something.
  3. Associate a positive feeling with this new habit. Focus and draw your attention to that positive feeling.
You may worry that these tricks are crutches. If you ask friends to remind you of something, you may feel like you’ll rely on them. And if they stop reminding you, you may stop engaging in the good habit altogether. On the flip side, sometimes we can do things to help us create a habit and supports for the habit, and once the habit is ingrained in our minds and bodies, we no longer need those initial supports to keep the habit going.

Be creative when thinking about what you might be able to do to help you form a new habit. Make it as well as the trigger for engaging in it fun if that benefits the process.

Pay Attention to How You Feel Each Time After Engaging in the Habit

So, you’re practicing not using your phone before bed. Maybe you set an alarm 15 minutes before bed to remind yourself not to use your phone. When that 15 minutes is over, pay attention to how you feel now that you have not used your phone. Bringing my attention to how I feel after I’ve practiced this actually helps that habit to form better. It’s a way to bring mindfulness to the formation of a new habit to help enforce it.

Bear in mind that you can apply these tips to any kind of habits. I hope you find them helpful for any change that you are seeking.

Turning Off Your Work Mind

Do you find that it’s hard to turn your work mind off even after you stop working? Is the “end of the work day” concept foreign to you because you keep your nose so close the grindstone? Many of us find ourselves in this situation — particularly with smartphones, laptops, and mobile internet enabling us to stay connected at all times.

Those of us who work from home can find it especially difficult to create boundaries between work and personal life. Here are some suggestions for doing just that.

1. Try to develop a regular work schedule.
This allows you to get into the habit of starting and stopping work at certain times of the day. It doesn’t have to be a traditional schedule. Just find what works for you. It can even include several different periods of work on different days. The key is doing your best to schedule certain regular times for starting and stopping work, creating a habit in your mind through repetition.

2. Develop starting and ending work habits/rituals.
These are certain actions that you perform and thoughts that you have to transition your mind into and out of work mode. They could be as simple as stopping and pausing for 5 or 10 seconds and thinking about what you’re going to transition into. You might say it out loud or in your mind to engage your focus. It could be something as simple as arranging things on your desk or simply starting work. No matter the tasks, these should help you make the mental transition to and from work.

Rituals are found in several other traditions. For instance, when you walk into a Japanese martial arts school, you pause and bow at the threshold before entering. At the beginning of each class, there is also a bowing ceremony. I was always taught that one of this ritual’s purposes is to help us reach a more focused mental state.

These tips have something in common: They help to create and enforce mental boundaries between work time and non-work time. I think these boundaries have always existed, but it’s particularly important these days to intentionally create them because they’re missing in the way that many of us work. Technology makes information and communication available to us at all times and in all places. Many of us can work without going into an office, with different people, and on different projects. Obviously, this situation suffers from a lack of boundaries.

If we want to have them in our lives, we have to create them ourselves through force of habit.

Here’s another resource that could help: Shutdown Rituals: Leave the Work Stress at Work.