Focus on Healthy Habits and Projects in Your Daily Routine by Alex Sal

This is a guest post from Alex Sal from New York.  

habitsHealthy habits and projects have life-changing potential. Both help to accelerate the process of achieving virtually all your goals because they require self-discipline, which is a quality that can be applied in all facets of life. In addition to this (as if that were not enough) healthy habits and projects also help reduce stress. And, who does not need to reduce stress?

After all, we all live in a fast-paced, highly demanding, stressful age. It’s an epoch where a multitude of demands are being made on our time, and we have a plethora of choices. Sadly, time is finite. You can’t increase it. But, you can manage yourself better by inserting healthy habits and projects into your daily rituals. The truth is that many people struggle with this – they’re easily distracted.

It’s your lucky day, if you sit a spell with me, we’ll explore how to focus on ritualizing healthy habits and projects?

So, let’s focus on the task at hand. Let’s take a step back and ask ourselves what it means to focus. It’s quite simple, really, to focus on something means “to pay particular attention” to it.

The following are a few proven strategies:

  1. Leverage visualization and planning
  2. Use the power of frequency
  3. Destroy distractions
  4. Track your progress

 

1) Leverage visualization and planning

Visualization and planning are superpowers if you’d like to easily ritualize healthy habits and projects. You’d need to start by consciously creating new patterns. At first blush, visualization feels a tad like daydreaming, and some people may dismiss it. The truth is that there’s scientific evidence to show that it’s effective.

Consider that everything that manifests in our lives starts in our minds as pictures. When we visualize, we’re steering our attention in a particular direction. The images we generate can be so powerful they feel like virtual reality. When this is done regularly, and coupled with planning, inserting healthy rituals become easier because we’re engaging both parts of our brains to harness and direct where our energies flow. Planning makes it easier because we are providing clear instructions to ourselves.

Visualize your path and don’t let the concept of failure get in the way.

2) Use the Power of Frequency

Have you ever wondered how you could easily recall your favorite songs? It’s due to the power of repetition. It’s very easy for what we repeat to stick. The more we try to do those things the more we’re building neural pathways that make it easy to reproduce them with ease in the future. When you repeat your goals, you’re telling your brain your priorities. As you know, prioritization is a fundamental ingredient for being able to focus.

So, consciously block out time on your calendar for healthy habits and projects. Set reminders on your computer, tablet and mobile phone. Create posters with reminders and put them in different parts of your office and home. Create musical triggers – you could select 3 of your favorite classical recordings and mentally associate them with three major habits and projects you’re trying to insert into your life. Ideally, you want music that’d galvanize you. Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” is a great example. So, each time you hear this song, for example, you’d know it’s time to go jogging or time to start writing that manuscript that you’ve been putting off since the 80s.

3) Eliminate Distractions

If we are honest, a lot of people know what to do, to ritualize healthy habits and projects. Distractions are what many struggle with. In fact, most of us struggle with it. Just as we can consciously create new patterns, we must consciously avoid, reduce, or destroy those things that lure us away from a more evolved version of ourselves.

It could be television, it could be social media, it could be binge-watching movies…It’s actually relative. A scriptwriter, for example, may need to be watching a lot of movies. We need to realize how vital the concept of opportunity cost is. The time we spend on X, is the same time that could have been spent on Y. Let’s suppose Mr. M wants to be a software developer or work in organization design consulting but spends most of his time on activities that do not move him towards his goal. What’s likely going to happen to his dream of being a software developer? It’s the same for us. We must consciously and regularly ask ourselves if our activities are fuel for our main goals or if they’re subtly and slowly killing them.

4) Track Your Progress

It’s important to regularly compare our realities to what we visualized. If at the beginning of the year, you envisioned a fitter and healthier you, and every month you use an app to check some of your activities and stats – if you’re on the right track – this will serve as a stimulus for you to continue on the path. It would serve as positive reinforcement for you to accentuate your focus on ritualizing healthy habits and projects. You would find it easier to be fixated on the healthy habits – the record of your progress will be highly motivating – because at the end of the day, leaders take their time but leaders light a fire.

Conclusion

We’ve explored some of the strategies to help you focus on ritualizing healthy habits and projects. Interestingly, it’s not difficult. It all starts with making a firm choice. It starts with envisioning a better you.

What are the main challenges you experience when trying to focus?

Alex Salcioglu

Alex Sal is a business journalist, startup entrepreneur, and frequent contributing writer for Markitors.com. He is also a recent graduate of economics from Queens College.

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Seek Clarity

In his new book, High Performance Habits, Brendon Burchard speaks about seeking clarity in Habit 1.  I shared this exercise with my Emerging Leader group yesterday.  I thought you might like to read this as well:

  1.  Describe (write it down) how you’ve perceived yourself in the following situations over the past several months – with your significant other, at work, with the kids or your team, in social situations with strangers.
  2. Now ask, “Is that who I really see myself being in the future?”  How would my future self look, feel, and behave differently in those situations? (note: think about how your future self would want to interact in ways that you would be proud of)
  3. If you could describe yourself in just 3 aspirational words – words that would sum up who you are at your best in the future – what would those words be?  Why are those words meaningful to you?  Once you find your words, put them in your phone as an alarm label that goes off several times per day.

I worked through this exercise myself.  I jotted down several things and finally landed on my 3 aspirational words.  I created a calendar event that displays these 3 words at 5:45 am, 1:00 pm and 9:00 pm every day.

Already, there are many times when I see those words and I am reminded to be my best and do my best to act out on these words.  It works.  What a great reminder.

