On Ep. 11 of the Your Career Story podcast, we're talking all about habits that will transform your productivity at work. I'm an Enneagram 3 so productivity and efficiency are my love languages, but this conversation I had with our guest TJ Loeffler really transformed the way I think about building habits and mindset around productivity.
I highly recommend checking out the podcast, but in the meantime I want to talk a little bit about building habits - and how to keep them.
For the sake of this post, let’s say the habit you’re trying to build is spending more time in your Bible each day, even when work feels overwhelming. (Did you know we have a devotional to help you through this?.)
Create short and long term goals
It’s really hard to go from zero to 100. And that kinda acceleration in effort leads to burnout and apathy. This is the summer of rest, so you don’t want your restful things to be stressing you out! That’s not the point.
Here's a short term goal:
Read a page from the Jesus Calling devotional book during my subway commute.
Here's a long term goal:
Wake up an hour before I need to start getting ready, make coffee, journal, pray, and follow the Bible in a Year plan.
Goals evolve over time depending on your season of life and what becomes a priority.
Start small & easy
If you hired a personal trainer, they aren’t going to start you with a 300lb back squat with the Olympic bar. (I mean you can, but good luck not killing your back!) You’re going to start with bodyweight squats. Think of your willpower like a muscle. It needs an exercise plan that starts small and progresses over time. When you start, make the goal something that is really easy to do and doesn’t have a large barrier to entry.
The Jesus Calling devotional is already written out for you day-by-day. It’s a small book and you only have to read one page a day. Easy! And by scheduling it during my commute (or lunch break), I’m not fighting a barrier of an earlier alarm clock. It’s time that I’d be awake anyways probably playing on my phone.
I know I'm someone who wants to GO BIG or GO HOME. But when building habits, this is not the time to be a martyr. Make it easy on yourself.
Give your willpower a workout program
As your willpower grows in strength, you can push yourself harder and harder, making small increases over time.
Phase 1 (Read Jesus Calling during commute)
Phase 2 (Wake up 10 min early and read Jesus Calling)
Phase 3 (Wake up 20 min early and read Jesus Calling + journal)
Phase 4 (Wake up 30 min early and read the Bible in a Year passages + journal)
Phase 5 (Wake up 45 min early and read the Bible in a Year passages + journal + use a commentary for reference)
I used to think that I had to jump into the deep end, but as I've gotten older this methodology has REALLY helped me start and then maintain the habits I want in my life. I wish I learned it sooner!
Create a routine or trigger
Habits work best when they feel automatic. Creating a scheduled time for something or a trigger can help.
By doing your Bible study time first thing in the morning, you will begin to work that into your routine, just like brushing your teeth or washing your face.
For me, coffee in the morning means Bible time on the porch. One without the other doesn't really work. I've found when I keep that routine, the rest of the day goes a LOT better!
Track your habits
Literally write them down and give yourself little checkboxes to mark each day that you complete the habit! This doesn’t need to be something fancy and it may feel like you're treating yourself like a Kindergartener - but it works! I personally like writing it down in my physical journal or planner. Other people prefer apps or Google Sheets documents. Whatever you’re already using for other things is probably the best place to track these. Again, don't make it harder for yourself!
Note: If your habit requires you to get off your phone, maybe don’t use an app. (wink, wink!)
Accountability & inspiration
The people you surround yourself make a huge difference in your success. If all of your friends do the opposite of what you are trying to do, it’s going to be harder to break the mold. If you want to make positive changes, surround yourself with people who are already doing or working on those things!
Ask a friend to do the study at the same time as you. You can check in with one another each day to say that you did it + share any thoughts/questions on that day’s devotional.
One of my dearest friends - Robyn Coale Nohling - and I did this last summer. We were going through Annie F Down's 100 Days to Brave and it was so fun to have someone else hold me accountable.
What do you anticipate distracting you from building your new habit? Junk food in the pantry? TV in the living room? (Law & Order SVU, you've trapped me again!!) Make it easier on yourself and remove those temptations, or at least make it harder for you to get to them.
If your initial reaction upon waking up is to spend 30 minutes scrolling through social media, get a real alarm clock and put your phone in another room.
I'm still working on this one. Distractions are my Achilles heel in life. I read recently that we've been a culture of consuming vs. a culture of producing. I don't know about you, but if I'm consuming I only want it to be life-giving so that I can be a better steward of my "producing" time.
Whatever habit you're trying to build in your personal or professional life, use these tips to get yourself moving in the right direction.
TJ Loeffler is an American life coach and international keynote speaker. He's on a personal mission to activate people into more of their God-given potential, empowering you with wisdom and practical tools he's acquired from his journey of life experiences. Formerly at Goldman Sachs, today TJ travels around the country and overseas to speak and teach from his life story. He serves as a mentor and adviser to some of the world's best rising talent in their field, including tech execs, investment bankers, consultants, pastors, artists, and former pro athletes. His practical messages offer a powerful perspective on some of life's most difficult questions about identity, purpose, and overcoming the barriers that hold us back from creating the life we know we're made to live.
Connect with TJ
How to Build Habits That Last
June 19, 2019