How being ill surprisingly boosted my productivity

How I managed to do my work while also resting and recovering.

I don’t get ill often, which is also why when I do get ill, I feel like I don’t know what to do. A couple of weeks ago, I caught a cold, and it wasn’t pretty. While I was sneezing and coughing and my body didn’t want to get out of bed, my mind was still going.

“We need to do that analysis,” my mind would say. Or, “I really wanted to finish writing that paper!” Or, my favorite, “But we have that meeting, how could I possibly miss it?!”

But, perhaps most importantly, I felt it was unfair to expose other people to my germs. That feeling of responsibility kept me away from work and at home. I think that was a good thing because my husband, who came into extensive contact with my germs, got ill with the same symptoms 3 days later.

(Of course, in his case it was much worse because he had the mancold. At the worst point of the coughing and fatigue, he announced that he was on his death bed. After a “fever” of 37.8 degrees Celsius, he was convinced he had pneumonia. I shook my head and made him ginger tea. One of the best things about marriage is that you can be ill together.)

Fortunately for me, I can easily do my work from my laptop at home, so I just stayed put for 5 days. I slept as much as I could (didn’t use an alarm to wake up and took a nap during the day), drank tea, ate good food, and stayed warm.

I went for short walks at first and, as I felt a bit better, the walks got slightly longer. I didn’t strength train for a whole week, which was very difficult to accept but highly necessary.

To be honest, my work went surprisingly well during that time. Staying at home forced me to focus on the important tasks and disregard distractions. One evening, I was so tired that I went to bed at 9 pm and woke up at 4 am, fresh and energized. I seized the opportunity and worked on my paper for several hours straight. I managed to edit the manuscript until I was satisfied with it, and I sent it to my supervisor. Then, with a feeling of great achievement, I went back to sleep.

I also had a lot of quiet time for reading papers, which informed my ideas for a new project. I needed to think about how to design my next experiment, which is a huge step and a very important one. I wanted to come up with a sound experimental design because otherwise my whole experiment would be flawed. By the end of my home stay, I had a cool idea for my new experiment, which I am now refining and will hopefully implement soon.

In the end, I was surprised by how productive this period of illness was for me. The physical sickness constrained me to staying at home, which in turn made me focus on the big, difficult tasks I would have tried to postpone had I been in the office by going to meetings, talks, other people’s projects, etc.

It was also very helpful that I actually gave myself time to recover. When I needed to sleep, I slept. When I was exhausted and needed to do something chill like reading a paper, I did that. I really gave myself the time to rest and didn’t push myself to go to the office when I was feeling ill.

After all, this cold didn’t turn out to be too bad work-wise. But I’m glad it’s over, and I hope I won’t be constrained to working from home again soon. Being in the office and seeing people (and talking to them) is so much more fun!

What do you do when you’re ill? How do you cope? Do you go to work, do you work from home, or do you drop everything and lie in bed? Let me know by commenting below or on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn.

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

How to never forget a to-do again

On some days, our minds are super busy, and we have many thoughts and to-do’s floating around.

“I should buy some lemons.”

“Oh, I should also call my dentist.”

“Also, I should make a reservation for dinner.”

These thoughts all feel important because they are things we want to or have to do. “I shouldn’t forget to make a reservation!” Each thought comes with a sense of urgency, so we can’t afford to forget it.

This roller coaster is quite exhausting. What’s more, it keeps our mind occupied, so there’s less capacity for interesting, creative, or productive thoughts.

The Inbox

A great solution comes from the Getting Things Done method by David Allen (you can read my blog post about it here). This solution is to keep an Inbox where you dump all such thoughts. The Inbox can be a notebook, a text document, or an app on your phone. It doesn’t matter what it actually is as long as:

  • It reliably keeps your info (e.g., it’s not an app with bugs that loses certain entries, and it’s not a bunch of post-it notes that can easily get lost around the house);
  • It is easy for you to browse, so you can see what you’ve written down (e.g., it’s not a huge, messy notebook where your to-do’s get lost, and it’s not an app that’s organized in a way you don’t understand, making it difficult to find your entries);
  • It is always on hand for you (i.e., it’s not helpful if you left your notebook at work, and then at home you don’t have a place to write down the to-do’s that come to mind.

For me, it is convenient to use an app for this. I use Wunderlist or Trello, depending on what the to-do is about. I have both apps on my phone and on all my devices, so it’s easy to jot something down. (See this blog post for an extensive description of the tools I use.)

