It happens every year… the start of school triggers the assignments, an avalanche of projects with compounding deadlines. Try as you might, you know you’re supposed to stay focused and write your paper… then you get a ping from your phone. You just have to see the message. Before you know it you’re checking your email. Of course you have to google this to see what the world has to say about what you just found out. Welcome to the rabbit hole! The place where time disappears and you find yourself behind. What just happened?
The trigger is pulled
Triggers are all around us. It’s not just your phone. Sometimes you see the TV remote, hear some police sirens, or smell fresh baked cookies. These are just the external triggers.
Triggers are also in our head. After school, hunger hits. Boredom steps in. Feeling annoyed at all the work, I know I would be looking for any reason not to get busy.
But not all triggers are bad
Triggers are just that one thing that starts a habit, good or bad.
“Triggers are a little-known key to forming a new habit (or breaking an old one).” – Leo Babauta, Zen Habits.
Hearing the pings from your phone might be the trigger, but checking your messages is the bad habit.
Good habits can be triggered too. When you get up first thing in the morning, what do you do? Brush your teeth, eat breakfast, and get ready for school.’
Triggers work well with habits
Our automatic habits are like us on autopilot. We don’t think much about them. Before you know it, we’ve arrived at our destination.
So how do we set new habits on autopilot or take bad ones off? First you have to figure out what your bad habits are and what triggers them. Next step is to think about what you could be doing instead. For example, when I got stressed, I would look for something to snack on like cookies or chips. I now keep my bottle of water on my desk. If I really feel I need to munch on something, I consciously decide on foods that are healthy but equally crunchy like celery, apples, or cucumbers.
It may be hard at first, but it will get easier.
Choosing your trigger
What do you do regularly and when do you do it? This will help you find the trigger in your routine that you can set up with a new habit.
It might be that when you come home from school, you plug your phone in and turn it to airplane mode or just turn it off.
Sometimes you need some extra habit help
Just to help you get into the groove, you might think about creating a habit tracker. List all the things you want to do and in the order you’d like to do it in. It’ll be a basic guide. It won’t be perfect every time, but it could help to jog your memory about what you need to do and when.