Try it. In fact, order the book and start working your own high performance habits (link to the book is provided above). Begin working on becoming better.  You will not regret it.

high performance habit quote

One Thing I’ve Learned About…Simplicity

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by Jim Johnson

Over the past few months, I’ve developed and introduced a new initiative to my team. I lead a great team who is responsible for: a call center, eServices (online/phone lending), fraud, card admin, deposit operations, online account opening, etc.). We are calling this initiative the “Challenge to Change”.

What I wanted to do was to show the team how they can impact our bottom line (we call that our Measures that Matter) by adding something to their daily habits/routines. I didn’t want them to stop doing what they should be doing. No, I wanted them to add a simple step – a simple addition that could have significance in hitting our corporate goals.

Our call center, for instance, handles hundreds of calls every day. This team is effective in handling a wide variety of issues. They have been asked to view the customer’s financial profile and determine if this person has a full relationship with us (we are a credit union). Once they look at the profile, they are to ask themselves: “what’s missing?” Even if they see that more than one thing is missing, we have kept it simple. PICK ONE. Then talk about it.

We have created a list of “conversation starters” that assist the call center rep to begin a conversation that will lead to a deeper relationship with us. We are using current technology tools to log this interaction. Our technology can be viewed by anyone in the company and will keep the conversation momentum moving as the customer is in the deciding stage (we don’t assume that the sale will be made on the first attempt – it will take multiple interactions).

Here’s what I’ve learned while developing this initiative:

1. Know what my team is already doing. I spent significant time with team members asking them to show me what they look at when beginning an interaction with a customer. I had them explain (when necessary) what they could see/know from the data available on our core system. I gained valuable information with this step.

2. Understand their routine. Everyone approaches the same job in different ways. I had to discover how my team works. Some take short cuts. Others don’t. Some know their technology tools well. Others? Not so much. But I had to spend time with the team to know what they know and do.

3. Keep it simple. I knew that if I wanted to introduce a new habit, I couldn’t turn their work world upside down. Knowing my team and understanding their routine helped me know when and where to introduce change. It helped me to keep this process simple.

The new process only adds one step in their routine. One step. That’s it.

4. Communicate. I met with my call center 3-4 people at a time. I’m a word-picture guy. I drew charts, pictures, and graphs to lay-out what they do and where the change was going to happen. I asked a lot of questions and listened. I asked for feedback and got it. I made changes to the process based on the feedback. It was critical that we were all on the same page.

We are planning to launch this initiative this month. We have some testing to do with our current technology. We believe it will work and be a great “leading indicator” of our monthly corporate goals. It will drive more business to our branches. It will keep the relationship conversation going.

We didn’t build a complex machine to do this. We’re keeping it simple. We’ll be inspecting what we expect and encourage development and growth as we launch.

Change isn’t always easy. But keeping things simple, understanding the team’s work and process helps change happen.

Change Your Team’s Habits to Hit New Results

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“This process within our brains is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.

Over time, this loop—cue routine, reward; cue, routine, reward—becomes more and more automatic. The cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges.”

“However, simply understanding how habits work—learning the structure of the habit loop—makes them easier to control. Once you break a habit into its components, you can fiddle with the gears.”

Check out this book on the iBookstore: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-power-of-habit/id446670958?mt=11

4 Ways to Train Your Brain for Success

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by Krista Magidson

Your alarm goes off at 6 AM and immediately your to-do list flashes through your mind. Before brushing your teeth you check your phone for important emails and updates. While putting on your mascara your mind jumps ahead to your noon appointment. At breakfast you rehearse what you are going to say, anticipate objections, and the entire meeting runs through your mind, over and over again. “It’s going to be a long day,” you think to yourself and it’s only 7:30 AM. Sound familiar?

This kind of mental projection is time consuming, unproductive, and exhausting. But you can train yourself and your mind to be present, productive, and supportive with these four easy and effective Applied Meditation techniques.

1. Accept that thinking is inevitable: Over thinking is not the cause of an unproductive mind, allowing yourself to be either distracted by your thoughts or run by them is the problem.

Fighting with your mind or feeling frustrated over your lack of concentration actually makes thinking worse and it is exhausting.

Accepting that the process of thinking is normal and natural is the first step in retraining your mind and your attention. Acceptance is the first step in gaining control.

2. Train your mind with gentle repetition: Lack of focus is a habit. No matter what your personality type, genetic predisposition, or up-bringing you can re-train your mind with gentle and consistent repetition.

When you notice that your attention has wandered during a client meeting or phone call, take a quiet deep breath, and bring your attention back to your client or call.

This is a very powerful practice and you can do it throughout the day. The more you notice or watch your mind when it wanders the more present and focused you become.

3. Dealing with Worry: Worry thoughts are deceptively distracting and draining. Worry takes you right out of the present moment and propels you into the future.

The present moment is where all of your power lies. When you are consistently focused on future events you waste time, energy, and the feeling of powerlessness increases.

Instead, when you find that your attention has wandered towards a worry thought, ask yourself one of two questions: “Is that happening now?” or “Do I need to think about that now?”

Unless it is something that needs your immediate attention, the answer is usually, “No, that is not happening now” or “No, I do not need to think about that right now.” Repeat the question until you feel your attention settling back to the present moment.

This practice is also very useful if you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night with “to-do’s” on your mind.

4. Take three deep breaths, three times a day: Deep conscious breathing takes focus and it is a wonderful way to train your mind to be present. If you need to, set your phone to alert you at 12 noon, 3 PM, and 7 PM to help remind you.

Your mind is your greatest ally. Use these steps to gain control of your attention and create a mental environment is productive, energetic, and successful… and you will be too.

http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/4-ways-to-train-your-mind-for-success/