The surprising power of writing things down

One participant in my bootcamp course on organization and time management, Angela, said the Inbox method was immensely helpful for her. She used to try to remember everything she needed to do, inevitably ending up overwhelmed and forgetting something.

“Since I’ve started writing down all my tasks, I feel like I’ve freed up so much mental space,” Angela shared. “A lot of the anxiety is gone because I know that if I need to do something, I won’t forget it–it’s on my list!”

Angela’s enthusiasm about this discovery caught me by surprise. It’s such a simple thing to do that I’d forgotten its power. I must have been doing this for almost 10 years already, since I read David Allen’s book Getting Things Done for the first time.

I remembered the relief and decreased anxiety I had experienced back then when I discovered this simple way of dealing with the ever-present thoughts about endless to-do’s. It really is so simple: Write it down. Get it out of your head. The simplest things often are the most powerful.

Have you tried this? How do you deal with endless thoughts about to-do’s? Let me know by commenting below or on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn.

Featured image by Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels

Try this to avoid getting distracted by your phone

At the bootcamp course on organization and time management I gave recently, one person, Sam, shared that he wanted to get distracted by his phone less often. We all nodded in agreement.

Most of us recognize this, right? You’re sitting at your desk, working hard, finally in the flow, and suddenly your phone buzzes. Immediately, you need to know what that was. Did you receive a message? An email? Or is it a notification from some app? And just like that, you’re out of the flow.

Separation anxiety from your phone

Sam admitted to being a bit of an extreme case. If his phone buzzed and he didn’t check it immediately, he became very anxious. The thought itself made him so uncomfortable that he shuffled in his chair as he said this.

I asked, “What would happen if you left your phone on silent in another room for the morning?”

“Oh, no, no, no,” he said defensively and brought his phone to his chest. Naturally, his phone had been lying on the desk in front of him during the entire meeting.

But Sam was acutely aware of how much his attachment to his phone was interfering with his work. He said that he was completing significantly less work when he was being interrupted and that he often took rather long breaks as a result of phone interruptions.

“How about if you left your phone with a colleague for 15 minutes? Could you do that?” I asked.

“Yeah, sure. I could even do an hour,” replied Sam, suddenly brave.

“That’s very good, but let’s start with 30 minutes then,” I suggested. “Set your phone on silent and give it to your colleague. In 30 minutes, you can have it back, and you can check all your messages and notifications.”

This was doable for Sam, but for more severe cases I’d start with as short a period as 5 minutes without a phone. Some people experience severe separation anxiety when they don’t have access to their phone, so we need to start small. The key is to start with a manageable exposure to the unpleasant situation (e.g., 5 minutes without access to your phone) and, once that goes well, gradually build it up to longer periods.

My system for dealing with my phone

I am also prone to being distracted by my phone, so I follow a system:

  1. Put my phone on silent. (If you want important numbers like your family members to be able to call you, you can set this up in Do Not Disturb mode.)
  2. Place my phone on a high shelf where it’s out of reach from where I sit at my desk.
  3. Set a timer for 45 minutes.
  4. Start working.
  5. Once the timer goes off, get up. (If I need to finish something, I can keep working for 5 more minutes max, for a total of 50 minutes, and then I get up.)
  6. Check my phone and respond to messages. (I don’t check social media at this time because I find that completely distracts me from my work.)
  7. Go to the bathroom or take a walk down the hall.
  8. Repeat.

That’s what works for me to avoid being distracted by my phone but to also remain responsive to messages.

How about you? How do you deal with your phone? Let me know by commenting below or on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn.

Featured image by rawpixel.com from Pexels

How to break a bad habit

I’ve been writing a lot about creating good habits and doing the activities you’d like to do in your life. But I was recently asked, “How do you break a bad habit?” I’m glad you asked.

When it comes to breaking a bad habit, the point is not to have superhuman discipline or to bully yourself into avoiding some behavior. You need to look for ways to make the habit you’d like to discontinue more difficult or less desirable. For practical tips on how to do this, I’ll be drawing from James Clear’s book Atomic Habits.

1. Make it invisible

Reduce your exposure to the cues of the habit. Change your environment, so it doesn’t attract your attention to the behavior you’d like to avoid.

If you’d like to check your phone less often while working, hide your phone from view and perhaps even put it on a high shelf, in a drawer, or in a different room.

