There are lots of clichés about the difficulty of breaking old habits and forming new ones. You’re stuck in a rut. Old habits die hard. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Annoyingly, when it comes to changing habits the catchphrase dictionary is stacked against us. When you want to kick something that doesn’t serve you into the long grass, we can describe the frustration of being weighed down by a bad habit, but not the attitudes and methods that will help us form a more helpful habit.
There are motivational quotes, pictures to share on social media with a cliff top view in the background, and cheesy lines to write on post-its to stick on your mirror, but they need a love of cheesy mantras. I love a peppy quotation as much as the next person, probably more, but l’ll be honest: some weeks I want to switch #MondayMotivation tweets for #SlightlyPositiveMondayMumbling.
One line that works for me in all weathers is “do one thing”. Just one thing. Anyone can commit to one thing a day. And that’s where #weeklynudge came from.
Weekly Nudge is my commitment to try a different small change every week. I choose one thing and share my experiences on Twitter with the hashtag #weeklynudge.
Here’s how to find your one thing each week:
1) Choose something that bugs you. Something that eats your time or energy or that has a high ratio of regret to benefit.
Example: On my morning commute to spend most of the day looking at a screen, I had often done nothing but scroll through social media on…. a screen. Time eaten: loads. Energy taken from my eyes, thumbs and emotional tank: loads. I was annoyed but didn’t know how to stop. I wasn’t getting the benefit social media can give because it was early morning and I needed “me time” without others’ input to start my day in the best way for me.
2) Identify a Very Small Thing (VST) that will mean you don’t do the thing that bugs you.
Example: Not checking my Twitter notifications. For me, notifications are the shiny poison apple that lure me into social media scrolling. I’ve seen each of these when they pop up, but still open the app to make the “unread” prompt disappear. Twenty minutes later I’m still reading tweets about Brexit, BBC bias and cats falling over.
3) Commit to doing the VST every day for seven days. Tweet about it, if you like. I use the hashtag #weeklynudge, if you’re after ideas.
4) If it works, keep it for a couple more weeks to make the habit stick. If it doesn’t, bin it. Simple.
Each week for the last couple of months I’ve chosen a different Very Small Thing, and some have been real gamechangers. They haven’t always been a perfect life hack first time, but have led to a few “why do I do that?” moments.
Here are my top three:
3 – Do your future self a favour
Do one thing each day that makes tomorrow easier. Pop a teabag in a mug and fill the kettle before you go to bed. Do one crappy chore you can’t be bothered to do. Pack your gym kit. Put your shoes away. It sounds really dull, but it feels really nice the next day when you realise you did that because you wanted your future self to have a nice day.
2 – No scrolling in transit
Liberate your commute from social media! If you drive or walk or cycle, you’re already one up on this one. For me and other train, bus and metro travellers that means gaining up to two hours a day for podcasts, reading, looking out of the window or writing messages to friends. Sometimes I like to check social media on the train, but not as often as I used to think I liked it.
1 – Give away some kindness
I was bowled over at how much my mood and approach to the day improved when I took time to scribble a short note to someone I cared about each day. People really are brilliant, and if you’re ever feeling sad about the state of the world just take a moment to think about someone who has lit up your day. Say thank you for a difference they’ve made, tell them something you value about them, send them some words of encouragement, or just say hello. If you have time to choose a postcard the old fashioned way, that’s lovely. But a text message or a selfie holding a scribbled “Hello!” is just as smile-inducing. (Also, you get the fringe benefit of nice feedback in return sometimes, and we can all use a bit of that.)
Last week’s #weeklynudge was not to have a weekly nudge as I’ve been on holiday, but this week’s is a return to mindfulness. I often do mindfulness at bedtime, but this week I’m going to do it in the morning before I get up.
What one thing will you do?
Claire Eadington geeks out on workflow management, performance and wellbeing. Claire’s TEDx talk about barriers to performance for exceptional women kicked off the 2017 TEDxWhitehallWomen event in London.
Claire writes a weekly blog, Self Curious, on NPW’s website.
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