Fun disclosure: my loved ones will laugh when they read this. As with most of my blogs, I am growing up in public, sharing what works – and doesn’t work – for me, hoping it may work for you as well.
If you tend to regularly forget your phone, loose your keys and waste your own time, then this will help: automation.
If you are like me, it may sound unappealing at first. After all, we’re not robots, right? But I gave it a try and by now, I have incorporated wholesome behaviors into my life, mostly things that are otherwise easy to forget or that just don’t get the priority they deserve.
Automating parts of my life helps me stick to my priorities, frees up brain space for stuff that matters most and saves time. Plus it helps me feel great and grateful several times a day. I like to see it as some kind of ninja training.
One trick is to hook desired behaviors into your daily routine by connecting them with other stuff that happens anyway, things like getting up, brushing your teeth, going to the toilet, leaving the house. This is called the Tiny Habits method and I wrote this article about it: On Tiny Habits (or: why pee wins where willpower fails).
When you automate your behaviors, they become habits. Example: I have a habit of drinking healthy, medicinal drinks (sole, smoothie, green tea, turmeric) every single day, just because I built that into my system. Years ago, I used to have a habit of drinking alcoholic beverages because I built that into my system – the choice is up to you ;).
Creating a system that works is also about shaping the environment to support your intentions. Example: I love smoothies and have a ‘smoothie basket’ ready in my fridge. Every morning after I get up, all I have to to is slide out this one basket and all ingredients are right there. No need to go find them in five different cupboards.
Another example: my keys have one place in my bag for when I’m on the road and one in my room for when I’m home. They are always in the same place and I can blindly point them out to someone. The reason: I used to leave them everywhere and always be looking for them. I would curse myself but didn’t see the simple solution for a long time.
I didn’t come up with this automation/system thing all by myself. Some years ago I watched a TED talk by a programmer who was all about systems. If you loose your keys all the time, she said, then what you need is a system. And that made so much sense to me. (Please, if anyone of you knows which talk I am referring to, let me know in the comments, I’d love to watch it again and give the lady credit.)
Also, mindfulness plays a big role here. As long as I’m mindful, I’ll keep track of my stuff, whether consciously or even unconsciously: the info is stored somewhere and available when it is needed. But if I get carried away in the heat of the moment by something like the joy of a social interaction, the my attention for the practical stuff gets… well, lost.
What helps then, is to just sit down and meditate (I practice Vipassana). It can be quite revealing!
(Article coming soon: What if the system keeps failing?)
If something repeatedly doesn’t work in your life, in computer terms it means your system is flawed. Simply identify what’s wrong in your approach, and change it. It will require some conscious effort at first. Using the Tiny Habits method may make things easier, depending on the issue. And organizing your life in a way that supports your intentions, is key.
Here’s a TEDtalk on leaving keys, but it’s not with a female programmer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jPQjjsBbIc