If you’d like to spend less time on social media, remove the app shortcuts from the home page of your device.

If you’d like to eat less junk food, don’t leave it on the table but, rather, put it in a drawer or high up on a shelf where you can’t see it.

2. Make it difficult

A related strategy is to not only make something invisible but to also make it difficult. You can increase the number of steps you need to make to actually do the behavior.

If you’d like to watch less TV, put the remote control in a difficult-to-reach spot, in the closet, or even in the basement. Or you could unplug the TV, so it makes it that much more difficult to turn it on. It’s surprising how well this works because, apparently, that tiny extra effort to plug in the TV is enough to interrupt the automatic behavior of turning on the TV, and people remember that they didn’t actually want to be watching TV.

Some people go as far as to put their TV in the basement, but that seems a little extreme to me. I also know of someone who wanted to drink less beer, so he put his beer in the garage. In this way, if he really wanted to have a beer, he could, so he didn’t feel deprived, but he avoided the issue of opening a beer without actively deciding he wanted it.

Bringing this into the work context, if you want to avoid spending time on unimportant tasks or distractions, you can use website blockers. They can block your email, messaging platforms, news sites, and social media for a duration of time, making it more difficult for you to get distracted.

3. Make it undesirable

A more advanced way to break a bad habit is to make it unattractive on unsatisfying in some way. This can be a bit more difficult, but it’s very effective.

Reframing

You can reframe your mindset by highlighting the benefits of avoiding the bad habit. Spending less time on social media means you will have more time for reading or for your family. Eating out less often means you’ll have more money for quality food to cook at home or for other things you want to buy.

The main point about reframing is to turn something that feels limiting (e.g., reducing time on social media) into something that feels enriching (e.g., increasing reading time). In that way, instead of feeling deprived and like you’re limiting yourself, you can appreciate that you’re actively shaping your life and choosing how you’d like to live.

Accountability & Consequences

An accountability partner can help you avoid an undesirable habit. You can find a buddy, someone who’d also like to make the same change, or you can find someone who’s willing to ask you, on a regular basis, how it’s going with the habit you’re trying to break and to remind you of your motivation.

Some people even sign a habit contract or otherwise create consequences for themselves if they engage in the undesired habit. One person who wanted to avoid sleeping in set an embarrassing tweet to be published automatically if he didn’t wake up in time to cancel it. Many people make contracts with their training coaches where they need to pay money if they eat junk food at a time that wasn’t agreed upon beforehand.

I also came across this strategy for healing heartache. A friend of mine underwent a difficult breakup, and he couldn’t get over his ex for a long time. He made an agreement with his best friend that every time he mentioned his ex’s name, he’d give his friend five euros. If he really wanted to talk about her, he could, but it was in his interest not to do it all the time.

To be honest, I find the approaches that include punishment a bit too strict. I prefer to be intentional about habit change instead of being scared into behaving correctly. However, it works well for some people, so it is key to know yourself and pick a strategy that will help you achieve your goal. And if you don’t know yet what works for you, well, give these strategies a try!

For me, the best way to avoid an undesirable habit is to combine environment design (make it invisible and difficult) and to reframe the old habit. This combines the practical strategies of changing my surroundings and changing my mindset, setting me up for the best possible behavior change.

What works for you when you try to change an undesirable habit? Let me know by commenting below or on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn.

Featured image credits: Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS from Pexels

Do it because you want to

I recently gave a bootcamp course on organization and time management, and it was really interesting to hear what people found the most useful.

Following through with planned activities is a common stumbling block. Generally, people love planning and creating a beautiful outline for their day or week. But often we don’t feel so motivated once it comes to actually doing the work, so we do something else instead, and our pretty planning falls apart.

One person, let’s call her Jenny, had a really interesting approach. She has tried multiple ways to organize herself in order to get herself to do the things she planned. But she never quite succeeded, and it made her feel like a failure.

As a part of the bootcamp course, I asked people to take Gretchen Rubin’s quiz about The Four Tendencies. This was an eye-opener for Jenny. She found out that she was a Rebel, somebody who resists both internal and external expectations. That meant it was difficult for her to get herself to do things. Even when she truly wanted to do something, putting it on the calendar made it feel like something she had to do instead of wanted to do, so she wouldn’t do it.

For Rebels, it’s important to do things on their own terms. They will do something when they feel like it or because it aligns with something that’s important to them or the person they want to be. No surprise, then, that Jenny didn’t want to do something that was being imposed on her (since that’s how she viewed it).

