bad habits

There’s no doubt that making ends meet, taking what you can get and doing what’s in front are all worthwhile and necessary things to be able to do.

However, we’re good at tricking ourselves into thinking that just because we did something yesterday, we should, or must, do it again today.

Which isn’t true.

If you can do the kind of work you want to be doing and still generate enough to survive, even if it means having less toys than your neighbour, why shouldn’t you?

The only way anyone makes a living from writing, music, surfing or Jiu-Jitsu is by showing up constantly, even though to begin with, the time they spend isn’t earning them a dime (and usually, costs them a lot).

After some time, they become good enough to earn a little, then those who continue to turn up and are adept at processing feedback get good enough to earn a lot.

It’s not rocket science, but it’s still hard work.

Tomorrow, commit to showing up.

In 2014 a professor at the University of Melbourne published a study in which the computer sessions of 1249 students were analysed over a total of 3372 sessions.

Facebook was present in 44% of all sessions and accounted for the second most common task, totalling 9.2% of all task instances. Only being beaten by university work itself.

What’s interesting is that about 99% of the sessions involved instances of media multitasking.

For the purpose of the experiment they defined focussed behaviour as instances of 20 or more minutes with two or less different activities.

They discovered that students tended to multitask regardless of whether or not they used Facebook.

What was stunning is that when they compare the focussed behaviour between Facebook users and non-Facebook. Around a third of the non-Facebook users spent most of their time in focussed behaviour, compared to only one in nine Facebook users.

Further, Facebook was responsible for initiating multitasking behaviour at the cost of student’s focus.

While these results shouldn’t surprise anyone, they are a reminder that if Facebook is your vice of choice, maybe there are times where you want to restrict your access.

If you’re studying, maybe consider installing a website blocker to stop Facebook initiating distraction.

I was asked today whether I thought that Instagram, can be used in a way which fosters an infinite mindset.

My gut instinct was; of course not. Instagram is a game designed for short term gratification. It’s a battle royal for follower attention where shock and beauty reign supreme.

But I had missed the question.

The question wasn’t, “Do people treat Instagram as an infinite game?”

It was, “Can people treat Instagram as an infinite game?”

To which the answer is, of course, yes.

It’s possible to use Instagram in such a way that the gradual collection of images on your account generate meaning which isn’t governed by metrics of likability.

The truth is just that the systems in place do a pretty good job of keeping us focussed on those metrics.

It’s bizarre how focussed we’ve become with numbers alongside red hearts and blue thumbs.

Being the kind of person who always runs late is a bad habit to have, and an even worse reputation.

Running perpetually just on time might be an even worse habit.

You get the gratification of feeling on top of things, even when you’re not.

I’m guilty of this all the time. Arriving to a 12pm meeting at 11:58am is not showing up early.

Neither is posting a blog post at 11:58pm, but here we are.

When we don’t allow ourselves enough time to do our work with care, our work suffers.

On time isn’t good enough. We owe eachother better.

I returned to my office three times today because of things I’d forgotten to do or take with me.

Not because I hadn’t considered the things, but because each time I left, I was thinking about what I needed to do after I’d left the office, and each time one of the things slipped my mind.

We each only have so much executive bandwidth with which to function.

I held myself up because I didn’t allow myself the focus to finish one task fully before trying to leap into the next.

Look closely and you’ll see people do this all the time.

Rushing from task to task without clear direction – often leaving chaos (and mess) in their tracks.

I try to catch myself when my mind races past the present, but it can be hard in a life so overflowing with distraction.

Be careful not to live too far into the future, lest you undermine your present.

Fear of success can prove more frightening and even more paralysing than fear of failure.

This may feel counter intuitive, but look closely and you’ll see it everywhere – perhaps even within yourself.

The main reason we fear success is that it implies change.

When we and fail, there is often not much to lose. Usually we end up more or less where we started and the status quo recovers.

But when we succeed, things have to change by definition.

If we’re successful in applying for a new job we may beed to change the way we dress and sleep, we’ll need to develop new relationships and solve new problems. These things are exciting for the same reason that they are terrifying; risk.

