In last week’s post on time management I discussed how productive the eight hours before a vacation are for most workers. This week we will discuss how establishing everyday habits that mimic those eight hours can not only sharpen our time management skills, but increase our productivity as well.
Duhigg argues (and I agree based on his compelling evidence) that habits are simple loops that our minds form to make things easier on us and allow us to focus on other areas in our lives. This loop consists of three parts: the trigger or cue, a routine that is physical, mental or emotional and finally the reward that tells the brain whether the loop or habit is worth remembering.
One last piece drives this habit loop, and that is craving. Imagine you are a person who has to have a Starbucks coffee before going to work. The trigger or cue in this case might be the drive to work you make every Monday through Friday. The routine is the Starbucks one block from your office with its convenient drive-thru window. And the reward is the sugar rush you get after a groggy morning dragging yourself to work. But what drives this is the craving, and this feeling could be with you from the moment you wake up. It’s the craving that makes you stop for your coffee even though you might be 5 minutes late. It’s the craving that will have you spend the last $5 in your pocket without a second thought.
And it’s this craving and loop that we need to analyze, work on and change if we ever want those eight hours of everyday work to mirror those eight hours before a vacation. As I thought about this I tried to figure out for myself (your loop will no doubt differ) what my habit loop was when I worked those eight hours before a vacation.
The cue was obviously knowing that this day is my last chance to get things done before leaving for vacation. The work routine was what I did most days, I just seemed to work at a higher pace and found the ability to fit more in those eight hours. The reward was obviously having the time off from work. And the craving? Well, the craving was the knowledge that for one week I could focus on what I wanted and not have to deal with customers, colleagues and employees whose issues always took center stage in my work life.
This post is getting long and in the interest of not losing your interest I will stop here. But I do recommend one exercise between now and next week when we take up this topic again. Think about a habit you have that you want to change. Here we are talking about time management and productivity, but once you know how to change one habit you can use similar tactics with others. So spend the next week thinking about a habit you want to change and what the cue, routine, reward and craving are. Figuring that out will go a long way in enabling you to change that very habit.
See you next week!
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