After we discussed this in our bootcamp, Jenny took a different approach. At the beginning of the day, she would take a look at her to-do list and see what tasks were important for today. Then, she’d start working on whichever one she felt like tackling at that moment.

Sometimes, Jenny felt like reading a book in the morning, so that’s what she did. She went to work around lunchtime when she actually felt like working and stayed there until late in the evening. (One of the perks about being a PhD student is that often we can work whenever we want to in the day.)

Jenny said that this new approach is changing her life. She works when she feels like it, and she’s actually getting a lot more done. Jenny loves her work, so when she’s given the freedom to do it because she enjoys it, she produces better work.

This is quite amazing to me because the uncertainty would kill me. “When will I work on this task? And will I have time to also do that other task? And how will I divide my time between all my tasks?” My mind would keep chattering on. But I’m not a Rebel, I’m an Upholder (somebody who enjoys sticking to a schedule), and the difference in strategies is striking.

But I can also relate to some aspects. Sometimes I schedule myself too full, and I get a little suffocated from all the expectations I’ve placed upon myself. In those cases, I can learn from Jenny: I can cut back on the things I’ve planned and give myself some space. When I do that, the things I enjoy doing come back to me, and I remember why I planned to do them in the first place. I chose to do them because I like them.

Would it help you to do something when you feel like it? Have you tried it? Let me know by commenting below or on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn.

Identify the problem with habits

Perhaps this sounds familiar: for the umpteenth time, you promise yourself that you will take up that new habit you’ve been meaning to do. And then, when the moment to do it comes, for some reason you don’t do it. What’s the problem?

When we want to adopt a new habit or face a challenge, we are usually proactive about it, which is a good thing. We think about what we need to do to make the thing happen. For instance, if you’re trying to meditate every day, you may schedule time in your day for it and tell yourself that you will sit quietly first thing in the morning.

But when you wake up the next day, something gets in the way, and you don’t end up meditating. It doesn’t matter, you say, I’ll do it tomorrow. The following day, you’re in a rush or you don’t feel well. Several days pass by, but you don’t go through with your well-intended plan.

This is a good moment to ask yourself: What’s the problem?

If you’re slightly introspective and honest with yourself, you will notice whether there is an underlying issue that is preventing you from doing the thing in question.

Let’s say you’ve been meaning to meditate, but it just isn’t happening. Perhaps the problem is that you don’t know how to meditate, so you feel lost and uncertain about the whole thing. If that’s the problem, then you could find a video on YouTube the previous evening that you’d like to meditate with in the morning.

Another possibility is that you may not really believe that it’s a worthwhile use of your time to do nothing for ten minutes. If that’s the case, you need to revisit your motivation: why are you trying to meditate in the first place? Or you can seek out a type of meditation (or visualization, or breathing technique) that you consider a good use of your time.

It could also be the case that the time you’ve set aside for meditation doesn’t work well for you. It sounds great to get up and meditate right away, but perhaps you’re still really tired at that time or, as is often the case for me, you’re too hungry. If timing is the problem, then you can look for a better moment in your day.

The important thing is to identify the problem. It’s a shame to give up an activity because you think it doesn’t work for you when, in fact, a practical, manageable issue is preventing you from doing it.

Next time you’re having trouble with a stubborn activity you’d like to take on, try this: identify the problem.

Have you tried this? Let me know by commenting below or on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn.

Identifying the problem at work

I am currently giving a bootcamp course on organization and time management at the Donders Institute where I work. About twenty researchers get together every Friday afternoon, and we discuss the tools and strategies we’re using to organize our days and tasks.

I usually give some suggestions or tools for people to try. One of the simplest but, it turns out, most helpful ideas so far has been to identify the problem. When you’re having trouble with something, try to honestly see what’s getting in the way.

I was surprised to hear how many people found this trick helpful. One person said she used it to successfully write a difficult part of her paper. She noticed that she was procrastinating writing, and usually she would have just avoided it for as long as possible. This time, she asked herself what was stopping her, and she realized she didn’t have all the necessary technical information to write the part about her methods. To address this, she contacted people who had that information and, once they gave her the necessary details, she continued with her writing.

