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Form Habits With Alarms and Timers

3 minutes to read.

Human beings are creatures of habit.

Good habits; bad habits. They shape who we are, and changing them can shape who we become.

Want to be healthier? Get in the habit of working out.

Want to be smarter? Get in the habit of reading.

If you’re thinking, “I’m so ingrained in my routine now, it would be impossible to change!” you’re lying to yourself.

It’s very easy to form new habits.

It’s pretty widely accepted that it only takes 3 weeks to develop a new habit. So after 3 weeks, you’re so used to doing that thing, it would be harder to stop than to keep going.

The hardest part of forming these new habits is remembering for those first 3 weeks. But with the amount of gadgets we have on us these days, there’s really no way we should be forgetting anything.

In whatever screen you always have on you – phone, watch, tablet, etc –  it has an alarm app on it. (I use my Apple Watch for these since it has a silent alarm.)

These alarms are good for more than scaring you awake every morning.

You can set recurring alarms and name them whatever you like. These are the alarms I have set.

Swimming – 11am every Sundays and 5pm every Tuesday and Thursday

Read – 10:30pm every week day

These go off throughout the week to make sure I’m staying healthy and reading regularly.

Side note: I have a problem getting distracted. So my reading alarm is to read something long form every night. For me that’s a book. My hope there is to be able to read for an hour or more without thinking about what’s going on with my side projects or what the front page of reddit looks like. Every second of the day I have 100 things pouring into my mind at the same time and I want to be able to sit and enjoy myself with a single thing for a long time and forget about everything else. So that is why I do that.

This is also helpful if you have to do something take a pill every day or feed the dog at a certain time. At least until it becomes routine.

 

That is how I use alarms, but I also use timers all the time…

 

Parkinson’s law states, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

I’ve found this to be very true. If I have 5 things to do at work between 9-5, then I get started on the first one around 3-4pm,

So throughout the day I set only a certain amount of time per task. During hours, I block time off on my calendar to do the deliverables for the day. This holds time so I’m not brought into meetings to those times to distract me and holds me reminds me when I should start.

For my side project, I set a time on my watch for an hour.

This forces me to get things done quickly and not waste time on reddit or social media. I can tell myself, “I’ll be finished in 30 minutes, I can spend all the time I want on reddit after that.” And that is very motivating for me and helps me stay on task.

I’ve been doing these things for about a year now and have noticed I am much more productive. So if you have the same problems I had, I hope you try this out!

 

So what do think? Do you already use timers every day? If no, are you going to start?

I’d love to hear your feedback. :)

 

Thank you,

Gil

5 Comments

  1. Tim Perry Tim Perry November 23, 2015

    Hey Gil, I’ve been building a tool to help me with almost exactly the same problems you’re talking about which might be of interest to you. Details at http://www.buildfocus.io – it’s a tool to help you build habits by giving you a good quick feedback loop (via a city simulator), so you get a quick nudge when you start automatically checking facebook, and gentle positive encouragement when you get a focused chunk of time done (similar to what you’re talking about with timers at the end there; I found pomodoro-style approach to this works particularly well for me).

    Sounds like you’re pretty much my exact target audience, take a look and let me know what you think. There’s a signup there for news if you’re keen, and I’ll be progressively releasing private alpha invites over the coming weeks.

  2. Shane Shane November 24, 2015

    I certainly agree on the Parkinson’s law part – we always find a way to make a mountain out of a molehill given enough time!
    Using alarms or triggers is very useful way to change your routine as long as it is done gradually in my opinion.

    I’ve done this several times and I use an app on my phone to track whether or not I keep up with my habits.
    I use this as more of a motivator than a hard rule.

    S

    • Gil Gil November 24, 2015

      Yea me too, If I need more or less time I’ll adjust. Or sometimes I don’t use the timer at all if it’s small enough. But when I have a long list of things to do, this is a huge help.

  3. Thessauron Thessauron November 24, 2015

    I’m not entirely convinced about the second method. I.E. the one about work expanding. But I’d still give it a try. :)

    • Gil Gil November 24, 2015

      Ha, yea these aren’t applicable for everyone. But definitely true for me. :)

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