Triggers, Rabbit Holes and Habits

It happens every day… the minute you get up, there are things to do, whether for work or school, there’s an avalanche of errands, projects and chores with compounding deadlines. Try as you might, you know you’re supposed to stay focused… then you get a ping from your phone. You just have to check the message. Before you know it you’re deep into your emails, clicking on something you saw or read. Of course you have to google this new information to see what the world has to say about what you just found out. Welcome to the rabbit hole! The place where time disappears and you find yourself behind. What just happened?

The trigger is pulled

Triggers are all around us. It’s not just your phone. Sometimes you see the TV remote, hear some police sirens, or smell fresh baked cookies. These are just the external triggers.

Triggers are also in our head. In the afternoon hunger hits. Boredom steps in. Feeling annoyed with the monotony the daily grind, I know I would be looking for any reason not to get busy.

But not all triggers are bad

Triggers are just that one thing that starts a habit, good or bad.

“Triggers are a little-known key to forming a new habit (or breaking an old one).” – Leo Babauta, Zen Habits.

Hearing the pings from your phone might be the trigger, but checking your messages is the bad habit.

Good habits can be triggered too. When you get up first thing in the morning, what do you do? Brush your teeth, eat breakfast, and get ready for the day.

Triggers work well with habits

Our automatic habits are like us on autopilot. We don’t think much about them. Before you know it, it’s the end of the day and everything (or most everything) is done.

So how do we set new habits on autopilot or take bad ones off? First you have to figure out what your bad habits are and what triggers them. Next step is to think about what you could be doing instead. For example, before I started my healthy habits, I would get dressed, then immediately look for something for breakfast. I had no plan in place or any idea about how much I was really eating.

Now I grab my water bottle, then do a quick morning workout or walk around the block. Throughout the day I have my water bottle on my desk. When I feel a bit hungry, I try drinking water first. I also make sure all the snack foods are not easily accessible. I want to put as much distance between me and the bad snacks as I can. I keep fruits and veggies in the front of the fridge and on the table.

It takes conscious effort and it may be hard at first, but it will get easier.

Choosing your trigger

What do you do regularly and when do you do it? This will help you find the trigger in your routine that you can set up with a new habit.

It might be that when you come home or sit down at your desk, you plug your phone in and turn it to airplane mode or just turn it off. I often listen to white noise so I don’t get distracted by others in the room.

Sometimes you need some extra habit help

Just to help you get into the groove, you might think about creating a habit tracker. List all the things you want to do and in the order you’d like to do it in. It’ll be a basic guide. It won’t be perfect every time, but it could help to jog your memory about what you need to do and when.

Want to see what a habit tracker can do? Check out – Changing our learning process conceptions