Cracking the Code on the 3 Most Difficult Habits to Break

If you’re like most people, you’ve made a list of resolutions for 2012. I have. And this week, I plan to embark.

My top resolutions for 2012:
1. Join a new gym and become my most fit self in 2012.
2. Improve eating habits so I have more energy.
3. Manage time better. (hmmmm…where to begin?)

Seems like a pretty simple list, except that the odds for success are stacked against me. If you saw the cover story about weight loss in The New York Times Magazine, you know about how our bodies retaliate when we change what we eat or how we exercise. It’s an uphill battle.

As for time management, I’ve identified a few culprits that eat away at my time: email and distraction.

The research on email shows how much it interrupts our day and eats time. The trouble is, changing our email behavior is also notoriously difficult. For me, it’s a thoughtless reflex. So I am re-wiring my email habits by spotting patterns I can retool using this app.

And I’m letting go of things that corrupt my concept of time by being truthful with myself about the root cause of these energy-sucking behaviors. I consider it my own behavior mod program. I’m attempting to retrain myself using negative associations:

1. Multi-tasking is a guilt trip when I feel I can’t keep up. I’m not talking about typing out instant messages while waiting in line at the Whole Foods. I mean that frenzied ADD flurry of unrelated little problems and emails and interactions that slowly drain away our focus. Multi-tasking is bad for us. Kathy Sierra turned me onto to mindfulness as an antidote for multitasking.

2. Daily to-do lists with over 10 things are for psychos. I learned this first-hand during a recent move. I kept these crazy lists of 20 or 30 items a day. One day, I laid out my week in review on the kitchen counter and saw the pattern. Truthfully, I accomplished about 10 items a day and carried the others over. I went to bed each night feeling under-accomplished. Starting each day with a Top 10 is more efficient, if not more realistic. You don’t waste time feeling bad about having left so much undone. Besides, happy people are focused, as Gretchen Rubin believes.

3. Email addiction is bad for my soul. Long ago I gave up checking email on my iPhone. It’s clunky and unsatisfying. I actually like email as a medium, but I have come to appreciate that like “slow food”, it’s best savored in 3 e-meals a day. When I moved, I went for a week without Wi-Fi at my house when Comcast not only dropped the ball, but kept kicking it from Help Desk to Help Desk. Without wireless at home, I set aside time segments at my local coffee shop to check email and surf the web. It was efficient. People got more thoughtful responses from me, and I felt more complete and more serene.

If you haven’t made your list of resolutions, here’s a good place to start.

I chose some tough nuts to crack in 2012. But I’m giving myself a little credit for keeping it to 3 things in 2012. Not 10…not 20…just three.

Wish me luck.