Do you feel drained, overwhelmed or anxious? You are not alone! We live in a world of constant distractions, multitasking and interruptions. It often leaves us feeling depleted. The good news is that you can step into the driver’s seat of your life and career one tiny single-tasking habit shift at a time.
Learn About Habit Formation
As part of my ongoing professional development, I recently took an excellent course on habits. The key elements for creating a new, positive habit are:
Anchor your new habit to a well-established habit, such as brushing your teeth or eating your breakfast.
Make your new habit tiny.
Track your new habit for at least 66 days.
I decided to anchor onto my breakfast routine a new positive habit of writing content for my blog. “After I eat my last bite, I write 50 words.” I had committed to this routine before, but didn’t succeed at the time to turn it into a habit. Taking the course spurred me on to give it another whirl as I really enjoy writing blog posts. I just wish, I could do it more consistently.
Become Aware of Your Multitasking Tendencies
This commitment led me to examine my breakfast routine. As I did, I realized that I didn’t have a clear sequence of the individual steps involved in making breakfast. Even though I make the same delicious, nutritious breakfast every morning. I got curious and tried to map out a sequence on a piece of paper. As I filled a page with details involved, it dawned on me that I was in the habit of multitasking at breakfast. While I was cooking my breakfast, I was also sipping my tea, eating a piece of fruit, prepping things for lunch or dinner, and sometimes even creating a shopping list. No wonder it felt like a scramble.
As I am sharing this with you, I feel embarrassed. I hear my inner critic snarl: “As author of The Mini-Retreat Solution, you should know better than to multitask!” I also feel a bit pathetic. Intentionally I choose to live a serene lifestyle: no cell phone, no corporate job, and no commute. Yet my breakfast scramble multitasking habit snuck into the serenity of my life. How could this possibly happen? As I am learning, this is the power of unconscious habits: they sneak in!
Often, we unconsciously create “bad” habits when we are in a rush, hungry, tired, anxious or bored, or inhabit some other sub-optimal state. I am not entirely sure how I ended up with my breakfast scramble. My guess is that it started when I came home one morning from my qi-gong practice, feeling hungry and rushed to get on with my workday. At the time it felt like multitasking saved the day, gave me an adrenaline rush, which further reinforced the multitasking tendency.
Before you continue reading, look at your own morning routine now. Try to write down the sequence from getting out of bed to completing your breakfast as detailed as you can. This may seem a bit tedious, but it will help you become aware of your own multitasking tendencies. Just like me there may be things that you do while you prepare your breakfast and/or while you eat your breakfast that you are not aware of.
Create One Tiny Single-Tasking Habit
I decided to begin with a tiny new habit that could possibly untangle my breakfast scramble and reduce my multitasking tendency over time. Here’s the tiny habit I committed to:
“After I grab a piece of fruit, I sit down at the dining table to take my first bite.”
I purposefully made this step super easy and extremely small, to reduce the effort in shifting from multi-tasking to sequential single-tasking. It’s important to make new habits easy to stick to. Even if I felt in a rush or was running late, I could sit down for one bite of fruit, couldn’t I?
Then I drew a chart into my vitamin box. Each morning after I had taken my first bite of fruit successfully seated at the table, I drew a little heart on my chart. It may seem silly to record this minuscule success, however tracking truly helps create a habit.
Before you read any further, jot down a few ideas for tiny habits that could support you in reducing your multitasking tendencies. Make sure you keep these ideas minuscule, so that you can still succeed with your follow through, even when you are in a rush.
From all your ideas, choose the one tiny single-tasking habit that will be most fun for you. Once you’ve chosen your tiny single-tasking habit, anchor it to an existing habit. Create a simple tracking system to record your success for at least 66 days. YES, it takes 66 days on average to successfully establish a habit of your choice.
Stay Curious and Open
Now, each morning, once I am seated, I truly savour the delicious fruit. It feels easy to stay seated until I take my last bite. Strengthened from the nourishment and enjoyment of my piece of fruit, I am now ready to cook my breakfast. To my great surprise, the sequence of cooking my breakfast naturally developed. Within a week my breakfast routine had transformed from a stressful, multitasking scramble to a calm, nourishing spacious experience. It floored me that in addition to feeling better, my newly developed breakfast experience also took less time.
My positive habit transformation happened so easily and smoothly. However, I knew very well that I needed to continue tracking my success for at least 66 days. One week after committing to my tiny habit, I had scheduled a day of video production. That morning, I almost slipped. I caught myself bringing the apple I had just grabbed to my mouth while I was still standing in the kitchen.
You too may slip or almost slip with establishing your new single-tasking tiny habit. If you do, please don’t beat yourself up! Get curious instead about what tripped you and use this information to further solidify your tiny habit. I learned a valuable lesson on the morning of my video production. When the rest of my day is less familiar, I am more prone to revert to my still more familiar breakfast scramble. This almost slip inspired me to further tweak my tiny single-tasking habit. Now, I put a fruit on the dining table in the evening, to make it even easier for me to succeed in the morning.
Julia James is a certified life coach and award-winning author of the book, The Mini-Retreat Solution. With over ten years experience coaching people through positive career transformations, Julia is passionate about helping people connect with their true calling.