I’ve been thinking a lot about ruts of late. Specifically, how to get out of them. Because they’re nasty things, and we all get in them.
For instance, I’ve wanted to exercise more often. And blog more frequently. And meditate more regularly. I’ve thought about them, and aspired to them, and I know that when I do them (exercise and meditate, specifically) that many other areas of my life are better — I’m happier, feel healthier, and have more energy.
But I haven’t done those things. Why is that? What prevents me?
I realize that one reason is that I have other routines that I escape to — for instance, instead of waking up and going for a run immediately, I get up and check email (or even worse, do that while still lying in bed). Not only does that cause me to imagine new to-dos that I can react to quickly, but it probably means I was thinking about undone to-dos in my sleep. I also lose a few minutes archiving unimportant mail, checking Sportscenter, playing a few games of Sudoku, reading Twitter, checking Facebook… you get the idea. I wouldn’t prioritize any of this stuff, but it’s my routine, and it gives me some feeling of accomplishing or learning something.
I then move on to other routines. Make the coffee (this one is here to stay 🙂 ). Feed the dogs (pretty important). Shower (you all appreciate this one). And throughout the day I have my mix of good and very bad (checking email/twitter/etc. obsessively) routines.
Another reason that I don’t do my desired activities is that it’s just so darn easy, in the immediate moment, to not do them. I avoid the physical discomfort of jogging and getting back into shape; the emotional discomfort of capturing and sharing my thoughts; and the (side note — I just really wanted to go check to see if I had any new emails, but I held off until I finish this post!) temporal discomfort of quietly meditating while there are other endorphin-generating obsessions I could be chasing down.
So, for me, as much as I know I need to reduce my obsessive tendencies around email/social media/news reading, one likely hack is just to do my goal (rut-breaking) activity first. In this way, I’d somewhat treat myself like a child who doesn’t get dessert if they don’t eat their vegetables — “David, no bad habits until you run your three miles!” Of course, a better long-term solution is to break the connection between those activities and dessert, but here, I’m just looking to get out of some ruts and instill some better behaviors.
OK — abrupt end of post. My writing skills are limited. Live with it. I’ve had to learn to.
Why it’s hard to get out of ruts:
- We develop habits that don’t include certain desired activities
- These habits mentally tell us we’re accomplishing things/making progress/achieving success
- Pain > Pleasure from doing desired activities, because it’s true in the short-term, and difficult for us to discount back the long-term pleasure
- Figure out your goal activities and do them first (can be first thing in the morning or even later in the day — the key is that they’re done before your escape activity)
- Make prioritized to-do lists.