The Maniacs are busy reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg for our next book club and this inspired me to try an experiment in time-management and the power of habits. There is a lot of discussion in the first portion of the book on working memory, executive functions, and how our ability to keep and process information plays a large role in our habits. Also, Duhigg argues that after enough time, our habits bypass the conscious parts of our brain and become routine. So routine, in fact, that when other areas of our brains are damaged – such as memory – some of our habits remain, even if we don’t know why we are doing them. Fascinating!
So much of organizing and time-management success depends on finding good strategies that fit our unique needs and then making using them habit. The Power of Habit mentions that often times, people who change just one small thing end up leading down a path that overhauls their whole life, or major parts of it. Can it really be so simple? Can making one small, positive change really turn everything around? I’ve always thought so. “One step at a time” is my go-to motto for achieving goals and making progress. I decided to put it to the test.
- My goal – Run the half-marathon I impulsively signed up for
- My obstacles – It’s cold! Half-marathons are very, very long. Finding time to train.
- My one small change to my habits – Since I can’t change Virginia winters or the distance of the race, I decided to focus on finding time to train. I would do this by running in the evenings instead of in the morning when it’s too cold to be alive.
It’s been about a month since I implemented this change to my habits. It was very hard at first to force myself to go out in the evenings and run. I had to essentially bribe myself the first week to get anything done. If I ran all three days as planned, I’d reward myself with a really awesome running shirt I’d be eyeballing for a while. Eventually, things got easier as I fell into my new routine.
Was there power in my change of habit? Yes, for me there was. As I changed one habit, I noticed other things changed that I wasn’t specifically focusing on. Since I really, really wanted to buy myself that new running shirt, I knew I had to run 3 times a week. Since I had to fit that into my already busy schedule, I got much tighter in my time-management. I beefed up my use of the Planner Pad, started prepping a lot of weekday tasks ahead of time on the weekends, and looked for ways to be more efficient overall.
I also found myself being inspired by my small wins along the way. Setting small goals for myself and then achieving them felt phenomenal and made me feel that I could try for bigger, better, harder goals. When I’m struggling with motivation, I put on that first shirt I bought and remember that I can do this. I have achieved success before, and I will do it again.
Do you have a goal that seems overwhelming? Is there a project you’d like to tackle but can’t seem to find a way to start? Try changing one small habit and seeing where it leads. There may be power in habits, but I’m betting there is even more power in you.