Last week I wrote about my confusion over how to form work habits that would support managing time. I understand the cue and routine that Charles Duhigg writes about in The Power Habit, but I don't know what reward writers get for working--just for working, itself--that will make us want to loop back to that cue that will send us to the routine that will lead us to...what reward?--and keep us working habitually.
Kelly McGonigal, who designed the Yoga Journal willpower program we all took part in this past January (We did all do that, right?), has reservations about habits. In a talk she gave to a habit formation group, she says that habitual, nonthinking behavior works best for small tasks like brushing your teeth or taking medication--tasks that don't require a whole lot of us in the first place. She doesn't believe forming habits works well for making what she calls "really freakin' hard changes," such as those necessary to overcome addiction or achieve weight loss.
Where managing time comes in here, I can't say. Is managing time more complex than remembering to brush and floss every morning? Is managing time a self-regulation/self-control issue and it's appropriate for me to be obsessing on how to better regulate it...or ourselves? Or is it merely a self-regulation/self-control issue for me?
In either case, here are some of McGonigal's thoughts on behavior that supports difficult change. Will it also support managing time?
"Want Power"--Remember what you actually want. (A goal? I understand goals!) Also, be mindful of your choices and whether or not they address your goal.
Automatic Goal Pursuit--This is different from habit. You're trying to keep goals in mind instead of relying on automatic habits. You are always focusing on the goal, instead of behavior.
Distress Tolerance--Work on becoming comfortable with uncomfortable situations, the distress of wanting. For time management for writers, this could mean becoming comfortable with working alone, which could go a long way to control the "craving" or desire to keep checking your e-mail/Facebook wall hoping for some human contact.
Implementatons--We've already talked about implementations in relation to procrastination. Essentially, you're planning what you will do in certain situations. When I want to go to Facebook, I will check my timer to see how much time is left in my 45-minute work unit and work until the unit is done. If I still want to go to Facebook, I can go then. That is an implementation intention, my little lads and lasses.
Commitments--When faced with a challenge to our goal, have a rule we can rely on rather than habit. I have been invited to hike tomorrow. Tomorrow is a work day. Hiking won't get me closer to my goal, working will. Personally, I can see where a commitment would work better in the case of a real challenge than a habit.
As I listened to McGonigal, I wondered if a lot of what she was talking about would relate to discipline, which was what I was interested in pursuing last year but couldn't find any information about--at least in relation to time management.
She describes mindfulness, which she teaches, as being the opposite of habit. My thinking now is that habit may not be as good a way of creating a disciplined writer as some of these mindfulness-related techniques that McGonigal talks about. Yes, now I've got to read her book.