This episode is sponsored by Shannon Sutton
In today’s episode I’m going to be talking once again about HABITS. I’ve gone into them before in episode 13 - HABIT FORMING FOR A BETTER LIFE and I will be coming back to them again. The more you do something, the stronger and more efficient the connection becomes. Habit forming, you see, is yet another essential part of self-improvement.
In episode 13 I used the quote by Aristotle "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
And forming STRONG HABITS - really working to ingrain them into your daily routine allows you to focus the finite amount of will power or shall I call it MENTAL ENERGY you have at your command to make things happen.
Habitually doing things that create or maintain a positive aspect to your life and work means that you can focus your daily time and energy into new things. Habit forming, if you want to get ahead in whatever you are trying to do, just cannot be dismissed.
Aristotle also wrote that “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
and a long time ago I realised the power of this premise would allow me to make enormously complex endeavours, simple.
Before I was successful in the world of film and TV I used to direct and design dramatic action which took place at large scale outdoor fire festivals. The stories were told visually using large, like 10 foot tall backpack puppets which were lit up from the inside, made by groups of people from the community and artists who had been brought in to oversee. Performances took place as part of a parade of lanterns held by thousands of people who passed repeating scenes of action as they headed for a destination surrounding a bonfire etc.
As the processions reached the end of their journey they watched as the elements of the dramatic story they had passed en route now came together to form a full and connected story – which was a great spectacle.
These events had literally thousands of people involved, and a bunch of professionals like myself coordinating them. I found them very engaging and really quite easy to put together though, as I simply treated each part of the complex beast as a separate piece which in turn had many subsections to it. I remember very well being in meetings where others who tried to imagine the whole escapade as a single thing would be blowing a gasket, and me calming them as in my eye it was really all very easy. It had its difficulties don’t get me wrong, but the solutions were often simple.
As I think back now I realise that it was my first foray into the world of productivity techniques and I’ve taken the principle, that complex things can be broken down into a series of smaller working parts, into my life and work.
“Habits are formed by the repetition of particular acts. They are strengthened by an increase in the number of repeated acts. Habits are also weakened or broken, and contrary habits are formed by the repetition of contrary acts.” ~ Mortimer J. Adler unquote
I first heard the term ELEPHANT HABITS in an OPTOMIZE video by Brian Johnson, where he referred to the Book HABIT STACKING by Steven (SJ) Scott.
HABIT STACKING is a big subject but I’ll go into it a little here – It’s a simple way to get stuff done by GROUPING TOGETHER SMALL TASKS INTO PATTERN CHAINS and 'HABIT CHAINING'. Of grouping together small activities into a routine which you link to a habit already set in your day. This makes the routine memorable and anchors your new habits to an existing trigger, therefor making them easier to form.
My morning habit chain might go like this:
Wake up, Go to the loo, a minute of stretching, Brew a pot of coffee, Brush teeth, Floss, Shower, Make breakfast & drink coffee, Take vitamins, Mouth wash, Put washing and or/ dishwasher on, refer to my whiteboard list of things to do, pack my bag, Grab my swim stuff, head to the car.
Incidentally I make packing my swimming stuff part of my morning habit of getting ready to leave the house as it keeps my habit of daily swimming in check. I hang my wet swimming gear up in the bathroom at night, so that in the morning as brush my teeth and head out I pick it up from where it has dried overnight, and I take it out into the car, ready for my later habit of going swimming that I talked about in the last episode. Then when I go for a swim, everything is there and I am ready.
A very simple example of HABIT STACKING given by an Esquire magazine article on the topics is this: “Never remember to floss? Work it into your existing habits by flossing right before brushing your teeth. Assuming you're remembering to do that one that is...”
In the HABIT STACKING book Scott explains that not all habits are equal though and that the mistake people make is - they don’t take the time to UNDERSTAND WHAT IT TAKES TO BUILD THEM - and that it’s important to create a distinction between the different habits that you’re trying to form.
