I have been open and committed to my desire to change. Or rather push myself to professional excellence in my areas of interest. Through this I’m creating tangible goals… so this should get me all set up, right? RIGHT!? …

How to go about change though? Given the desire to push myself to new heights and at the same time change several aspects I’ve embraced the blogosphere again. But have I started out on the wrong foot?

Let me explain.

(Un)publicly committing

One key success factor of acheiving any goal is to commit to it. Being public about that commitment is a good way to bring people on board with you and hold you to that commitment. There’s a down side to this though, according to Derek Sivers. Talking about your goal will likely make it harder for you to achieve them. There are some ways around this though. By framing the statement with the needed effort that still remains you emphasize you aren’t there yet, thus less satisfaction.

Goals aren’t everything though. What happens when you reach a goal and motivation starts to dwindle. Creating a new goal and mustering up more motivation isn’t easy. Often we fall straight back to our previous behaviours (new year resolutions, anyone?). Goals and motivation can only get you SO far (reference). The secret sauce for lasting change? Habits

The power of Habit

I’m not a great programmer; I’m just a good programmer with great habits.

Kent Beck

I recently stumbled upon “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. It’s an amazing read with some great stories and his approach to how habits affect our daily routine. In short, he says that habits compose around 40% or our daily lives. How to set about becoming aware of our habits, and how to go about changing them.

He breaks any habit into 3 parts. The Cue, the Reward and the Routine. By identifying the cue and reward, you can create or change a routine, ie. change or create habits.

But it takes time to tediously identify and specifically change each and every habit in our lives. It also seems a bit overkill. Who has time for that with everything else going on in life?

This is where Duhigg describes the real gem; Keystone Habits. A keystone habit has ripple effects to other aspects of your life. Identifying and nurturing these keystone habits is the key to lasting and expanding change. But how do you identify a keystone habit?

Some examples: Make your bed every morning, go to bed early so you get a good nights sleep, read your monthly goal every morning, spend 5 minutes meditating daily, focus on being greatful etc.

These are often listed out in blog posts (like I just did!), articles or as tips by friends and colleagues without the understanding that there is no “one size fits all”. Reflect on your life, consider where you need to put your energy and take it from there.

These habits can be found in our personal lives, professional lives and even in our society. One of the most famous examples is how focusing on a single keystone habit changed an entire global corporate organization.

My search for keystone habits

So where does that leave me with my goals and new-found purpose? How can I keep this drive, long after my initial high from sharing my goals has worn off?

What I would LIKE to do is to reduce my biggest time filler in my “free time”: Procrastination. But I realise that me slacking off in front of netflix or binge-reading twitter isn’t because I don’t want to focus on self-productivity. It’s because I’m tired. I’ve spent so much energy at work and with all other aspects of life that evenings are just about cooling-off.

So I’ve already set aside focus-areas, next steps and goals I want to achieve, but that isn’t solving the problem of being tired in the evenings. So, I’m doing two things to direct my energy where I need it to be.

Actively focusing on my immediate situation. Meaning being ever-present in the moment at hand and thinking and doing my best to make that moment matter. At work this means being focused on personal productivity in the context of my team. At home this means being present with my family and cherishing my time with them, in my procrastiantion free time (read: after kids are in bed), this means dedicating to work on concrete tasks (focused learning, actively blogging).

Getting enough sleep. I have ignored the recognized power of sleep. Luckily, I’ve used Sleep Cycle for the past 3 years as my alarm clock and have a TON of data on my sleep patterns. My all-time averge is 6 hrs sleep. and I go to bed at approx midnight. So. Time to change.

Will this stick? Why don’t you hang around and find out.

Cover image used under Creative Commons from Tez Goodyer