Another person was struggling to read papers regularly. He even scheduled time on Fridays to read but always ended up doing something else instead. Through our discussions, he realized that he needed someone else to count on him to read that paper. He made an agreement with his supervisor that at their weekly meeting she would ask him about the paper he’d read that week. Knowing that his supervisor expected him to read the paper was the push he needed to read papers regularly.

Yet a third person was struggling with his data analysis. He often didn’t know how to proceed and how to do his analysis correctly. He realized that he wasn’t seeking out help when he needed it and was trying to be independent even when it was hurting his performance. He found a course he could take to give him the necessary expertise, and he also got in touch with a research group that has experts on that type of analysis. He hopes that these resources will help him to progress more quickly and correctly with his data analysis.

Identifying the problem is a small step, but it makes it possible to take exactly the right action for a specific issue.

Can you apply this to your work? Have you tried it? Let me know by commenting below or on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn.

Tidy up with purpose and not out of compulsion

We often tidy up because we are fed up with the way things are and we need to make a change. But we’d better approach our home and belongings with a sense of purpose.

A few weeks ago, on a Tuesday evening, I placed my dinner on the table and set up my tablet to watch an episode or two on Netflix. I had a new series suggestion, Tidying up with Marie Kondo. “Oh, no, no, no,” I thought to myself. “I can’t watch this, or I’ll turn into the tidying monster again.”

The perfectionist at home

When I lived by myself, everything had a specific place, and things were, almost always, in their exact place. I had a shelf for all my spices, and they were all arranged in rows, with the labels facing precisely forward. When friends came to visit, they marveled at my tidy, organized closets, cupboards, and shelves. They also thought I was a little crazy.

But more importantly, when something wasn’t in its right place, it made me stressed. I couldn’t let it go, and it gave me an unpleasant, gnawing feeling, like it was pulling me to fix it. And, inevitably, fix it I did. Every evening, I was organizing my clothes or cleaning the kitchen counters.

I was operating from the flawed belief that once everything is tidied up perfectly, I will finally be content and at ease. But that never actually happened. When I was done cleaning or organizing for the day, I tried not to look around for fear that I’d see something which had to be “fixed.” Because I was compulsively reacting to things that bothered me, I had to immediately eliminate the thing making me uneasy. There was no space to step back and let it go.

My spices were way more organized than this.
Image credits: Pixabay (CC0 license)

Exposure therapy

When my husband (then boyfriend) moved in with me, I experienced mild shock for a few months. I knew I couldn’t ask him to live by my unreasonable standards because I realized they weren’t helpful. But the fact that things were not in the way I liked them really bothered me.

I now understand that I was basically going through exposure therapy. I was being faced with the things that caused me stress, and little by little, their strength over me subsided. I didn’t have to fix things right away because even if things were not perfect, that was okay. Nowadays we have a reasonably tidy home, unbearably messy according to my previous standards but reasonably organized according to my current ones.

I still sometimes get annoyed by a messy pile of boxes or clothes, but I no longer react to the compulsive pull to fix it immediately. Instead, I can say, “Hey, I don’t like that pile over there, can you please take care of it?” and sooner or later, he’ll do it. Or, if it’s something I need to take care of it, I’ll set aside time on my calendar when I can tackle the issue.

The intentional approach to tidying & organizing

The goal is not to feed the compulsory need to tidy up immediately. Instead, the idea is to reflect purposefully on what we’d like and how we can make that happen.

I appreciate that about Marie Kondo’s method: she encourages people to think about what they want to keep and what they don’t, how they want to make use of their space and how they want their home to feel. It’s not about being super strict and keeping everything perfect all the time; rather, it’s about treating our home and our possessions with intention.

In the end, I am watching Tidying up with Marie Kondo. It has inspired me to clean out/organize a couple of areas of our home, but the effect has been very different from before. Instead of turning into the “fixing monster,” I’m much gentler to our home and to myself. My guiding goal is to make the space more pleasant, cozy, and usable instead of needing to eliminate and make it good enough, as though it wasn’t good enough already. And, most of all, I am grateful for such a wonderful home.

What do you think about tidying up? Do you have a tidying monster within, or are you quite content with how things are? Let me know by commenting below or on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn.

The simple secret of discipline: Avoid tempting situations

We are often told that discipline is the answer to our problems. With a little more discipline, we can achieve our goals and avoid temptations. Just try a little bit harder, have a little bit more willpower, have a little more self control. But that’s not how it works.

We grossly overestimate the contribution of willpower. Willpower is not a constant; it may be strong at one moment and then wane when we’re tired or stressed. If we leave our actions up to willpower, we will at some point disappoint ourselves.

