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Our memories fail before our motivation. We’re busy. We have too many people asking too many things of us. People fail with new habits not because of “motivation” but because life is too jam-packed to remember, plan, and execute a new behavior. So automate it.
You will want to skip this part. Don’t. We will fail without a system. Systems are boring. Imagine the last in-depth story you saw of a world champion athlete, an award-winning actor, an elite comedian. Their practice looks boring. Their systems are boring. They are not boring. What we see on screen, on stage, in the arena is pure excitement. Their work is hard. That work is easier with a good system. Don’t make your job any harder. It’s already hard enough. Use a system.
People call me “disciplined, motivated, a robot.” Why? Because I have rules. I have systems. I write my plans. I automate my reminders. My memory is weak. My ability to read what I already wrote is strong. My “motivation” and “discipline” is my ability to write what I want to do before I do it and then read and act. The real discipline is planning and writing and automating reminders. Use that early motivation from a new goal to think and plan and write and automate before you act. Make that your first habit to master. Create a habit system.
First, write these questions.
- WHAT is the habit?
- WHERE will I do this habit?
- WHEN will I do this habit?
Be specific. I’m going to walk more. AHH! Wrong. We can’t win that habit. “I’m going to walk ten minutes five times per week during my work breaks or after returning home from work before sitting down.” Winner. You know when, where, and what you will do. You created two triggers to remind yourself to walk (work breaks, returning home after work).
Then, answer this question.
- WHY am I doing this habit?
My answer right now is “I want to be as fit, healthy, and high-performing as possible for a long, long time. I want to keep my family safe, with bellies full, a calm home, and always getting better.” It helps to have a big-picture why driving our actions. That’s the deeper motivation that’s bigger than the afterthought motivation people mention when they say someone has “motivation”.
Last, think about a reward.
5. What’s my REWARD after doing this habit?
Rewards feel good. Rewards work. Think of something appealing that will help you get off your butt and do the work – a piece of chocolate per day, a big trip in a few months, a celebration meal at your favorite restaurant. Don’t overlook this.
We can use paper and pencil, a calendar or planner. I use a calendar and task management software. Keep it simple. Aim for one calendar tool and one task reminder tool. We want one place to check every day to see what we need to do. At most, we might have two. When we wake up in the morning, we scan our calendar and task list for our plan.
- What CALENDAR will I block time in?
- What TASK system will I use?
When you create events or tasks, add reminders, notifications, pop ups to remind you to perform the habit at the time or place you plan to do it. Or use a sticky note and hang it where you want to trigger the habit.
3. What NOTIFICATION will remind me?
Use whatever system works for you. Just use something. And plan up front. Come back to this section for each habit to exponentially increase your odds for success. Automate what you plan to do when you’re most motivated. Motivation from automation.