26 October 2011

...wake up at the same time every day?

I first want to say that this very blog entry is the start not only of my return to the blog world but also committing to a new blog post at least once every month. 

If you don't have a blog, you are probably thinking that once a month is not that often. But let me tell you non-blogger, it takes a lot of freaking time. First, you have to know what you're writing about and make sure it's a. worth your time and b. worth your friends' time. Then, if you are blogging about anything of substance, you have to research. This is the real killer but also the most important. Next, you have to make sure it's written with a logical thought process, grammatically correct and every word is spelled properly. This makes it sound like I'm voluntarily submitting myself to school without getting any grades or diploma but oh well. It's enjoyable. 

If you do blog, you probably understand how easy it is to waste copious amounts of time.

The point here is that I have decided from here on, I will be doing a 30 day challenge every month for the rest of my life. It's overwhelming to think of all the changes that could be made in my life. However, I find that if I think about only one major change for the month then let it become a habit, it's much more bearable. 

Enter bad news. Remember how I just said a few paragraphs earlier that research is sooooo important? Well it is. I was about to tell you that it takes 21 days to form a habit so that's another great reason for doing 30 day challenges. I decided to research it so I could put a link backing up my argument but much to my surprise, I was wrong. 

"Everyone knows that it takes 28 days to develop a new habit, or perhaps 21, or 18, depending on who you ask; anyway, the point is that it's a specific number, which makes it sound scientific and thus indisputably true. We probably owe this particular example of pop-psychology wisdom to Maxwell Maltz, the plastic surgeon who wrote the 60s bestseller Psycho-Cybernetics. He claimed to have observed that amputees took an average of only 21 days to adjust to the loss of a limb. Therefore, he reasoned – deploying the copper-bottomed logic we've come to expect from self-help – the same must be true of all big changes. And therefore it must take 21 days to change a habit, maybe, perhaps!This is, of course, poppycock and horsefeathers, as a new study by the University College London psychologist Phillippa Lally and her colleagues helps confirm. On average, her subjects, who were trying to learn new habits such as eating fruit daily or going jogging, took a depressing 66 days before reporting that the behaviour had become unchangingly automatic. Individuals ranged widely – some took 18 days, others 245 – and some habits, unsurprisingly, were harder than others to make stick: one especially silly implication of the 28- or 21-day rule is that it may be just as easy to start eating a few more apples as to start finding five hours a week to study Chinese. (Another myth undermined by the study is the idea that when forming a new habit, you can't miss a day or all is lost: missing a day made no difference. Indeed, believing this myth may be actively unhelpful, making it harder to restart once you fall off the wagon.)" -Oliver Burkeman | The Guardian

A link to Lally's research: here.
And her webpage: here.

Since every 30 day challenge isn't necessarily trying to break bad habits, I'm going to continue as planned. That's not to say I won't be readjusting later if need be :) Despite the research from earlier, I would like to highlight a website that I find extremely helpful:

It's free to join and I've used it for a year now. This is how it works: you enter your goal, they email you every day with a little inspirational quote and ask "did you meet your goal today?" Then you click yes or no and it tracks your progress each day. The thing about this site though is that they make you do 21 consecutive days before you complete your goal. If you mess up, it kicks you back to 0. They don't mess around over at Habit Forge. Like I said, I've used this for a year now and I am just now about to win at this game. The good thing about kicking you to 0 if you miss a day is that you will probably take longer to fill up your success bubbles, thus making you closer to the 66 day average. Also, the research shows that missing a day isn't detrimental to achieving the overall goal, so don't feel bad.

Now that I have written a bazillion more paragraphs than I intended, let me tell you the current 30 day challenge and whence it came. I was doing my daily stumbles on stumbleupon. (I'm going to have to pause here to say that stumbleupon is one of the biggest black holes of wasting my time but also very rewarding. I have found some great things, including Habit Forge incidentally.) So back to stumbling. I came across this article: How to Become an Early Riser.

Also on his website I found these great articles: The Importance of Self Discipline and 30 days to success. I strongly suggest you read all three, unless you are already an early riser. In that case, congrats. I was at one point a successful early riser but I no longer have anywhere to be in the morning. I would not call myself a "night owl" either though. I am a champion of sleeping. I can sleep 12 hours every night even without doing anything taxing all day; I LOVE SLEEP! But I can be real with myself and admit that I am wasting time and sleeping my life away. Starting tomorrow until December 1, I will be waking up at 0700 every day. Then I will get back on and write alllll about it. 

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