Habits – how they impact our lives

I have just read this thought provoking quote.

“We first make our habits and then our habits make us”.

This was a very interesting quote to read as we have had someone staying with us for a few days who is an example of how someone’s habits have made them into the person they are – and sadly in this instance, not in a good way.

This particular person is one of those people whose glass is half full.  Well actually I would suggest even less than half full.  And yet to most people, he has not got much to complain about in his life.  He has sufficient money; He is able to choose how he spends his time and is in good health.

He is someone who over a period of many years has become hard-wired to looking for the worst in any given situation. This negative view of life has become an subconscious habit which has become more defined the longer he lives.

The thing is this habit of being a sorrowful, negative Eeyore (but not as lovable), means that is the reality of his life.  As a result because he is so miserable and intolerant, people are rude, off-hand and don’t make much of an effort with him.

I certainly am very careful what I talk to him about, and tend to disappear off as soon as I find myself feeling weighed down and with no choice but to agree to something I don’t agree to, or alternatively disagree with him, which makes me seem as disagreeable and negative as him. If that makes sense.

The thing is Habits are essential to the flow of our lives as they allow us to do things and make choices on automatic pilot.

But it is not just the physical things we do which become habits but our reactions to situations which can become habits.

The thing is when you think about it we can spend our whole day on automatic pilot. Doing exactly the same things taking the same safe or apparently safe choices. Whether it is eating the same breakfast cereal or taking the same route every day.

Most of these practical choices are based on familiarity and hopefully have some logic to them.  But we also copy and learn behaviour that has been passed down from our parents or peers.   And it is some of these beliefs which can become negative habits and have a very negative effect on our lives.

For example how do you react when you are running late?  If you always are irritable and stressed when you are late, then this maybe have become a bit of a habit – and that habit may define who you are and how you are perceived by others as someone who becomes unnecessarily stressed when put under a little pressure.  And of course the examples stretch on and on, into all parts of our lives.

Of course this means that if we do wish to improve on an aspect of ourselves we just need to look at our habits and remember “We first make our habits and then our habits make us”.


The little and often rule in business

A very organised friend of mine shared this little pearl of wisdom some years ago. “I like to do things little and often – that way they get done, don’t take over my life and I stay on top of stuff.”

Whether it is at home, in the garden or at work with any given project you might like to name, most things in life will manage themselves if you do them “little and often”.

Take the garden – if you spend time “little and often” weeding the weeds do not get out of control and will not take over the garden. If you ignore the “little and often” rule you may well end up with not just the garden being inundated with weeds, but more angst, time, energy and potentially expense in getting them under control. And that principle operates in most walks of life.

Now this may seem glaringly obvious – but sometimes more difficult to adopt than you might imagine. It takes discipline – another job on the To Do List – and a host of other reasons, or possible excuses why it is not worth doing something little and often.  Normally around the “hate doing it excuse”.

Think about it. If you do stuff little and often stuff – whatever that stuff is, it never gets to the point where you can’t find anything, or more likely, that you can’t find the particular thing that you desperately need to find. If you take the example of doing your expenses the longer you leave them to do, the more of a mission it becomes. And generally if you are anything like me, it will mean that receipts that you think you have copiously filed safely have disappeared never to surface again.

The knock on effect of this means that you end up spending a lot more time sorting out something which if you had been more disciplined and done more regularly e.g. little and often, would have taken a fraction of the time.

This “little and often rule”, is also a good mantra to say when your time is short. It helps you prioritise the things which are not urgent yet, but will need a little attention soon. Setting an example with family and work colleagues with the “little and often” rule will also help with everything from keeping bedrooms tidy to filing, accounts and keeping claiming expenses under control.

The other pay off from this is that it becomes a bit of a habit and helps to motivate you and others around you, to do the things they generally don’t like doing little and often.
So remember to adopt the “Little and Often ” rule.

Make sure technology is a good servant not a bad master

New technologies have revolutionised the way we live and have allowed us to pack much more into each day.  And there are some obvious examples, like being able to do the families weekly shop online, while we watch TV, or check  the web cam at nursery to see what our child is up to, while at work, but I am not convinced that all our technological advances have necessarily improved the quality of peoples’ lives generally.

In a way technology is a little like money.  It is a good servant but a bad master.

Now like most stuff in life, moderation is good, and addiction does not happen in one day.  So becoming aware of whether technology is working for us and being a good servant, or against us and being a very bad master is probably more important than we think for both us and our families.

So is the dark side of technology threatening you? 

The thing to be aware of is that technology can in itself be time consuming.It can suck us into using precious personal time, doing stuff which is either not important, or can wait until tomorrow morning, without us scarcely realising it.

Email, text and Facebook are great – but drive us towards compulsive tendencies.  Checking what has hit our In Box every ten minutes, even last thing at night, or texting a friend on the mobile, while we are putting the kids to bed maybe tempting or out on a “date night”, but is it really a healthy way to live on a day to day basis?

And more importantly, there is a danger that this constant multi tasking or time splicing,  (the new hip word), alongside a high level of activity can eventually lead to burn out and stress, which in turn can cause tension with our personal relationships and families.  So the very beneficiaries of all our efforts end up suffering.

So what can we do get make sure we are controlling technology and it is not controlling us?

Well first of all remember technology is not just your computer or browsing the web it could be the automatic timer on your oven, or your mobile phone integrating your to do list and calendar.

Ask yourself what technology is already in your home that you do not use to its full advantage? How can it help you operate more effectively?

Work out how much time you spend using technology usefully.  And then stick to it.

Remember not to be on call to technology. Learn how to say ‘no’ nicely.  That may mean not responding to emails or using the answer phone at particular times of the day.

Be assertive  with yourself, others around you and technology.

Take time out to reflect on life, away from technology. These quiet moments are often when you will get inspiration and ideas.

Get out into the fresh air. Have a no PC/ mobile phone / technology day, if you feel you and your family are living too much in the virtual world.

Finally, to maximise your life you have to be disciplined about your time, otherwise it does not matter how much technology, multi tasking, or time splicing you do, your life will be maxed out not maximised.

And don’t forget as the latest technologies appear over the horizon, they may make a great replacement man servant but a Darth Vader of a bad master.