“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.” Mahatma Gandhi
Habits are decidedly powerful stimulants in accomplishing ambitious goals that may seem impossible to attain. Even American educator and author Dr. Stephen Covey acknowledged this in his most popular book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines habit as:
“A usual way of behaving: something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way.”
Dictionary.com offers several definitions of habit:
- “An acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary: the habit of looking both ways before crossing the street.”
- “Customary practice or use: Daily bathing is an American habit.”
- “A particular practice, custom, or usage: the habit of shaking hands.”
- “A dominant or regular disposition or tendency; prevailing character or quality: She has a habit of looking at the bright side of things.”
Habits and productivity
There are good habits and bad habits and there are habits that have no distinct categorization nor purpose. But there are also habits that are developed on purpose to accomplish a goal. Building habits to achieve high performance or productivity is an example of this.
Personal and working habits could make or break a person’s productivity. In our personal and professional life, we are the sum total of our habits. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “our habits become our values and our values, become our destiny.” What we attain in life and at the work place is largely built on the humongous network of habits we have formed; routine behaviors that we do almost without conscious thought and which we have formed repeatedly over a period of time.
How to build productive habits
Before we can build, we first need to destroy. Who we are now is a creation of the habits that we have formed through time. What needs to be done first is to take an inventory of all our present habits and determine which are productive and non-productive. Productive habits such as checking emails the minute we arrive at the office, we can keep. But unproductive habits such as the “manana (tomorrow) habit,” or procrastination, putting off for tomorrow what can be done today, we destroy or un-break. As we destroy the habit of procrastination, we are at the same time building the habit of being a doer.
Building a new habit is no walk in the park. It needs motivation, strategy or plan of action and dedication.
To shift from a deeply ingrained “bad habit” such as procrastination to a new, more productive habit of being a doer will need some powerful motivations. List down all the reasons why you need to change such as being free from stress when deadline comes, having more time to do the job really well, earning bonus points from the boss and maybe even a promotion somewhere along the line, and even have more leisure time to spend with family and friends. Opposite this list, write down also the consequences of not pursuing this course of action. Every time there is a difficult task at hand, read these two lists until such time as when you won’t need the list since the behavior becomes second nature to you.
Strategy or plan of action
Changing from a bad to a good habit cannot succeed without a strategy. Write down your plan of action to make it more real. Rope in a work mate, a partner or a friend to your plan of action so that you become obligated not only to yourself but to them as well. Use external reminders such as having this quote from Pablo Picasso as the wall paper of your computer:
“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone”
For a behavior to become a habit it needs to be repeatedly done over a period of time, and this requires dedication or adherence to the plan. Such commitment will require focus and enormous willpower especially because it is human nature to choose the easier path or the line of least resistance.