In this episode I will be discussing the topic of habit forming and how forming new habits and, just as important, breaking old ones - can move you into a better life, a stronger career and a happier place in general.
In the last episode though I was keen to get into and raise your awareness of time wasters as I’ve been tripping over them for years – and they can really mess with your productivity if you let them.
I’ve interacted with more than my fair share of time wasting people over the years – quite often someone invites me into their project as a filmmaker/ collaborator, which if I agree to do, often leaves me to pick up and drive their project to completion as they sit in the passenger seat. It’s not true of everyone that asks me to join them, but it’s freeloaders like that who waste your time and distract you from your own goals and vision –
You need to find truly brilliant people to work and collaborate with, and avoid having to carry someone else’s project forwards because they don’t have a clear vision of where they are going. That sort of time waster can take years off you and in the end walk away with the project as if you were really only a small contributor to it.
I’ve gotten better at dodging that particular scenario nowadays as I’m more and more aware of how little time I actually have free – and no matter what age you are - time wasters need to be avoided. If you missed the episode then check it out. And if you can suggest any more time waster archetypes please drop me a line at filmproproductivity.com
Today, I will be tackling the topic of habit forming.
Sean Covey the American businessman and author of several books on this topic states that “We become what we repeatedly do.” But to be fair, he stole that from Aristotle who more fully stated that “We are what we repeatedly do. So excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
Somewhere along the way, I became aware that I had gotten out of the habit of doing something I really loved. READING. I hadn’t picked up a book, to read anything purely for fun, in years. I decided that reading was something I had to start again. So I did - but I had to put a bit of work in to get back into the habit.
At first I’d pick up a book and read one or two pages a night, and I found it really quite tiring, and I struggled.
So I changed my tack. I decided to re-read books I’d already read when I was younger, which were predominantly fantasy novels as it happens but good for getting lost in and introducing new wider worlds and situations. So I picked up JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit. It wasn’t quite what I remembered but I got through it much more quickly. Reading more like 10 or 15 pages a night, till just a couple of weeks later it was done. I picked up a heftier endeavour, but one I’d read before and I’d loved the films which had been made more recently. I re-read LORD OF THE RINGS and it pulled me in. I was up nearer 30 to 40 pages a night. Then I moved on to Game Of Thrones - I hadn’t read those before but I’d been watching the series and that made it a little easier for me to follow the names and locations - I battered through those books in a couple of months and they were brilliant by the way despite the huge page count. Following that I tried the Harry Potter books which again I’d not read, but I’d seen the films and this meant again that I didn’t have to work too hard. By that time, a good 6 months after I’d struggled with one or two page of reading a night, I was in the habit of reading between 20 and 50 pages a day, not just at night when I was tired, but during the day in stolen moments too and the habit of reading was set.
I now read every day, I make room for it and I enjoy it. It’s inspiring and engrossing and relaxing and all the things it used to be when I was younger. It’s now an established habit for me to read and so I do. I don’t think about it, I just do it. You too can form a habit with a little bit of effort and a little bit of commitment.
The nineteenth century author William Makepeace Thackeray wrote that “Successful people aren’t born that way. They become successful by establishing the habit of doing things that unsuccessful people don’t like to do.”
We can use habit forming systems to build strong consciously formed habits of any type and you have to start by being quite specific in what habit you are trying to form. Have a think about what habits you’d like to break or replace or form.
How about a fitness habit like Walking every day - you might solve that by parking further away from where you work and walking in the last ½ mile, and ½ mile back, or you might want to change a mental habit like Stopping Yourself from being negative, which would start by increasing your awareness of when you are negative perhaps, then realising it and acknowledging it each time. You might want to form a habit to relieve stress, which could be something simple like sitting outside in the park for 5 minutes every day and letting your mind wander, or a personal habit –one I’m trying to break is to not have a biscuit or a cake with every coffee that I drink. I’ve gotten into the habit of having a coffee and a… (fill in blank space with cake type here) Now I’m putting effort into just having the coffee, or sometimes exchanging coffee and a cake for a bottle of water and a piece of fruit… The productivity habit I’ve put work into is waking early, and I’ve managed it. Strange shooting schedules have done some real damage to that endeavour in the last few weeks but I’m getting back on that bus and I find it very useful. I think that one deserves it’s own episode though so I’ll leave it for season 2.
