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Changing Habits & GTD

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  • Changing Habits & GTD

    Has anyone here read or thought about whether and how to

    1. plan
    2. monitor

    habit changes with GTD?

    You could treat the intention of changing a habit as a project. But more often than not, there are no Next Actions tied to habit changes, as most habits are practiced unconsciously.

    I know there is literature about how to change and monitor habits out there and I intend to read one or two books. I'm just curious what you think about this topic.
    Last edited by ablaze; 01-19-2008, 12:59 AM.

  • #2
    I keep an @ Focus list with these 5 or 6 issues.

    I have it set in my Palm Pilot Calendar to view every day at a set time.

    Each time is listed with a one sentence reminder about the action to take to actually change it.


    • #3
      Right now, one of the habits I'm changing is to drink more water, 6 glasses per day to be exact. I have a checklist I go through every day on which I also record how many glasses I drank. I plan on keeping it on there until I'm at 6 glasses per day for at least a month. After that I'll put it on a weekly objective/goal list for a month or two and then I remind myself once per month, and so on and so on. This system worked with other habits. I don't put in 6 NAs in my system though.

      Now this is a simple habit to change, but I have used it for more abstract habit changes.


      • #4
        Can you give us an example of a habit that has no physical, real-world actions?


        • #5
          1. Internet distraction

          2. Listen, without interruption.


          • #6
            Originally posted by hagadol View Post
            1. Internet distraction
            Real world actions: close browser, track and monitor Internet usage.

            2. Listen, without interruption.
            This *is* a real world action, it seems to me. Active listening can also include real world actions like taking notes.



            • #7
              Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break the Chain” system

              Below are some very nice ideas for developing habits. In addition, GTD Connect contains a lot of excellent content on establishing habits and making changes stick.

              For an overview of Seinfeld's system, visit and search for Seinfeld’s productivity secret. Sorry I don’t have the link handy, but the comedian Jerry Seinfeld shares a great tip for establishing habits.

              Next, as follow up, have a look at recommendations for using a palm device to implement Jerry’s “Don’t Break the Chain” system.

              And then the follow up on the follow up about using the system with a palm to track your progress towards your New Year’s Resolutions:



              • #8
                The only way I have been able to develop a new habit - or get rid of an old one - is to conciously be aware of the change I want to make. I think that if I put it in front of me daily, it should seep into my subsconscious. This is a sort-of subliminal messaging that is overt. A new habit, that I don't know how to set up with real NAs, is to "pick my battles wisely". Because I have a lot of things coming at me and plan on having many more things coming at me, I don't want to discuss/debate every point. I know that at my rate developing a habit in this way will take a long time. I could have this on a card that I flash in front of myself at select moments, but I worry what others may think.


                • #9

                  I have benefited a great deal from positive affirmations as recorded and marketed by I was sceptical, and the guided imagery portion of the CDs offered on this website was too dreamy for me (even though I like to think of myself as imaginative). The positive affirmations are stated in the present tense, and after listening to the CD frequently, I find I am able to compose my own. Instead of telling myself, "I have to quit eating all those Doritoes every afternoon," I say, "More and more, my cravings are subsiding." This is a hasty summary, but I strongly recommend the site.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by sdann View Post
                    A new habit, that I don't know how to set up with real NAs, is to "pick my battles wisely". Because I have a lot of things coming at me and plan on having many more things coming at me, I don't want to discuss/debate every point.
                    The key to this one is an integral part of The David's system: Defer! Make your flashcard/action step/whatever a prompt to tell you, whenever something comes at you, to simply defer deciding or acting on it until tomorrow. By putting off the decision/action/reaction, you get to think about it and decide at your leisure.

                    This technique is also great for anyone who over-commits: instead of saying "No" immediately, which can be hard, they can simply defer the decision until they've got time and brain-space to think about it and make a more considered decision.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by sdann View Post
                      A new habit, that I don't know how to set up with real NAs, is to "pick my battles wisely".
                      How do you plan to get yourself to a place where you pick battles more wisely? Re-read affirmations? Reflect on the concept more frequently? Read more on the topic?

                      Those are all Actions.


                      • #12
                        Changing habits

                        Interesting topic. Changing habits is so important and yet so hard.

                        I think reminders are key.

                        For instance, I still haven't mastered my GTD flow. I sometimes find an idea pop into my head, then I'll pursue that idea, only to find 1/2 an hour has gone by, when I should have just put a NA on my task list in the first place. So now I've setup an outlook appointment "Look at NA lists". I snooze it for 15 minutes when it pops up. So basically I have a reminder every 15 minutes that I should be working on my NA lists, rather than what pops into my head at the time.

                        I'm sure you could use another reminder/scheduling software to do something similar.

                        The Seinfeld calendar marking has also helped. It reminds me that I have to do something that day, or I don't get a pretty red X.

                        Just some thoughts,



                        • #13
                          Nice post!

                          Quick thought: "Ideas that pop into your head" belong in Someday/Maybe, in my opinion.


                          • #14
                            It is so true, one needs regular reminders, maybe more so NAs. I realized I also need to learn more on changing habits. Coincidentally I came across this article 18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick . I came across this site from a post in here, so I think it's ok to link to it.


                            • #15
                              I have found this one to be helpful:

                              Five things you need to know about effective habit change.