Understanding How Daily Habits Can Improve Productivity
Tackling Habits & Creating a More Productive Life with Guidance from Atomic Habits
By Hanna Marcus
As a writer who’s constantly reading (and, of course, writing), I very rarely take a break from work to crack open a book for fun anymore.
The nearly constant dealing with words and writing around the clock makes it harder to feel like reading a book – even a great one – is an escape or a relief from the daily grind. But recently, I decided that my daily habits needed a little reworking – especially when it came to the content I was consuming.
As a person, I’m a big believer in the concept of “garbage in, garbage out.” I try to let this principle guide my life in most ways, predominantly in my diet and media consumption.
I took a look at my life recently and realized that, while I wasn’t really consuming “garbage” necessarily, I wasn’t nourishing my mind with any meaningful reading that could benefit me, and it had been quite some time since I had.
In an effort to change this, I immediately did two things:
I picked up the book Atomic Habits by James Clear – something I’d been meaning to read for the last few months (maybe years?).
I started a habit-developing program called 75 Hard by Andy Frisella.
I tore through the book. It was one of those reads you can’t put down. This, combined with the 75 Hard experiments (which is probably a story for another blog), taught me several things very quickly:
If you want to improve your productivity in and out of the office space, the best place to start is with your daily habits.
The process of changing your daily habits isn’t an immediate process; above all, it takes consistency.
As James Clear says many times in the book, the best way to change your habits is to set yourself up for success. By that, he means that it’s not prudent to create lofty habit goals right away that you’ll most certainly fail at. Start small and gradually build.
If you want to change your life (that means your personal life, your success at work, your relationships, etc.), focus on atomic habits. He defines atomic habits as “a regular practice or routine that is not only small and easy to do but is also the source of incredible power; a component of the system of compound growth.”
Doing 1% better every single day is still progress – even if it’s not overwhelming. Your habits compound.
As a disclaimer, I want to be clear that most of what I discuss in this blog is based on James Clear’s book, and I am not attempting to claim them as my own. But what I gleaned from his book is powerful. If I can help anyone connect the dots a bit better in their own habit building, that’s a success in my eyes.
How to Build Daily Habits to Empower Your Productivity
Start Habit Stacking
If you’ve never heard the word habit stacking, don’t worry – it was a new one for my vocabulary, too. That being said, it’s a pretty intuitive thing that a lot of us do naturally. Habit stacking (another James Clear method) is a process by which you build a new habit on top of a habit you already do every day.
In other words, if you’re looking to create more productive habits, start with the habits you already have. Do you already wake up and take vitamins every morning? Great start.
If you’re trying to get more movement in every day, stack your vitamin habit with a quick, 5-minute walk in the morning. When you associate a new productive habit with a habit that’s already developed, you’re more likely to follow through. If you’re trying to start a new habit out of nowhere that doesn’t relate to the rest of your day; it’s going to be more challenging.
How does this relate to work, team-building, or management goals? It’s the same concept. Let’s say you want to get better at tackling your inbox first thing in the morning and want to make this a productive habit. If you already grab a coffee and sit down at your desk every day as a habit, try stacking your new inbox habit on top of that.
Focus on Your Systems First
One of the biggest takeaways from reading this book was that cementing a new habit into place is less about the goal you’re setting and more about the system you’re putting in place for that goal. We all have goals and we all want to accomplish those goals.
That means you’ll want to set yourself up for success with easy goals, attainable goals, and rewarding goals.
In his book, James Clear says this about systems: “Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.”
Focusing on your systems – rather than just your goals – is the key to making things happen.
Put Down Your Phone
Maybe this isn’t always possible, but setting your phone aside – even if it’s just for 10-15 minutes a day – is a great habit to build on to increase productivity.
Think about how much of a time suck your phone is. We’ve also written about the effect it has on your brain chemistry!
According to Smartpreneurblog.com, average users of smartphones spend about 171 minutes every day on their phones. That accounts for about 62,415 minutes on your smartphone per year.
Imagine what you could accomplish with an extra 62,000 and some odd minutes that weren’t dedicated to mindlessly scrolling your smartphone.
In short, putting your smartphone down can give you a ton of minutes back. Try locking your phone away for an hour a day to start. Consider downloading apps on your phone that lock you out after so many minutes.
Or, do it the James Clear way and have someone hold onto your phone for the day to help kickstart the productivity habit.
Ensure Your New, Productive Habits are Attractive & Easy
This is not an argument against working hard. It’s more of an argument about setting yourself up for success.
Do you want to implement new habits in your work day? Make them attractive.
Do you want to make sure you’re successful in your new habits? Make them easy.
James Clear’s book says, “The more attractive an opportunity is, the more likely it is to become habit-forming.”
And it also mentions, “Create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible,” along with advice like, “Reduce the friction associated with good behaviors. When friction is low, habits are easy.”
It’s a nice idea to have big, lofty goals for yourself – and I’m certainly not saying that setting up goals like this is an impossible way to chase productivity. But human beings are designed to choose the path of least resistance, and if you can set yourself up for success by making your productive habits both easy and attractive, you can create a system for yourself that works.
Are you looking to make changes that can help you with productivity? Are you hoping to create healthy, compound habits in your workplace and beyond? Are you looking for guidance in these departments that can help your team navigate your ever-evolving industry? The team at The Joshua Group Consulting can help. Reach out to us today at firstname.lastname@example.org to talk more about your habits, your productivity, and how your team can benefit from setting up productive systems.