The most important part of any new habit is getting started — not just starting on day one of the habit, as that’s the easy day, but starting each and every day to form that habit and making it stick. Consistency makes the habit – without consistency there is no habit.
I think where most people fall down in this scenario, as time goes on, is in the area of MOTIVATION. Your will power can be rapidly depleted whilst trying to build new habits but there are ways around this.
Former Olympic athlete Jim Ryun said that “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” That’s a very clear statement of this problem, and it leads us in the right direction. I’ll say it again - “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”
Habit forming does require motivation at first but eventually that inner drive is replaced by routine, and when that routine becomes set it frees your motivation - YOUR WILL POWER which is a limited resource to be placed elsewhere.
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You’ll recognise the name Steven Guise from an earlier episode. He wrote the book how to be an imperfectionist, but he also wrote another book called MINI HABITS which I believe in absolutely and which I’ll detail a little of here. The sub title of mini habits is SMALLER HABITS / BIGGER RESULTS, which is the big message for me.
I talked briefly on this topic on my episode on 4 HACKS TO GET STUFF DONE, what was that? Episode 9? With the example of the two minute rule. On that show I posed the question, Can all of your goals be accomplished in less than two minutes? No, but every goal can be STARTED in 2 minutes or less. And small accomplishments like this start to become a habit after a time…
STEVEN GUISE’s book MINI HABITS, makes habit forming easy, by making the habits that you want to form, as he calls them - STUPID SMALL. He sets out to banish the days of unreachable goals and perpetual disappointment. As always I highly recommend you read the books I refer to here and this one will be linked to in the show notes for you. It’s a quick read and it’s just brilliant.
Steven’s strategy in creating habits is to make them so simple, so small so easily achievable that it is almost easier to do them than not to.
He says that
“Doing a little bit is infinitely bigger and better than doing nothing (mathematically and practically speaking)”.
He says that
“Doing a little bit every day has a greater impact than doing a lot on one day”. To him the system is more important than the goal…
He says that
“We’re quick to blame ourselves for lack of progress, but slow to blame our strategies” and his strategies are designed to support your self-belief.
He says that
“When you add good habits into your life, it illuminates another possible path, restores your confidence, and gives you hope”. And I believe in that one so much I created this episode to back it up!
Steve Guise’s MINI HABITS don’t require a load of willpower. They are achievable and through them you can form the habit of what you want to do, and improve on it later. For example lets say you want to do 100 push ups a day. That’s a fast road to disappointment. What if that goal was one push up a day though? Could you do that? Of course you could. And if you do one, just maybe you’ll say - That wasn’t so bad. I’ll just do another. And every day you just aim for one. In a couple of weeks it wouldn’t be surprising if you found you were sneaking in a dozen push ups or more. In 30 days (and the number will become relevant later) but in 30 days maybe you’re doing 20 a day, but you’re only trying to get one done, and 100 a day isn’t in the picture - yet. Once your habit is formed, you can build on it. In a years’ time, or in six months even, I suspect you might be doing those 100 pushups a day, and you’ll have got there by thinking tactically and aiming for the stupid small. SMALLER HABITS / BIGGER RESULTS.
Make the goal, the habit forming goal, so small that you literally cannot fail.
Somewhere along the line you see, NEWTON’S 1st LAW has come into play. An object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity… The hard part of that law is moving from rest to motion. The mini habit, the mini goal, gets you rolling – it moves you into motion and once you start you can start doing bonus stuff like that extra push up, or more and as the rolling continues you achieve the bigger goals too .
Steven has 8 mini habit rules.
And they are:
1. Never, Ever Cheat
2. Be Happy With All Progress
3. Reward Yourself Often, Especially After a Mini Habit
4. Stay Level-headed
5. If You Feel Strong Resistance, Back Off & Go Smaller
6. Remind Yourself How Easy This Is
7. Never Think A Step Is Too Small
8. Put Extra Energy and Ambition Toward Bonus Reps, Not A Bigger Requirement
The 30 DAYS I mentioned a minute ago is relevant as everything I’ve read about HABIT FORMING says that you must commit to Thirty Days because THIRTY DAYS - Three to four weeks is all the time you need to make a habit AUTOMATIC. If you can make it through the initial conditioning phase, it becomes much easier to sustain. So choose a month to create and establish a habit of your choice.
