About a while ago, I wrote a note about slowing down, taking the time to enjoy what we are doing, and focusing on one thing at a time.
I am running an experiment in my own life. I’m trying to slow down and focus intimately on the task at hand, which is not easy. Distractions are everywhere, and technologies such as our smartphones and social media make it nearly impossible to escape their digital crack. I want to allow myself to enjoy my surroundings and enjoy the present instead of focusing on just what’s ahead, or worst, what’s in the past.
In the book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg writes about ways of creating new habits. He describes the habit loop as a practical way to create long-lasting habits. The habit loop consists of a cue or trigger, a routine, and finally, a reward.
The habit loop is a widely used method by many industries, including the game and social media organizations, to get us addicted to their products. A good example of this is your smartphone notifications; that’s what triggers your craving brain, it makes you look at you social media app or email without thinking about it, and finally, it gives you a reward in the form of a new reply, a new like, or a new follower.
This habit loop is something we can use to our benefit, we can replace or use an existing trigger and follow a new routine and a new reward to accomplish something we want, instead of something someone else wants us to do or see.
So the habit I am trying to replace is the habit of reaching out to my phone or computer as often as I do today. And to do this, I am experimenting with using existing cues that make me look at my social media, email, etc., and instead use those same cues and triggers to do something else. I really want to do something that will keep me focused on my goals and the tasks I assign to myself.
For example, every morning, when I wake up, I see my phone, which immediately triggers my brain into picking it up and going through emails, scrolling through my social media apps, etc. Lately, I have been placing my kindle or a book in place of my phone, and every morning when I wake up, I don’t even think about it; I pick up the kindle or book and read for at least 20-30 minutes. Reading a book is more beneficial and relaxing than wasting my morning time with the digital crack, making me feel anxious and stressed.
If you see, the cue is the same, the routine is the same as I’m still picking an object and looking at it, but the reward is even greater now; at least for me, it is. I replaced a bad habit with one that fulfills my goal of reading more books, and at the same time, I feel focused and accomplished doing this.
Changing habits is what I am focused on right now; in the past, I focused on creating new habits without replacing bad ones, and that was a mistake. The best way to focus, to slow down, and to be more present is to change your habits, but doing it without adding complexity or having to remember to do new things. Make it as simple as possible, use the same triggers that make you waste time looking down at your phone, and pick better routines.
You owe it to yourself and to the people around you.