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Habits only work if you do

August 23, 2016

By Kathie M. Rotz, CPTM, Director of Corporate Learning

A habit is a recurrent, often unconscious, pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition. A habit is a powerful force within us.

There are daily tasks that I know I should do, but if I have not positioned the task into my daily habit system then it just does not get done some days. For example, exercise, reading, bedtime and brushing my teeth are all daily habits for me. (Rest assured: brushing my teeth is in my morning and evening routine and is never missed!) However, if I do not get out of bed and go on a walk right away, then I get busy in my day and the walk never happens. If I do not stop my evening chores by 9:20 p.m., then I do not have time to read 10 pages of a self-improvement book and make my 10 p.m. bedtime. If I am not in bed by 10 p.m. to get seven hours of sleep, then I am grumpy and unproductive the next day. It is not worth it to mess with my habits! It is so worth it to focus on creating new, productive habits.

In previous blogs we have shared keyboard shortcuts. These shortcuts have proven to save you over 15 minutes per day. If you read these articles have you started using new shortcuts? Have you seen more productivity in your work?

Many people do not use new shortcuts even after attending a training class because they fail to make the shortcuts a habit. Remember, a habit is an unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition. You currently use your computer and mouse because you created a habit long ago.

Here are some ideas to break your old habits and create a new habit:
1. Unplug your mouse and put it in a drawer (or tape a piece of paper over the laptop trackpad). Now you have to figure out the keyboard.
2. Choose three shortcuts that you want to master. Make a post-it note of each shortcut, and put the notes on your desk in front of you. Every morning, after your break or when you return from lunch, do each shortcut five times. Then move the post-it notes to a new location on your desk or monitor. (By moving the post-it note your brain won’t get used to seeing it in the same spot and eventually ignoring it.)
3. Create a “Do Shortcuts” appointment in your calendar three different times a day for two months. Research now says it takes 60 days to master a habit, 30 days to break the old habit and 30 days to create a new habit. Keep these appointments with yourself, and do the shortcuts five times each.
4. Fill a bowl with your favorite treat (e.g. chocolate). You are only allowed to take a treat from the bowl when you use a shortcut successfully.

Do these ideas sound a little extreme? Well, desperate times call for desperate measures! Your brain is smart. When it is in auto-drive, it does not always remember to focus on the changes. It just does what it knows to do. You need to make yourself change, otherwise you will continue down the same old path.

To begin a new shortcut habit, after reading this article, press Alt + F4 on your keyboard. Those keys will close this window and allow you to quickly begin working on your next project.

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