What happens when you pass that point is that psychologically YOU CREATE A CHAIN GOING THAT YOU DON’T WANT TO BREAK, and that will add a little drive to your habit that can’t do any harm.
Benjamin Franklin said that “It is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.” and I can’t help but agree.
From my own experience I’ve noticed that BREAKING BAD HABITS is far more difficult than FORMING NEW ONES, so you could think making of an exchange instead of just forming new habits. It’s like I was saying earlier, I can exchange my coffee and a cake habit for water and a piece of fruit habit. I could exchange a sweety addiction, that’s candy for all you non Scots that are tuning in - but I can exchange candy for fruit. When I want a piece of candy I go instead to the fruit bowl. This exchange is made far easier by not having any candy in the house of course.
Once you’ve established your habits whatever they may be, things will start to run on autopilot and with a small amount of initial discipline, you can create a new habit that requires little effort to maintain.
A few final suggestions I must make are
1. Write it Down – Writing your resolution is important. Writing makes your ideas more clear and focuses you on your end result and the act of doing so, as I mentioned in the 12 week year episode makes it 80% more likely that you will do it! No kidding. Science says so – and you know science – it knows stuff!
2. Consistency is critical if you want to make a habit stick. If you want to get into the habit of reading again, like I did. Read a little every day. Picking a book up a couple of times a week really won’t cut it. Try also reading at the same time, and in the same place for your thirty days. I read in bed at night, you may prefer the morning or at lunch. Whatever works for you.
3. A couple of weeks into your habit forming commitment you might get lost or distracted. Post reminders about it around you. Next week I’ll talk about some apps that will help with this.
4. My final tip - Remove Temptation – throw out the cigarettes – flush them down the loo, don’t stash a packet somewhere close at hand, it will only make you fail. Take the Candy and give it away or throw it in the bin. Remove the distracting app form your phone. Give yourself the best chance possible to succeed so you won’t need to struggle with your willpower later.
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.” ―Aristotle
With my schedule up and down like a yo-yo and almost daily shifts to my get up time and return home time due to strange working hours, some of my good habits, specifically in the area of health and fitness, have taken a bit of a beating lately and have begun to slip. With this episode I’m going to get back on track with that, set brand new habits for myself and STICK TO THEM.
Frank Hall Crane says that “Habits are safer than rules; you don’t have to watch them. And you don’t have to keep them either. They keep you.”
One of the reasons that I started this podcast was to get back into the habit of creating. Here I sit with a 15 episode season starting in 4 days and the habit of creating is strong. It took drive, it took focus and it took vision, but once I got into the swing of it, I just kept on going and I’ve succeeded. You wouldn’t be listening to this now if it wasn’t for the power of habit.
I urge you now to create habits that will bring you closer to your goals. Don’t try to change just to make other people happy or because you feel pressure to change from some other quarter. If you want it, know why you are doing it and believe in the positive change that your efforts can bring about you will succeed...
In the words of ― GANDHI
Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.
CALL TO ACTION
Thanks again for listening –
At the end of each episode I like to remind you that you are the master of your own destiny and by that I mean that you can take control. If you want to kill a bad habit, and replace it with a new one then do it. That’s this week’s call to action.
You probably know already what habit you want to kill or introduce. When this episode finishes, just after you’ve left an awesome review on iTunes or wherever, ha! Write down the habit you want to form. Block out the next 30 days in your calendar, and decide on a stupid small step that you can take on each of those 30 days to form the habit. Got it?
In next week’s episode I’m going to introduce 10 POWERFUL APPS FOR APPLE AND ANDROID that you should GRAB to BOOST YOUR PRODUCTIVITY.
But until then, GOOD LUCK IN THE WEEK AHEAD. Take control of your own destiny, keep on shootin’ and join me next time on Film Pro Productivity.
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· You can view the show notes for this episode at filmproproductivity.com
· If you’re struggling with something you think I can help with or would like to tell me how you are getting on then please get in touch via the contact page on the website. Alternately you can get me on Twitter @fight_director or follow the show @filmproprodpod
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Thanks: A Himitsu
Image: Main Photographs taken on the Giordano UK shoot by Bryan Larkin.
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