Starting New Habits

Life Tools + Systems + Mental Models

There are 24 hours in a day, and you are currently occupying all of them. Even without trying, one way or another the hours get allocated because they must. There is no saving time. There is no redistributing it once the day is gone. And the cycle repeats every 24 hours. Regardless of how prepared we are.

It often feels like we’re wasting mountains of time. So much of what we do is relegated to routine and habit. We can look up and take notice of the time for the first time in a day and realize that the vast majority has already blown by. We can’t even add up where it all went. Yet, between sleep, work, meals, our current routines, and our muscle memory impulses (reddit, barstool, instagram, etc.) – there’s no room for anything else.

In trying to change habits and routine, that is the biggest struggle I have found – it’s not deciding what habits I would like to add – that’s easy. It’s the act of having the discipline to do them and finding places for them to fit like a Tetris block into the existing 24-hour cycles. As we think more about the changes we like to make, we start to mentally pile them into the day. And in an exceedingly rare moment, we suddenly have an abundance of time. We have plenty of time to do all the things we want to – both the stuff we have always been doing, and the new stuff we want to start. We imagine a perfectly orchestrated schedule in which we don’t initially question our ability to master it with unflinching discipline. We focus on addition and addition only, thinking that we can make it all work.

When we get tied up and mentally committed to accomplishing everything, and with no patience, we quickly get overwhelmed and do nothing. We revert to the autopilot state. And with things that cannot be removed in any situation (meals, work, sleep, etc.), the remaining time reverts to muscle memory activities. It’s just what we know how to do, it makes us feel safe.

 

“It’s not that we have little time, but more that we waste a good deal of it.”


We have to focus on prioritization and progression. As we are layering in new habits, we should prioritize those things first. Over time more and more can be layered in, but prioritizing these first in your day or as you have free time serves 2 purposes:

  1. They’re done. Things are proven to be easier earlier in the day as you have a greater capacity to exert will power. With these things completed, they’re done for the day and no matter what happens that cannot be taken away.
  2. You eliminate time that would have been spent doing an old habit or something you’re hoping to remove. There is now physically less time in the day to do other things.

 

It cannot be a game of addition, hoping the pieces will fall where they’re supposed to. It’s a game of progressive prioritization and running out the clock. A game of pointed exhaustion.

Create a list of things you genuinely want to do. The length of the list is not important, what’s important is that you genuinely care about the things on the list. Then pick one or two of those things and try to layer those into your daily life. Figure out general pockets of times those things could fit, and then make sure that when that pocket is available, you make the new habits the priority – they’re first in line. Over time more and more can be layered in but focus on the little victories at first. The days you can look back and appreciate you accomplished any amount toward your goal are days you should use as motivation to keep going. Microscopic bits of fuel for a greater momentum shift taking place.

The amount of hours available will never change, but eventually the way hours pass will look totally different. And you’ll feel better about how they’re passing. You’ll feel you have the time needed to accomplish your goals.

Don’t focus on being perfect. Don’t beat yourself. And remind yourself that you’re human, change is difficult. Your mind is doing whatever it can to trick you into not changing. And why would it change? To your brain, we’re alive, fed, and comfortable – let’s not mess this up. But push through that. And start making incremental changes to your day by prioritizing the additions at your own pace. Eventually you’ll run out of time to do all the things you wished you would stop doing and you won’t even know where the time went.

See you tomorrow.
Nick

Inspiration: Seneca, People do change
Quote: Seneca

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