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0 Sprucing Up Your Good Habits

Recently I forgot something important. REALLY important. It was an event one of my children was supposed to attend. Something we gasped with excitement over when he was first invited. We immediately rsvp’d, completed a pile of paperwork so he could participate, even proudly told his grandparents about it (“Listen to this cool thing Charlie gets to do!”). A couple of busy autumn months went by, brimming with other events, assignments, and ballgames and… when the day came around, it wasn’t until I was climbing into bed that night when I said, “Wait. Were we supposed to do something today?”

I didn’t used to be prone to forgetting. I’m diligent about putting things in my smartphone calendar and this commitment was no exception. “How could this have happened?” is something I’ve asked myself relentlessly since. So, here’s what I think: My mind has grown lazy. If the receptionist at the dentist says, “see you in 6 months” you might see me physically standing there at the desk putting it in my calendar, but frankly they are going to send me 30 reminder texts and emails a couple of weeks before the actual appointment so there’s no reason for me to truly internalize the date. Of course, the phone is always buzzing but it’s sometimes with a weekly meeting I’ve forgotten to delete from the calendar or a notification about a school bus running late for my child who plans to walk home anyway. 

What I’m trying to say is there was a time when I HAD good scheduling habits, but then it got muddy because someone was always remembering for me. And at one time I was responsible enough to register for constant text notifications about things like late buses, when messages became too voluminous, I learned to ignore them. With my son’s special event, there was no reminder from them and so there was no remembering from me. How absurd! I don’t need to recreate new habits; I need to spruce up my old ones.

Habit Stacking

If you’ve strayed from a good habit, one strategy for getting back on track is to attach something new to the way you’ve always done it. For me, from this day forward, the second I take my first sip of coffee, I open the calendar to read it. The good habit was always there: using the phone calendar to organize commitments. Now it’s time to build a small addition: instead of waiting for notifications, actively checking the calendar at the same time every day.

This also works if you simply want to pick up a new ritual. For example, starting a mediation routine. If you’re good at exercising regularly consider adding 5 minutes of meditation to the beginning of your routine. If you want to maintain your network more intentionally, send a note to a colleague to say hello each time you open your healthy homemade lunch.

Choose the Habits of Leader

Pick good places for growth. Make a list of the attributes of a good leader. For example, a productive manager might set their intentions each day, prioritize people over tasks, or listen before they speak. How can you autopilot these interpersonal skills so that they become habits? Pick simple behaviors that you can put on repeat. Some ideas:

  1. To be a better listener- Listen to the other person speak and then paraphrase what they said. “So, what you mean is.” “Okay, so to make sure I have this right…” Knowing that you will end each conversation this way will force you to listen to what the speaker is saying instead of letting your brain fill with what you plan to say next.
  2. Prioritize people so they can succeed- Don’t simply download the specifics of a project. Think of how to help the people involved succeed. If you are delegating work, make sure the person in receipt of your project knows how the outcome will be measured and evaluated. Begin every meeting by sharing the goals.
  3. Be ready with ideas- Don’t present a problem without sharing possible solutions. If you’re good about updating your supervisor with the status on a project and you are honest about problems that might be happening, also take the time to suggest solutions.

Keep Your Rhythm
Re-energize your plan to keep your rhythm with a good habit. Repetition is the key so perhaps incentivize never missing more than two days in a row. If you decide to revisit your calendar every morning, maybe on Friday’s reward yourself with a specialty coffee or going for a walk during your lunch hour.

Take a “small steps” approach to Improvement

Be mindful that if you add too much into your already packed routine you might find yourself overwhelmed. Continuous and gradual steps might be a better approach. Try reading about “Kaizen”, the Japanese philosophy of setting small, manageable steps to improve your habits over time. The idea is that if you get a teeny bit better constantly, as little as 1% a day, you can be in a constant state of improvement- even when it comes to things that are going well already. Practitioners of this method find it to be especially useful in business but with some imagination, you can make it work for the individual.


Here are some ideas for staying consistent with a new habit without disrupting your current routine:

  • Make a timestamp. Five to ten minutes a day and that’s it.
  • Look at literature. See if there is a book or podcast that centers on your new habit and read or listen to just a snippet each week. This will help you remain rooted in what you are trying to achieve.
  • Don’t let this new thing be the reason you stayed up too late or fell behind in another priority.

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