A New Year Without Old Habits by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC

Most people think of habits as things that are bad. Examples of these bad habits can be overeating, smoking, watching too much television, or any number of other activities and behaviors.

There are also very positive habits in our personal and professional lives. We may get in the habit of meditating daily, going to the gym, reading a book, or making a point to tell those around us how much we appreciate what they are doing.

The key to working with habits is to keep the positive ones and get rid of old, unhealthy habits. These old habits that are no longer serving us or making our lives better are energy and time drainers in our lives. Getting rid of them in the New Year is a great way to add minutes or even hours to your day.

Note Your Habits

As humans, we easily get into habits without realizing they are repeated patterns of behavior. A simple way to look for a pattern is to write down the things we do on a daily basis that are part of our routine. To add more detail, make a note of how long you spend on that activity or behavior.

Your list is without judgment. It is simply a notation of what you do without thinking that is part of a repetitive pattern of behavior. Be honest with yourself, and you may want to enlist the help of a friend or a partner to help you identify these types of behaviors.

A few days should be enough to help you to detect repeating patterns in what you do on a daily basis. Habits at work may be different than habits at home, so try to include weekdays and weekends in your list.

Evaluate Good and Bad

Using your list, evaluate which habits are helping you or making your life better in some way. Consider symbolically indicating the good habits by circling them while crossing out the negative habits that are draining your time and energy. These are the habits that are not helping you to achieve your goals or that may be holding you back from seeing the progress you expect.

The next step is to monitor yourself as you go about your day. By being mindful of what you are doing, it is easy to catch yourself automatically engaging in a negative habit. You may want to prioritize the habits and work on no more than one or two at a time.

Recognizing the habit, stopping the behavior, and moving on without engaging in the behavior rewires the brain. It results in the elimination of that negative habit from your behavior repertoire and freeing up time throughout your day.