Books, Brain Hacks, Mindfulness, Motivation, Organisation

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

In the book “Atomic Habits”, author James Clear talks about the compound effects and benefits of making positive small decisions.

It’s the hundreds of small choices we make each and every day that influence our habits and identity. So if we are able to manipulate those choices for the better, pretty soon those choices will snowball into changing our lives for the better.

It’s an incredible book, marked with interesting anecdotes and life stories, designed to motivate and show you how to break down your behaviours and the choices behind them. One of the most interesting things I’ve learned from reading this book is just how much your environment impacts your decision making. I always knew that visual cues were important influences on my behaviour. They’re essentially why I always feel hungry after a fast food ad. But it never occurred to me to harness this link for my own benefit.

Vision is the most powerful of all human sensory abilities according to Clear. Which means that visual cues are the biggest influence on human behaviour. So if you want to change your habits, you have to design your environment for success. “Every habit is initiated by a cue, and we are more likely to notice cues that stand out.”

This concept really echoes the famous proverb “out of sight, out of mind”. If you want to avoid a bad habit, like say eating an entire block of chocolate, hide the chocolate or don’t have any in your home. Conversely if you want to encourage a good habit, like going for a walk every day, it’s a good idea to keep the cues for this action in your line of sight.

In our current “convenience is king” environment, by making your good habits more convenient than your bad ones, you will be more likely to follow through on the good. And that all starts with making them more obvious.

As of last year I have been trying to learn to play the guitar. It hasn’t been going super well. Although my guitar sits in the corner of my bedroom, a place where I can regularly see it, it still gets little to no use on a day to day basis.

With the help of this book, I’ve been giving more thought as to why this potential habit just isn’t sticking. A few things have occurred to me:

1. Even though my guitar is visible, I have no comfortable spot in which to sit and play it.
2. It’s constantly getting out of tune and I have no easy way to fix that.
3. I have exercise equipment in front of it, making the area look messy.

It’s funny how when you start to break down the visual cues in your environment, you begin to see all the obstacles you have inadvertently put in your way. It also becomes extremely obvious how lazy you have become.

My plan therefore is to remove as many obstacles as I can. So my first step will be to install a guitar tuner app on my phone and to actually tune my guitar. Next I’m moving the guitar to my living room. Specifically to the right side of my armchair. This chair is comfortable and offers the back support needed for good guitar playing posture. It’s also my favourite chair and one that I sit in regularly to watch TV.

I’m hoping that by changing the location of my guitar and guitar stand, I will make it easier to form the habit of practicing my playing each evening. Even if it’s just for a few minutes during commercial breaks, the goal is to start forming the habit. I can always build on that habit later.

Overall I adore this book and would recommend it to pretty much everyone I know, even my super organized friends. There is something new to learn for everyone. Remember it’s the hundreds of small steps that lead to great strides in behaviour.

Adulting, Books, Brain Hacks, Mindfulness, Motivation, Organisation, Relationships

Breaking Through The Struggle

The Obstacle Is The Way” by Ryan Holiday is a book that makes reference to various tactics in overcoming obstacles. It does so by applying the stoic philosophy of Roman legend Marcus Aurelius to real world examples of amazing individuals who triumphed over adversity. It is very inspiring and exceptionally useful, as it focuses largely on changing your perceptions of challenges and failures.

One example is a chapter titled: “Using obstacles against themselves”. It posits that sometimes staying silent or simply remaining calm in the face of adversity is the best option. When I was in high school and had just started my first part-time job as a receptionist, my boss gave me an excellent piece of advice. He told me that the best tactic in dealing with upset people was to lower your voice. If they are raising their voice and demanding their way, lower your voice and calmly respond. They will have to do the same, if for no other reason than to actually be able to hear your responses.

This little nugget of wisdom stayed with me through my many years working in retail. It proved to be useful time and time again. I also believe that most people tend to mimic the behaviour of those around them, therefore by remaining calm and keeping my voice at a steady pace I found myself with customers who would also begin to do the same.

Sometimes reacting is just useless. Why not let the person that is getting in your way, get in their own way instead? The book suggests that instead of attacking, sometimes all we need to do is take a stand or even stand back. Let the obstacle tire itself out. Patience is a virtue after all, even if it’s one many of us might feel uncomfortable with when we are trying to achieve our goals.

Ultimately I have to say this is a brilliant book. Every person should read it as it will open your mind to the many different ways you can approach the difficulties in your life.

Adulting, Books, Motivation, Organisation

The Organizer

I’m not a naturally organised person, it’s something I have to work on each day. It’s not so much the organising that I find a challenge either, it’s maintaining the organisational system I’ve set in place. Somehow there’s always something more important to do than taking out the trash or unloading the dishwasher, and I fall into that “I’ll do it later” habit. In short it never gets done and I find myself using my dishwasher as a cupboard.

This is why I’m always on the lookout for a great home organisation book. The one I’m reading at the moment is “The 8 Minute Organizer” by Regina Leeds. It’s premise in a nutshell, is that you can organise your home and keep it nice and tidy by tackling each room with short 8 minute tasks.

As someone with roommates, attempting to take stock of the shared areas of the house is a futile endeavour. So I decided to attempt the bedroom list of 8 minute tasks to see if her system would work for me. These tasks included activities such as: speed elimination, line up your handbags and shelve books. One I found to be quite beneficial was to gather stray garments. As I have a tendency to simply deposit clothes onto my bed (instead of in my closet) and then move the eventual pile up of garments to the floor (beds are for sleeping after all), taking the time to hang things up and put them away did wonders to the look of my room.

All in all her suggestions were easy to complete, made a visible impact and most importantly let me feel as though I had some semblance of control over my belongings. She ended the chapter with some daily 2 minute tasks to assist in maintaining the serenity that now is my bedroom. (Making the bed, throwing clothes into the hamper, return items from other rooms back to where they belong etc.) Maintenance rituals such as these are key in keeping your space organised.

The final chapter discusses maintenance in depth and how you can turn it into a ritual. Bad habits can totally derail any intention you have for a tidy space, so it becomes necessary to schedule in cleaning time. It also becomes extremely necessary to reward yourself after completing each task or ritual, just think of yourself as Pavlov’s dog and give yourself a little treat for being such a good boy. Leeds says you have to keep at it and practice for ultimate success, and all I can promise is that I will try…

It’s only 8 minutes after all.