Breaking Bad Habits 101

We all have habits we are not proud of. The first step to breaking a bad habit is being aware of it in the first place. “I bite my nails. I gamble all my money away. I eat too much candy. I need to lay off the cocaine.”

Bad Habit Log

The best way to make yourself hyper-aware of your habit is to document every infraction. Keep a log or journal of some kind. Never miss an entry. Let it haunt you.

I organize my logs with “Date,” “Time,” “Days [between infractions],” “Location,” and “Reason.”  The “Reason” part is extremely important – you must explain to yourself why you have betrayed your commitment to breaking this habit. If you do not have a good reason for betraying yourself, watch the guilt roll in. Embrace it.

Spreadsheets

I prefer spreadsheets so I can use formulas to automatically calculate time between infractions and overall averages (I use Google Docs specifically so that I can carry logs around with me wherever I go).  The “time between” formula is simple and can be copied all the way down a column:  

= ( Today’s DateLast Infraction Date ) + ( Today’s Infraction TimeLast Infraction Time )

Make it a Game

You cannot quit bad habits overnight. It takes time and realistic measurable goals. You might as well have fun with it. Challenge yourself to increasing the overall average time between infractions. Average the “Days [between infractions]” column and set a goal to reach the next full day average (for example, time between infractions is 2.3 days now, set a goal of raising that average to 3 days). If you are not too ashamed of your habit, rope a friend in to hold you accountable (betting money or meals always helps).

Documenting is much easier than breaking the habit. With enough practice, documenting becomes a new good habit. From there, the real work begins!

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