Habits begin with a cue, or a trigger to act.
Walking into dark room cues you to perform an action that will enable sight.
Next comes a craving for a change in state – in this case, to be able to see. Then comes our response, or action – flicking the light switch. The final step in the process, and the end goal of every habit, is the reward.
If your performance does not satisfy you, it becomes your trigger. Then rises the need to improve it, the techniques for which we discussed in our last article. But it is important to actively let go of those habits that interfere with newly formed productive ones.
Increase friction for bad habits
Despite having all the motivation to study, we get digressed as we have a habit of logging in 3 hours on social media or Netflix, or PS4. If you want to waste less time in front of the TV, unplug it and take the batteries out of the remote. Doing so will introduce enough friction to ensure you only watch when you really want to.
Validation through apps
My all-time favorite is Forest. It functions by allowing you to plant a tree, which will grow with every half hour you spend avoiding your phone. Should you stray from the app, it’ll kill your tree, which may seem inconsequential but you get surprisingly invested. It’s actually incredibly sweet to expand your forest, knowing that everyone represents thirty minutes of hard work.
Our brains are wired into the immediate-return environment of earlier humans, who weren’t thinking about long-term returns like saving for retirement or sticking to a diet. They were focused on immediate concerns like finding their next meal, seeking shelter.
So when you are pursuing habits with a delayed return, try to attach some immediate gratification to them.
Eg. when you have decided upon increasing your study time by 30 minutes every day, it will not make a difference in tomorrow’s class test. But if you miss the 30 minutes, that will gratify you. Replace this gratification with putting in 10/- in a jar every time you make the 30 minutes cut. This practice will give you 300 bucks at the end of the month which you can spend on whatever you like.
In motion vs taking action
“The most effective form of learning is practice, not planning”
James Clear, Author, Atomic Habits
Sitting to strategize your syllabus, making a schedule, downloading mock tests, forming a group study are all ‘being in motion’. While this is useful, it does not produce results on its own. No matter how many routines you form, you’ll not increase your score incoming exams if you don’t actively engage in studying and memorizing.
Starting on schedule, finishing the target exercises of a chapter is taking action. It is producing results by getting off stuff from your to-do list and honing your skills.
The aggregation of marginal gains, suggests that there is a tiny margin of improvement in everything you do. Since bad habits interfere in developing good ones, it is important that we get rid of them.