by on 01 February 2017 | filed in Freelancing Leadership Procrastination Productivity Self Development

In the last post, I wrote about re-setting and re-igniting motivation and focus. It was a short post and I’ve been thinking that I should elaborate a little. Sitting down and writing down my goals is one thing, but what was the motivation for doing that? What was it that made me write that post and begin to get my focus back? What was it that made me go down to one of my favourite café’s (the lovely Couch on Ecclesall Road), work on my university assignment every day (I hate it I hate it I hate it) and make those all important sales calls (I hate it I hate it I hate it). And what has made me sit on this train and do another two hours of my assignment (it’s now making me feel physically sick) and then start writing this?

This is all a massive turnaround from a few weeks ago, and it’s a horse I have to continually get back onto. But onto it I get. There are lots of answers and I’ll take some time over the next few months to look at them, but changing my ‘Keystone Habits’ has made a huge difference.

I was introduced to the idea of’ Keystone Habits in Charles Duhigg’s wonderful book, The Power of Habit, and it was a light bulb moment for me. So much so that I remember exactly where I was when I was listening to this part of the audio book: walking my little dog in the local park (I really miss my little Mo!).

Anyway, a huge part of our lives are made up of both healthy and unhealthy habits. And some of those habits are Keystone Habits, meaning that they are behaviours that act as a springboard for other behaviours. The frustrating thing is that they may seem insignificant, and can easily be dismissed. For example, drinking a certain amount of Lager for me can sometimes lead to smoking, which can sometimes lead to feeling horrible about myself, which can sometimes lead to lack of motivation, which can sometimes lead to a feeling of general rubbishness (sometimes=always). So I try to avoid Lager, it’s a habit that has way too much of an unhealthy knock on effect.

There are positive keystone habits too. So I looked at what was going on in my life and was honest with myself. What was I doing, or not doing, that was preventing me from firing on all cylinders? Here are the two Keystone Habits that have literally kicked my ass overnight.

1. Alcohol

Every now and then I quit drinking completely, usually for a few months. And after a few months, I forget why and start again. One of the reasons is because of reflux (sexy!) and the other is because it completely screws with everything in my life because I am getting older, and therefore can’t handle any kind of hangover. Just a little too much and the next day, though I sometimes won’t feel physically ill, can be horrible. I still get stuff done but at the rate of a snail and through gritted teeth, and the world just has a bit of a rubbish tint to it. So basically if I need to be on form and motivated, or I have the kids, this is out. Well most of the time (I’m a sucker for a lovely wine). In the last couple of weeks I have found myself having one too many glasses of wine every couple of days. This resulted in a complete collapse of routine and productivity.

2. Bed by 11.00 – Up at 6.00

This is the big one for me and has changed everything. In the last few months, I had lost any kind of routine with sleep. I’d been going to bed pretty late and waking up at about 7.30. This might sound OK, but when I had the kids, I didn’t really get anything done before they woke up. And even when I didn’t have them in the morning, I might have had them after school, so that’s a pretty short workday. The plan had been to work when the kids were in bed, but I’ve learned that my brain just doesn’t work as well after about 21.00. We all have our most productive times, and I’m definitely a morning person. So once the kids were at school, I realised that there was stuff at home to do and emails to write and before I knew it, it was midday and there’d only be three hours left before thinking about the kids coming home. Add in a bit of procrastination and everything was a bit all over the place.

It became obvious that this wasn’t working for me, so I started setting my alarm and all of a sudden I’m driven, productive and getting everything done, with much less stress and rush. When I don’t have the kids, the day starts with a run, then I do, 30 minutes of yoga/meditation, followed by a bit of emailing/cleaning/packed lunches etc, and I’m ready to go by about 8, with all the chaff out of the way. Everything feels different and the effects still surprise me. I’m more motivated, clear thinking, relaxed, and just plain happier.

Studies show that making our own choices and staying in control leads to more productivity. To me, this is the main thing that has changed. By making a choice to get up earlier than I have to, and choosing to say no to alcohol on certain days, I feel as though I am controlling my life and not being controlled. This is what works for me and creates the healthy momentum that I need.

So it’s really helpful to have a good look at what works for you and what doesn’t. Have a look at what may be your keystone habits and remember it may not be obvious.

Please copy and paste the web address and share it if you like it. It makes all the difference. Also, feel free to email me if there is anything you would like me to expand upon or write about. Have a great day.


Thanks to Joanne McAnuff again for proofing for the love of it. She won’t take my money!