Let me begin by whole heartedly admitting I am by no means an expert in the area of productivity or habit formation. This year, rather than a New Years resolution that I will most likely put off until December when it’s too late to achieve, or fail before the snow melts, I have decided to take a different path focusing on creating sustainable healthy habits on which I can gradually build upon.
How it Started
My self reflection started earlier in 2020. Over the summer I listened to an audiobook “Healthy as F*ck” by Oonagh Duncan, and although it turned out to be more about nutrition and healthy eating habits, I was able to take away some key elements about how to be successful when creating new habits.
What really resonated with me is that, different from resolutions or fad dieting, habits are something that you ideally do not plan to veer away from over time, not something that you will one day stop doing. Habits have no defined end date. I realize this is generally the intention with any resolution that is made, however you cannot run before you walk, you cannot walk before you stand, and you cannot stand successfully without falling before you learn to balance.
Another point that stood out to me was the need for external elements to bring happiness. ”If I could just do ___, then I will be happy”. But a lot of the time it means giving up things you enjoy in order to achieve that elusive goal, and are still not happy once you get there. The book talks about positive self talk, and liking who you are, but also choosing habits/changes that you see possible for the long run, attainable and sustainable. That doesn’t mean I can’t have a large goal or challenge, but I have to go about it in a way that will work for me, taking smaller steps that make sense on that longer journey.
ie. Deciding to get up early to work out when I have never, in my whole life, been a morning person. Maybe it starts by walking laps of my house while I drink my coffee, progressing to a morning walk with my dog after some consistency. Then maybe I add in 2-3 exercises every other day etc.
Clogs in Motion
The idea was there, but motivation had not quite reached me yet.
At the end of 2020, as a team, MoveSafe revisited a tool designed to take a look at your overall well being using a holistic approach. It consisted of items relating to your physical environment, well-being, finances, and relationships. The idea behind this was to tally up how many items on the list you consistently did and at the end, the areas with the lowest tally’s were meant to help direct your goal setting initiatives.
When I looked back at certain items I was not doing, but easily could do, I wondered what was holding me back. These were simple things, like making my bed in the morning. I started to think, what are my barriers? Perceived time commitment? Is that a realistic barrier? No. Is this a sustainable change that I can make for the foreseeable future? Absolutely.
This got me thinking, what other little changes can I make to better my life? How can I hold myself accountable, track my progress, and make that process enjoyable?
At first I searched for healthy habit trackers on amazon. I was overwhelmed by how many options there were. I was not finding exactly what I was looking for, remember, I wanted this to be something simple I could easily start doing.
I then decided to google “Healthy Habit Trackers” which led me to a free downloadable resource. I filled it out for January, evaluated where I had been successful and then refined my list for February.
MoveSafe Moment: Feel free to download your own free MoveSafe Habit Tracker:
Visually being able to see the patterns on how I am doing, seeing where I have been successful, or even where I may need to focus on how to improve, has made a significant difference in my overall mental and physical health, as well as productivity.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
A habit tracker is only one way to help keep you on track. I have a colleague who has found success by keeping detailed records of her habits in a daily planner.
Her goals were the same as they typically have been in past years. Eating better, spending less money, and exercising more. As she had attempted these many times before with little to no success, she decided she needed to create a habit that would allow her to hold herself accountable.
She decided she would start recording nightly in a planner. The planner was kept on her bedside table and everynight, before going to bed, she would record what she ate, what money she spent, and what exercise she did. At the end of each week and each month, she would tally up her results to determine if she had a good month or a bad one. As the months went on she noticed that she was making better unconscious lifestyle decisions.
The simple daily habit of recording in her planner and reflecting on her choices had allowed her to achieve the goals she had set out for herself.
There are many options for planners, however the one she selected is a Pierre Belvedere Annual Planner, as she expressed preferring the layout of the pages in this brand versus others
Method to the Madness
Since I started using my Habit Tracker, I have decided to dedicate some time into doing more research on the topic of habit formation, productivity, and organization. There are some truly great resources out there, some of which I have read, some that I have started to, and some of which are now on my list. The following are just a few pearls of wisdom I have received from the resources that I started with.