He says there are three types of habits that you should add to a routine:
1. Keystone habits
2. Support habits
3. And Elephant habits
KEYSTONE HABITS can have a positive impact on multiple areas of your life—even if you’re not intentionally trying to improve them.
SUPPORT HABITS. Scott explains that not every habit can be a priority. In fact, you can only focus on a handful of keystone habits before you’ll feel overwhelmed, which is why it’s important to form “support habits.” These habits support the achievement of an important keystone habit.
And finally ELEPHANT HABITS which is what I want to focus on today
– There’s a joke that kids tell, or dad’s and uncles who are trying to be cool. It goes along the lines of How do you eat an elephant? With the response - One bite at a time. It’s not particularly funny but it’s exactly what is meant by the term ELEPHANT HABITS. The idea is that whenever you’re faced with a large complex goal, all you need to do is chip away at it in small chunks.
Many people don’t apply this mindset to their lives. When they’re forced to tackle large projects, they procrastinate or avoid them completely because the tasks seem insurmountable. This is exactly the mindset that I fought against during the fire festivals.
Scott goes on to say that Elephant habits are designed to overcome the natural resistance that we all feel whenever we’re forced to do a potentially UNPLEASANT TASK too. And this is an something I still struggle with a little.
I know something must be done, but I avoid starting because dedicating a few days to it is a very unpleasant idea. An elephant habit however will allow you to tackle it in smaller increments.
Steven Scott says that “The goal here is to chip away at a simple but time-consuming project in five to fifteen-minute daily increments.”
He gives examples including: Decluttering your home, Organizing paperwork and Studying for an exam.
I use elephant habits literally every day. My increments for this podcast are much longer chunks but theses chunks of times literally allow me to tackle each one of the 18 current episodes one chunk at a time. I do the same for learning on UDEMY courses. The issue I have had with them though is staying the course, literally, so I’ve begun to set long term deadlines for learning new things. At the moment though everything is put to the side as I prioritise this show and the many many fight jobs that I have on right now. The fight jobs are good work with great companies, but each time they come up they slow my inertia of podcast work, so beware of that.
Back to the HABIT STACKING book though and it says that “When you tell yourself that a task “only” takes five minutes of your time, it’s easier to convince yourself to get started. And what usually happens is, once you get started, you’ll find yourself doing more of that activity than you originally planned.” I certainly find this to be the case.
Huge tasks that I have used ELEPHANT HABITS to complete include, working at my parents house after they passed away to get it ready for sale, again though that took more than 15 minutes each visit, but a pattern of habit helped me achieve it, tackling risk assessments for involved and complex fight scenes and learning new things - it’s here that I do try and limit my time to shorter smaller bites as my ageing brain sometimes finds processing new content to be hard going.
Jim Rohn says that “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”
Most creatives have a far reaching vision which is limited only by the time and finances we have available. Both these resources can be extended however and larger and more complex tasks and projects can be completed if we approach them as a sum of their parts. Research shows it only takes between 21 and 40 days to develop a habit and building an elephant habit of chipping away at the tasks involved in creating your larger greater and more complex vision, is well worth the effort.
Call To Action
Your call to action today is to take a large or unpleasant task that you have to complete and look at how you can build an elephant habit, perhaps by attaching your habit to something you do already, to achieve it.
Next week’s episode is another in my TELL IT HOW IT LIKE style shows, and it’s called DON’T DO ME A FAVOUR.
Please bear in mind too that I’m still looking for your help with an upcoming MAIL BAG OR LISTENERS QUESTIONS show so if you want advice on a productivity topic or to tell me about a problem you’re having then please get in touch via the contact pages on the Film Pro Productivity website. There’s a speak pipe option on there so if you’d like to leave a voice message please do use that option.
Let me end today’s show with the words of Elbert Hubbard who reminds us that we should “Cultivate only the habits that you are willing should master you.”
So don’t let bad habits take control of your life, limit your vision or steal your energy and it should be noted that
Elbert Hubbard also said “Happiness is a habit – cultivate it.”
Now - take control of your own destiny, keep on shootin’, join me next time on Film Pro Productivity.
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