Last weekend, I decided I was going to pick up an old habit that I’d let go of.
It was a habit that made me feel great about myself. It was both distracting and helped focus at the same time.
When I told people about it, there was almost never a negative word said about it.
When I first told my wife about it, she first asked “why would you want to do that?” then understood. When I told friends, their first reaction was the same. Then they understood too. That habit was, for one week at a time, to deny myself something I enjoy.
“Why would you want to do that?”
Focus from distraction
Distractions are often bad for productivity. Giving up something that you enjoy will become a distraction for you. It does for me. When I know I can’t have it, I think about it even more. I want it more.
And every time I think about that ‘want’, I get to associate it with the reason I feel that way.
The want represents freedom from what I thought I needed.
In that freedom, we can write new things.
Let’s take a quick look at cravings and habits.
A “craving”, noun, means “a powerful desire for something”. A ‘need’ that comes and goes, that you can’t shake.
A “habit”, noun, means “a settled or regular tendency or practice”. An ongoing tendency, for better or worse.
You crave things because your body learns of the immediate feeling of satisfaction.
Habits are your brain’s way of automating things you’ve learned. It does this so it can focus on other things.
We can turn negative feelings associated with denying yourself these things into good things.
We can rewrite ourselves.
The Craving can be turned into focus. The Habit can be turned into Productivity.
1. The Craving, e.g. Chocolate
When my mother was a baby, my Granddad started a very peculiar habit involving her formula. He’d taste it before giving it to her, and often found it lacking in the taste department. He’d often pour sugar into it to make it taste better! She’s had a sweet tooth her whole life as a result. Which I acquired from her.
As a non-drinker, chocolate has long been ’the’ little treat I give myself. Using this method, I plan to associate that craving with Focus. Removing sugar highs and sugar crashes means I’ll be able to maintain focus longer.
2. The Habit, e.g. News
I enjoy researching, particularly around ideas I have. I also like to stay up to date with the very latest industry news. Industry news is something I find I can quickly spend a long while immersed in.
Time vs Reward from industry news is often weighed unfavorably, though.
Using this method, I plan to associate not digesting industry news with Productivity. Removing the time spend thumbing through it means I’ll be able to get more useful stuff done.
Last time I gave up something was when I quit using sweetener in my tea. After that week, I never bothered adding it back: tea actually ended up tasting nicer without it.
Today marks the beginning of a new week, and this week I shall be removing chocolate and industry news.
Every time I feel a craving, I’ll remember I can focus harder. Every time I feel the itch of a habit gone unscratched, I’ll remember the extra time I’ve given myself.
Less really is more.
What two things could you give up for a week to increase your focus and productivity?
Tell me about yours. Email me at adam at adam fairhead dot com.