Forming a Habit
Up first, Atomic Habits written by James Clear. If you are having trouble with building good habits and breaking bad ones, this book is an excellent resource. It literally tells you on the front cover “An easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones”.
Within this book James Clear talks about 4 laws of behaviour change; make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, make it satisfying. I love this because I was already fumbling along the right track with my habit tracking, understanding the “why” just gave so much more power behind my actions. Furthermore, I believe understanding how habits are formed, allows for an even greater potential for success.
James discusses how this habit loop is constantly occurring, scanning the environment and trialing responses, adapting from the results. The two most common cues for a habit loop are time and location. Cue triggers a craving, craving motivates a response, response generates a reward. Having knowledge about this loop, along with additional framework provided in Atomic Habits, gives you the power to develop automatic good habits, and eliminate or alter bad ones.
Additional great habit forming elements from the book:
- Habit Stacking. (Ex. “after [old habit], I will [new habit].”) Habit stacking is discussed as a great way to create new successful habits, or build up your habits. Keeping in mind “you must standardize before you optimize”. You can not improve a habit that does not yet exist.
- 2 Minute Rule. James suggests that when you start a new habit it should take less than 2 minutes to do.
Limit Distractions and Stay on Task
The next resource I will discuss is the Pomodoro Technique. This time management technique was initially developed in 1987 by Francesco Cirillo. It has since been perfected into a technique widely used and respected across the world.
The Pomodoro Technique is mainly focused on task organization and takes a great deal of planning up front. The bare minimum/basics of the Pomodoro Technique is to spend 25 minutes doing one uninterrupted task, 5 minute break from anything that requires brain power, and then move onto the next 25 minute task. After every 4 Pomodoros, you then take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.
MoveSafe Moment: Movement breaks are 5 minutes long and are a great way to refresh your body and brain between tasks, or prepare for the upcoming task.
If a “Pomodoro” (label for each 25 minute section) is interrupted, ie. a distraction that takes you away from the task, it is void. If you complete the full time of the pomodoro you get to check it off. Distractions still may occur, but you can choose to write them down as something to do later/to plan to achieve in later pomodoros. One full task can be as little as one pomodoro, or may take many pomodoros.
There are already apps developed to help you set yourself up, or you may choose to create your own spreadsheet tracking option as described in the book. One App I found is called “Focus To-Do”. There is a free version that has all the basic features needed, and a paid premium version with more advanced options.
The Pomodoro Technique’s success seems to be highly dependent on tracking and data collection in order to excel and improve. This may seem daunting at first (or at least it does to me), however throughout the book Francesco Cirillio promises it will get easier with time, and the outcomes will speak for themselves.
Since advancing my organizational skills is a long term goal, or habit I hope to continue to form and improve upon, I can see myself utilizing this technique.
The MoveSafe® Approach
The MoveSafe® Principles are centred around this concept of forming healthy habits.
1. ‘Big 3’ Healthy Posture and Movements: Whether sitting at an office, working out in the field, or anything in between, our goal at MoveSafe is to create positive healthy posture and movement habits that will improve your quality of life.
Physical Work Should Make You Stronger, Not Wear You Out
2. Prepare and Maintain the Body: When performing the Warm-Up and taking Movement Breaks it is important to target the specific muscles that are used frequently throughout the workday. Some exercises stretch tight muscles, while others aim to activate them. These muscle activation exercises are habit building for the body.
- Ie. If you practice hip hinging every morning as part of your Warm-Up you will begin to unconsciously hip hinge when you bend down to pick something up. It will have become a habit.
Give Your Body What It Needs, And Still Get Your Work Done
3. Prepare the Work Area and Equipment: How tools and equipment are positioned can bait us into some poor habits. Work smarter, not harder.
- Ie. Position your computer monitor so that it forces you to sit all the way back in your chair in optimal ‘Big 3’ positioning. Place tools that you are planning to use throughout your day within easy reach at waist height to eliminate unnecessary bending.
Choose to include the main elements of the MoveSafe® Program as new habits to form, and start your own journey towards improved quality of life.
If you are interested in the MoveSafe® Program or any of our other services, contact us today!