Risk comes paired with all change and that risk creates fear, the most immobilising emotional force we experience.

Are you content with the way you fit into the world?

If not, try asking yourself: what am I more afraid of, things going wrong or things never changing?

An eternity of things carrying on the way they are sounds like my worst nightmare.

I’d rather take the chance that changing my course could send me backwards before I move forwards.

Seth Godin makes a hugely insightful point in his riff on Theodore Levitt’s famous quarter-inch drill bit quote.

People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. They want a quarter-inch hole.

Theodore Levitt, Harvard Marketing Professor

Godin argues that it’s not even the hole that people want.

It’s not the shelf they plan on installing on the brackets they’re going to drill into the hole.

What people want are the feelings they’re able to access now that they have the drill bit; the feeling of pride when they install the shelf by themselves, the gratification of pleasing their spouse, or the safety and security they might experience when then can put all their things on the shelf, and keep their space tidy and organised.

This is important for marketers to understand, but equally important for us to understand as consumers.

When we spend (be it our money or our time), what are the feelings we’re trading for?

Are we being capitalised upon?

Are we making decisions which will serve us over time?

That next Big Mac might feel incredible at the time, but it won’t an hour later. And if that feeling you purchased diminished so quickly, what will it’s value be in twenty years when your health catches up with you?

People are plagued by the fact that we always want, but don’t always know what we want.

Learning to want less, and more specifically is the trick.

Nobody wants a quarter-inch drill bit – but we all want to feel safe, healthy, respected and loved.

Receiving an unexpected call from a good friend is a delight; especially if they’re not calling because the need something.

Many of us have resorted to sending messages when we intend to have little conversations, because it’s quicker, easier and usually more convenient.

We shoot people messages to check-in, to organise, and to notify, because it’s a quick time save – if the person isn’t available in the moment you’re trying to contact them, it doesn’t matter.

By replacing dynamic conversation with text based alternative, we’re missing opportunites for connection.

For a week, try calling someone first every time you get the the urge to start a conversation which could be had over the phone by sending a message.

If they respond, great! After doing this repeatedly, see if you notice any difference in how connected you feel to your circles.

When people don’t respond, that’s okay too! Just send them the message you intended to send from the beginning.

I’m willing to bet that the extra 10 seconds invested listening to dial tones will reward you with immensley richer conversation.

I’ve been trying to spend less time aimlessly bouncing between social media apps while using my phone.

The problem I’ve had in the past is that every time I’ve tried to detox, I’ve relied on discipline to keep me from sliding back to subconscious scrolling.

There is one trick which I’ve implemented that has had a huge lasting impact;

Delete everything non-essential from your phone’s homepage.

And I mean everything.

Keep your calendar, important emergency contacts, and maps if you use it a lot.

The rest should remain buried beneath the search function of your phone.

By forcing yourself to use the search function on your phone to type in the name of the app you’re trying to open, you’re far more likely to be making conscious decisions about what you’re doing on your phone.

This seems counter intuitive at first. Why would you strip away functionality from your phone’s perfectly good user interface?

Aren’t I wasting time searching every time I need to use an app?

And it’s true. It takes an extra five seconds or so to open Instagram, every single time. But they aren’t wasted.

These five seconds act as a barrier which protects your attention.

Five seconds is enough time to consider what your purpose for opening an app is; is there a specific reason I’m doing this, or am I burning time while avoiding another task?

It’s a buffer, a tool to help you make active choices about how you spend your time.

If this sounds like too much hasstle, try installing a screentime tracker like Flipd.

I was resistant too. But after coming face to face with the time I spent across these apps each day, five seconds stopped sounding so bad.

Our attention is even more valuable than our time, and we trade it every day.

We live in an attention economy.

Businesses bid for it constantly. On billboards, backs of busses, and through buzzes in your pocket.

How frugal we are with our attention influences every aspect of our lives.

Where can you see your attention seeping through the gaps of things which don’t matter?

Good time management means nothing without good attention management.

Fail to focus your attention, and all that time you saved is waste.

Now’s the time to stocktake and trim the fat.