I had the pleasure of working in General Austin Miller’s (U.S. Army) command for a few months, and there is one thing that I heard him say over 100 times (that’s no exaggeration): establish repeatable processes. Sometimes, when you hear something so often, you become numb to it; however, that would’ve been a bad idea for me for a couple of reasons: 1. He was a commanding officer, so becoming numb to his orders is a sure way to get you fired. 2. More importantly, every time he said it, he caused me to reflect on my own “repeatable processes” or as most of us call them, habits.
Since then, this idea of habit creation and sustainment has become a critical part of my personal and professional philosophy. Why? Well, I can summarize why with this quote:
What are habits?
Most times when we talk about habits, we are either confronting about or being confronted about bad habits. Don’t get me wrong, I believe this “confrontation” or accountability is a crucial part of habit creation, but it is only part of the equation. We will dive into my principles soon, but first, let’s define “habits.”
Oxford Languages says that a habit is, “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” My love for food was the first thing that came to mind when I read this definition. Like most people, I’m still working towards that beach body six pack, but there’s a cliche that closely relates to my eating practices and delays my results: “you are what you eat.” I want to slightly modify this cliche to give you my own simplified definition of the word “habit”:
You are what you repeat.Olaolu Ogunyemi
My winning habits principles
1. Winning habits begin with math.
Oh no… I’m becoming my parents! When I was young, I was one of those in class telling my math teachers, “I will never use this again!” Now, aside from the fact that i refuse to use a calculator to determine my tips and I solve two math problems every morning to shut off my alarm, I am telling you that winning habits begin with math. It’s actually pretty simple math.
There are twenty-four hours each day. Most of us spend 6-8 of those hours sleeping and another 8-12 of those hours “working.” (You’ll find out why I put “working” in quotes a little later). That means that about 14-20 hours of our day are usually accounted for. What are you doing with the other 4-10 hours each day? Are you intentionally investing every minute?
Those aren’t rhetorical questions to make a point; I truly want you to reflect on what you do during those hours. Although many won’t admit it, a lot of us have formed habits that simply drain our time. So much so that we can seldom recall what we did the day before. If you’re anything like me, you went back to double check that math. That can’t be right! Well, it is.
I reflected on this in one of my very first blog posts where I outlined how many habits I had formed that completely drained my time, and get this: a majority of them were somehow related to the device I carry around in my pocket every day. I challenge you to do your own reflection and record your daily habits.
2. Focus your habits.
Were you shocked by your daily habits list? That’s ok. Let’s do something about it! How do your daily habits align with your goals? Don’t lie or try to use some kind of “butterfly effect” justification. Don’t worry about how much effort or energy you put into each habit. Just have an objective review of what results your daily habits produce. Results are all that matter; there is no “A” for effort–make sure your habits support this fact.
3. “It’s called work for a reason!” -Larry Winget
I recently read and enjoyed this book by Larry Winget. Some may not like his style, because he refers to himself as an “irritational” speaker. In other words, he strives to make you so uncomfortable where you are that you desire to change.
I think my favorite part of this book is the fact that it was aptly named. One would assume that once you get a job, you would show up to perform that job; however, many of us have formed extremely bad habits in the workplace from doing personal chores to not doing anything at all. Of course this causes a ripple effect throughout any given organization and severely impedes processes. Your habits in the workplace are a reflection of your character, values, and professionalism. In other words, if your habits aren’t contributing towards the company’s desired results, you are part of the problem. Let’s focus on making our companies better!
4. Sleep is a must!
I actually don’t know where I got it from, but I remember saying, “sleep is for the rich, so I can’t afford it.” I don’t know; it just sounded cool to me. Nowadays, I don’t know if it’s maturity, a realignment of priorities, or a little bit of both, but I absolutely love sleep! There’s nothing like racing to my bed after a long day. (I’m yawning just thinking about it.)
Listen, numerous studies have shown that our sleep habits impact our mood, performance, attitude, and brain function. Temporarily reducing sleep to accomplish a specific goal is ok, but the key word is “temporarily.” Create a set time, routine, and location for your rest. This is one of the most important habits you can form.
5. Accountability is continuous, but give yourself grace.
Earlier I mentioned that confrontation and accountability are a huge part of habit creation. Let’s use my dietary habits as an example. I can claim that I want to eat better all I want, but without external feedback mechanisms like my wife or the MyFitnessPal food tracker, my goal is a well-intended wish.
However, the other part is grace. We spend decades forming habits, but then we expect to immediately break those habits and form new ones over night. Listen, that is highly unlikely, so give yourself a little grace. Implement a “clean slate” policy meaning you get to mess up every once in a while. Just reflect and implement a couple more accountability mechanisms to prevent repeating the same mistake.
Notice I used the word “repeating” here. You remember where I used that word before? That’s right. “You are what you repeat.” So don’t form a new habit of making more mistakes than progress. This is where a lot of us get stuck. Then we disguise this “one step forward, two steps back” approach as progress as we celebrate the one step forward and apply the “clean slate” policy to our two steps backwards. Let’s break that habit, because it will never work. Accountability and grace go hand-in-hand–you can’t have one without the other.
My winning habits
Now that I’ve outlined my principles, here is a quick list of habits I consider important in no particular order:
- Read and learn to experience the world from a different perspective.
- Take care of yourself: dedicate time each day to building your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pillars. At least 30 minutes per pillar per day.
- Work hard when it’s time to work. Play hard when it’s time to play. Rest well when it’s time to rest.
- Spend uninterrupted time loving on friends and family. I cannot stress this one enough. Forgive if you need to forgive. Life is too short.
- Schedule time for the “time drainers” like social media, TV, window shopping, etc. These will likely always exist, but you need to manage them.
- Prioritize your day. Like Dr. Covey said, “keep the main thing, the main thing.” Or maybe I’ll add a little spin to the famous TLC line, “don’t go chasing waterfalls” (my spin) when you are supposed to be swimming at the lake. Yeah I know that was cheesy, but you get the point. Establish and align your habits to your priorities!
- Allocate time to reflect on the day. What did you do well? What are some opportunities for improvement?
- Smile, have fun, and remind yourself that you are valuable and have a purpose. Your daily habits support that purpose!
Thanks for reading! Have a great week!