“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” (Jim Ryun)
Habits that boost productivity are incredibly powerful and they can truly be considered the fuel that keeps us going and helps us reach our goals, as stated in the above quote from Jim Ryun. But first of all, what is a habit?
A habit is any action or activity we do mechanically without thinking. This is the reason why habits are a very powerful tool: they let us get things done without virtually any effort.
And the proportion of routine action in our lives is huge: about 40% of all the things we do, we do without thinking about them. We do not need willpower to complete these activities, we just do them.
But how can you create habits that boost productivity and help you reach your goals?
7 practical tips to create habits that boost productivity and achieve great results
1 – The 30-day challenge
Let me begin with a personal example: I never used to be in the habit of taking a shower before bedtime. However, after doing this for a few months, my daily shower has now become part of my evening routine. It has now even become almost an addiction because I feel uncomfortable when I don’t shower at night.
Now let us take a time frame of 30 days (using the concept of 30-day-technology) for developing a habit. Using the following steps, you will be able to create a positive habit:
- Choose a specific activity that you want to make a habit of (e.g. start running, learn a new language, eat a healthier breakfast).
- Start small, with the motto: “Make it so easy you can’t say no” (Leo Babauta). For example, you could schedule a time commitment of 10-20 minutes a day.
- Repeat this activity for 30 days, preferably at the same time every day.
2 – The Chain-technique
Another effective and popular method to foster habits that boost productivity is the so-called chain-technique. First, you have to decide on a specific activity that you want to turn into a habit (e.g. learn vocabulary for 10 minutes every day). Now get your calendar ready. Every day, after you have successfully completed a 10 minute lesson, you may mark an X on your calendar. In a few days a chain is created reflecting regular learning sessions. And that has the power of being very motivating! The ever-growing chain encourages you to break your own record of the number of consecutive days of learning. And the longer you keep this up, the less likely you are to break the chain, which is why you’ll be truly motivated to learn every day. This technique is simple and efficient. If you are using a classic calendar, place it in a visible place. If you prefer to use an app to help you foster habits that boost productivity, there are several options, for example the Chains app which makes your intentions public and allows you to participate in group challenges (which, by the way, is another very effective way to persevere).
3 – Work with small and achievable goals
- Practice dividing your big goals into smaller ones that are manageable and achievable (daily mini-goals).
- Make reaching these mini-goals a habit that will lead you to achieving what you have set out to accomplish.
Another example is when I was planning a trip to Brazil – I wanted to learn some Brazilian Portuguese. This is not a very clearly defined goal. So I divided this overarching goal into a smaller daily task: I had made up my mind to learn 10 new words in Portuguese every day. After a week, I had learned 70 words and after a month, I had learned 300 new words. So it was clear that every morning I had to learn some new words and the technique described above helped me accomplish that goal. So, within a few months, I acquired some basic vocabulary and reached my goal of learning Portuguese before my trip!
4 – Behavioral Chain Technique
The development of lasting habits that boost productivity are much easier if we use existing routines as part of the process instead of fighting them. The concept is based on environmental triggers, which make it clear that we must act according to our habit. This is also known as implementing an intention which includes selecting a familiar activity in your daily routine and connecting it in some way to another activity in this chain of actions in order to form a new habit.
So instead of “exercising every day”, you could plan t0 “put on your running shoes each morning right after getting up and go for a 15 minute walk in the fresh air.” Many studies have proven the effectiveness of these context-based triggers compared to just willpower. If you are trying once again to start eating “healthier food”, then you could try a plan that consists of “if I set foot in the kitchen, then I will prepare myself some muesli with fresh fruit”.
5 – Eliminate excessive number of options
President Obama was once said in an interview that he limited his wardrobe to gray and blue suits. His motivation for doing this was that he did not want to bother with decisions about his clothes or his food because he had more important decisions to make.
When we reduce the number of decisions we have to make, we are left with more mental energy and concentration for the essentials.
The implementation of these practical tips about your decisions can free up time and mental space for decisions in your life that you consider to be particularly important. This habit may mean eating the same thing for breakfast every day, always going to the same restaurant for lunch, or just to buying similar clothes.
6 – Eliminate distractions and concentrate on important tasks
The majority of our habits and actions are due to a certain trigger. If we have to work on something important, we should ensure that there are no triggers or distractions.
Here are a few examples of triggers to avoid:
- Emails. Get into the habit of not checking your inbox every minute, but instead check it 2-3 times a day at clearly defined times.
- Mobile devices. Switch your phone or device to airplane mode when you need to concentrate on a certain task.
- Reduce clutter. Too many documents and files will distract you from the essentials and reduce your productivity.
- Internet. Use a tool like StayFocusd that allows you to block or limit the time spent on distracting websites.
7 – Use an agenda and set reminders to complete certain tasks
Do this by following three quick steps:
- Prepare yourself to complete tasks and activities for the coming week: Get into the habit of defining your tasks and mini-goals for the whole week. This will help you to concentrate on the important things, so you can be more productive. With apps like Wunderlist or Asana, for example, you can keep track of your tasks.
- Set an alarm on your phone to get reminders for work that needs to be completed.
- Make use of “lost time” such as when you’re commuting to work, waiting in line when shopping, or in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.
You will see that if you put the above advice into practice, you will create new and lasting habits that boost productivity and become a part of your routine. That way, your productivity increases and you will achieve the goals that you set to accomplish.
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