I often hear the assumption that disciplined people have more willpower and somehow have the superhuman ability to stick to their values or priorities. I don’t think that’s true and, if anything, it only contributes a tiny bit to what discipline actually is.

In reality, disciplined people know themselves and know when their willpower fails. If they are tired, they will spend a long time on social media, unable to look away. If they go to a fast food restaurant, they will end up ordering fast food. They are aware of their tendencies and don’t leave it up to willpower to make the choice they consider “better” or “right.”

By choosing the situation you place yourself in, you choose the possible actions.
Photo by Tyler Lastovich from Pexels

Disciplined people often avoid putting themselves in tempting situations. They know that the only way to resist is to avoid the setting altogether, so they avoid the tempting situation. If they want to spend less time on social media, they use a website blocker. If they want to eat less fast food, they go to restaurants that don’t serve fast food. It’s so much easier to avoid an unwanted action if the immediate environment prevents it.

I’m not saying that you should always avoid tempting situations. It all comes back to the mindful choice: if you consciously and purposefully choose to do something, by all means, go ahead. Just don’t let the situation decide for you.

When you want to avoid an action and you know your willpower may fail, it is so much easier to avoid the tempting situation altogether. This is the secret that disciplined people know.

Not all tempting actions lend themselves to simple solutions. But if you identify such a solution, then make sure you implement it. It will save you lots of frustration over inevitable lapses in willpower.

What kinds of tempting activities do you avoid? What actions would you like to prevent? Let me know by commenting below or on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn. 

Discipline = making a mindful choice

We may think that disciplined people lack or suppress their desires. In fact, they still experience strong cravings, but they make a mindful choice.

When someone offers me cake at work and I decline, I usually get one of two typical reactions:

“Oh, live a little. Nothing bad will happen if you eat a piece of cake!”

I usually respond to this with:

“It’s not about living a little. It’s about what feels better to me and my body, and right now I’d feel better if I don’t eat the cake.”

And the other reaction is:

“Wow, how are you so disciplined? Do you never eat sweets? Do you not like sweets?”

These questions make me smile. In fact, I have a huge sweet tooth. I can eat way more cake, baklava, and chocolate than most people. When most people say, “Ah, this is too sweet for me, it’s making me sick,” that’s my favorite level of sweetness.

We often think that disciplined people don’t feel desires or cravings, or perhaps we think they suppress them. Disciplined people may appear cold inside, as though they’re more like robots who don’t know what it’s like to feel a strong human craving.

But, in fact, disciplined people do have desires and cravings, sometimes even more strongly than other people. Because these people’s cravings are so strong, they need to keep them in check.

When facing a desire or craving, the important thing is to make a clear, conscious choice about what we do next.
Image credit: JESHOOTS.com (Pexels license)

For instance, Philip, a friend of mine, comes from a family with a history of alcoholism. Philip doesn’t drink any alcohol. He told me that people often ask him how he’s able to have such self-control. He responds that it’s the opposite: he knows he doesn’t have the self-control to stop once he starts. That’s why he avoids alcohol altogether.

So is the only solution to abstain altogether? Avoid all tempting situations and things we desire?

For some people, abstaining from some substances (such as alcohol in the case of my friend Philip) works well. But that doesn’t have to be the case for all of us. (See the distinction between abstainers and moderators raised by Gretchen Rubin.)

I have a different solution in relation to my desire for sweets. I create specific implementation intentions: When X happens, I will do Y. When I am at work, I do not eat sweets. But on Friday evening, when I’m having dinner with a friend, I will have dessert. Or, on Saturday afternoon, when I go for tea with a friend, I will have a piece of cake.

These are planned exceptions. It means that I have thought about them in advance and decided what I’d like to do in that situation. When I do eat something sweet, I’m not reinforcing a mindless craving but rather I’m making a mindful choice. And I get more enjoyment out of it because it’s a conscious choice instead of an absent-minded reaction to a situation.

The characteristic that makes people disciplined is that they make a conscious, purposeful choice. It doesn’t actually matter which action they choose; whether they eat the cake or don’t eat the cake is not important. The crucial point is to make the choice with clarity and to be aware of the reasons that lead you to that choice.

Is there an area in your life where you purposefully choose what to do? Is there an area where you’d like to make more mindful choices? Let me know by commenting below or on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn.