keep calm and get things done

Week 26 – On the Power of Small habits and on Getting Things Done

In July and August the city and all offices in Paris emptied and I was left thinking about how to organize my work and my activities from September on (that is when schools start and most of the people come back to work). Because we (girls) often like to set symbolic dates to change our routines and implement new habits (like new year resolutions, birthday resolutions, “important dates” resolutions) I started thinking about how to be more active, proactive and productive from then on.

The Power of Habit

While listening to one of the daily picks from Blinkist App, I came across the summary of Mini Habits by Stephen Guise. Although I have known for a while now how important it is to form small habits that then lead to major changes, it was good to listen to it again and start organizing an effective routine.

As the author explains, 45% of our behaviour is habitual, and when under pressure we are prone to falling into our habits (stress eating, chatting, going on social media), hence the necessity to have good habits in the first place! Stress is often the result of being unable to make certain decisions and habits are something we don’t have to make decisions about, that come naturally to us and sometimes even without noticing.

To create good habits, willpower (and not motivation, which highly depends on our feelings and mood) is the best tool, and mini-habits are the most efficient investment to increase your limited willpower. Every time you create a new positive habit, whichever it is, you flex your own willpower muscle, increasing even more the willpower to start or keep other unrelated habits.

The core message of the book is actually that picking an easy / mini goal eliminates the perception of difficulty and will hardly make you feel fatigued or bored, therefore you won’t give up and will stick to your goal. Then you will need less and less willpower to keep yourself motivated. In fact when you set goals that you can easily fulfill, you’ll feel great, no matter how minor your achievements were, which will push you to achieve more (instead of facing daily the fact that you haven’t still achieved your big / ultimate goal which can depress you and make you think that you are not good enough and that you will never make it).

With a mini habit that helps you start small, you can be sure to start smoothly. In fact, you might even find out that you can achieve more than you set out to do!

So, in order to achieve long-term objectives while keeping your willpower, you need to experience success and a feeling of control several times a day, hence you need to break your goals into mini habits.

Mini-habits should also be so small that you are sure to complete them (if not, reduce them) and to incorporate several of them into your daily routine. As an example of my daily routine that I kept it small and not scary:

  • Do some Sport daily, become fitter
    • Mini-Habit: Do 100 abs each day
  • Reading/Learning More & find business Ideas
    • Mini-Habit: Listen to one Blinkist summary  (15min) each morning in the tube while going to work
    • Mini-Habit: Read a book for at least 20min each day before going to bed
  • Be a successful blogger and post articles weekly
    • Mini-Habit: Write 20min every morning when getting into work (not necessarily knowing on what)
  • Become happier &  more relaxed
    • Mini-Habit: Meditate 5min every day with the Headspace App
    • Mini-Habit: Do a short Yoga Session once a week (Sunday Morning)

Then, once you have your list, you can put daily reminders (at least at the beginning) to document your habits and also have visual proof of your achievements (the book recommends Lift or Habit Streak Plan on iPhone, I downloaded Goal Tracker on Android).

Learn more about Mini-Habits here.

Increasing your productivity

Once I started my daily habits I obviously immediately listened to far more books on Blinkist than the one I had originally planned daily and one in particular enabled a big change in my life, Getting Things Done by David Allen. The book, which has now become the name of a time-management method (also known as GTD method) rests on the idea of moving planned tasks and projects out of the mind by recording them externally and then breaking them into actionable work items. This allows one to focus attention on taking action on tasks, instead of putting energy into recalling them. Do immediately anything that can be done in less than 2min, classify the rest as “Next” action, “Scheduled” action set on a specific date or put them under a “Someday” action.

You can find a breakdown of the key concepts Allen advocates for working better, every day on the Blinkist Magazine and some additional information hereunder:

1. Capture

Use a notebook, an online task management tool (here the best rated ones), a physical inbox, or whatever method you prefer to write down absolutely everything that’s dividing your attention right now, declutter your brain right now! I personally downloaded several apps but the one I kept and that I love is the Nirvana App which I can use from my phone and from my laptop. I inserted my projects, my reminders, and there is a very useful section called “References” where I classified or interesting information/website/link I come across.

2. Clarify

Look at your list and decide what to do with it as per flowchart hereunder.

Flowchart for the Getting Things Done methodology
Flowchart for the Getting Things Done methodology
3. Organize

Sit down, organize yourself, prioritize each task and get things done faster and efficiently. If there’s a task that requires a few steps, break down each one into smaller tasks (see the Kanban method).

4. Reflect

Look over your lists as often as necessary to help you figure out what’s the most pressing thing you need to do next and reorder the tasks as often as necessary!

5. Engage

just do it

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