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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.
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.
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 create any other positive associations in my mind. As a result, I’ve found that trying to create a new habit in this way sometimes either fails or leads to habits that don’t stick.
Use technology to set a reminder to do or not do something.
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 may stop engaging in the habit altogether if they stop reminding you. 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.
Say 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 something I want to form as a habit actually helps that habit to form better. It’s a way to bring mindfulness to the formation of a new habit to help enforce the behavior you’re trying to habituate in yourself.
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.