In the quest to better ourselves on a daily basis we often consume self-help advice from places like YouTube, blogs and books. Most of this advice focusses on proactive things we should do to achieve success. With titles to choose from such as 4 Straight Forward Steps to Success and If You Commit to Yourself, Here’s What Will Happen, there’s certainly is no shortage of motivational and personal growth guidance out there.
Most of this self-help material, however, focusses on new things we should implement on a regular basis. Strategies that provide us with new things to do to improve productivity, health or wealth.
Many people use to-do lists to clarify priorities for the day, week or longer. How many of us, however, have thought to use not-to-do lists?
Few resources focus on what NOT to do, and this is a pity as such advice can often be the clearest and simplest to understand.
One video that really inspired me two weeks ago was 10 Habits You Should Stop Having with Ben Bergerson (embedded below):
This video resonated with me because of its simplicity, and my somewhat skewed opinion that it’s easier to stop myself doing destructive things than it is to implement a completely new habit. Perhaps I felt that I should stop doing destructive things first, and get used to that, before implementing some new strategies in my life.
So, let’s get right into how the past 14 days of trialing these 10 habit-stoppers went.
Habit Stopping Tip #1: Don’t hit the snooze button
This is something I’ve ashamedly preached about before, but in my daily life I’ve found it really difficult to implement. My warm bed entices me to climb back into it when my alarm goes off, and this is further compounded by an extreme feeling of tiredness for at least 10 minutes after waking (something that has gotten worse, I think, as I’ve grown older).
I managed to do this on 9 out of 14 days.
On those days that I did get right out of bed as soon as the alarm sounded, I found that I was in a much better mood during my teaching day (and in a state of better physical alertness) than on those days when I snoozed. I also found out that if I have an immediate ‘get out of bed’ ritual to follow, then I am much more likely to actually get out of bed. At the moment, that ritual involves switching off my alarm and immediately walking to the nearest 7-11 convenience store to buy coffee and breakfast – this acts as a kind of reward for not hitting snooze. If I were to snooze, then I probably wouldn’t have time for this.
As a result of not hitting the snooze button on 9 out of 14 days I was able to eat breakfast before school started, read over lesson plans and even avoid traffic because I left my home earlier, which brings me on to tip number 2…………
Habit Stopping Tip #2: Don’t get mad at traffic
Leaving home earlier (because I didn’t snooze) meant that there was less traffic to get mad at, so tip number one definitely rippled into tip number 2.
I have gotten mad at traffic many times in the past – and at my taxi driver for not driving fast enough; not turning quickly enough or even for going along a route I didn’t prefer. All of this mental complaining would put me in an angry frame of mind before my school day had even started.
I managed to not complain at traffic for 14 out of the 14 days, and I found that I was in a better mood at school because of it.
Habit Stopping Tip #3: Don’t be late
This is one I’ve always advocated, and it’s significance will surely be obvious to the readers of this blog. When we’re late, then what we are saying is that ‘Your time is not valuable enough for me to be on-time’.
A good analogy I was once told is that if you had to turn up at a designated location to receive 10 million pounds in cash at 6am tomorrow, then you would certainly be there on-time, perhaps even arriving very early for this appointment.
We turn up early and on-time to those things we consider important enough to be punctual for. We therefore need to assign a high-level of importance to meetings, duties and any other activities/events that require us to be punctual.
Once again, tip number 1 (Don’t hit the snooze button) allows us to be on-time, every time.
Habit Stopping Tip #4: Don’t tolerate gossip
This is a principle I have (thankfully) had the sense to follow since day one of my teaching career, and I wrote about the devastating effects that gossip can have for teachers in my debut book, The Quick Guide to Classroom Management.
When we gossip, we show people that we cannot be trusted. Secretly, our coworkers are thinking “I can’t trust him – what if he gossips about me one day”. Gossip also circulates quickly, and so-called friends can very often be duplicitous: acting as ‘double-agents’ who pass on information to those who have been gossiped about.
Just don’t gossip – it’s that simple.
Not tolerating gossip takes this principle to another level – the advice being that if you hear gossip, then you should shut it down with, perhaps, a statement like “I don’t think it’s appropriate for this conversation to be happening”. This advanced-level step, however, requires bravery, and its consequences will depend on your workplace ethos and culture. You may just wish to take the easy way out by simply standing up and walking out of the room, or walking away from the gossip, whenever you hear it.
Habit Stopping Tip #5: Don’t watch the news
I found this one SO DIFFICULT to implement, and this really surprised me! By consciously attempting to stop myself from reading the news, I discovered that I often scroll through news websites because I’m simply bored. I’m hooked – and it was hard to break to this habit.
The idea behind this is that news is a distraction, and is very often biased anyway. The majority of the news we read is bad news, and most of it describes events that are beyond our control. Why waste our time and energy feeling sad about things we can’t change?
On those days that I stopped myself reading the news, I found myself with little else to distract me besides work. This increased my productivity.
Habit Stopping Tip #6: Don’t pass judgement
I’ve fallen out of the sky many times in my life. I started from nothing, and I know what it feels like to have nothing. I’m not trying to paint myself as someone special here – many people can relate, I’m sure. However, I try my best not to look down on people where possible because:
- I never know the full story
- I’m far from perfect myself
- I know what it feels like to be inadequate – both in terms of skill and finances
Passing judgement is just another one of life’s energy drainers that we could all be better without.
Habit Stopping Tip #7: Don’t eat and scroll…….
…………and don’t scroll at any social gathering, for that matter.
When I see couples or families at restaurants and coffee shops, and all they are doing is playing on devices, it makes me very sad (but also happy that I have a great relationship with someone in which this never happens). People are quickly losing the ability to interact physically, in my opinion.
The principle behind this habit-stopper is presence – we should be present in everything we do if we’re to get the most out of it. As I write this blog post, for example, I’ve mostly ‘gone dark’ – my phone is out of reach as I know that if I check it I’ll never get this blog post finished.
I’m more productive and present when I’m not on my phone, unless I’m using my phone for a specific purpose.
Habit stopping tip #8 – Don’t check e-mail before noon
Does this apply to teachers? I’m not sure.
E-mail has become an essential part of my job, but some would say it is yet another distraction. I’m still on-the-fence about this one, as important announcements often come to me by e-mail, and they often need to be acted upon quickly. Are there e-mails that I don’t need to check before noon? Probably. E-mail is evolving quickly into a messaging tool, however, and as teachers we are fast-approaching a stage where we need to be reachable at all times at work. GMail, for example, is becoming more skewed towards Google Hangouts and instant messaging. As workplace messaging technology evolves, teaching will surely evolve with it.
Habit Stopping Tip #9: Don’t leave dishes in the sink
I loved seeing how this particular habit affected my life. It was very powerful.
I am typical ‘dish-leaver’, and once I started to pro-actively wash dishes as soon as I used them I found myself also doing laundry right away; tidying up after myself right away; putting my work clothes in my wardrobe instead of over the back of a chair; putting old cosmetics’ bottles in the bin right away, and on and on it went.
My home became tidier more quickly – and less clutter at home meant an overall sense of happiness.
I highly recommend this tip.
Habit Stopping Tip #10: Don’t wait for perfect
In the video provided at the start of this blog post, Ben uses the phrase “Jump, and grow wings on the way down”. As a result of this one statement, I found myself going to the gym more often, despite being in not-so-perfect shape.
That’s got to be a good start, right?
Have you grown your wings yet, or are they still growing?